HBO's The Last of Us episode 4 enables Joel and Ellie to spend quality time together, something they haven't had much of in the series so far. The 4th episode of The Last of Us, "Please Hold My Hand," which followed the game-changing "Long Long Time," refocuses on Joel and Ellie's westward journey and introduces a new character who might cause the show's story to diverge from the game's in other exciting ways.
The poignant juxtaposition of Ellie opening the episode by aiming her surreptitiously acquired weapon into a mirror in an abandoned gas station sets the tone for what happens later. Her posture clearly indicates that she is a taxi driver, but the sound coming from her mouth, "Pew pew," says it all. She may be a tough child, but she is still a child.
Joel and Ellie being assaulted in Kansas City (which has been altered from Pittsburgh in the game) and smashing their pickup into a laundry is an homage to a notable experience from the PlayStation classic, but what happens next is novel. Ellie saves Joel's ass with the gun she snuck, and instead of slamming into her for lying, he just demands that she hand over the rifle. Afterwards, he instructs her how to properly handle it. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey's performances are nuanced, especially in these passages, and the material allows their eyes, body language, and demeanour to convey the story.
Their hunters are a part of Kansas City's remaining civilian population, which vehemently opposed the FEDRA rule. They are commanded by Kathleen, a terrifying figure who is blinded by retaliation and who is menacingly represented by Melanie Lynskey of Yellowjackets. When she notices symptoms of surrounding infected, her narrow-mindedness causes her to put a hunt for her alleged brother's killer ahead of the security of her people. She is a brand-new character for the series, but her shape is more akin to someone from The Last of Us Part 2, the game's follow-up. Her ruthless devotion to a personal cause allows her to justify the violence she commits while preventing her from seeing the ripple effects it may have on a larger community. A striking piece of foreshadowing, to be sure.
The gurgling sinkhole Kathleen and her right hand man Perry (Jeffrey Pierce) discover in the storage room of the abandoned building Henry and Sam have been holed up in is an ominous sign of things to come. According to their expressions, there's clearly a major issue bubbling to the surface, and Kathleen's decision to keep it a secret until they solve their Henry problem will undoubtedly come back to bite them in the a$$.
Both Joel's and Ellie's pasts are explored. Joel almost admits to killing innocent people in order to survive in the years since the breakout, and he doesn't want that for Ellie. "It's not fair to have to cope with all of this at your age," he mumbles, the most compassionate and fatherly thing he's spoken to her yet. As he recalls her saying she's wounded people, she refuses to discuss it.
Episode 4 of The Last of Us is another fantastic episode, but one that spends more time building up what is to come for its two main characters - both long and short term - than it does providing many defining moments of its own. Yet, Melanie Lynskey's appearance as Kathleen gives the cast a scary, menacing edge, and the terrific action scene is truly thrilling.