‘The Last of Us’ Episode 4 Review: Death Brings Development For Joel And Ellie (Spoilers)

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If you believe that a helping hand exists in the world created by “The Last of Us,” you’ll pay the price. 

Sometimes at the end of a knife, other times with a bullet to the head.

‘The Last of Us’ Keeps The Momentum Going, Albeit At A Different Pace

“The Last of Us” delivered yet again with Episode 4 (“Please Hold My Hand”) that, not only furthers the plot, but makes the world sold to us by this TV series feel realistic in its consequences.

Where people may find issues with the latest episode of the smash-hit HBO series is in its narrative pacing.

Episode 4 allows us to follow Joel and Ellie after all the time missed in Episode 3, and while the new character moments between these two are impactful in their own ways, they’re often subtle.

Credit: HBO

This is the part where audiences understand that every episode of TLOU can’t be a 10/10, jaw-dropping cinematic episode, but that slower doesn’t necessarily mean bad.

Episode 4 continues the mean streak in ratings: jumping up 17 percent in viewership numbers from Episode 3 to a whopping 7.4 million viewers.

The episode makes a decision to omit any infected. While the infected / undead are a selling point for myriad viewers, fans of the game can attest to the human characters being the heart of this franchise’s appeal.

Viewers are treated to nuggets of vital character development in Episode 4 as Joel and Ellie find ways to laugh in this post-apocalyptic nightmare before s**t inevitably hits the fan.

Ep. 4 Brings Tension And New Characters, No Zombies Required

Ellie indulges in a book full of dad jokes that manage to get a chuckle out of Joel. The two bond over a Hank Williams cassette, a twenty-year-old can of Chef Boyardee and a do-or-die situation.

And if Joel didn’t appreciate the daughter-like dynamic before this episode’s climax, he certainly grows appreciative of her after.

The episode takes a wild turn when the two encounter a “wounded” stranger during their trip through Kansas City.

Ellie asks Joel to help out the stranger, but the seasoned survivalist (with a nod to his ambushing days thrown in) knows it’s all a trap.

A firefight soon breaks out as a team of raiders bust out from the surrounding rooftops and cause Joel’s truck to veer off the road, crashing into a store.

Credit: HBO

Ellie Has A Hero Moment

This is where “The Last of Us'” video-game adaptation truly shines as the gunfight plays out as a confrontation pulled straight from the game.

All the mechanics are shown in dazzling display: from the tense duck-and-cover maneuvers as bullets whizz by to Joel’s direction over Ellie amid the fatal circumstances.

It all culminates when Joel appears to be through with the gang of raiders, only for one of them (named Brian) to sneak up on him and nearly choke Joel to death. 

The Chekhov’s gun moment from late in Episode 3 and early in Episode 4 pays off as Ellie incapacitates the raider with a gunshot to the spine.

Ellie had been hiding the gun she took from Bill and Frank’s house until the moment arrived for her to save Joel.

As Brian lies on the ground, calling out for mercy and his mom, Joel reminds us that decades of survival can’t be achieved with compassion.

He takes Brian’s knife, instructs Ellie to go to the next room and kills off the raider with his own blade. It’s a cruel showcase of Joel’s commitment to covering every track and preserving every bullet.

And in the end, it’s them or “us.”

Joel’s appreciation for Ellie’s life-saving intervention brings the two closer, with Joel finally agreeing to let Ellie keep her own gun.

New Characters Join The Story

Where the episode takes several dips is with its new character, Kathleen.

Credit: HBO

She is the leader of the enclave responsible for the raiders that encountered Joel and Ellie, and slight hints are made of her mission to kill two survivors, Sam and Henry, that were responsible for the death of her brother.

The show tries to sell you on the hardened leader that Kathleen’s become, but it may take an episode or two more to really deliver on that characterization.

After Joel and Ellie share a heart-to-heart on the unfortunate circumstance that the little girl was put through by having to shoot a man to save Joel, they spy on the enclave that sets out to get revenge for killing Brian and the gang.

The scene delivers a true connection with the main characters as an emotional Ellie admits to having killed before. As this show has informed us all along, not every decision to kill makes someone a bad person. You understand that the dire circumstances in this world call for decisions to be made, and Ellie isn’t afraid to make them. Just like Joel.

More Trouble on The Way

The two find overnight shelter only to get discovered by the wandering Sam and Henry, which inevitably leads Joel and Ellie to cross paths with Kathleen’s Mad Max-style army.

Anyone who’s played the video games knows that the franchise gets to its darkest points once Sam and Henry are introduced, so stick around.

As OutKick’s David Hookstead pointed out in his Episode 5 preview, we get a brief look at a sinkhole that Kathleen and her assistant discover that is set to unleash a group of infected. Or a big bad.

Note: Episode 5 will drop Friday at 9 p.m. (EST) instead of Sunday.

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Written by Alejandro Avila

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