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‘The Last of Us’ season 1 recap – episode 4: ‘Please Hold to My Hand’

Bella Ramsey (left) and Pedro Pascal (right) play Ellie and Joel in HBO’s “The Last of Us.” Episode four of the series premiered on Feb. 5. (Courtesy of Liane Hentscher/HBO)

“Please Hold to My Hand”

Directed by Jeremy Webb

HBO

Feb. 5

By Ashley Kim

Feb. 7, 2023 1:34 p.m.

Joel and Ellie’s bumpy journey across America continues.

In “Please Hold to My Hand,” the fourth episode of “The Last of Us,” Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) finally get their hands on a vehicle and make their way toward Wyoming, where Joel thinks his brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) is located. Scarce resources force the pair to make frequent stops to refill their truck’s tank with gas from other abandoned cars. Amid the bleak desolation they experience, Ellie lightens up the mood with a book of puns that are horrifically terrible but humorous nevertheless.

When they take a break for the day and settle down in their sleeping bags, they are both still wary of their surroundings, hindering them from true rest. Ellie wonders out loud if they should be on the watch for the infected as they rest, but Joel tells her that people are more dangerous than the infected. As he confirms that no one will find them, eerie metallic music plays, and he looks out into the empty woods, as if looking for someone not there. During these small moments, the show subtly builds tension and raises the stakes for the protagonists.

[Related: ‘The Last of Us’ season 1 recap — episode 3: ‘Long, Long Time’]

This road trip that Ellie and Joel are on allows them to learn more about each other. For example, Joel tells Ellie about Tommy and how his brother’s childlike dreams of being a hero defined his life, calling Tommy a “joiner.” Joel says that Tommy’s delusional pipedream of wanting to save the world led him to make the same mistake twice – once at 18 when he joined the army, and again when Marlene (Merle Dandridge) convinced him to join the Fireflies.

The difference in experience and age between Ellie and Joel is apparent in their small interactions. Where Ellie is optimistic and still has hope for the world, Joel says Ellie does not understand because she has yet to see the world. The pair enter Kansas City, but the road is blocked by abandoned cars – some with the decaying bones of their drivers still inside. Joel drives them around to find the highway again when they come across the Quarantine Zone. A man asks for help, but Joel, determined to only keep himself and Ellie safe, rushes past the man to then be bombarded by bullets, traps and even a cinder block.

Joel tries to fend off multiple attackers and instructs Ellie to hide in a hole in the wall as he makes sure they are safe. He manages to take out two assailants before he is surprised by a third who pins him down and chokes him. It looks like Joel will not make it when Ellie emerges and shoots at the man to save Joel. She shoots the man, but he doesn’t die, so Joel tells Ellie to go back to her hiding place as he finishes the job. The horrifying brutality of death is made apparent in this scene without actually showing it, as Ellie and the audience only hear the man calling for his mom as Joel kills him.

Elsewhere in Kansas City, FEDRA, the Federal Disaster Response Agency, has been taken down by revolutionaries led by Kathleen Coghlan (Melanie Lynskey). Her demeanor is unassuming, making her cold brutality unexpected. This is evident in her interrogation of a FEDRA doctor, whom she eventually kills. During the interrogation, the doctor warns her of going too far and losing her humanity, but she brushes it off. Upon hearing about the death of the man Joel killed, Kathleen sends her people out across the city to search for the killer.

[Related: ‘The Last of Us’ season 1 recap — episode 2: ‘Infected’]

Meanwhile, Joel tries to comfort Ellie and is clearly apologetic for putting her in a situation where she had to harm someone. She tells him it was not her first time and, after a beat, Joel decides to teach her how to properly hold a gun. This incident seems to have simultaneously brought down Joel’s emotional walls and raised his respect for her, forming a new development in their relationship.

Ellie continues to ask probing questions, such as how Joel knew that the man asking for help was helping in an ambush and also if he has killed innocent people. Joel responds to the ones that are easier to answer but avoids answering the questions that require a bit more emotional depth.

One night, as they are trying to sleep, Joel asks Ellie what she meant by it not being her first time hurting somebody. She is reserved and subdued when she says she doesn’t want to talk about it, and Joel – increasingly assuming the role of a father figure in her life – tells her that it isn’t fair that she has to deal with so much violence and loss at her young age. Before they fall asleep, Ellie finishes off the night with a pun, and Joel finally laughs out of exhaustion, absurdity and appreciation for Ellie.

Although Joel and Ellie’s road trip has brought them closer together, they will ultimately face more obstacles along the way.

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Ashley Kim
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