This Last of Us review contains spoilers.
The Last of Us Episode 4
Coming off the heels of The Last of Us’ show-stopping “Long Long Time,” episode 4, titled “Please Hold My Hand,” refocuses on Joel and Ellie’s westward trek and introduces a new character who could potentially cause the show’s story to deviate from the game’s in other fascinating ways.
The episode opening with Ellie pointing her surreptitiously-procured handgun at a mirror in an abandoned gas station is a poignant juxtaposition that sets the tone for what transpires later on. Her pose says “Taxi Driver,” but her mouth says, “Pew pew,” which tells us everything we need to know. She’s a tough kid…but she’s still a kid.
This dichotomy is conveyed throughout the episode. The gun is a through line here, representing the violence and brutality Joel seems to want to protect Ellie from, or at least prepare her for. The other object that acts as a symbolic through line is Ellie’s joke book, which underlines the fact that she’s growing on Joel, and that he definitely doesn’t see her as “cargo” anymore—he’s beginning to truly care about her.
Aside from Joel and Ellie warming up to each other, the episode’s other big concern is the introduction of a new group of survivors that’s equally, if not more dangerous than the fungal folk. Back in episode 2, Tess’ last stand was changed from the game to involve infected as opposed to soldiers. In hindsight, this change seems to have in part been made to save the earnest introduction of non-infected antagonists for episode 4.
Joel and Ellie getting ambushed in Kansas City (changed from Pittsburgh in the game) and crashing their truck into a laundromat is a nod to a memorable encounter from the PlayStation classic, but what ensues in the aftermath is new. Ellie saves Joel’s ass with the gun she snuck, and instead of tearing into her for lying, he simply has her hand it over. Later, he teaches her how to handle it properly. Especially in these scenes, Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey’s performances are nuanced, and the material allows for their eyes, body language, and behavior to tell the story.
Then we meet Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey), the leader of a militant rebel faction who’ve evidently wrested control of the city from FEDRA’s hands. Lynskey does a fantastic job of coming across as formidable and vicious while letting her character’s humanity seep through just enough. She’s hunting down Henry and Sam, and Joel and Ellie, and when she unflinchingly takes the life of the doctor who literally delivered her into the world, we know she’ll probably do way worse to Henry for selling out her late brother to FEDRA.
It’s nice to see that Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have the confidence to expand upon the original story with a brand new character like Kathleen. Being that she’s so enmeshed with Henry from the jump, it’ll be interesting to see whether the brothers’ respective fates are altered from their game counterparts’. So far, the developments surrounding Kathleen and her group haven’t been nearly as compelling an addition to the story as Bill and Frank’s were, but there’s still time to see how Kathleen impacts events moving forward.
One ominous sign of things to come is the gurgling sinkhole Kathleen and her right hand man Perry (Jeffrey Pierce) find in the storage room of the abandoned building Henry and Sam have been holed up in. Judging from the looks on their faces, it’s clearly a major issue literally bubbling to the surface, and Kathleen’s decision to keep it under wraps until they solve their Henry problem will undoubtedly come back to bite them in the ass.
The closing moments of the episode give a bit of insight into both Joel and Ellie’s pasts. Joel all but confesses that he’s killed innocent people to survive in the years since the outbreak, and that he doesn’t want that for Ellie. “It isn’t fair, at your age, having to deal with all of this,” he mumbles, which is the most compassionate and fatherly thing he’s said to her yet. When he recalls her mentioning she’s hurt people herself, she refuses to talk about it.
The way the show is building Joel and Ellie’s relationship brick by brittle brick is incredibly well thought-out. You feel the warmth growing between them, but you know they’re both haunted by visions from their past that they’ll never be able to shake. Henry and Sam putting guns to their heads to end the episode is a tantalizing cliffhanger, and with Kathleen and her people added to the mix, the fuse seems to be lit for an explosive fifth episode.