Episode 3 “Long, Long Time” taught us a few things. First and foremost trolls are still alive and thriving in 2023, and they find their jollies in review bombing and shitposting the most offensive memes they can think of. Second, and most importantly, is that Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin singlehandedly wrote one of the greatest episodes of television history. Period. I don’t think I have ever been as moved as I was with an episode of television the way I was with Episode 3. The problem with setting the bar so high, when you’re only three episodes in, is the question of if it can me topped, or matched at the very least. My big concern was there was no way they would be able to keep the momentum from Episode 3. Personally I feel that The Last of Us S1E4, “Please Hold on to My Hand” could have done a bit more to live up to the precedent set by Episode 3, but it was still a very very solid episode nonetheless.
We pick up where Episode 3 “Long, Long Time” ended with Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) driving away from Bill’s (Nick Offerman) in his truck. Ellie foreshadows later events by almost Travis Bickle-ing into a mirror with the gun she swiped from Bills. Pointing it at the mirror and pulling the trigger, Ellie instills this false sense of confidence in herself with the ability to pull the trigger. Even if she may have done it before.
After exiting the bathroom Ellie finds Joel siphoning gas, Joel failing to explain how siphoning works upon Ellie’s questions about it. I really love the connection they are forming and I think this episode does a great job of showing the holes in Joel’s façade. While he may be a rough and grumbly man in his 50s, he has these small moments of letting the humor Ellie finds in himself out. While Joel continues siphoning gas Ellie reads him puns out of a book of puns she found, this being my favorite running bit in the entire episode. “What did the mermaid wear to math class?” Ellie asks, answering, “an algae-bra.”
Once done with collecting what gas they could, Joel and Ellie get back on the road. A few hours later Joel decides they have traveled enough for one day, pulling them off to a secluded wooded area where he thinks no infected would be bothered to be at. Now humans on the other hand, that’s a different story. Joel cooks up some cans of 20 year old Chef Boyardee ravioli for them, and then it’s off to bed. Without a tent. In the middle of the woods. It doesn’t really make sense why they wouldn’t sleep in a tent. But that’s really a moot point I guess. Before going to sleep Ellie asks Joel another pun/riddle, “why’d the scarecrow get an award? It was outstanding in it’s field.” Joel still doesn’t really react in any way to the A+ level puns Ellie is shooting his way.
Come morning time, and a thermos of coffee later, they get back on the road and back towards Tommy. Looking for conversation, and generally inquisitive, Ellie asks Joel why Tommy wasn’t already with him. Joel tells Ellie they were together with a group that was heading to the Boston QZ, which is where they met Tess. Eventually Tommy met Marlene, and Marlene convinced Tommy to join the Fireflies. Though this didn’t last long, and Joel thinks Tommy quit the Fireflies.
Shortly after arriving in Kansas City they come across a truck completely jackknifed under an underpass. Joel checks it out and sees it’s completely clear beyond the truck, they just don’t have any way to get around it. This leads them to taking the truck through the streets of Kansas City, which will turn out to be a terrible mistake. Driving through town they come upon what looks like an abandoned QZ, prompting Ellie to ask “where is FEDRA?” Soon after this a man stumbles into the street, yelling and asking them for help; he seems to be wounded in the stomach.
Joel realizes what this is, and decides to gun it past the ‘wounded’ man. A handful of people with weapons line the rooftops and fire escapes raining a hellstorm of bullets, and rocks at Joel and Ellie. While it seems like they may be able to make it out unscathed they run over a set of spike strips, sending the truck careening into a building. Two people surround Joel and Ellie and start shooting at them. Joel notices a hole in the wall and tells Ellie to get in the hole and hide. Eventually Joel is able to dispatch the two people shooting at them, but doesn’t hear the third guy sneak in and get the advantage on him.
Seeing Joel in this vulnerable position Ellie grabs the gun from her back and shoots the man. Ellie’s shot may have been successful in saving Joel, it paralyzes the man. This absolutely mortifies Ellie and leaves Joel with two important jobs: finish what Ellie started, and console her. Joel tells Ellie to go back into the hole, and finishes the paralyzed man off with a slit of the knife. Initially I was thinking this was way too brutal, and out of character. In hindsight since the truck is now out of service and they have to save on resources even more, it makes sense that Joel would A) not waste another bullet and B) it could possibly create more noise that would alert more people to their position.
