Video Games: ‘The Last of Us’ Episode 4 and 5 Review

Screenshot of Keivonn Woodard as Sam in episode 5 of ‘The Last of Us’ on HBO Max. Copyright goes to Naughty Dog, Playstation Productions, and Sony Pictures Productions.

Hey! Hallie here!

I’m a little bit behind on my reviews for ‘The Last of Us’, mostly because of general busyness, but I’m definitely keeping up with this show and I’ve been loving it so far! The last few episodes have been a mostly connected story, so I’m going to review them both together. Regardless of the fact that we’ve been focusing on the same storyline for both episodes, each episode had a very different feel. One episode was surprisingly wholesome as it continued to develop the relationship between Joel and Ellie, while the most recent episode was heartbreaking and horrifying. There’s plenty to get into with both, including the ways each differ from the game. So let’s get into the review! SPOILERS AHEAD!

Episode 4:

The Immune:

Joel and Ellie: This episode is the first episode where we see the two really develop their relationship. It sticks pretty closely to the events of the game, but it even decides to differ the ways in which Joel and Ellie bond to help give their interactions a refreshing and more natural feel. I did love the throwbacks to the game here as well, though. I wasn’t expecting them to do the comedic scene where Ellie rifles through some of Bill’s things that she took, partly because I thought they were going to leave Bill and Frank completely behind in episode three. They matched it word for word in the show, and Bella Ramsey gave it completely new life. They also incorporated Ellie’s joke book into the show, which I was scared we weren’t going to get. Ellie’s completely confident way of delivering such bad jokes never fails to be hilarious. And it was brilliantly made into an even bigger part of Joel and Ellie’s developing relationship. The most heartwarming part of this entire episode was the scene where one of her bad jokes sends Joel into a giggling fit, prompting Ellie to laugh hysterically, partly out of surprise. The two traveling throughout the episode was given slightly more time here, which was nice. They were given a handful of extra moments where they could have deep, interesting conversations that highlighted the difference between the characters before everything went to shit.

Which, of course, happens when Joel and Ellie get run off the road by hunters. The shootout that happens afterwards took me right back to the gameplay in the video game, but I liked the added moment where Ellie was forced to rescue Joel. If I had to guess, I’d say this scene was placed here so that later on they don’t have to do the scene where Ellie saves Joel from being drowned by a hunter. That scene happens in the hotel, and considering they decided to already cover the hotel by putting it earlier in the story, I don’t think we’ll see it again later. Wherever it is, I always love the way Joel responds to Ellie saving him. He’s almost ashamed of himself for putting Ellie in a situation where she had to use her gun in any way. Although, I preferred that he immediately turned to comfort Ellie in the show over Joel yelling at Ellie because he can’t face his guilt in the game. And I much preferred Ellie’s reaction to it in the show, where she does seem a bit traumatized by it as opposed to not caring at all. Although, she did say she’s used a gun to harm before, and I can’t think of an instance from the video game that she could be referring to. In other words, I think this means more new content and I’ll be interested to see what she means in a later episode. Overall, Joel and Ellie were the entire point of the episode and they were the reason it worked. There were no side characters to steal the show here. It was all Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, and the excellent understanding they have of their characters.

The Infected:

Kathleen and Perry: Don’t get me wrong. I love Melanie Lynskey and I was ecstatic to see Jeffrey Pierce even though he isn’t playing Tommy this time around. But these villains didn’t make me sympathetic towards them at all. Perry is barely given any personality aside from his apparent love of tactical gear, and Kathleen comes across immediately as cruel and manipulative. Though she shows some concern for the hunters that work under her, it’s completely eclipsed by her hypocritical love of control whilst being part of a group that was initially resistance against a government organization. Considering that Joel was once a hunter, I really wanted to see some humanity in these hunters and a reason for why they act the way they do. But instead we got some regular, obviously evil, villains. The only ambiguousness came from the young hunter that Joel killed earlier in the episode, and he barely got any screen time. I really wanted more from these characters and the hunters as a whole.

