Editors note: Deadline’s It Starts On The Page features 10 standout drama series scripts in 2023 Emmy contention. It showcases the critical role writer’s work plays in a show’s success. All materials (the script and writers intro) were submitted before the WGA strike began on May 2.
Craig Mazin followed his Emmy-winning limited series Chernobyl with The Last of Us, which he co-created with Neil Druckmann. The HBO post-apocalyptic zombie drama starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey launched to strong reviews and enthusiastic response from fans of the video game it is based on.
Then Episode 3 came along, taking pop culture by storm. It transcended genre to attract audiences who had never played the game or watched a zombie show and catapulted a 50-year-old Linda Ronstadt song to the top of the music charts.
Titled “Long Long Time” after Ronstadt’s song, the episode, hailed as one of the best hours of television in 2023 — and possibly ever — was written by Mazin and directed by Peter Hoar. It guest stars Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett as Bill and Frank, two survivors of the zombie outbreak who find love amid the destruction.
Here is the script of Episode 3 with an introduction by Mazin about what went into writing it and what he hopes viewers take away from watching:
The Last of Us is a love story, and that’s not always good news.
Love can blind us, move us to violence, harden our hearts to strangers, or paralyze us with grief.
But in the world Neil Druckmann and I built for this show, it was just as important to show how love could still flourish in a positive way. I wanted to explore how two very different kinds of love— the nurturing, generous and beautifying, as well as the protective and possessive— could exist in balance.
Bill and Frank embodied these two kinds of love. And for me, as someone who has been married for over 25 years, it was just as important to portray that kind of love… the lasting, well-worn love that is a product not merely of attraction or chemistry, but of commitment.
My hope was that people would see in Bill and Frank’s relationship the victory of honest, achievable, realistic love… even in Bill and Frank’s ending. After all, each of us will end. That’s not failure for any life well-lived, or for any love we share. It’s simply the final act of what was hopefully a beautiful play. And if we’re lucky, as Bill is, we leave behind a lesson that inspires others to live as we did. Frank changes Bill for the better. Bill changes Joel for the better. Joel changes Ellie for the better.
This is what love can do.
I was lucky enough to have a brilliant director in Peter Hoar and the perfect cast in Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett. They all had the greatest respect for the text I wrote, and in turn, I have the greatest respect for the way they brought it to life. And as I said to Nick when I sent him the script, “I don’t know how to write better than this, so I sure hope you like it.”
I say the same to you, and I thank you so much for reading and watching our show.
Click below to read the script.