TV Review: The Last of Us, Episode 4

By Matthew Moorcroft

Highest Recommendation

  • Directed by Jeremy Webb
  • Starring Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Melanie Lynskey, Lamar Johnson
  • TV-MA

About partway through this episode of The Last of Us, Joel and Ellie are attacked by a group of what they assume to be raiders. Joel tries to fend them off while Ellie goes into hiding, but Joel is cornered and nearly chocked to death. Ellie comes to his rescue using the gun that she had secretly stolen from Bill and Frank’s. She shoots, and suddenly you are confronted with the realization that these weren’t raiders. Joel and Ellie, essentially, trespassed onto somebody’s home without even realizing it, and now two people are dead.

It’s a sobering moment that also works as a great thematic talking point for Please Hold to My Hand, which is mainly a character building episode for our two leads. Both Joel and Ellie have seen a lot and done a lot, having endured pain that neither of them have come to terms with and both of them unwilling to discuss with the other about. This is especially true of Joel, who doesn’t want another person to lose so he clearly is keeping Ellie at a distance, hoping that he doesn’t become too attached again.

But Joel, for better and for worse, is somebody who clearly gets easily attached, and throughout the episode – with every pun filled joke that Ellie makes and the things she does to protect herself and Joel – his walls are slowly starting to break and we are getting to see his true self. It’s impressive on much this episode does with so little, as Pascal’s performance of Joel has been continuously subdued and quiet. So the show plays it equally as subdued, which is the smart thing in the long term as it allows for Pascal and Ramsey to flex their acting muscles.

And I’m never, ever going to stop praising Ramsey’s portrayal of Ellie, who is just on fire this time around. With the focus squarely on her and Joel’s relationship, Ramsey nails the dramatic beats while also leaning into Ellie’s sarcasm and comic relief that made their dynamic in the games so compelling and entertaining. Her book of puns aside, the real treat is seeing how Ramsey plays the now famous car scene – which is to say with a sly wit and hilarious facial expression. For a series that can be as grim as grim can be, Ellie’s presence offers levity and grounding that reminds you of the stakes. Joel is fighting for this. For a person.

There is other stuff here worth mentioning. The show is also setting up an upcoming conflict involving a revolutionary movement within Kansas City with the introduction of Kathleen, who is played by the always great Melanie Lynskey. Kathleen is a show original character so it’s difficult to parse out exactly where this is going at the moment but I’m curious to see how it ties into Sam and Henry, who are finally introduced at the tailend of the episode. Their story is one of the more compelling parts of the original game so seeing their part getting adapt with care will be a delight.

With us reaching around the halfway point into this first season’s run, it’s clear The Last of Us is about to fire on all cylinders. And with a killer cliffhanger to lead us into the next, we simply just have to wait for the next one with baited, anticipated breath. Another winner once again from Mazin and Druckmann – give me more.

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