‘The Last of Us’ Episode 4: Please Hold to My Hand

HBO’s The Last of Us has officially been introduced to the world and its fourth episode, “Please Hold to My Hand” has arrived. Here is a breakdown of what was seen in the episode and how it may impact the season going forward. Please be advised that this may contain spoilers for both The Last of Us series and video game.

As with the previous episode, this opens without a cold open and they are unlikely to return as the world is fully established at this point and there do not seem to be any lingering questions about how the outbreak started but we immediately see Ellie obsessing over Frank’s pistol she purloined. It’s almost as though she has a romantic fixation on the gun but she is familiar with it having grown up in a FEDRA orphanage but she seems drawn to the power that a gun brings and the ends that are accomplished through violence in this world. This scene is short but it gives more of a glimpse into Ellie’s darker tendencies but it quickly transitions to an exterior shot of a rest station as Joel siphons dormant gasoline from surrounding vehicles. It is during this moment of silence where fans of the game will see Ellie break out her beloved book of puns and jokes that only played in the game when no movement or action was performed for a certain length of time. Ellie manages to crack up at her own jokes but Joel remains stone faced for a short time while he is still cagey about revealing details of his life in the early days of the pandemic. As the pair drive away, Ellie remarks about how the cars how been moved out of the roadway to make way for some large vehicle with a plow attached to the front as it foreshadows the type of danger they will likely encounter.

During their drive, another scene from the game was directly lifted for the show as Ellie hands Joel a cassette tape of the Hank Williams song “Alone and Forsaken” which fans will recognize as it played over the first trailer for the series as well as during the sequence of the game when Joel and Ellie are ambushed by hunters as they arrive in Pittsburgh. The lyrics of the song even inspired the title for this episode similar to the Linda Ronstadt song “Long, Long Time” for the previous episode. During their banter in the truck, Ellie hilariously reveals she stole one of Bill’s porno magazines and does not seem too interested in the content and quickly throws it out the window but while the song plays, there are more haunting reminders of the old world; there is an abandoned amusement park, buffalo roaming the countryside, destroyed vehicles and collapsed bridges pepper the landscape of their scenic drive. In another departure from the game, we actually get to see how they camp and rest when traveling gets to be too exhausting. While Ellie wants to light a fire, Joel does not share the same desire as he warns her that infected are not the only danger here in the wilderness and she needs to be cognizant of people who have become used to doing whatever is necessary to survive. 

As their drive continues, Joel is still hesitant to connect with Ellie but she is finally able to coax it out of him during the long journey as some long awaiting backstory for Tommy is finally revealed. Prior to the outbreak, Tommy enlisted in the Army right out of high school and fought in Desert Storm to return home and get up to trouble but after the outbreak, Tommy and Joel made their way to Boston and met up with Tess to begin their smuggling operation. Sometime after this, Tommy met Marlene and she convinced him to join the Fireflies and bought into their mission to save the world but eventually, he became disillusioned with this mandate, abandoned the Fireflies and journeyed west to find a peaceful settlement. Joel still sees Tommy as his screwup younger brother and wants to risk his and Ellie’s life to find him and make sure he is safe. It is after this exposition, Ellie questions Joel’s cynicism and if he is so sure that the world cannot be saved then why is undertaking this mission? Joel then dispassionately states that when everything seems lost, you have to keep going for family and do whatever is necessary for them to make sure they survive. He is still not quite willing to connect with her as he even further states that she is not family but merely cargo to be delivered to the Fireflies. 

Shortly after this talk, the duo encounter a roadblock somewhere near Kansas City and initially decide to double back but opt to go into the city in the hopes it will get them back to the highway. Joel inspects the roadblock and see that the road is clear on the other side so it appears that this obstruction is designed to funnel unsuspecting travelers into the city but they take the bait and immediately find the walls of the QZ but the main gate is wide open and not a single FEDRA soldier is in sight. It is right after this that they are ambushed by a small group of hunters and forces them to crash in an abandoned store. After a brief fire fight where Joel manages to kill two of the attackers, a third one enters the store and surprises Joel and gains the upper hand on him until Ellie sneaks up on the fight and shoots the attacker. As Ellie is prepared to finish off the attacker, he begins to cry and beg for his life and this immediately shakes her as she is still not quite used to this level of violence. The attacker, who reveals his name to be Brian, will do anything to avoid his death but as Joel commands Ellie to turn around, he takes Brian’s knife and finishes him off with a quick stab to the chest. They quickly move on from this scene as the noise is sure to attract more hunters to the scene and it is clear that this group in neither FEDRA nor Fireflies and we are introduced to one of the show’s new original characters not found in the game, Kathleen played by Melanie Lynskey.

Kathleen is introduced interrogating a man who was her doctor and, in an effort to save his life, tries to appeal to her compassion and reminds her that he was the man who delivered her into the world. It is clear that Kathleen is looking for someone named Henry but the reason is unknown at this time but what is also clear that this group being led by Kathleen formed some type of uprising against FEDRA and forced them out of the QZ but now that she has acquired some sense of power, she is hesitant to let it go. After learning of the deaths of her soldiers, she quickly executes her former doctor and commands the others to find Henry’s collaborators and round them up. Kathleen’s lieutenant, Perry, is played by Jeffrey Pierce who voiced Tommy in both entries of the video game series. Their search of the city quickly finds the hideout of Henry but also that of a small child who is unnamed but Kathleen is able to deduce that they are running out of provisions and orders more guards at their food stores. During this inspection, Perry shows Kathleen a disturbing sight; cracked pavement in the basement and the ground moving as the cordyceps fungus is trying to break through. Kathleen decides to not inform people of this discovery and opts to keep looking for Henry but this discovery is sure to play a role in the next episode.

Joel and Ellie are seen hiding out from this search and it is an abandoned bar that they have their first real heart-to-heart moment. Joel is out of practice of being a dad or having any type of emotional conversation with someone who is not Tess and he offers up an apology to her for having to adopt violence in order to save him but more importantly, this moment shows Joel acknowledging that he is not able to make this journey by himself and needs Ellie’s help so he decides that if she is going to carry a gun, then he is going to teach her how to use it. What follows is sure to be the first of many surrogate father-surrogate daughter moments in the series and he even manages to crack that she should not carry it in her waist line as she might get shot in the butt. 

The episode closes with the two beginning to ascend a skyscraper presumably to get a good view of the city and methodically plan their escape. Joel’s age quickly catches up to him and they are forced to camp out somewhere near the fortieth floor of the building and his paranoia takes hold once again as he crushes up several bits of glass and spreads them across the floor to alert them in the event of any intruders and another tender moment unfolds. Earlier in the episode, Ellie revealed that her shooting Brian was not the first time she had been exposed to that kind of violence but when Joel asks her about it, she shuts down and states that she does not want to talk about it. What this event is unknown but it is possible that is different than the events of the Left Behind DLC and a future episode could showcase Ellie’s childhood in the QZ and how she had to fend for herself at a young age. Ellie cracks another joke from her book and the two nod off to sleep until they are awoken by the presence of a man holding a gun to Ellie and a young boy pointing a gun in Joel’s face. 

Featured Image Credit: HBO via Indie Wire

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