HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ Preaches Humanity | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Episode three of HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ just dropped, reminding us what the classic video game that touched the hearts and minds of all who played it is all about: the perseverance of humanity in situations that call for the inhumane. The third episode also took this time to unveil the much-anticipated series’ biggest deviation from its source material thus far: Bill and Frank. 

Titled ‘Long, Long Time’, the episode picks up from where we left off, with Joel and Ellie making their way to Bill and Frank after Tess employed him to take her there before they parted ways. Bill, a name that anyone who played the game would recognize, many expected that the live adaptation would closely follow the events that transpired in the original material; a high-octane battle against the undead, and an endearing back and forth between the clashing personalities of Ellie and Bill. Instead, we got what we didn’t expect, but very much what we needed.

A story spanning over 20 years, hence its title, we were given a small peek into the pair’s lives, from Bill creating a haven away from the cordyceps infected and any ill-intending vagabonds, to his fateful encounter with Frank and the love and companionship that they find and share which they live out for the remainder of their years. 

It’s a different take compared to what we were expecting, allotting a whole episode for the backstory of two people that have only been mentioned beforehand, and relegating Joel and Ellie pretty much to the sidelines as side characters in their own story with only mere minutes of screentime at the start and end of the episode. It was an unforeseen change of pace in a story filled with adrenaline-pumping shootouts and nerve-wracking encounters with the undead: replaced with a tear-jerking love story filled with sincerity and vulnerability.

For a one-hour episode, it was a slow but necessary burn—a requisite narrative to lay out ‘The Last of Us’ message of humanity. You see, I believe Bill represents what many of us envision surviving in the apocalypse takes; ruthlessness and efficiency, with a massive sprinkle of realism. I’m sure we’ve all done the mental exercise after watching any film or show of the zombie genre: how would I survive all of this? And typically, based on conversations with people I’ve asked this question, surviving such a predicament runs along the line of securing important resources for yourself and avoiding taking in survivors. It sounds selfish, which it is, but it’s quite literally a situation of man eats man, a practical application of the term survival of the fittest. Anything goes for survival, and being a doomsday prepper before the fall of society, Bill knew this best. 

But on the flip side, Frank is the antithesis of this realism. We never get to find out what exactly happened to him before meeting Bill, except that he started out in a party of ten on a journey to Boston. We don’t know what he has seen, or the difficult decisions he has had to make along the way, but he never forgot to enjoy the small things in life; relishing a long overdue shower, savoring the pairing of rabbit and wine, and gushing over an old piano. He never forgot his humanity in a world that called for the inhumane.

A couple of years down the line after the pair get together, the two get into an argument, with Frank wanting to refurbish their lawn and the town’s boutique, with Bill viewing it as a waste of resources. Here we see the difference between the two; one hell-bent on ensuring survival, the other, making the crappy world they live in a little bit more bearable, a little more worth living. It may have taken some time, but eventually, this would rub off on Bill—sure they were still living in their own little paradise while everyone else was scrambling for survival, but hey at least he was living for someone else besides himself—in the grand scheme of things, it is a lesson that Joel will also have to learn. 

The entire episode, through its massive change of pace, and the bold move to remove the focus from Joel and Ellie was made to make it feel weird, as if something was wrong. It’s a matter of life and death, why are we wasting time on a long backstory of side characters that don’t amount to much in the big picture? Why are Bill and Frank dining on rabbit and wine, and picking strawberries during the apocalypse? It’s as if we’ve forgotten that we’re in a world filled with zombies and blood-thirsty survivors—I think that’s the point. Preserving oneself is surely essential, but is that all there is to life—to crawl and grovel for scraps, to run and hide all to make the next day? If that’s all there is to it then I’m not sure that’s a lot better than just ending it all. The entire episode reminded me of this quote from ‘Dead Poets Society’, “Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” 

Piqued your interest? Don’t worry, there’s more to come, they’ve only just started after all. Watch the preview for Episode four of HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ here.

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