“The Last of Us” Cured My Emotional Constipation

Content Warning: Spoilers ahead for the episode “Long, Long Time” from “The Last of Us.” This episode does feature character death, which may be an upsetting topic for some readers.

If you had told me, “Happy Hagfish, the episode of ‘The Last of Us‘ featuring two men finding love in a post-apocalyptic world is the key to finally getting that good cry you so desperately need,” two weeks ago, then yeah, I would have believed you.

Oh, I’m sorry

Did you expect me to make some stupid joke about how I would have scoffed at that suggestion, only to later cry like a baby when I finally watched the episode, proving my past self wrong, and you, right? That’s a fair assumption, considering the usual dumb humor I employ in this blog.

If there’s one thing that will make me sob like it’s the end of the world, it’s a doomed romance between two people who want more time together. You show me a romance that ends in tragedy, and I’ll show you my crying face, which could rival Kim Kardashian in terms of ugliness. 

I normally don’t like to write about well-known movies or TV shows because I rarely have anything new to add to the conversation. Like what the hell could I possibly add to the already bloated conversation about the latest “Star Wars,” trilogy? Also, I get bored talking about popular things other people already like. It’s why I sometimes create a list of “obvious” vs. “non-obvious” suggestions when putting together recommendations, as a way to remind people that yes, I have heard of that movie or show they love, but no, I don’t think it needs its own blog post talking about its awesomeness.

 However, I decided to make an exception today for two reasons:

  1. I love Nick Offerman.
  2. That damn song.
  3. If I hear about a show, book, or movie that’s experiencing down-voting by racist, homophobic trolls, then I want to speak out against that.

For those living under a rock, Nick Offerman is an actor most famous for his performance as Ron Swanson in the sitcom “Parks and Recreation.” At this point, I mostly think of him as the loveable patriarch Beef Tobin from the animated show “The Great North.” 

I’m not surprised that Nick Offerman turned in an incredible performance as Bill. He already plays a version of Bill in “The Great North,” only instead of a gay survivalist, Beef is a sensitive, devoted father (who’s also a little bit of a survivalist, but that’s more because of the Alaskan wilderness). Offerman displays an interesting range as the character Beef: he’s kind, loving, and still a total badass. He’ll get up at 4 am to chop wood, then make his family a good breakfast so he can talk to all of his children before they go off to school. He’s a man who loves his family and hates making small talk with strangers because he comes across as an axe murderer.

All of this is to say that I was eager to see how Offerman’s comedic and voice actor skills would translate to a dramatic role.

I wasn’t disappointed, not by Nick Offerman, not by Craig Mazin’s writing, and not by the show. 

The first few minutes of “Long, Long Time” of “The Last of Us” are strangely satisfying. We meet Bill, a paranoid survivalist, and watch through his eyes as he gets to live out a survivalist’s dream. His small town is evacuated, the Home Depot hasn’t been looted, and he has the knowledge and skills to build himself an impressive fortress. We also see that he appreciates beauty and the finer things: he enjoys wine, gourmet cooking, and drinking out of fine crystal. Bill creates a life that seems remarkably comfortable, if somewhat lonely.

Then Frank enters his life. I didn’t trust the character at first, which I imagine is how I was supposed to feel, to mirror Bill’s distrust of people. However, soon we see that Frank, played by the incredibly charming Murray Bartlett, really is who he appears to be: a warm, friendly man, willing to reach out and soothe the loneliness of others.  The fact that Bill had a whole-ass fortified town also helped that relationship blossom.

(I was not familiar with Murray Bartlett before this episode of “The Last of Us,” but I’ve heard excellent things about his performance in “The White Lotus,” so I plan to look up more of his work!)

Frank and Bill are complete opposites who would have never met had the world not fallen apart. But in this story, it did, and they met and managed to create a lovely life together. It’s incredibly sweet and a touching reminder that we can find love in the most unlikely of places, even in our homemade zombie traps.

The episode ends sadly. I won’t spoil the ending too much because I want to encourage people to watch it for themselves. However, I don’t think knowing something will end in tragedy is reason enough to avoid it. Otherwise, why bother with half of Shakespeare’s plays?

This episode made me sad, but I don’t feel purposeless sadness. I feel the sadness of witnessing something wonderful and knowing that it would eventually have to end, as all things must come to an end. 

I’m curious who made the executive decision to include the song “On the Nature of Daylight” by Max Richter in the last few moments of the episode. I had almost held it together until this track began playing, and I lost it. I started banging my hands against my kitchen table while I moaned like a mama elephant watching her baby get eaten by lions. 

Something about this song just kills me. Whenever I hear this track in any movie or show, the rational portion of my brain switches off, and my eyes turn to water. At this point in my life, I should hate the song. I have every right – I’ve heard it in so many movies, like “Arrival,” “Togo,” and even “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” 

I should hate it because it’s so manipulative. And yet, whenever those first strings begin to play, I feel this tightness in my chest as if the song is telling me that no matter how hard I try, holding on to a moment is like holding on to a handful of water in a flowing river.

I plan to continue watching “The Last of Us,” but only in pieces. If I were to watch the show in one sitting, it would likely turn my brain to mush like Don Quixote. I’d start to think I was one of the show’s characters, and realistically, if I were ever in a show like this, I’d play a character who’s turned into a zombie five minutes into the episode before being mowed down with the rest of my newly zombified crew. The funny comic relief character would run me over with a Zamboni or something equally stupid. It wouldn’t be a dignified end. 

If you’ve already finished “The Last of Us” and are looking for something to hold you over until the next season, I have a few recommendations. You could always just play the game, but maybe you’re like me and video games aren’t your thing. If you’re thirsting over Pedro Pascal and want to watch him own the screen in something else, I highly recommend the space-western “Prospect.” This movie deserves its own post so I can properly explain how amazing it is, but for now, I’ll mention it briefly. 

This movie deserves a sequel, and I will NEVER shut up about it!

If you were intrigued by my earlier comment about sad stories about men who love each other, then maybe take this as a sign to read “The Song of Achilles,” which I’ve written about, or “They Both Die at the End” by Adam Silvera. If you find you need something to brighten your spirits, then I’d recommend the very funny movie “Fire Island,” a queer retelling of “Pride and Prejudice” by Joel Kim Booster.

Lastly, if you’re like me and you want a little more Nick Offerman, then I suggest reading his autobiography “Paddle Your Own Canoe.” The book is full of funny stories about Offerman’s life, as well as advice he’s followed to live a full life. Offerman has a way of writing about other people and his experience with such kindness and genuine appreciation while not taking himself, or the idiotic actions of his youth, too seriously. At one point in the book, he even makes a passionate plea in favor of equal marriage, and why we should defend people’s right to love whom they choose. Knowing all that about him, I can’t help but be glad he was chosen for this role.


4 thoughts on ““The Last of Us” Cured My Emotional Constipation

  1. -Ugh Nick Offerman is chef’s kiss
    -Murray Bartlett was crazy good in White Lotus (season 1). I wasn’t able to finish season 2 though (Murray is not in it) because it didn’t wow me
    -Happy Hagfish, this went too far, now I’m gonna start bawling for no reason: mama elephant watching her baby get eaten by lions


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s