By Tori Preston | TV | February 6, 2023 |
By Tori Preston | TV | February 6, 2023 |
At this point, it’s no secret that The Last of Us doesn’t just hew closely to the source material in terms of its general plot. In some instances, like Sarah’s death in the first episode, it offers shot-by-shot/word-for-word recreations of memorable scenes from the game — and the show did it again this week. With the, uh, porn magazine.
After last week’s episode transformed the Bill and Frank storyline from a minor tangent into a touching standout saga, it seemed like the opportunity had passed for Ellie to discover some gay porn and reflect on the curiosities of the male form while asking a profoundly uncomfortable Joel why all the pages are stuck together. AND YET! That’s exactly what happens while Joel and Ellie are on the road, in a scene ripped directly from the game — but with its significance thankfully altered. No longer is it a punchline to underscore that Bill is gay since it’s no longer clear that Ellie found the magazine in Bill’s house. By withholding the scene for a week and removing that context, it can be just a charmingly awkward jizz joke that lands without tarnishing the accomplishments of episode three. So congrats all around, I guess! We got to have our sincere romance and our source-material-accurate cum reference at the same time! That’s prestige television, folks! What more could we ask for, amirite?
How about… Melanie Lynskey?!
With Joel and Ellie officially on the road and the status quo of The Last of Us finally achieved, the series decided to take its first potentially consequential departure from the game by adding a formidable new villain in the form of everyone’s favorite Yellowjacket. Her character, Kathleen, is the soft-spoken leader of a free rebellion that has recently overthrown FEDRA forces and taken over the quarantine zone in Kansas City. Along with her right-hand man, Perry (played by Jeffrey Pierce, who voiced Joel’s brother Tommy in the game), she’s trying to root out some so-called traitors she believes provided FEDRA information about their forces — and in the process got her brother killed. When some bodies turn up unexpectedly (courtesy of Joel and Ellie), Kathleen mistakes it for proof that these traitors are on the move, and it only strengthens her resolve to find justice for her brother by any means necessary. She even shoots her doctor in the head for refusing to rat his “traitor” friends out, and like… really? Killing doctors in this apocalypse! Who is gonna teach the next generation to patch up your stupid, gun-toting ass when something goes wrong, hmmm?
Not only does Kathleen display a staggering lack of foresight as the head of her scrappy little totalitarian regime, but she also really needs to get her priorities straight. When Perry shows her a sinkhole in the basement of a building that is moving like ominous cement Jell-O she’s like “It can wait! Let’s get those traitors first!” You remember what moves underground, right? The fungi. Anyway that’s gonna be an exciting bit of comeuppance when all the people fighting each other are forced to remember who the real enemy is!
In the game, this would be the time when Joel and Ellie would attempt to drive through Pittsburgh only to be waylaid by a group of raiders, and that is basically how Episode four, titled “Please Hold to My Hand,” progresses. The action is pushed further west to Kansas City, as mentioned, but otherwise, it begins with a familiar sequence of events. Joel discovers the highway blocked by traffic, and instead of turning around and going out of his way to find a bypass around the city he decides to take a nearby off-ramp and tries to cut through the city. Suddenly an injured man steps into the street ahead and begs for help, and Joel tells Ellie to buckle up while he tries to speed away. Joel’s personal motto of “Never Stop Never Stopping” isn’t just because he’s anti-social and overly protective, though. He knows this is a trap, because — as he explains to Ellie — he’s been on both sides of this gig before. Hunters pretend to need help and then rob and/or kill whoever is dumb enough to offer them aid. Unfortunately, Joel’s wise response isn’t quick enough to stop the trap from springing on him, and after a brief chase he crashes his shiny new truck into a laundromat.
Joel is able to fight off most of the attackers, but the last one gets the drop on him and forces Ellie to reveal her stolen pistol in order to save Joel’s life. Though she doesn’t kill the young man (Joel does it to spare her), it’s clear this has shaken her, and Joel is woefully unprepared to comfort a fourteen-year-old girl who has just shot a man — especially when Ellie claims it’s not her first time. Though Joel still insists that Ellie is just “cargo” to him, this episode shows the pair finally begin to bond over their own hard-won survival. Just as Joel refuses to divulge more details about his time as a hunter, attacking innocent people, Ellie too doesn’t want to go into specifics about her violent past. The weight of the stories they don’t share pulls them together, and though Joel isn’t great at offering comfort he does relent and allow Ellie to keep her pistol.
Of course, it’s not all bonding over doom and gloom for these two, because it turns out that in addition to that porn magazine, Ellie also picked up a truly horrendous book of jokes. Bella Ramsey sells the serious moments but she absolutely shines when Ellie is being a typically incorrigible, sarcastic teen. Her triumph when she finally gets Joel to not only smile but giggle over a poop joke is proof that if this pair can come together over more than just necessity, it’ll be thanks to Ellie’s impish tenacity.
So while Joel and Ellie are killing and sneaking their way around Kansas City, trying to find an escape, Kathleen is looking at the bodies they’re dropped and coming to all the wrong conclusions about how these outside interlopers must be working with the traitors. Speaking of the traitors, it’s a pretty good bet that the two people who ambush a sleeping Joel and Ellie in the episode’s final moments are exactly the people Kathleen has been searching for. Are we looking at a potential team-up? Will Kathleen get her justice before the Infected arrive? Was that a Bloater I saw in the scenes from next week?! We won’t have to wait long to find out, because HBO Max is dropping the next episode early this Friday, to avoid a conflict with the Super Bowl!