At this point we are introduced to two new characters created for the show here in The Last of Us S1E4. The first character we meet is Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey). Kathleen is the leader of a group of survivors who have seemingly taken over a FEDRA complex, the one Joel and Ellie referred to when they first got into town. So far Kathleen seems to be a no nonsense take no prisoners type leader. When we meet her she is interrogating a prisoner Dr. Eldelstein (John Getz). The reason for his imprisonment is because Kathleen believes he knows where Henry is hiding. Players of the game will be very familiar with that name!
In the middle of the interrogation a group of hunters come back to the base to let Kathleen know about the incident with Joel and Ellie, though they believe Henry is to blame for this. This is where we meet our second new character Perry (Jeffrey Pierce). If that name, or the voice, are familiar to you that’s probably because Pierce voices Tommy in both The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II. From what I can tell this marks the second voice actor from the game to join the cast of the show, the other being Merle Dandridge who plays Marlene in the show and game.
After Perry informs Kathleen of what is going on in town, she goes back to the cell and shoots Dr. Eldelstein. Ready to put an end to all of this, Kathleen tells the hunters to find and kill every collaborator. The hunters spread out and start with each apartment building, breaking down the doors and swarming them with guns ablaze. Joel and Ellie watch the hunters swarm the building from a shop across the street.
In continuing with the theme of The Last of Us S1E4,, Joel feels bad for the position Ellie is in. He tells her that she shouldn’t have to be put in a situation like this, that she shouldn’t have had to “handle” the hunter she shot. Joel even tries to apologize, but it is so far from his nature that he ends up choking on his words and failing to say anything of value. Though Ellie can feel the care behind his words. Ellie tells Joel this isn’t the first time she’s had to kill someone, which makes him feel even worse. Then we get a truly beautiful moment when Joel empties Ellie’s gun and shows her how to properly hold the gun so that it can’t be ripped from her hands, which I think will come back later in the series.
Back with the hunters, Kathleen and Perry find cans and drawings in one of the attics. They know this belongs to Henry and Sam. Kathleen also realizes that they must be out of food, and Henry would never let Sam starve. From there Kathleen and Perry go down to the basement because Perry has something to show her. In the basement we see a large divot in the ground that looks like it’s writhing and almost breathing. I honestly cannot remember if this is something that is ever mentioned in the game, but I don’t think it is. Nevertheless Kathleen tells Perry to seal off the building.
Joel and Ellie need to rest for the night, so they take one of the buildings the hunters previously swarmed. They decide the best bet is to get as high up in the building as possible. On their trek up the stairs Ellie asks Joel if he’s ever killed an innocent person, clearly trying to justify or help compartmentalize what she did earlier in the day. They eventually make it to the 33rd floor of the building and decide to call it a night. After setting up their makeshift beds for the evening, Joel sprinkles broken glass near the front door, with the hopes of hearing anyone if they end up breaking into the apartment.
This is when we get the absolute most beautiful moment in The Last of Us S1E4,, as well as one of my favorite Joel/Ellie moments. Joel asks Ellie what she meant when she said that man earlier in the day “wasn’t her first time.” Ellie says she doesn’t want to talk about it. Joel tells Ellie, again, how unfair it is that someone her age has to be dealing with all of this stuff going on, he also tells her that it doesn’t get easier. Showing how truly smart and perceptive she is, Ellie tells Joel he should be sleeping on his other side because the glass is in earshot of his right ear and she knows he doesn’t hear as good out of that side. Probably due to the bullet scar on his head.
“Did you know diarrhea is hereditary?” Ellie asks while Joel looks confused. “It runs in your jeans”. As Ellie closes her book of puns for the night Joel finally cracks, and laughs. Then Ellie laughs. Joel laughs more. Ellie laughs even harder. This moment is just beautiful. We have two people thrown into this unfortunate situation and are trying to make their best of it. Slowly they become closer and closer, and are starting to really build the beautiful relationship that players of the game have come to appreciate.
If you thought that was the end of the episode you were wrong. Do you really think an episode of The Last of Us would end on such a positive note? Hell no! Ellie wakes up Joel, and we see there is a gun pointing at her head. Joel wakes up to see they are being held at gunpoint by: Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard).
As stated at the top trying to follow up Episode 3 is a very difficult task to do. While this episode did a great job at hitting certain emotional beats, it was no as action packed as I think it should have been. As of writing this the episode stands at a, 8.7/10 on IMDb, and it does not look as if it was review bombed like Episode 3. So yes it was a great episode, but it was definitely a step down from the first three. The show is taking an excellent direction and I, and I think other players of the game, are appreciating the slight deviations from the source material. This kind of gives players a new experience, and for people who haven’t played the game they just get to enjoy the ride.
Episode 5 of The Last of Us will be premiering early to avoid conflicts with the Super Bowl, it will air February 10th at 10 PM.