The creators of The Last of Us have maintained how it is not a show about zombies. Their verdict is that the central theme is, in fact, love. Nowhere is this more evident than the third episode of the series.
In its strongest showing yet, The Last of Us proves that one can find hope, purpose, fulfillment, and joy, no matter how bleak the circumstances.
Bill (Nick Offerman of Parks and Recreation fame) is a doomsday prepper, who prefers the term "survivalist." As the events of The Last of Us unfold, he avoids military evacuation and subsequently realizes the world is his for the picking. Fortifying his home against attacks from the infected, he is at peace with his steaks and his guns. Until Frank arrives.
Played by Murray Bartlett of White Lotus fame, Frank asks Bill for a meal and while initially suspicious, he eventually relents. As they play Linda Ronstadt over the piano, they fall in love. Frank tells Bill that he did not get intimate for a meal, and that he intended on staying. This is where viewers fast forward to the next stage of their relationship.
3 years later, while still very much in love, the once-happy couple are in the midst of a fight.
Frank informs Bill that he has been talking to a nice lady on the radio. Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Tess (Anna Torv) arrive, and a friendship of convenience is formed. While Frank and Tess get along spectacularly, their (guarded) significant others seem far less pally. And yet, their utilitarian sensibilities make them realize that they can help each other. A semblance of friendship is thus forged.
The peaks and valleys of their tumultuous relationship are amplified manifold in The Last of Us. This, of course, is expected in a world so dire and savage.
They face mortality as raiders attack their habitation. They revel as a strawberry patch bears fruit against the bright sun. What breaks them is a disease that confines Frank to a wheelchair.
"Love me the way I want you to," says Frank. He wants out of this cruel, torrid world. So, after a near-perfect day when Bill showers his soulmate with every bit of happiness culminating in their marriage, he slips pills into Frank’s wine as an act of euthanasia.
Of course, why would Bill live on without Frank by his side? His glass too contained enough pills to "kill a horse."
The two depart the inhumane world. One made tolerable through their love.
Joel finds his purpose in The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 3
Ellie and Joel chance upon a plane crash in the opening minutes of the episode. She is instantly envious that he got to go up in the sky. He then realizes how much of an ordinary life she has missed out on.
She also hits back at Joel, who clearly blames her for Tess’ death.
As they arrive at Bill and Frank’s home, they realize that the first couple of the apocalypse is now long gone. There’s a letter from Bill, which reads:
"I used to hate the world and I was happy when everyone died. But I was wrong. Because there was one person worth saving. That’s why men like you and me are here. We have a job to do."
While that message was addressed to Joel and alluded to Tess, the new context is clear. A relationship has now been forged between a man who lost his daughter and a little girl who is currently the most important thing in his life.
Ellie did not get to experience her first airplane ride, but she does get to travel by car for the very first time.
Of course, Linda Ronstadt plays in the car in the closing moments of The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 3.
An incredible departure from the two previous episodes, The Last of Us’ third outing does not feel like a video game adaptation.
Powered by emotional performances from two actors best known for their comedic chops, the episode is poetry. It is magic. It is light in the darkness.
As Joel and Ellie hit the open road with Bill and Frank’s blessings, one wonders what other surprises the show has in store.