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‘The Last of Us’ Gave an Unflinching Look at What Really Scares Us

"And God help any motherfuckers who stand in our way."

Nick Offerman as Bill The Last of Us

In the best way possible, The Last of Us is going to kill me. Every week I find myself anxious and sobbing while watching, but I love every second of it. They may describe it as a horror and drama television series, yet it is also a Masterclass in showing the human experience. The Last of Us takes the formula followed by countless other scary shows and throws it out of the window (the window with a slight breeze making the curtains dance lazily).

Obviously, The Last of Us has very creepy monsters. The humans infected with the Cordyceps fungus are horrifying in a way that sets them apart from the zombie gore we expect. Plus, the sounds they make are much scarier than the standard zombie groan. In this week’s episode, we only saw a couple of Clickers, and each time they didn’t pose much of a threat. Yet we all stayed nervous the entire episode because the stakes were even higher for the characters. The Last of Us showed audiences what truly scares us—losing the ones we love.

**Warning: Spoilers for The Last of Us episode 3***

Save them and protect them.

Episode 3, called “Long Long Time,” was phenomenal. The story moved away from Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) as they made their way away from the Boston QZ. It showed the beautiful relationship between Frank and Bill, two survivors who didn’t meet until after the Cordyceps infection began. Bill was a heavily guarded (literally and figuratively) Doomsday-prepper type of guy. When he met Frank, a ray of sunshine type of guy, Bill had to let down his defenses to allow their relationship to blossom. As happy as Bill is with Frank, he admitted to feeling something he never felt before: fear. When the world went to crap, Bill didn’t care. It was only after he fell in love with Frank and actually had a person to lose, that he was scared.

Bill spent the rest of his life building up defenses around their town to ensure Frank’s protection. When raiders came too close, Bill had no problem going shooting out into the night. After being shot and thinking his death was imminent, Bill wanted Frank to call Joel to make sure he was safe. In the end, Frank wanted to die in the safety of Bill’s arms. Bill granted that wish but guaranteed his own death at the same time so he wouldn’t have to see his greatest fear realized and live the rest of his days alone.

The Last of Us is only three episodes in and we have already dealt with heavy losses. Joel lost his daughter in the first episode, then his partner Tess in the second, and now he lost two people he counted as his friends. He’s built walls around himself and kept an emotional distance from people to prevent feeling the pain of loss again. With Ellie, Joel has kept himself distant from her even though it is obvious there is some kind of kinship blooming between them. Ellie read Bill’s letter to Joel, reminding Joel that men like them are on the planet to save people and protect them. The Clickers may be creepy, but what they can take away from us is the real scary part.

(featured image: HBO Max)

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D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a freelance pop culture writer. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer. She fangirls over the X-Men, folklore podcasts, and historical fantasy. When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse and offspring.