The latest episode of HBO's The Last of Us series is being review bombed as a reaction to its queer love story.
In the show's heaviest deviation from the Naughty Dog PlayStation classic the series is based on, Episode 3 (titled "Long, Long Time") followed Nick Offerman's Bill as he navigated the post-outbreak world and ultimately found love.
The latest installment, along with the show as a whole, has garnered near-universal acclaim, breaking viewership records at HBO and even bringing a number of long-forgotten musical artists back into the zeitgeist (i.e. Depeche Mode and Linda Ronstadt).
But despite all this, the latest episode seems to have irked a certain contingent of people who have taken to the internet to share their dismay.
The Last of Us Gets Review Bombed
Due to its heavy focus on a queer relationship, Episode 3 of HBO's The Last of Us is being review bombed on platforms like IMDB.
The latest entry into the series focused on Nick Offerman's Bill and Murray Bartlett's Frank as the pair meet, fall in love, and ultimately grow old together. And because of this gay representation on-screen, a contingent of largely homophobic audience members have been quick to share its vitriol.
Episode 3 of the series currently sits at 8.2/10 on IMDB, with over 15,000 one-star reviews, largely being considered the result of this review bombing.
Just looking into the reviews themselves, it is easy to see the agenda some of these reviewers are carrying with them.
User mfm_mfbm54 called the episode a "token representation propaganda snoozefest," remarking that the series had " reduced one of the best characters of the game into token representation:"
"Token representation propaganda snoozefest. Bill can’t exist without being gay in Frank’s arms. Frank’s discontent of Bill keeping him locked in the one town is gone. They reduced one of the best characters of the game into token representation. Apparently the writers think Bill and Frank’s identity was just that they were gay, nothing more than that."
rubenoftheorchard asked how people could possibly "give this [episode] a 10/10:"
"How can you give this a 10/10? This isn’t a romance show it’s a show about zombies. This episode has no action and 90% of has nothing to do with the plot of the show. It’s just two guys In house. That’s the whole episode. Plus what are the odds that he would let him in? The guy is clearly over protective, but just happens to let someone in... oh and that person just happens to also be gay? Oh and not only that but also happens to like that person? Oh they don’t let anyone else in?"
And solminafya proposed that this latest installment "wastes so much valuable screen real estate" after what they called a "very [solid]" first two episodes:
"Boring, unfaithful, and politicized episode. The series started off very solidly. It progressed in kinda rushing way, but it’s fine. This episode is an absolute drag that wastes so much valuable screen real estate on a side story that doesn’t belong to the game, just the usual HBO appealing to some audience gimmicks. They zoom in on some side character romantic relationship which was barely ever subtly mentioned in the game, in a way that ruins the story progress and mood. 35 minutes wasted without contributing to the plot or adding any useful depth."
These negative reviews are a stark contrast to the sweeping praise Episode 3 seems to be getting. That same review thread includes over 36,000 perfect scores.
IMDB user andmikkelsen called the episode "something special:"
"Something special! That is how i felt after watching this episode! Not that i had watched something jaw-dropping or mindblowing! Just that i had watched something special that i probably will remember for a long time!"
According to reviewer adotsey-30471, Episode 3 was a "beautiful love story" that was "giving hope to the [viewer]:"
"This was, quite simply put, a beautiful love story, giving hope to the viewers hope for a better future for our characters. It’s disheartening, but not surprising, that people on here are review bombing this because they can’t admit (maybe even to themselves) that they have predisposition to be uncomfortable by same-sex relationships, even ones that are portrayed as completely loving and the model for what a healthy relationship should be."
And jeroen-10631 even called out the episode's haters, saying review bombers should "be ashamed of themselves" and that "clearly the story of two gay men made you so uncomfortable:"
"Some of the people commenting about “political propaganda” and 'checking off liberal boxes' should be ashamed of themselves. Similarly the disproportionate people rating it a 1. Clearly the story of two gay men made you so uncomfortable that you only subconsciously realized you are so behind the times and been raised rigid and immature while hitting that '1 star' button."
Why Do Review Bombs Keep Happening?
This is not the first time a project has been review bombed for nefarious reasons, and it certainly will not be the last. Just last fall, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law was faced with the same swath of internet trolls simply because it was a female-led superhero series.
There seems to be nothing anyone can do to prevent it. And many will look at this sort of practice and wonder what exactly it is accomplishing.
To put into perspective, Rotten Tomatoes has Episode 3 of The Last of Us currently sitting at a 96%, making it one of the highest-rated episodes of TV ever.
These one-star reviews are not going to deter people from watching this show. All it takes is a simple Google search to figure out that this is simply the act of homophobic internet trolls.
The episode speaks for itself. Many are calling Episode 3 one of the best TV episodes in recent memory, specifically pointing to the poignant and touching queer love story at its heart.
Representation in a show on the scale of The Last of Us is incredibly important. And HBO seemed to like the series enough to greenlight a Season 2 with more than two-thirds of the first season still to air.
Queer representation has been intrinsic to The Last of Us since it first hit the PlayStation 3 in 2013. In the game, while not overtly shown, Bill is gay. And one of the most beloved characters in gaming, Ellie (played by Bella Ramsey in the series) is queer as well.
This is nothing new for The Last of Us. It is simply some bad actors taking to their keyboards and feeling strong under the guise of animosity the internet provides.
Episode 4 of HBO's The Last of Us airs on Sunday, February 5 at 9 p.m. ET.