With the powerful narrative of episode 3 casting a long shadow across the rest of the series, the shorter episode 4 of The Last of Us was always going to struggle to project the level of characterisation we witnessed with Bill and Frank. But episode 4 finds strength in its progression of the relationship between Joel and Ellie as they draw closer together in their trek across America. Be it Joel teaching Ellie how to use a gun, or Ellie telling Joel lame jokes from a book she carries, we finally get to see why the pair make such a formidable team in the long run.
Episode 4 introduces a new faction (outside of the Fireflies and FEDRA) with a female leader appearing to hold a few secrets. Kathleen (you’ll recognise her if ever watching an episode of Two and a Half Men) demonstrates ruthlessness, but it is more of a bridge episode for what is to come as we aren’t offered much about motive, purpose or desire other than a few names.
Episodes 2 and 4 have resembled much of the gameplay style players would be used to: climbing through tight spaces and fighting off both the infected and human enemies. It’s both familiar and foreign as the show continues to add depth upon every layer. The ending of the episode also serves to introduce more characters that will play a key role, almost teasing viewers who thought they may get the meat of episode 3 each week.
One of the main points of interest is the desire of Ellie to contribute to the violence so often seen from her protector. She isn’t going to just hide in a wall and watch Joel get beaten up, eager to wield a gun and be recognised as useful instead of ‘cargo’. It’s essential to the growth of both characters, and the onion-like Joel begins to accept this. It ties much to his memory of his own daughter and how he would father her in an apocalypse. Ramsey’s performance of Ellie continues to impress, comfortable in calling someone a motherf*cker but also demonstrating the fear of a 14-year-old girl in an almost hopeless world.
The show offers interesting POV angles when applying action in this episode. Much of the gore is achieved off-screen, which adds to the brutality (we definitely hear the shots, cuts and crunches). This mirrors the ‘do not look in there’ letter from Bill, as we are starting to see a focus on less being more within the TV version. It works for now, but there are some moments that will rely on showing all to drive home the power of the game.
Episode 4 is another strong entry into the series, setting up a longer episode 5 that will focus on two new characters. The music, settings and set pieces have all demonstrated the care that has gone into this adaptation, with an eye on the winter months to come.