Why does it feel like such a shock when we finally get a The Last of Us episode devoted strictly to Joel and Ellie? For the first time this season, HBO’s miniseries finally focused on its two lead characters and delivered the goods despite a few game deviations.
What Happened in The Last of Us Episode 4
This week’s plot was simple: Joel and Ellie continue their cross-country trek, bond over amazing puns (that diarrhea joke!), and battle a few bad guys along the way. In one notable sequence ripped straight from the game, the pair come across a man pleading for help. Joel doesn’t buy what he’s sellin’ and guns the engine, slamming the truck through a storefront window. A firefight ensues, and Ellie notches the first of many kills on her belt.
Well, not exactly her first (cue mysterious music).
We also meet Kathleen, a hard-nosed leader played by Melanie Lynskey, who is busy looking for someone named Henry. Yeah, guys, that Henry. We’re really doing this…
Anyways, Kathleen, according to Neil Druckmann, gives this batch of humans a face. That’s fine, provided she doesn’t steal time away from Joel and Ellie — they should be the focus in every episode! Even so, Kathleen fits into this world like a glove. She’s cold and cruel, but you understand where that rage comes from.
Clearly, Kathleen knows what she’s doing because she has a whole team of Hunters at her disposal, led by bearded wonder Perry (played by Jeffrey Pierce, who voiced Tommy in the game). I imagine taking down a FEDRA center would be enough to win over followers.
As the episode ends, Joel and Ellie share a laugh, fall asleep, and awaken to find two young men pointing guns in their faces.
Takeaways from The Last of Us Episode 4
- First things first: I really enjoyed Bella Ramsey in this episode. The show gave her something to do for the first time, and the young actress delivered. Her banter with Pedro Pascal was fun to watch; she’s still young and bratty, but not in an annoying way. Ellie reminds us that she’s just a kid forced to endure a horrific world full of wretched people. She should be at home, playing with friends and pissing off her parents for spending too much time on her iPad. Instead, Ellie shoots young boys in the back and conceals her feelings over engaging in such atrocities. Interestingly, she willingly saves Joel despite knowing him for only a short while. From her perspective, he’s the good guy, even though he’s likely just as bad as the people they kill.
- There were plenty of nods to the game in Episode 4: Ellie’s joke book chief among them. The bit in the car with the nudie magazine was almost verbatim, as was the scene where Joel talked about Tommy. I don’t expect the show to follow everything in the game as closely, but these bits always leave a smile on my face.
- Last episode, Joel instructed Ellie never to mention Tess again, yet he openly talks about her throughout Episode 4. Kinda reduces the impact, buddy.
- Giving us more backstory on Joel and Ellie’s attackers is a great way to add heft to the brief action sequences. In the game, Joel and Ellie brutally murder countless hordes of people without giving them much thought. After the store shootout, we learn more about the people who died, which makes us question our heroes’ resolve. Here is a world populated by folks doing whatever they can to survive. Everyone has their unique perspective on the situation, an aspect of the show I can appreciate.
- As an aside: the man’s pleas to his mother were gut-wrenching, but I still think he deserved to die. I would kill him, though it’s more likely I’d be the guy begging for his life.
- I still think they’re making Joel a tad soft, at least compared to his video game counterpart. He appears reluctant to take action on the show and quickly lets his guard down. Pascal certainly looks the part, but his Joel behaves like a man who has given up and is simply reacting to the world around him. In the game, Joel was more determined and action-driven, knowing that every person he killed equaled one less enemy to fear.
- I dug the Terminator reference where Joel wakes up in the middle of the night and, shotgun in hand, watches the perimeter while Ellie sleeps.
- Perry takes Kathleen into a nearby building where the floor looks like it’s breathing. I assume this is a Bloater, which will be fun to see in live-action — next week?
- Still a surprising lack of infected so far. That could all change, and I suppose we don’t want this show turning into The Walking Dead. Still, I’d love more scenes of Joel and Ellie sneaking through swarms of infected or battling Clickers. As much as The Last of Us focused on the human element, it’s still an action-packed zombie horror game.
Anyway, a solid episode overall, one that added to the mythos without deviating too far off course. Episode 4 felt like The Last of Us. Hopefully, the remaining episodes will be equally satisfying.