THE LAST OF US 1×04 “PLEASE HOLD TO MY HAND” has a hard act to follow up on with the events of the previous episode being critically acclaimed. I also admit to some degree of regret that we don’t get to have Ellie interact with Bill nor some of the stunning set pieces from the game like the upside down shooting against a horde of Infected. Indeed, the lack of Infected is something I’m beginning to notice in this series. It’s not that they don’t exist but they occupy a much smaller role overall, which I attribute to budget issues.
The premise this time around is that Ellie and Joel load themselves up at Bill’s before continuing on their journey. Unfortunately, no sooner do they arrive at something passing civilization then they end up getting ambushed by the Hunters. Ellie and Joel are forced from their vehicle and have to confront the humanity of their opponents even as they are in a kill or be killed situation.
Part of the issues of this episode are that it is trying to balance the demands of prestige television with character development as well as everything being “serious” versus the fact The Last of Us video game was primarily an action/stealth game. This is not a bad thing, quite the opposite, but I feel the story is suffering somewhat from its desire to move away from the fact it is a big action movie tale like most AAA action games.
I feel like the show suffers for the unwillingness to show Joel as a badass strangling, stabbing, and murdering baddies. You might argue that this would take away from the dramatic storytelling but it’s also the bedrock on which The Last of Us is built upon. If you’re trying to make a video game adaptation that is serious and touching, don’t ignore that it is an action/stealth game.
Still, the episode has a lot of extremely good bits, though. At one point, Joel turns the tables on a Hunter and the man dies begging for his mother. It’s a good moment. that establishes that every human they’re going to encounter throughout this story is a “normal” person driven to desperation by horrific events. However, I also feel like this moment goes on a bit too long and Joel would have put him down much earlier.
We also have an entirely new character in Kathleen, who is the leader of the Hunters. The Hunters were a fairly typical bandit gang before but the new version is an entire army. There’s also a greater focus on the dramatic irony. In the game, Joel kills some of the Hunters and soon finds himself hunted by them because they want to avenge their dead friends. Here, Joel and company kill some of the revolutionaries but they assume Joel is part of their enemies.
Really, the best elements of this episode are Joel slowly lowering his guard around Ellie. Joel doesn’t want to bond with her but her charming personality and humanity is something that is slowly warming up his ice cold heart. I think it was important to establish Joel as dead inside in prevuous episodes, one thing that Pedro Pascal struggles with as his natural likability is hard to cast, but we’re getting to some of my favorite parts of the game now.
In conclusion, a really solid and entertaining episode that gets to the heart of what makes the game work: Ellie and Joel’s relationship. Sadly, I do think they’re missing the opportunity to do some fantastic action sequences.
Read Our Other The Last of Us Reviews