The Last of Us series, thus far, has show how to faithfully adapt the story of the game while also being able to expand on the story and change things up when it can work. Episode three, “Long Long Time” is all expansion with a tiny bit of faithful adaptation. While I’m sure many will find this episode to be great, to me it felt like all diversion that did very little to advance the overall story.
The episode begins with Joel and Ellie outside of Boston, making their way to Bill and Frank as Tess had advised them. The episode ends with Joel and Ellie making their way to Wyoming to look for Tommy and see if he can aid them on their quest. These bookends are the best part of the episode for me as they advance the story and Joel and Ellie’s relationship – the entire point of the story.
In between these bookends we’re told the story of Bill and Frank and the entirety of their relationship. Bill is a conspiracy theory survivalist who manages to stay behind in his small town after its evacuated at the start of the outbreak in 2003. Bill lives alone until one fateful day when one of his traps ensnares Frank, a survivor from Maryland who is trying to get to the Boston quarantine zone. Frank asks if Bill has anything to eat and after some convincing, Bill relents and takes Frank in to feed him. This leads to their relationship growing and becoming romantic and we then see the progression of their lives together over the 20 years since they met.
For those familiar with the game a lot of this is eluded to but never explicitly stated or shown. It’s a good piece of back story for these characters that the show has been wont to do. However, there is a massive divergence from the story of the game that makes all of this history completely irrelevant to the main story. Without spoiling it, it ends up with Joel reading a note from Bill that acts as an almost on the nose statement of intent of the show: find someone worth loving and saving at all costs. Which isn’t bad in and of itself, but considering Joel would have found that note anyway, spending almost the entire episode dedicated to a flashback that doesn’t move Joel and Ellie’s story forward and instead felt like a really well made waste of time. I also am not at all fond of the massive change made to the story because it robs us of some great moments and tense, action set pieces.
In the end I’m torn. One one hand it’s an incredibly well-written and acted. On the other, I just can’t reconcile with the fact that barring the last 10 minutes of the episode, nothing we are shown here matters, could have been completely cut and nothing of any importance would change. Next time the show diverges from the source material this much, I hope it feels essential rather than live action supplementary material.
- Ellie and Joel’s story and characters keep moving forward
- The set and production design is once again impeccable
- It’s extremely well written and acted
- It feels like supplementary material rather than essential to move Joel and Ellie’s story forward
- Deviates too much from the source material for my liking