HBO’s The Last of Us: Episode 4 Review
Compared to previous episodes, the fourth episode of HBO’s The Last of Us definitely has the vibes of a standard filler episode where not much happens, yet it showcases a different side of the dangers of its world – the human side.
Now that Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) have a working car, they make some good progress in their journey and their relationship. This is easily the most we’ve seen of Joel and Ellie together and it results in some meaningful growth between the two. At the start, Joel is still a little cold towards Ellie and her growing sense of curiosity. As Ellie checks out a nudie magazine she finds in the back seat and starts spilling some jokes from her favorite joke book, Joel continues rolling his eyes and wishing he could be anywhere else. However, Joel warms up to Ellie after they face new obstacles and find a greater reason to rely on each other.
After navigating around a roadblock Joel comes across in Kansas City, they find a seemingly injured man wandering the streets who Joel has some suspicions about. Earlier, Joel mentioned to Ellie that there are people out there who are even more dangerous than infected, ranging from small-time smugglers to large factions growing by the day. Joel’s sense of paranoia can be seen from the way he struggles to sleep without worrying about someone sneaking up on them. Joel’s instincts about this stranger end up being right though as he’s merely a distraction for an incoming ambush. While Joel is able to get away and even kill one of the ambushers, he ends up in a fight with one of the gunmen that he nearly loses.
Joel ends up nearly being choked to death until Ellie shoots the gunman with the gun she stole from Bill’s house. It’s a moment that truly changes things between Joel and Ellie going forward and they start to have real conversations. Ellie having to kill someone definitely has an effect on her that’s felt by Joel leading him to apologize for her having to be in that situation. Now, Ellie mentions that this isn’t the first time she’s had to kill someone, but she isn’t ready to tell that story just yet. Still, the effect that it has on Joel and Ellie’s relationship is huge. Joel no longer sees Ellie as cargo and actually teaches her how to survive by telling her how to hold a gun more effectively. He even laughs as a really good joke from Ellie and this does feel like their relationship is really blossoming like it does in the games.
This episode actually utilizes some key moments to Joel and Ellie’s relationship from the games really well and its own take on the ambush scene is very thrilling. Plus, Pascal and Ramsey continue to be excellent in this series and their just perfectly casted. Ramsey brings the perfect amount of tough grit and delightful charm to Ellie and her joke-telling. Pascal showcases Joel’s toughness and will to survive flawlessly while also showing some good vulnerability as Joel warms up to Ellie. This is the first time where we really see Joel and Ellie on their own for a whole episode, and it doesn’t disappoint.
The other key thing that this episode does is show how mean and dangerous the people who aren’t infected are. The ambush certainly shows the vicious and self-minded nature of humanity in this time and there’s a darkness to the world that doesn’t go unnoticed. Even visually, just seeing Bill’s spotless truck drive through an incredibly dirty world is such a stark contrast. The scene of the man who attempted to kill Joel pleading for his life is highly emotional because of the genuine fear that’s felt and Joel killing him off-screen leaves a hard pit in your stomach, regardless how much of a monster he looked like seconds prior. Humanity now has a real mean streak to it and a sense of desperation for survival that makes people as rabid as the infected.
There’s also another faction unveiled that introduces a pretty ruthless antagonist named Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey), who is an original character for the series. Joel and Ellie come across a QZ that’s clearly been abandoned by FEDRA, but it turns out that a resistance led by Kathleen has taken over it and she’s one cruel leader. When we first meet her, she’s interrogating someone with a list of people who have clearly wronged her. The name Henry (Lamar Johnson) is especially special to her and it seems like he did something to get her brother killed, which fuels her anger and bloodthirsty mentality. Viewers meet Henry at the end of the episode as he holds up Joel and Ellie, so it seems like we’ll see more of this story thread as well as what that horrifying crater will entail in the next episode. Regardless, Kathleen is definitely someone that Joel and Ellie will have to watch out for because she seems like she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty and has a pretty robust army at her disposal.
Episode four of The Last of Us might seem like a relatively uneventful episode, but don’t be surprised if it’s seen as more impactful by the time the season ends. Joel and Ellie’s dynamic takes some good steps forward while the series also greatly establishes the human threat of The Last of Us’ world, which fans know is a key part to its horrors.
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