What Does It Mean That ‘The Last of Us’ Episode 3 Has Been ‘Review Bombed’?

The Last of Us‘s third installment “Long Long Time” is an absolutely incredible episode of television, delivering a tender love story between apocalypse survivors Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett). Not only did “Long Long Time” provide a touching, hopeful look at end of world, it also expanded on an implied queer relationship from game that ended tragically.

Unfortunately, a number of viewers did not enjoy “Long Long Time” and are making their ire known through “review bombing.” Review bombing is when a large number of people leave negative online reviews on a product over a concentrated period of time. In the case of film and TV shows, review bombing primarily takes place on aggregator sites like Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, and Metacritic. Since Rotten Tomatoes does not allow user reviews for individual episodes, the review bombing for “Long Long Time” is happening on IMDb and Metacritic.

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At the time of writing, “Long Long Time” has a 4.7 user score on Metacritic (user scores are out of 10). Out of 1102 ratings, 578 are negative. On IMDb, “Long Long Time” holds a 7.9 rating out of 10. 121,111 IMDb users left ratings on this episode, and while just over half gave the episode a perfect score, a little over a quarter gave the episode a one out of 10. The first two episode both hold a score of 8.6 on Metacritic and 9.2 on IMDb.

So what is it about “Long Long Time” that has mobilized review bombers? The answer is disappointingly all too predictable: homophobia. It’s no coincidence that an episode centering a gay romance has become the target of online trolls, and the user reviews confirm this. Reviews complain that the episode pushes “the agenda” or “inclusive propaganda.” Others complain that the episode deviates too far from the game, even though the changes to Bill and Frank’s story are fully in keeping with the thematic spirit of The Last of Us and are backed wholeheartedly by Neil Druckmann, creator of the game and co-creator of the series. (Bill and Frank are also gay in the game.)

Review bombing tends to be triggered by racism, sexism, and homophobia. For example, in 2022, Prime Video briefly paused reviews to The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power in order to protect the show from trolls. Much of the online vitriol was directed at the show’s cast members of color. Even The Last of Us franchise is no stranger to review bombing. In 2020, review bombers targeted the The Last of Us Part IIbecause of an early in-game death and the game’s centering of characters. (So, brace yourselves for Season 2.)

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As upsetting as the rhetoric behind the review bombing of “Long Long Time” is, it doesn’t have that large of an impact on the show’s rating itself. The Last of Us still holds a 7.7 user score on Metacritic, and an even more impressive 9.3 on IMDb. Critics (myself included) showered “Long Long Time” and The Last of Us with acclaim. On the ratings side of things, 6.4 million viewers watched “Long Long Time” when it aired on Sunday night — a 12 percent increase from viewership the week prior. And since viewership continues throughout the week, that number is sure to increase. Despite the best efforts of trolls, The Last of Us is doing more than fine.

Still, it bears repeating that the existence of queer people in media and in the real world does not reflect some insidious agenda or propaganda. Newsflash: LGBTQ people exist, and they have the right to exist in film and TV as well. One-star reviews won’t change that.

The Last of Us is now streaming on HBO Max. New episodes air every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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