Please Hold To My Hand – The Last Of Us (S1E04)

Episode 4 of the HBO show “The Last of Us” was an exciting installment in the series. Joel and Ellie’s relationship continued to grow as they took an unplanned detour to Kansas City. The episode featured some iconic scenes from the game, and had some fight sequences that were also very reminiscent of another game I’m fond of – The Division.

After the tragic passing of Bill (Nick Offerman), Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie’s(Bella Ramsey) quest to find a car battery needed to locate Tommy (Gabriel Luna)—Joel’s brother, who is part of the Fireflies—has been accomplished. As Joel mentioned at the end of the last episode, they may be able to look into his ties with this rebel organization for an indication of where exactly this medical outpost that strives to discover a cure lay hidden.

This is no glossy, big-budget Hollywood action; it’s gritty and raw – reflecting the hardscrabble skills typically seen in people forced into this lifestyle. This makes for an amazingly realistic representation of The Last of Us’ signature style of gameplay: wooden planks splinter upon impact, and firearms sway through rapid aiming motions. It’s a gaming experience you won’t soon forget!

In Episode 4 the pair are forced off the highway into the streets of Kansas City where they’re quickly confronted by a new type of enemy – a human type. The battle with these bandits is intense, and it’s hard to avoid their bullets in such close quarters. Joel and Ellie fight back as best they can, but soon realize that if they don’t find a way out quickly, they’ll be overwhelmed.

Joel manages to take down several attackers but is caught and needs saving by Ellie. As Ellie takes the necessary action to save Joel, she is exposed to the harshness of surviving in a deteriorating world. Her first time shooting an adversary results in the panicking and pleading for help from her ‘victim,’ who surprisingly is quite young. This leaves us pondering over the countless moral dilemmas that arise when society crumbles and our capacity for human compassion becomes blurred.

Despite Ellie’s obvious fascination with firearms from earlier episodes and her bold attitude, when presented with the chance to use one to kill the bandit, she hesitates. Leaving Joel to complete the task that would seem perfect for a young girl hardened by life in post-apocalyptic America. It is clear through this moment of hesitation that despite all appearances, Ellie has not yet fully succumbed to the harsh realities of her world.

After saving each other’s lives, Joel and Ellie form an unassailable bond. After being saved by the young girl he owes her the debt of his life; their relationship has reached its zenith as emotions are expressed honestly for the first time. With this monumental episode, they have broken down any walls that once stood between them.

The denizens of Kansas City, who have firmly rejected FEDRA rule, are led by the intimidating Kathleen – a vengeful woman played to perfection by Melanie Lynskey. Her single-minded determination propels her to prioritize tracking down the one responsible for her brother’s death over safeguarding her people when she uncovers evidence of nearby infected individuals.

With no time to lose, the couple finds themselves in an intense battle with a horde of Mad Max inspired characters storming into the streets. The camera expertly captures Joel and Ellie’s movements as it smoothly changes from hand-held shots during action scenes to close-up views as they frantically hide away.

Joel and Ellie trudge up thirty-something flights of stairs in an office building just to find a safe place for the night. Joel expresses his empathy, saying, “At your age, you shouldn’t have to experience this.” She responds caustically by asking if it gets easier with time; he solemnly answers no. He then adds thoughtfully: “Still…”

Similarities and Differences

While there were many scenes that were particular reminders for fans of the game – Ellie’s reading of the magazine for example, other sequences were very different. Kathleen for instance is one stark difference, and while her character is not one introduced in Season 1 of the game, she does have features similar to those found in The Last of Us Part 2. In particular, her single-minded mission drives her to commit acts of violence without considering the broader repercussions it may have on the community around her. This stark foreshadowing teases further story developments yet to come in this compelling series..

Despite his troubled past, Joel’s unwillingness to invite emotion and attachment into his life is understandable. However, it still stings when he refuses to recognize Ellie as family instead of just cargo. Thankfully we’re blessed with moments of levity provided by Ellie; even if her puns can’t make Joel smile, they bring us some joy in the most trying times.

Joel and Ellie’s bond deepens as they stay in Kansas City, with Joel revealing more about his past and his relationship with Tommy. This episode functions as a stepping stone to the dramatic story moments that are yet to arrive. It is an excellent way of introducing more character development, yet it fails to provide us with the same narrative satisfaction previous episodes have delivered through pivotal events such as Tess’s sacrifice in Episode 2 or Bill and Frank’s romantic climax in the 3rd installment. Our introduction into Kansas City in this instance appears like only half of an incomplete tale.

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