In the most tense and lively episode of the season, the latest excerpt of HBO’s The Last of Us adaptation is bound to have fans both new and old on the edge of their seats. Ripped almost straight from that exhilarating Pittsburgh gameplay, the apprehension and hostility translate beautifully into live-action. The now-Kansas City QZ proves to be just as brutal as fans remember.
*Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Last of Us episode four*
Original characters & returning voice actors
Scattered amongst this glorious ensemble cast are some original voice actors from the PlayStation game. Making his return in the role of a freedom fighter soldier is OG Tommy Miller himself, Jeffrey Pierce. Pierce puts up a guarded persona with unclear intentions as he parades alongside someone described by HBO as “the ruthless leader of a revolutionary movement in Kansas City,” Kathleen. Played by the talented Melanie Lynskey, Kathleen is shown from the get-go as a cold, ruthless character with serious ulterior motives. Her sternness and blunt orders make her intentions crystal clear. We can be sure this is someone with whom we don’t want our protagonists crossing paths.
Created by showrunner Craig Mazin, Kathleen is an original character inspired by the hunters that players face in the Pittsburgh QZ. After the unexpected source material diversion in episode three, Mazin and Druckmann prove the changes they are making can only better their storytelling. Therefore, I am intrigued as to where this character will lead us. These hunters act on trespassers and snitches within the zones, interrogating and torturing civilians trying to gain information—actions we can perhaps look forward to Kathleen reproducing in future episodes.
The flourishing bond in The Last of Us
That once-evident tension and strain between Joel and Ellie is slowly melting away as we progress through the season. One of many examples of this in the episode is the hilarious conversation the pair have regarding an explicit magazine Ellie retrieves from Bill’s house. Fans of the game will immediately recognise this scene, and many were awaiting its adaptation. It simultaneously displays Joel’s protectiveness over Ellie, and Ellie’s desire to poke fun at Joel. This is one of many chuckle-worthy moments of the episode.
The precautionary attitude Joel displays in regard to Ellie becomes more obvious in episode four. He stays up all night to keep an eye on her, and ensures she gets to safety before he engages in violence; perhaps it’s that everlasting paternal instinct he still carries. (Dad jokes a-plenty.)
One of Kathleen’s hunters sneaks up on Joel after he heroically eliminates the two other shooters who initiate the ambush. Ellie takes action and their roles are temporarily reversed; she can ensure Joel’s safety for a change. Back at Bill and Frank’s, we saw Ellie secretly stash a gun away in her backpack. She flaunts her new weapon illicitly in the early scenes of the episode, but she keeps Joel unaware of her possession after his ongoing argument against her carrying. When Ellie is left with the choice to save Joel or hide her transgressions, she realizes Joel’s safety is more important than her gun-wielding secret.
Following this emotional scene, the two retreat to safety. Joel carries guilt following the events of the ambush. His stumbling and sorrowful apology to Ellie is admirable and once again exaggerates the care he possesses for her. Their relationship has already come so far. Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal continue to excel in their roles and manage to shine brighter every week.
Ellie continues to carry around her mood-lightening joke book. He doesn’t admit it, but Joel is clearly warming up to the silly puns. The book is another easter egg from the games that players can retrieve from Lakeside Resort. “I think it’s time to lighten the mood,” Ellie says repeatedly, usually in serious situations.
A look ahead at The Last of Us
Joel wakes abruptly to two unknown people surrounding him and Ellie—an adult, and a child. They are seen only for a brief moment and have no dialogue. So who are they?
Meet Henry and Sam, played by Lamar Johnson and Keivonn Woodard. In the game, the brothers, live peacefully in a QZ until the military abandons their city. In an attempt to find safety, they split up from their group to find the Fireflies. They agree to meet them at a radio tower outside the city, but can’t make it there alone. Enter, Joel and Ellie.
Kathleen mentions the two characters earlier in the episode. She does not elaborate on their identity or importance, however, viewers can look forward to solving this mystery in the upcoming episode. Henry and Sam notoriously have quite the storyline in the game. I’ll steer away from spoilers, but you’re in for a ride.
Shot for shot
Showrunners Mazin and Druckmann continue to outdo themselves. As mentioned earlier, the scene involving Ellie reading one of Bill’s explicit magazines is one of many scenes cut almost directly from gameplay.
Another familiar sequence takes place in Kansas City after Joel and Ellie crash into the laundromat. The hunters’ ambush and Joel’s standoff are practically identical to the source material. The only difference for the show lies in location, as the sequence originally transpires in Pittsburgh. Pascal channels Miller’s aggression and perseverance beautifully. I praise this show every week, but it’s not enough.