The Last Of Us - Episode 04 - Please Hold On To My Hand Review
*It’s rare that we at Player 2 cover anything that isn’t in the video game realm, but with it’s roots firmly in gaming, and the prestigious talent involved in it, HBO’s adaptation of The Last Of Us is an incredibly fascinating project. So join us, each week as we dissect the newly released episode, from the series’ first to its last.*
Coming off the back of the sensational arc that was the journey through “Bill’s Town” was always going to be tough, but the episode preceding “Please Hold On To My Hand” left a few tempting morsels on the table for viewers to stew on ahead of this new episode. Joel and Ellie have a car now, Ellie has secretly acquired a handgun, and the weight of what has happened to what would be one of the closest things to what Joel could call a friend in this world – Bill and Frank’s death, now hanging off of his neck, are all important threads that Epiosde 04, and the remainder of the season all have to draw upon now.
“Please Hold On To My Hand” begins with Joel and Ellie in the aftermath of their experiences at Bill and Frank’s home. Riding in a truck the relationship between the pair begins to take form. The conversation that we hear in the truck plays out almost 1:1 with the video game, with Ellie whipping out the joke book, and stumbling onto the adult magazine, Joel often lost for words; but throughout, you can see, hear and feel the relationship galvanising. For the first time in the series, we see Joel and Ellie becoming the partnership that drives the remainder of the experience forward, highlighted by conversation that connect the various segments of this episode’s first act – from the truck-ride, to the evening where Joel explains that the biggest threats to the pair are not infected, but are in-fact the raiders and other human threats.
The next morning the dialogue resumes, with the pair plotting out their path ahead, while Joel opens up to Ellie a little, sharing some of his history with Tommy, and viewers have just short of twenty minutes of peace to soak up between the two.Here the story of The Last Of Us’ TV adaptation deviates slightly from that of the game; Joel and Ellie arrive in Kansas City, rather than the Pittsburgh setting of the game, but the city bypass is blocked, and so the pair take the truck into Kansas City in the hopes of emerging out the other side and continuing their journey. Here viewers get some insight into Joel’s life before he met Ellie, as their path is crossed by a man who claims to be injured. Joel sees right through the facade, and pushes through. This act of defiance prompts the man, as well as several others who were strategically positioned nearby to take aim at the truck, creating an accident and an ensuing shootout. They’re outgunned but Joel does an incredible job of brutally executing almost all of the shooters, save for one, who gets the jump on him from behind. Ellie, previously instructed to hide amongst some timber framework springs into action, whipping out the handgun that she stole from Bill’s reserves, taking down that attacker, only for Joel to the finish the job. Despite them being under siege, Ellie’s gig is up and she hands over the gun to Joel before they escape the scene. The visceral nature of this encounter causes the hairs to stand up on the back of your neck as the brutality and uncompromising world of The Last Of Us is placed before our eyes in the most ruthless of ways. Neither side flinches, from those who attack, to Joel as he fights back, the only mode that either side knows is that of self-preservation leading to an intensity we rarely see depicted on the small screen, at a standard that few, save for HBO productions, can ever seemingly hit.
In the meantime we’re introduced to a pair of new characters, an elderly man being held captive, by a wound up militia headed by the other character, Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey), who is interrogating the man seeking information on several former-FEDRA informants including a character familiar to all of us who’ve played the game – Henry. As Kathleen is mere moments from executing the man for not providing the information that she knows that he has, she is interuppted by others from the militia, returning from the conflict with Joel. Engraged by the deaths that they’ve suffered Kathleen storms back towards the man’s containment space and kills him with a single shot highlighting the emotion that drives Kathleen’s motives. Kathleen is of the belief that Henry is responsible for the deaths and so she disperse the militia across the city to track Joel and Ellie down. The iconography is exceptional, from the “We The People” graffiti on the side of one truck, to a snow plow truck that has had “Run” grafittid onto the front of it, highlighting for the viewer the frenzied state of this group.
As they begin to tear the city apart, Joel and Ellie are bunkered down trying to evade sight, and this gives them time to reflect on the encounter just past. Joel thanks Ellie for saving his life, but stresses that he never wanted a child to have to perform an act like Ellie did. Ellie’s admission though that this wasn’t the first time that she’s had to shoot someone seems to activate somethign within Joel however, recognising that Ellie isn’t the same gentle, innocent child that Sarah was, nor in the same circumstance. This prompts Joel to refocus and teach Ellie shooting technique, the delight Ellie has for this teaching and fatherly experience written all over her face as Joel entrusts her to carry a gun of her own.
As the pair once again hit the streets the action shifts back to Kathleen who is assessing the site of the conflict with Joel. Her well armed second-in-charge Perry (Jeffrey Pierce who in-fact plays the role of Tommy in the games) beckons her to examine another building though, one that has clearly been lived in, childrens drawings littering the walls and floor of the antic where Henry and Sam had clearly once been hiding in. Perry isn’t done though, as he takes Kathleen downstairs where they find a sunken concrete basement floor that is pulsing with movement underneath it, the terror that both exihibit at this stage makes it apparent that an infected threat looms near.
We again return to Joel and Ellie who have made their way into a seemingly abandoned apartment building, their plan being to establish a vantage point. The building is 45 storeys tall though and Joel is certain he won’t go the distance, but it does give them time to discuss the shootout, and the fact that Joel didn’t stop to help, the eye-opening experience from Ellie being the revelation that Joel has been on both sides of such a scenario, helping him to see through it. When Ellie asks if Joel was responsible for the deaths of innocents before, he promptly moves the conversation along. 33 floors up, Joel’s energy is tapped and they set up a place to sleep for the nights. Ever the survivalist, Joel disperses broken glass all over the ground to alert them to anyone who might enter that shouldn’t. As they’re both about to fall asleep Joel presses Ellie on her comments about shooting others previously with it this time being Ellie’s turn to deflect. One final, superbly delivered joke from Ellie later and they fall asleep, Joel to be awoken later to realise that his security measures had failed him, the brotherly pairing of Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard) holding them both at gunpoint.
Please Hold On To My Hand again serves as an exceptional world and relationship building episode of The Last Of Us. Narratively we only slightly creep forward, but the way this episode depicts the aggression that humanity is displaying towards strangers, and the growth in the relationship between Joel and Ellie does more than enough legwork to drive the episode forward, making it yet another must-watch from a series, that, to this point, has not missed a beat. We’ll be in Kansas City for a bit longer as the mysteries of Henry and Sam , as well as the militia and the underground menace dangle in front of us leading into the next episode, but for now Please Hold On To My Hand nails the stage-setting for the intense scenes to come.
The Last of Us is available to stream now on BINGE, with new episodes every Monday. This episode was reviewed with early access kindly provided by BINGE.