Episode 5:

The Immune:

Henry and Sam: Anyone who’s played the game knew this wasn’t going to end well. But damn was it so much more brutal this time around. Henry and Sam aren’t separated from a larger group like they were in the game. They used to belong to Kathleen’s group, but now the two are very much on their own and in hiding from Kathleen. What makes this even harder on them is that Henry was responsible for the death of Kathleen’s brother, and neither of them have any experience with violence of any kind. Henry handed Kathleen’s brother over to FEDRA, essentially sentencing him to death, so he could save his brother. No guns or physical violence necessary. But that makes these two even more tragic of figures, because the fact that it’s essentially them against the world with very little means of protecting each other, makes them feel even closer than they were in the video game. I did love that they put in some disability representation here by hiring an actually deaf actor to play Sam, who is now a deaf character. It was so cool to see Henry and Sam signing, as well as the ways Ellie learned to interact with Sam despite not knowing ASL. I also liked seeing these two develop their relationship with Ellie and Joel. Ellie geeking out over her favorite comic book with Sam is still present here like it was in the game, and Sam even teaches her how to sign “endure and survive”, a quote often used in the comic. Meanwhile, Henry and Joel don’t start out trusting each other, but they develop a deep understanding of one another. While at first Joel calls Henry a “rat” for giving up Kathleen’s brother, he changes his tune when he learns it was for Sam, and the two bond over their protective nature. Henry even remarks that he knows Joel was a dad at one point based on the way he acts around Ellie.

My favorite result of these friendships has to be the impact Henry’s general pacifism has on Joel. For the first time, we see Joel plead with someone to put his gun down so he doesn’t have to kill him. Joel ends up needing to kill him anyways, but it was nice to see Joel finally decide that he’s tired of a life full of so much violence. But, as Henry and Sam fans know, these friendships don’t last long. Sam gets bitten in a huge fight with some Infected. Him telling Ellie that he’s infected was a nice change, though. The scene afterwards, where Sam turns, was made even more heartbreaking after seeing Ellie attempt to cure his bite with some of her blood in the hopes of passing on her immunity. And Henry’s pacifism made the scene where he has to shoot his brother and then turns the gun on himself, even more terrible than it was in the game. Ellie was understandably completely traumatized by these events in the show, much more than she was in the game, and the fact that Joel seems to find it easier to acknowledge their deaths than Ellie marks a major change that might make future episodes very interesting.

The Infected:

Kathleen and Perry: The problems I had with the previous episode didn’t go away. In fact, they were even worse. In this episode Perry does virtually nothing, meanwhile Kathleen orders an entire room full of innocent people to be killed because she sucks I guess. We hear a little bit more about her relationship with her brother, but it doesn’t matter. Because when you have a character who remorselessly kills innocent people left and right, puts her own people in danger for revenge, and out of nowhere decides she’s okay with killing kids, it’s hard to make that character sympathetic. And I don’t think they even put in that much effort to do so. In fact, the villains in this episode felt like they were only here to add to the carnage of the huge Infected attack late in the episode. The attack was frightening and probably gave horror fans everything they ever wanted from this type of series. I have nothing bad to say about this attack, partly because I was deliberately looking away for large portions of the scene (I’m a scaredy cat). But the scene seemed to be the only situation where the villains added anything interesting to the story. And it was because all of them were getting brutally killed. I’m glad we’re done with these villains and I hope that any other villains we see in the series will fare better.

And that’s it! Both episodes were really good, although the more I think about them, the more I deeply dislike the villains we got for this arc. It’s a shame, because I was so excited to see what Melanie Lynskey would be doing in this series. But the positives far outweighed the negatives. I think we’re in a really good place with Ellie and Joel’s relationship and I’m excited to see it progress. And I also think Henry and Sam’s story was done justice even though their episode is one I will likely not watch again any time soon for my own mental health. This series is doing some excellent work, and they still have several of my favorite segments of the game to cover. I’m excited to see what they’ll do with the future episodes and I’m completely ready to be devastated by them. That is what ‘The Last of Us’ does best, after all.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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