HomeTelevisionThe Last of Us Episode 3 Review: The Episode of Episodes

The Last of Us Episode 3 Review: The Episode of Episodes

Photo Credit: Liane Hentscher/HBO

There was a funny or die sketch back in 2009 titled Hostage: A Love Story. Zachary Quinto holds up a restaurant, cashier pulls a gun on him, Quinto holds a woman at gunpoint, escapes, but from there, something unexpected happens: they fall in love. They go through traditionally lovely life events like a first date, their first child, seeing a marital therapist, the works, all while he’s holding a gun to her head. The simple juxtaposition of the happy love life with an ever present gun isn’t comedic genius, but it makes for a pleasant chuckle. 

I thought about this sketch when watching the most recent Last of Us episode. This episode is a flashback that focuses on two survivalist lovers, Bill (Nick Offerman, Making It) and Frank (Murray Bartlett, White Lotus), and the happy love life they live in a secluded, trap-spewn and gated town that Bill has maintained from the start of the outbreak (Frank showed up about three years later). There’s a scene where they’re having an outdoor lunch on a gorgeous spring day with friends. These friends turn out to be none other than a younger Joel (Pedro Pascal, The Mandalorian) and Tess (Anna Torv, Mindhunter). The lunch doesn’t look terribly different from a pleasant, outdoor lunch in a suburban town … until we see Bill’s gun on the table.

The juxtaposition of the gun and the pleasantries isn’t an absurdist one like the Funny or Die sketch, it has a real world function — but it’s just as amusing. It’s also a notable departure from the game in many ways. In the game, Joel only knows Bill, and only met Frank as a hanging corpse. In the game, Bill is purely a survivalist, living to set his traps to keep his secluded town safe, and that’s it. Frank’s corpse is a testament to the tragedy of Bill’s hollow life, existing without really living, to the point that drove his partner away. 

Queer critic (and Facebook friend) Juan Barquin recently wrote a(n unfairly maligned) piece criticizing this episode. To put it simply (and possibly missing some of their point), Juan felt the game’s tragedy for Bill and Frank, far from fulfilling the “kill your gays” trope, made for a more uniquely tragic queer relationship, and how the humanity of queer people shouldn’t be restricted by only demanding perfect representation. 

The piece is worth reading (provided you give it the fair chance that others haven’t), and makes a compelling argument for the kind of representation we should aspire for, by letting people be messy, true, and free. My disagreement with it is that, like the rest of the show, The Last of Us Episode 3 makes for a marvelous companion piece to the game. It’s arguably similar to the film Atonement, where Briony (Saorise Ronan) rewrote a happy ending for the lovers whose life she doomed.

Just as Bill’s lunchtime gun only makes sense if he has the survivalist instinct from the game, the beauty of Frank and Bill’s secluded love hits so much harder and tastes so much sweeter if you’re aware of their previously tragic relationship. When you’re aware of the pain in Bill’s eyes looking at Frank’s corpse, watching their live action lover’s quarrel over painting their house felt like a dream come true. 

I still sympathize with how other queer people felt watching the episode, thinking it saccharine and patronizing. 

But personally, it remained messy, true, and free.

The Last of Us Episode 3 is now streaming on HBO Max. The series airs Sundays on HBO.



Comments are closed.

Most Recent

Stay Connected