Last week delivered a beautiful, emotional story that focused on Bill and Frank’s relationship and helped Joel understand that to endure and survive in the world, he must have someone he cares for to protect. At 45 minutes, this episode is not as profound as the previous one but still entertaining and maintains the high quality The Last of Us has become known for.
To be blunt, nothing much happens in this episode, but it is a build-up for the next, and possibly future series, which is a good thing. This time, we see the bond between Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) as they continue their journey to find Tommy and the Fireflies. The relationship between Joel and Ellie is a treat to watch, masterfully performed by the actors and working with a quality team behind them to capture the beginning of the two working together and being there for each other. Some backstory is given thanks to Ellie’s curious nature and despite Joel’s unwillingness to share. There is an understanding between the two and you can see the walls starting to, slowly, come down on Joel’s side through Ellie and her excellent puns. Joel has brutality because of the world and all he has lost but still wants to protect Ellie from the more callous actions that the world demands.
There are some scenes that fans of the game will enjoy. One is an infamous scene with a certain magazine that is a fun addition, but after the last episode, it feels misplaced. That is not to say it is a bad scene; it is fun and some much-needed reprieve, but it was serviced to the fans of the game, not the story that resulted in its addition. It was not delivered as naturally as the game but forced in to satisfy fans. Again, not a bad thing. It gives some levity to the situation and shows Ellie’s fun side and more of her personality that Ramsey excels at and captures perfectly. As in the game, Ellie will lighten the mood with her No Pun Intended: Volume Too, adding more to her character.
The Hunters make their debut in this episode, led by Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey), a ruthless and passionate leader hellbent on revenge and punishing those responsible for a loved one's death at the hands of FEDRA. The hunters are a massive organization, a close-knit community that deeply feels when a member of their community is killed and turns lethal when seeking retribution for it. Lynskey is vulnerable but merciless as Kathleen and if the episode is anything to go by, we will be seeing more of her and that will be a continued joy to watch. With the hunters more of a community, you see the danger in them by how well they are organized under Kathleen and how resourced they are but one thing that lacks is a haunting moment in the game when Joel and Ellie discover piles of bodies and stolen items. It is understood why this change is made; the threat of them is there, but not the brutality. Joel comes off as more brutal than the hunters. An interesting change for the better, but it feels like more could be done with the hunters. Since this episode is building up to a few iconic moments in the game and in the show, it stands to reason these will pay off.
Kathleen is a fantastic addition to the series, creating tension and threat. Joel and Ellie’s bond grows and Ramsey showcases more of Ellie’s fun side while Pascal triumphs showing Joel’s brutal nature. Scenes taken straight from the game will satisfy game fans but feel out of place and the hunters need some more screen time to have an impact.
Episode 4 is more about the build-up than the previous installments. Time is taken to see communities, backstories explained and relationships being built. Taking the time to show the progression of Joel and Ellie’s relationship is the strongest point in the episode and many will enjoy the closing moments of the episode. Characters are woven together and into the plot more, but there are some things lacking from the hunters that could have been done with more time to establish them.
Final Score- [7/10]
Reviewed by - Leigh Doyle
Publisher at Midgard Times
Premiere Date: February 5, 2023, on HBO
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