A closer look at episode four of HBO’s The Last of Us adaptation.
Unlike previous episodes in the series, episode four (known as “Please Hold To My Hand”) of The Last of Us could be cosidered part one of, I assume, two. Last week’s episode was largely its own, self contained, installment. Meanwhile, episode one and two both had a very clearly defined break in the narrative at their close.
A lot of episode four, however, feels like it is setting us up for episode five. It is laying down the groundwork for what is next, and asks more questions than it answers.
But even though this may be the case, there is still plenty to discuss. Let’s dive on in.
PLEASE NOTE THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOTH THE SHOW AND THE GAME SERIES IT IS BASED ON.
Episode four continues on with Joel and Ellie’s journey across America, with the focus almost always remaining on them throughout. Like last week, this episode does not have a cold open. Instead, we begin with Ellie in the rotting bathroom of a roadside petrol station.
Here, Ellie plays with the gun she found in episode three which Joel still does not know about. Ellie is enthralled by it, and while she is doesn’t have the same finesse as Joel, she knows how to work it. She even smells the gun. Apart from just making me nervous, this scene further reiterated that Ellie wants to have power.
In last week’s episode, we saw her cutting the head of a trapped infected before brutally stabbing it in the neck. These actions are very unlike Ellie in the game at this stage of her journey, and are perhaps pathing the way for the show’s now-confirmed second season.
While all of this is going on, Joel is outside syphoning petrol for the truck they now have, thanks to Bill. Ellie rejoins Joel and to pass time whips out – get ready for it – No Pun Intended: Volume Too by Will Livingston.
Those who have played the games and the Left Behind DLC will know all about Ellie’s love of puns, and how this book features in all installments.
Those who know Left Behind’s story will know why this book is special to Ellie. For those who don’t know it – yet – this simply adds another layer of playfulness to Ellie’s personality while setting up what we’re still to see. Joel, on the other hand, is not amused (yet).
When the two are back on the road, Ellie searches around the back of the truck. She comes across another cassette, this time Hank Williams’ “Alone and Forsaken”. This song was used in one of the earliest trailers for the show.
She also comes across some of Bill and Frank’s literature. Yes, that moment from the game has made it into the show. Ellie, teasing Joel, goggles at a porn magazine and asks why the pages are all stuck together.
“How’d he even walk around with that thing?!” Ellie jokes, assuring Joel she is just “fucking with” him before tossing the magazine out of the window.
I am pleased the showrunners made the decision to save this moment for a new episode. This slightly crass humour would not have felt right in episode three, where the show did such a wonderful job of retelling Bill and Frank’s story. Still, I’m glad it made it in, as its adds to the blossoming playful dynamic between Joel and Ellie.
As the two make their way further into the wild, Joel decides they need to get off the road for the night. In the woods, the two can dine on tinned ravioli. Ellie asks if she should get a fire going, but Joel tells her not to. This is not because he is scared of the infected, Joel says – they are not smart enough to follow fire – but because of a bigger threat: people.
As they settle down for the night in Bill and Frank’s old sleeping bags, Ellie continues to read her pun book and strives to make Joel laugh – “Why did the scarecrow get an award?” To Ellie’s amazement, and pleasure, Joel replies, “Because he was outstanding in his field.” Their relationship is slowly warming.
We also see Joel’s fatherly side, although he hides it from Ellie. As in episode one, when Ellie showed apprehension about leaving the Boston QZ, Joel comforts her. Not in the way he would have comforted Sarah, but those paternal instincts are still very much there. When Ellie once more shows that, really, she is scared, Joel assures her no one will find them. Then once she is asleep, he stands guard over their camp with his gun in hand.
As I’ve mentioned before, this The Last of Us adaptation focuses on the people in this world and their stories. One such person getting steadily more fleshed out is Tommy. While not in this episode directly, Joel tells Ellie more about him as they drive (itself a change in Joel’s attitude to Ellie).
Joel explains Tommy joined the army after high school, where he was soon shipped off to Desert Storm. However, this career didn’t “make him feel much like a hero” and he left. When the outbreak happened several years later, it was Tommy that convinced Joel to join a group making its way to Boston. Joel went along to keep an eye on his little brother, and eventually met Tess.
When the group made it to Boston, Tommy then met Marlene, who in turn convinced Tommy to join the Fireflies – this is similar to the game, where Tommy joined the Fireflies after becoming upset and uncomfortable with Joel’s growing inhumane activities and the military’s arbitrary use of power. Back in the show, Joel reflects on Tommy joing the Fireflies, stating his brother made the “same mistake he made when he was 18”.
Joel believes wanting to save the world is a delusional pipe-dream. Ellie questions this, asking if there is no hope for the world “why bother going on”.