“The Last of Us” episode 4 recap: “Please hold my hand”
A group of revolutionaries overthrew the fascist FEDRA government – but is the remedy worse than the disease? Pretend you don’t know the way Hollywood tells stories and find out tonight on The last of us!!!
It is certainly disappointing from a moral standpoint that our first instance of intense human-to-human predation occurs with our heroes Joel and Ellie on one side and the group of ordinary people who managed to break free from the chains of FEDRA from the other. I can’t say I’m surprised, because writer and co-creator Craig Mazin is on the very centrist-conservative side of Hollywood labor issues, not to mention the need to violently destroy networks of oppression.
But I’m disappointed. TLoUThe pattern-shattering Episode 2 and Episode 3 paved the way for a kind of post-apocalyptic storytelling less mired in the standard shit the genre has been doing for at least 28 days later more than two decades ago. This episode throws all that out the window in favor of your basic survival thriller misadventure, in which Joel and Ellie are nearly killed by people led by a zealot named Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey from celestial creatures and, uh, yellow jackets fame). They’re not FEDRAs, they’re not explicitly revolutionary fireflies, they’re just people who have thrown off the yoke – and that, by the standards of TLoUmakes them dangerous.
It’s hard to know what to say when recapping this relatively very short episode of the series. (It’s half an hour shorter than episode three.) Joel and Ellie talk about siphoning gas. They listen to Hank Williams. They joke about porn and Chief Boyardee. They try to navigate their way through an urban traffic jam and almost find themselves caught in a trap set up by Kathleen’s people. They kill freely – this includes Ellie, who shoots a guy, though apparently this isn’t the first time she’s inflicted grievous bodily harm on another human. They hide in a skyscraper and are caught, we assume, by a guy named Henry and his son. Henry, from what we can gather, is seen by Kathleen of how the diet in 1984 views Emmanuel Goldstein: He’s the scapegoat, patient zero, the cause of all their problems. Are we to draw conclusions about soil revolution from the fact that it sounds totally stupid? Hey, who am I to judge?
Absent the saving graces of Nick Offerman, Murray Bartlett, and the pleasures of almost an hour of tangential self-contained storytelling, this episode reveals many of the weaknesses we observed before Frank and Bill entered our lives. . Joel and Ellie remain cardboard cutouts, the former gruff and grumpy but basically decent, the latter flippant and sarcastic but, you guessed it, also basically decent. Why it’s almost as if their tough exteriors hide hidden depths of vulnerability! Can you believe it?!
This shallow writing is, again, not helped by the performances of Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, who just seem unmotivated, either by themselves or by the filmmakers, to dig deeper than necessary. in their characters. It gets to the point where you can almost predict the exact tone and cadence of the lines they deliver (you can hardly count what they do as having an actual conversation). Swapping samples, while they eat Chef Boyardee: “Slow down.” “This East slow.” He’s stern, she’s exuberant, I’m bored.
I wish I had more to say about Kathleen. I will love Melanie Lynskey until the day I die thanks to celestial creaturesbut between this and yellow jackets I’m starting to worry that the showrunners see her ability to look worried and just deal with it rather than make her an interesting or believable human being. Take the way she blasts the discovery of an entire subterranean chasm literally throbbing with unseen fungal life. Does she bother to tell the rest of her people? No, of course not, despite how incredibly stupid it makes her – she would rather continue the hunt for Ellie and Joel, whom she irrationally decided are mercenaries hired by her nemesis Henry, than presumably rescue the lives of hundreds of innocent people. people. Mazin makes it impossible to root for or even really sympathize with, given how much smarter we in the audience are than her. (She also kills the obstetrician/gynecologist who gave birth to her, but who didn’t want to do that once in a while?)
Even the humanizing details provided about Joel and Ellie are boilerplate. To give her an obnoxious yet endearing quirk, the show gives Ellie a book of puns. To give Joel a sense of tragedy, they point out that he used to rob innocent people. They also point out that he’s 56, which I bring up mainly to note that he’s canonically older than the main three. Daddy’s Girls during the first season of this show. He would be a good catch for a post-apocalyptic Blance Devereaux, that’s for sure.
The point I guess I’m trying to convey here is that now that the over-the-top adoration of last week’s perfectly okay episode has hopefully died down, we’re left with exactly what TLoU seemed to be on its first outing: a professional exploration of a genre that desperately needs something more than a professional exploration at this point. Are we going to get it from The last of us? I won’t hold my breath infected with spores.
Sean T. Collins (@theseantcollins) written on television for rolling stone, Vulture, The New York TimesAnd anywhere that will have it, Really. He and his family live on Long Island.