The Last of Us showrunner and writer Craig Mazin has discussed the backlash to the first season’s third episode, which focused on the story of Bill (Murray Bartlett) and Frank (Nick Offerman). Speaking to IndieWire, Mazin said the love story in “Long, Long Time” upset some people, as did a belief that the episode was only “filler.”

“Some people didn’t like Episode 3 because, you know, gay stuff,” Mazin said. “And then they kind of retroactively try and come up with a [different and inoffensive] reason why.”

The episode tells the story of how Bill met Frank, their unlikely, long-lasting romance, and how it all ended in heartbreaking fashion. Mazin doesn’t agree that this episode was merely filler.

“One of the complaints I saw was, ‘Oh, it’s just a filler episode. It doesn’t advance the story.’ And I was like, ‘I think this episode advances the story more than any other episode we have’–because it’s not plot, it’s character. It’s the letter Bill leaves behind to Joel that powers the rest of the show,” Mazin said.

Also in the interview, Mazin said the theme of love in Episode 3 and the entire season underpins the show altogether.

“Love is the problem,” Mazin said. “It’s the problem now. It’s the problem for all of us. And we don’t like to think of it that way, but it is. The odds are that we all will do something beautiful and sacrificial and admirable because of love. And also, all of us are going to do something terrible because of love, something destructive or violent or cruel. Because we’ve invented a word for a part of us we have no control over.”

The Last of Us earned 24 Emmy nominations, which was second only to Succession (27). Bartlett and Offerman scored an Emmy nomination for “Long, Long Time,” wile director Peter Hoar picked up a nomination for the episode as well. The awards show is scheduled for January 2024.

As for The Last of Us, the second season is in the works but is currently unable to film due to the ongoing Hollywood strikes. Season 2 will introduce the controversial character Abby, and HBO has cast the part.

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