The Last Of Us episode 3: Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman unpack ‘exquisite’ episode


Warning: Spoilers for The Last Of Us Episode 3

If you’ve landed on this article because you just watched the latest episode of The Last Of Us, we’ll take a bet you’re still sobbing over what you just witnessed.

Episode three of the post-apocalyptic series, adapted from the 2012 video game of the same name, momentarily whisks us away from the fraught path of Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), and gently plants us in a sweet, strawberry garden of love.

As the adage goes, hope is the only emotion more powerful than fear, a theme deeply explored in this truly exquisite piece of television, and why it will emerge as a standout from the show’s nine-episode run. Or of any show, for that matter.

Australian actor Murray Bartlett and US actor Nick Offerman take centre screen for this brief storyline pivot, which is now streaming on Binge.

Bill (Offerman) has become a survivalist with a tough shell after a contagious virus ravaged much of the global population, building what can only be described as Fort Knox around his home, and his heart.

Enter Frank (Bartlett), a flower emerging from the rubble of this damaged world. Bill is introduced to Frank after he falls victim to one of his insane booby traps, and is seconds away from killing him.

Sparing his life is just the first of Bill’s hardened layers that are delicately peeled back in this stirring, 55-minute love story that has the viewer so invested, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d been following it for decades.

It’s no surprise the script was the works of Chernobyl writer Craig Mazin.

“One of the great things about this game and this show is … One of the key phrases in the show is ‘When you’re lost in the darkness, look for the light.’ And I think we all knew with this extraordinary script that this episode is getting to the heart of that,” Bartlett, 51, said of the episode.

“There can be hope in anything, and there’s possibility of connection even in the darkest of situations.

“I mean, obviously if you’re in a war zone or some dire situation, it’s an enormously challenging thing to do. And yet we see in this story, in a post-apocalyptic world that is dark and scary and lonely, that humanity can triumph in terms of finding light within each other, finding hope within each other, and find finding strength and connection with each other.”

Offerman, 52, best known for his comedy chops spanning a three-decade career, echoed Bartlett’s sentiment with his signature comedic charm.

“I’ve had a life that spans … I grew up in a farm family, and I’ve been a labourer and, and now I’m married to the woman who played Karen Walker on Will and Grace (Megan Mullally). She affords me fabulous riches and, all of the incredible lotions that I love to rub into my body,” Offerman laughed, before driving home his point.

“And what I’ve learned living a spectrum of existences or in all different parts of life in this country, is that none of it matters if you don’t have someone to love.

“That’s what I love about it is … In the middle of this crazy futuristic, sci-fi scenario, is this seed of love that is most important to these people.

“And I haven’t seen the rest of the episodes yet, but I’m gonna guess they [Bill and Frank] might be the happiest people in the land for a lot of the time that the show covers. And it’s, and it’s not because they have the most guns, it’s because they have strawberries.”

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The acting duo share a tender chemistry that is paramount to the episode tugging at the heartstrings in the effortless way it does.

One would think there was an arduous audition process to discover such a profound connection between the veterans.

“No, we auditioned separately, there was no chemistry read or anything,” Bartlett admits.

“We relied on Craig’s instincts. We were very fortunate that it worked out … Nick is an extraordinary actor, and so beautifully cast in this role, and he was so willing to jump in this in such a wholehearted way, as was I.

“And so we met each other at that point and it was really with such a great love of this extraordinary script. We were just trying to do justice to the gorgeous script that was in front of us, and I think we found the way to do that was to just really commit to it and not be afraid to go to the places that it was taking us.”

It was then that Offerman claimed he auditioned for the role staring at a dreamy headshot of Bartlett.

“They did ask me to go on tape looking at a photograph of Murray, and they zoomed in on my eyes,” Offerman said. “And we joke, but it was a problem at times. The days ran long, and we’d look around and most of the crew would be staring at Murray, dumbfounded by his bone structure.

“We’d have to snap our fingers and say, ‘People, focus!’”

We won’t give away the ending, it’s something you must see in all its emotional glory on the small screen.

However, Offerman is – albeit, jokingly – hopeful this isn’t ‘the last of’ Bill and Frank.

“You’re god damn right we can imagine a spin-off. We’ve done nothing but pleasure ourselves to visions of a spin-off,” Offerman said.

“Prequels, epilogues, you name it. It would be wonderful to see a lot of the stuff fleshed out, a lot of the dynamics that we skip across. Because it’s 20 some years that we cover.

“I’d say five, 10 episode seasons should probably cover it.”

He added, “But I mean, it’s amazing in that way. This episode really covers a vast chunk of time in these two people’s lives, which is one of the things that makes it so special, seeing from the very beginning how this develops over time, it’s like a film, in that it’s complete in terms of the beginning, to the end of this story.

“There’s something really wonderful about that passing of time and that the coverage of time in this episode that really allows you to see the full flowering of this relationship. But yeah, how great [it would be] to go back and fill in all those spaces.”

New episodes of The Last Of Us drop Mondays on Binge

Originally published as The Last Of Us episode 3 unpacked by stars Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman

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