In contrast to previous preambles, there’s nothing substantive to say other then it’s been a joy carrying on watching and reviewing this show. It has become appointment television in an era when that has faded in importance. Have you seen this week’s episode of The Last of Us? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below.
So far, I’ve appreciated The Last of Us for how it stands in contrast to its source material, whether it’s major changes like Frank and Bill’s relationship in the last episode or small changes that either juxtapose or paint fascinating portraits of its characters. With this in mind, Episode 4 engages as a fascinating singular experience that’s about the core human values and instances of culture we have left in the show’s post-apocalyptic world.
After exiting Frank and Bill’s privately closed town, Joel and Ellie go in search of the former’s brother, who should be near a Firefly base of operations.
Perhaps more than its source material, Episode 4 of The Last of Us tightens its focus to ask about what we have left in a post-apocalyptic world. In an early section, there’s almost a wistful quality as Ellie hands Joel a tape of Hank Williams’s “Alone and Forsaken” to play. The cheery campfire quality of the song excellently contrasts with long shots of ravaged and run-down industrial spaces filled with car traffic jams and abandoned military hardware. It reminded me of the following point: cultural things like music, art, film and theatre only carry meaning because they exist and have lived within the confines of a stable society.
Once that society breaks down, there are only a few of us who carry the memory and meaning of that piece of art. There was a slightly melancholic edge when Joel says to Ellie that Hank Williams was before his time. It truly made me think of the title of the show and video game insofar as there are very few of us who carry the memory of works of art. The same could be said of human laws. There’s a scene in the middle of the episode where a woman called Kathleen is interrogating a medical doctor. She lists basic human values from a relief group. Like the point with the Hank Williams song, it reminded of just how fragile the constructs of human law can be when society breaks downs. They’re not fixed and are only carried as maxims by a few of us.
Aside from this philosophical point, the rest of the episode is dedicated to the further bonding between Ellie and Joel. I appreciated how their bond gets them to change roles as the episode goes on. At first, Ellie is a persistently fun and curious person who seeks reassurance from Joel. The scene at the camp illustrates this quality as Joel is kept awake but wants to remain tight-lipped with Ellie.
And to get my obligatory reference to The Last of Us Part 2 out of the way, some of the sound design and tension that came from the ominous wood setting did remind me of how terrifying the Seraphites can be in the show’s second series.
By the end of the episode, Ellie is a somewhat closed person who wishes to keep some elements of her past a secret. And Joel is the curious one who wants to know about the other time that the young girl used a gun.
It was heartwarming to see Bella Ramsey cut loose as Ellie in the episode. Her lighthearted moments of jostling and almost whimsical curiosity were a treat to see from a character who has been caustic and fierce. Likewise, it was also great to see Pedro Pascal cut loose. The almost absent-minded qualities that came from Pascal’s performance during the Sarah scenes in the pilot return here. There’s something almost quite bittersweet about their resurgence as he tries to console Ellie after a traumatic incident.
Much like the philosophical qualities that defined the episode, the revolving door of traits that Ellie and Joel imprint upon one another is perhaps a good indication of any of the bonds of human connection. They still somewhat hold true, even when the world around us has gone to hell and so few of us remain.