Warning: This episode contains spoilers for HBO’s The Last of Us. After the episode that aired on Sunday, January 29, 2023, (from which we’re all still emotionally recovering, FYI) many The Last of Us viewers are wondering about the meaning of ‘Long Long Time’ lyrics by Linda Ronstadt and how HBO settled on that song to serve as the backdrop to Bill and Frank’s story. It’s no wonder US streams for the song are up 4,900 percent.

Giving audiences respite from the action-packed first two episodes, we’re transported back to 2003, a few days after the fungal outbreak that would decimate much of the world’s human population. We’re introduced to Bill (Nick Offerman) a “survivalist” who establishes his own paradise in the evacuated township of Lincoln—setting up boobytraps and an electrified fence for protection while becoming totally self-sufficient for food and, perhaps most importantly, fine wine which he looted from the Lincoln liquor store. What he doesn’t anticipate is meeting Frank (Murray Bartlett) and how they would find love and happiness in a world that would otherwise be very bleak. The emotional song that provides the soundtrack to their relationship is a tune released in 1970 but would take the show’s co-creator Craig Mazin “hours and hours” to find, eventually coming to him via a text from a friend.

What is the meaning of ‘Long Long Time’ by Linda Ronstadt?

What is the meaning of ‘Long Long Time’ by Linda Ronstadt? Written by Gary White in 1970, this very sad, somber tune is about unrequited love. “All the while you fell all over girls you never knew / ‘Cause I’ve done everything I know to try and make you mine / And I think it’s gonna hurt me for a long long time,” she sings mournfully and this is the perfect motif for Bill, who eventually finds a love he doesn’t expect in Frank.

The Last of Us

The Last of Us. Courtesy of HBO/Warner Media

Bill is a survivalist. When the fungal outbreak—which would quickly decimate most of humanity—began, his town of Lincoln is evacuated. Residents are taken to quarantine zones (QZs) but if there was no room for them, they would be executed. “Dead people can’t be infected,” Joel (Pedtro Pascal) tells Ellie (Bella Ramsey) upon discovering a mass grave not far from the town. Bill, however, is delighted he can finally be alone. He spends time raiding Home Depot, building an electric fence and setting boobytraps to protect against The Infected and raiders, while becoming totally self-sufficient in terms of food and, perhaps more importantly, fine wine that he procures from the local liquor store.

For four years, he lives in total solitude—which suits Bill just fine. But everything changes when Frank accidentally stumbles into one of Bill’s traps trying to make it to the Boston QZ. Cautious of his new guest, Bill offers Frank a hot meal with a fine wine pairing, a hot shower and fresh clothes. They initially bond over their enjoyment of the finer things. When Frank notices a vintage piano, he digs out a Linda Ronstadt book of sheet music and plays, clumsily, ‘Long Long Time’. Bill steps in and offers his own emotional rendition. The pair are moved and when Frank asks who the girl is that Bill is singing about, Bill says, “it’s not a girl”. They kiss and when they retire to the bedroom, their exchanges are sweet and awkward. Frank adds he’d like to stay a few more days and 16 years later, they’re still together.

Frank befriends Tess and Joel over the radio and they form a partnership of sorts, exchanging weapons for things like medication and strawberry seeds, which Frank plants as a surprise for Bill.  After living a beautiful life amid an apocalypse, Frank is now dying with no doctor in sight.

He’s confined to a wheelchair and as the morning light streams into their sunroom, Frank decides it’ll be his last. He asks Bill to give him “one last good day”. They exchange rings, eat a beautiful meal together and as his final wish, Frank asks Bill to crush his pills into his wine where he will fall asleep in Bill’s arms. Distraught, Bill decides that he no longer wants to be alone and tells Frank he’s split the pills between them.

“This isn’t the tragic suicide at the end of the play,” Bill says. “I’m old, I’m satisfied, and you were my purpose.” Frank is initially angry, but concedes that, “from an objective point of view, it’s incredibly romantic.” They have their last drink and go upstairs to the bedroom where they’ll spend eternity together.

The Last of Us

The Last of Us. Courtesy of HBO/Warner Media

When Joel and Ellie arrive at Bill and Franks, the dying, dried flowers on the porch signal to Joel that something is wrong. Ellie discovers a note left by Bill addressed “to whomever but probably Joel”. Bill asks that he and Frank’s bodies be left undisturbed in the bedroom but that they left a window open so the house wouldn’t smell. “I never liked you but, still, it’s like we’re friends. Almost. And I respect you,” Bill writes. “I used to hate the world and I was happy when everyone died, but I was wrong because there was one person worth saving and that’s what I did. I saved him and I protected him. That’s why men like me and you are here. We have a job to do.”

He signs off by saying Joel can help himself with anything he likes in the house, including his truck. Joel and Ellie gather supplies and as they drive off, Ellie finds one of Bill’s mixtapes and ‘Long Long Time’ by Linda Ronstadt plays. It’s an old favorite of Joel’s.

The show’s co-creator Craig Mazin told IndieWire how he finally landed on this beautifully poignant tune. “I remember saying to Neil [Druckmann, co-creator], ‘I’m not sure what the song is, I just know that it has to be this incredibly sad song about yearning for love, and never getting love, and just making your peace with the fact that you will always be alone. But it can’t be on the nose. And it can’t be a song that we all know.’”

He continued: “I went through hours and hours and hours. And finally, I was like, ‘I know what to do. I’m going to text my friend Seth Rudetsky,’ who is a host on Sirius XM On Broadway, and has this encyclopedic knowledge of all music,” Mazin said. “I described what I needed and within 30 seconds, it was [incoming text noise] ‘Long, Long Time by Linda Ronstadt.’ I kinda remembered that song. I played it and was like, ‘Oh, my. There it is.’”

Since episode three of The Last of Us aired, ‘Long Long Time’ by Linda Ronstadt saw a 4,900 percent increase of US streams on Spotify. Needless to say, it’s a song we all know very well by now. Please hand me the tissues.

The Last of Us

The Last of Us. Courtesy of HBO/Warner Media

‘Long Long Time’ By Linda Ronstadt Lyrics

Love will abide, take things in stride
Sounds like good advice but there’s no one at my side
And time washes clean love’s wounds unseen
That’s what someone told me but I don’t know what it means

‘Cause I’ve done everything I know to try and make you mine
And I think I’m gonna love you for a long long time

Caught in my fears
Blinking back the tears
I can’t say you hurt me when you never let me near
And I never drew one response from you
All the while you fell all over girls you never knew
‘Cause I’ve done everything I know to try and make you mine
And I think it’s gonna hurt me for a long long time

Wait for the day
You’ll go away
Knowing that you warned me of the price I’d have to pay
And life’s full of flaws
Who knows the cause?
Living in the memory of a love that never was
‘Cause I’ve done everything I know to try and change your mind
And I think I’m gonna miss you for a long long time
‘Cause I’ve done everything I know to try and make you mine
And I think I’m gonna love you for a long long time

Watch The Last of Us on HBO Max. New episodes air at 9 pm on Sundays.

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