The Last of Us, Episode 4: Wait, It’s Actually Good?

I don’t know what it is specifically, but I just do not want to watch this show every Sunday. So far (except for the gaping hole left in the abominable third episode) it’s been a smartly-written, well-acted and serious TV show that sticks closely to the source material. But for some reason…something just doesn’t click for me.

We’ll get to that later, but first let’s go over the episode itself: this installment was a shorter one, clocking in at a neat-and-trim 45 minutes, and didn’t mess around when it came to delivering what we wanted. The vistas were especially good in this episode, and the way Joel and Ellie roam the earth makes it feel alive.

There was also quite a bit more homage in this episode: scenes and lines were recreated to relative accuracy two or three times, and though minor changes were made, they were phrased in a way that seemed respectful and appreciative to the source material.

Ellie’s line “So you kill a lot of innocent people” was changed to “do you kill innocent people?”, which I think was more appropriate given what happened in the episode. The scene in the car with the magazine also worked to great effect. It’s flat-up copying the script from the games, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

By now, we can clearly see the changes to Joel and Ellie’s character to suit the needs of the story: Joel is just as callous in the beginning, but less hostile. Ellie is a bit more of a loudmouth, but she’s more easily intimidated. Since the series couldn’t cover everything the game could, the characters needed to be simplified and have character arcs condensed to make things make more sense.

I am on board with this change, as I knew replicating Joel and Ellie from the video game with perfect accuracy would be impossible. You can easily recognize them for the same characters, however, and the differences in how they’re written in the show doesn’t detract from the way they’re originally portrayed.

Also, giving Sam and Henry more narrative importance is a good move. Sam and Henry eventually team up with Joel and Ellie, effectively promoting them to protagonist status, but if it just so turns out that Henry’s a FEDRA stooge, the writers could easily add more layers to a well-written but ultimately simplistic character.

This episode was a neatly packaged parcel of action scenes, worldbuilding, plot development, character development, and foreshadowing. In all honestly, it’s a damn good piece of television. So why don’t I really care about the show?

Episode 3 largely killed my goodwill towards the show, as it demoralized my literal favorite character from the game and filled an entire episode with a plot I couldn’t care about if you inserted me into the story. A story about two gay dudes growing old and then committing suicide when the more effeminate of the two gets cancer? Can you just give me zombies and desperate humans? Can you just give me characters I recognize and love?

Episode 4 regained some of that goodwill, and I’m genuinely interested in what will happen with Sam and Henry, as they’re another pair of endearing characters I loved from the game. But even so, it doesn’t feel like a particularly robust piece of entertainment. This could be just me, but I’m also watching another show actually holds my attention.

The show I’m talking about is Amazon’s Reacher, a series set in the world of Lee Child’s novels about the protagonist Jack Reacher. I would definitely recommend the show for a multitude of reasons, and now that I think about it, I could probably draw some parallels between in and The Last of Us. Let’s see if we can break this down, shall we?

In terms of writing, both shows are pretty strong. Reacher is a rock-solid mystery thriller, and The Last of Us is a pretty good apocalyptic drama. Both are TV shows based off a previous property, the difference here being that Reacher is the most recent of a long line of Jack Reacher adaptations while The Last of Us is having its first go at it.

As far as tone is concerned, here’s where Reacher starts beating The Last of Us: Reacher is unashamedly dark and gritty, having some truly gruesome displays of cruelty and violence. However, the point is that it doesn’t try to tone down or hide it: Reacher is as Reacher does, and has no problem with being what it is.

The Last of Us, on the other hand, has varied pretty wildly in its tone. Granted, it’s not as terrible as the MCU, but it swings between steamy romance, cold medical openings, touching drama and heart-wrenching cruelty. It’s not usually dark, just gray. While I have no problem with this atmosphere, it’s hardly a constant (except for episode 3, which just belongs in a different show).

And in acting and casting, Reacher is better than The Last of Us in every respect. Pedro Pascal was never a really strong Joel, but Alan Ritchson doesn’t mess around when it comes to portraying the gigantic, blunt, clever, and brutal Jack Reacher. The supporting cast is also larger and much more charismatic–I can’t say too much about the show, because I don’t want to spoil it–but if you want to see what I mean, watch the show for yourself.

So you want my verdict? This episode of The Last of Us is a good one, a worthy installment of a pretty good show, and one it desperately needed after that atrocity we got in the previous episode. But in the end, I don’t love it like I do the video game. There are other shows on the market that blow it out of the water in my opinion, and if I could swap my HBO Max subscription for a month of Amazon prime…well, with the latter I get free shipping, so it’s no contest.

That’s all.


Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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