The Last of Us fans hail groundbreaking gay love story: ‘This will go down in history’

The Last of Us

The latest episode of HBO’s post-apocalyptic drama, The Last of Us, has landed – and the gay love story at its core is breaking hearts worldwide.

Unlike the first two instalments, which have aligned almost religiously with the storylines in the video game on which it’s based, episode three veers away from main protagonists Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and shifts focus on to Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett).

Anyone familiar with the video game will be aware that Bill and Frank are a minor subplot to the collapse of civilisation, following the outbreak of a deadly brain infection – to the point where their relationship is all but invisible. 

But in the TV series, their life together is explored in detail, from the day of the outbreak in 2003, to their last moments together in the present day.

Bill is a survivalist, who begins by refusing to be led away to “safety” by the government, instead kitting out his home and surrounding area as a zombie-free haven, complete with traps, guns and CCTV.

Frank, looking for safety, accidentally ends up caught in one of those traps. Despite Bill’s initial hesitancy, he reluctantly invites Frank inside to eat, and eventually stay the night.

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Their relationship blossoms in one of the most tender queer sex scenes ever seen on TV, before the episode flashes forward several years and we see how the pair have been living and surviving, ever since. 

Throughout their years together, the pair confront government officials attempting to break on to their land, slowly build a friendship with Joel and his partner Tess (Anna Torv), and attempt to make it through the barren years by growing strawberries, painting, and playing the piano.

Their demise is not violent or ugly, it is a chosen end for both of them – brilliantly subverting the “kill your gays” trope that pop culture tends to run with.

The result is one of the best pieces of TV ever, thanks to Offerman and Bartlett giving the performance of their careers, a magic script from writers Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, and cinematography so intricate that you feel you’re grappling for survival alongside them.

Fan reaction in the US following the episode last night (29 January) is unanimous: there has never been an episode of TV like it.

“The episode of The Last of Us I just watched was the best piece of television, of writing, of acting I’ve ever seen. An incredibly beautiful political choice. The best thing Nick Offerman has ever done,” one person wrote

Another said: “I didn’t expect The Last of Us to tell one of the most beautifully tragic queer love stories I have ever seen. Absolutely stunning and so incredibly well done. My heart hurts.”

A third declared: “The Last of Us episode 3 will probably go down in history as one of the greatest episodes of TV ever made.”

Many are praising the episode not only for its beautiful, start-to-finish portrayal of a queer relationship, but also for spotlighting that, yes, older men can be gay too, despite the lack of such representation on screen.

Some have compared the 80-minute episode to Carl and Ellie’s relationship at the beginning of Disney’s Up in how it crafts a love story so heart-warming, but ultimately gut wrenching.

Alongside the thousands of people proclaiming the storyline to be a work of art, there are, of course, a whole host of memes providing a laugh for those who are yet to stop weeping.

We are just a few weeks into 2023, but the TV episode of the year has already arrived. All the Emmys, please. All the Emmys!

Episodes 1-3 of The Last of Us are available to watch on HBO in the US and Sky/Now in the UK.

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