Yes, The Song in the ‘Last of Us’ Is by Mexican-American Music Legend Linda Ronstadt
Beware: Major Spoilers for “The Last of Us” (the show and the game)
For fans of “The Last of Us,” the new HBO adaptation might feel a little jarring. Mostly because it’s not really an adaptation as much as it is a supplement to the original game. The show takes its time exploring subplots and characters that we only get glimpses of in the game.
Last Sunday’s episode, with its hugely popular needle drop, is proof that “The Last of Us” is far more than a recreation of the decade’s most influential video game. It only enriches the experience of playing. Together, they tell a complete story, unlike anything in the history of video game adaptations.
Linda Ronstadt makes an appearance (well, her song does)
However, one of the highlights of the third episode comes courtesy of Linda Ronstadt‘s “Long Long Time.” Because the song is seeing a resurgence in streaming thanks to the show, it’s worth remembering that Linda Ronstadt is actually a Mexican-American woman from Tucson, Arizona.
Her father, Gilbert Rondstadt, is of Mexican descent and came from a long line of ranchers who were integral in making Arizona what it is today. Linda lived on the family ranch until she left to pursue her music career at the age of 18. Prior to that, Linda performed music with her brother and sister, playing everything from folk and bluegrass to classic Mexican standards.
Although “Long Long Time” was a minor hit when it first hit the airwaves in 1970, “The Last of Us” put it to good use in illustrating the relationship between Bill, a hypervigilant survivalist, and Frank, a man he rescues from certain death. The song makes a number of appearances throughout the episode, first as a rendition performed by stars Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett. Later, Rondstadt’s original plays during the episode’s final moments.
The creators used Ronstadt’s song to define Bill and Frank’s relationship
Bill and Frank form a beautiful romance over the course of twenty long years before Frank is unable to take care of himself as a terminal illness slowly kills him. Fans of the original game will note that none of what happens in the show’s third episode happens in the game. At least, not like it does in the show.
In the 2013 original, Bill is very much alive when Joel and Ellie visit him for a vehicle that can take them to their final destination, a Firefly-run hospital in Seattle. There are gestures toward his relationship with Frank, but the game only hints at what is ultimately the main story of episode three.
Even more, the way it plays out in the game versus the show is night and day. In the game, Frank only appears as a dead body, a man who hanged himself after the dissolution of his relationship with Bill. The two parted ways on bad terms, leading Frank to leave Bill’s compound and venture out on his own.
Of course, he didn’t make it far before sustaining bites from the infected. Left with the option of either dying or turning, Frank chose to end his own life. If players are curious enough to learn more, they can learn more about Bill and Frank by finding Frank’s suicide note in the nearby home where he died.
That ending, though…
For fans expecting a shot-for-shot recreation of the original game, creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann saved the biggest surprise for last. Like we said before, Bill is alive when Joel and Ellie visit his home in the original game. In the HBO adaptation, Bill and Frank choose to die together as a result of the latter’s terminal illness.
By the time Joel and Ellie make it to Bill’s house, they’ve both been dead for quite some time. Bill bequeaths his arsenal of weapons, supplies, and vehicles to Joel, who stocks up with Ellie and hits the road. The show does us the courtesy of allowing Joel and Bill to interact in an extended flashback sequence, but not to the degree we see in the game.
However, the final shot, a view of the open window in the room where Bill and Frank chose to die in each other’s arms, echoes the final shot of the game’s second installment, in which Ellie decides to return to Jackson to rekindle her relationship with Dina. The parallels are pretty incredible and the episode is only enriched by this understanding of the source material.
Of course, the moment is only amplified by Ronstadt’s song. Let’s put it this way: onions were cut around the world.
The show is getting back on track next week
However, based on the teaser for next week’s episode, the show is looking to get back on track in adapting the storyline of the original game.
Soon after Joel and Ellie drive away in Bill’s truck, they encounter a group of raiders who bumrush the mismatched duo. It’s one of the more violent sections of the game and, if the teaser is any indication, we’re in for one hell of a ride.
Until then, Ronstadt’s song will be playing in our heads for at least the rest of the week.