How The Last of Us Episode 3 Foreshadows One Heartbreaking Future Twist
Just like Bill, Joel has a job to do.
The third episode of HBO’s The Last of Us marks a major departure for the series. Not only does it largely focus on two characters who are neither Joel (Pedro Pascal) nor Ellie (Bella Ramsey), but it’s also the first episode of The Last of Us that truly deviates in several major ways from its source material.
After first introducing Bill (Nick Offerman) as the same hard-edged survivor that fans of the original Last of Us game know well, the HBO series quickly pivots into new territory. The show’s third episode, titled “Long Long Time,” spends the majority of its runtime exploring Bill’s surprisingly sweet, 20-year love story with his fellow human survivor, Frank (Murray Bartlett). In its final moments, the episode then makes the connection between Bill and Frank’s relationship and Joel and Ellie’s dynamic heartbreakingly clear.
It does so in the form of a letter that, among other things, sets up the end of The Last of Us Season 1, as well as the devastating events of 2020’s The Last of Us Part 2.
Major spoilers ahead.
Bill’s Letter — In the closing sequence of “Long Long Time,” Joel and Ellie reach Bill and Frank’s fenced-off town only to discover that both men are already dead.
Despite that fact, Offerman’s Bill gets to say a few more words via a letter he leaves for “probably Joel,” which Ramsey’s Ellie reads aloud. Bill uses the letter to tell Joel just how much he respects him and reveals the kinship he feels with Pedro Pascal’s gruff survivor. As Bill says in his letter, his belief that humanity deserved to be destroyed was proven wrong when he met “one person worth saving.”
“That's what I did. I saved him, then I protected him,” Bill writes. “That’s why men like you and me are here. We have a job to do.” In his letter, Bill implies that Tess (Anna Torv) is the one person Joel is meant to protect, but fans of The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part 2 know that’s not the case.
A Job to Do — Ultimately, Bill’s assessment of Joel is more correct than he could ever possibly know. As fans of the original Last of Us already know, Joel gradually realizes over the course of that game that his relationship with Ellie represents a second chance at a satisfying life for both of them. For Joel, Ellie is the “one person worth saving” that Bill references in his letter, and Joel doesn’t let anyone get in his way of doing that throughout 2013’s The Last of Us — not even in the critical moment when Ellie may have wanted him to.
Beyond how heavily Bill’s letter foreshadows the likely conclusion of The Last of Us Season 1, it holds even greater weight given the events of The Last of Us Part 2. That divisive video game famously (SPOILER ALERT) opens with Ellie being held down and forced to watch as Joel is beaten to death in front of her. As Ellie embarks on a dangerous and soul-killing revenge mission throughout the rest of the game, though, both she and those playing as her slowly come to realize that Joel wouldn’t have wanted her to avenge him.
As a matter of fact, Joel doesn’t seem that upset about his death when it happens in The Last of Us Part 2. He maintains an air of acceptance or, as Offerman’s Bill might say, satisfaction when he realizes that his life is about to come to an end. In the game’s final two scenes, Ellie realizes Joel felt that way because he believed he had already accomplished everything he’d needed to.
He’d saved her life and he’d protected her — just like Bill predicts he will in The Last of Us Episode 3.
The Inverse Analysis — There’s a lot that could be written about just how emotionally affecting The Last of Us’ third installment is. There’s not a false note or misstep throughout the episode, which greatly improves upon the weakest chapter of the game that inspired it. However, it’s only when Bella Ramsey’s Ellie reads aloud Bill’s letter at the end of “Long Long Time” that it becomes clear just how much weight Bill and Frank’s romance carries within The Last of Us’ overall story.
New episodes of The Last of Us air Sundays on HBO.