We’re still hungover from the wonderful third episode of The Last of Us. The HBO Max series starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey proved that it can go far beyond the video game (and change it to its heart’s content) with the beautiful story of Bill and Frank. Far from continuing the story of the original game, they repurposed the characters to tell an apocalyptic romance with tremendous gusto, and while that has led to review bombing from the more hokey types, it has served to generate crucial interest in the series.
The story, however, must continue. After “visiting” Bill, Joel took the car he had saved for him and his arsenal of weapons and, together with Ellie, they set off again for the west. There, the protagonist seeks to reunite with his brother Tommy to help him find the Fireflies and take care of Ellie.
From the beginning of the episode, we see this journey between the two and begin to better understand how the world of The Last of Us works. But ultimately, this episode served two main purposes, which will gradually continue to deepen throughout the series.
A book of jokes, guns, and dangerous humans
The first of these objectives is to explore the relationship between the two main characters. OK, we’ve had enough introduction to Joel’s character with his traumatic past and his reconversion to a tough guy who is not fazed by anything. And also, little by little, we are understanding who Ellie is, where she comes from and what her priorities are.
However, the entire middle arc of the series (and the video game on which it is based, of course) is based on exploring the relationship between the two. Now that the pillars of the two characters are already created, it’s time to see how they get along with each other and how that paternal-filial relationship that we all know will eventually explode.
In this chapter we see, at last, how they can end up influencing each other. And we see it thanks to two key facts that speak perfectly of Ellie and Joel. On the one hand, there’s the joke book issue. Ellie finds herself at the beginning of the episode with a book full of jokes that she takes it upon herself to tell Joel. None of them work (on the surface) to make him laugh, but she persists until, on the night at the end of the episode, Joel bursts out laughing. Undoubtedly, Ellie is making him regain the humanity he had lost.
The second fact is Ellie’s relationship with guns. Although Joel insists that she shouldn’t use guns, she ends up saving him from a bandit by firing one. This causes Joel to try to protect her and tell her that she shouldn’t feel bad about using one, but she insists that it’s not the first time. That’s the end of the conversation, but little by little we see that Ellie is also opening up to Joel and that her relationship with guns goes back further.
This is also explored in the opening scene of the episode. In a clear homage to Taxi Driver, Ellie holds a gun and points it at herself in front of a mirror. Shortly thereafter she should employ it on a real human, but she was already setting the stage for something that could be much more than a simple survival moment.
The other major goal of the chapter, which it achieves to perfection, is to portray that zombies are not the biggest threat in the world of The Last of Us, but rather people. Just as was explored in The Walking Dead, in the end those infected by the fungus are only the catalyst for a much more savage, right-wing and complex world than usual.
In this chapter we see it through the character played by Melanie Lynskey, who is the leader of “The People”, the paramilitary group that guards the city of Pittsburgh. First we see an introduction of the character, who confronts her own father for reasons unknown to us until, at the end of the chapter, we see how she ends up killing him.
And then we learn more about her when Joel and Ellie arrive in Pittsburgh. She rises as the leader of an entire armed group and we see how she leads, with an iron fist, all of them. It is yet another example that the protagonists will not be safe anywhere, but this time in a much more bloody way. It is the first episode, in fact, that does not feature the appearance of any infected, but it is something we will have to get used to as The Last of Us progresses.
Finally, the chapter ends with the ambush of two young men to the protagonists, while they were sleeping in hiding. Something terrible may soon happen to them… although there is still much to be cut in the series.