This week's episode of "The Last of Us" followed a similar formula as last week — retaining at least one scene from the game and riffing on various other ancillary details to the main plot.
The copied scene from the game this week was more endearing than last. The car scene where Ellie (Bella Ramsey) leafs through Bill's adult magazine, Ellie falls asleep after swearing to Joel (Pedro Pascal) she wasn't tired, and the ambush was all taken from the game. The dialogue is the same, and even the camera cutting to the discarded magazine after Ellie chucked it was maintained from the show's source material.
But that's where the exact game references end for episode 4. Once again, the writers opted to elaborate on previously basic points in the game. Episode 4, however, took things a step further and outright changed significant details about this portion of Ellie and Joel's voyage west.
Tommy The Joiner
An intriguing revelation in the episode pertained to Tommy (Gabriel Luna). Ellie asks why Tommy was no longer with Joel, and Joel explained that Tommy is a "joiner," historically flocking to whatever "heroic" group he could to feel better about himself. Initially, that was the U.S. military, but after becoming disillusioned with that, he joined the Fireflies post-outbreak. After years in that group, he also grew tired of their culture and mission and left to be on his own. Joel explained that it is out of worry that he must reunite with Tommy, the implication being that Joel is the only one that can save Tommy from his risky, fickle nature.
As I mentioned in the episode 1 comparison, the game's Tommy had buried resentment toward Joel and hadn't spoken to him in years when they reunited. Further, game Tommy never enlisted; he just worked construction with Joel pre-outbreak. Joel's description of Tommy in the show is more than what we're given in the game, although Tommy's persona in that version is still clear. He is strong-willed and sure of himself, which is likely why he butted heads with Joel in the offscreen canon of the games. HBO's Tommy seems like a follower, someone desperate to feel important.
This distinction serves the TV narrative because it makes this new version of Joel seem more heroic. He's saving his impressionable little brother from joining something potentially corrupt. Or, at the very least, checking on him to make sure his fickleness hasn't landed him on someone's bad side.
Killing Time, Forming Bonds
Much of this episode was just that, killing time, but it wasn't without purpose. In video games like "The Last of Us," players spend a lot of time just … walking. To kill some of the silence that naturally occurs during exploratory or travel portions of the game, dialogue between characters is inserted. The most important dialogue is included in cutscenes, but any bonding between characters is going to occur while you're in the grind of gameplay.
This episode was arguably meant to represent those mundane sections of gameplay where the characters make small talk with one another. We see Ellie and Joel talk more in this episode, attempting to get to know each other better. We see Ellie try and eventually succeed in making Joel laugh with her silly puns. We see them eat and sleep. The series is forming the foundation for Joel and Ellie's relationship, which will only serve the epic, emotional moments we'll see between them later on.
The Ambush And The Aftermath
The events in Kansas City in the show took place in Pittsburgh in the game. A welcome change for me; I always thought it was weird that the game jumped from Pittsburgh to Jackson in essentially a cutscene.
Ellie and Joel's forced pit stop in Kansas City begins the same way as the game: a person, feigning injury, hobbles into the road they're driving on to try to lure them into a trap. However, in the show, the ambush is executed by a small group of three. The game saw double, if not triple the number of people involved. The latter obviously makes for more exciting gameplay but isn't necessary for the series.
Then, there's the matter of Ellie and Joel killing one of the people involved in the ambush. The show saw what was likely a teen choking Joel with a shotgun before Ellie shoots him in the legs. Joel then finishes him and the other two people off (he mortally wounds the teen, who dies a bit later).
The game's version of this scene was more aggressive. Joel's assailant was an adult drowning him in a deep puddle of water, and Ellie shoots the attacker in the head, killing him instantly. She's shaken up by the act, but Joel actually scolds her for getting involved. Only later did he express gratitude to her for saving him. Video games lend themselves more to split decisions and quick kills so players can move on to the next section of gameplay. To put it bluntly, they have less time for the "woo-woo" soft stuff. Although HBO totally could've gone the ruthless anti-hero route, the show's writers are choosing to make Ellie and Joel as noble as they could be given the world's circumstances.
Kathleen The Authoritarian
Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) is the first wild card of the series as a brand-new character. She has no equivalent in the game, but in the series, she has a tie to two important characters Joel and Ellie encounter in Pittsburgh.
Kathleen is the ruthless leader of a Quarantine Zone that appears to have overthrown FEDRA. She seems to wield her power in vengeance for her brother, who was killed by FEDRA due to an informant from the QZ. She's told that a "Henry" is to blame for her brother's murder, and sends out her forces to hunt him down. They believe that whoever killed the three ambushers are connected to Henry as well.
Players of the game were given a hint at who the mysterious Henry is when Kathleen makes a comment to one of her officers about Henry never letting "Sam" starve. At the end of the episode, Joel and Ellie are surprised out of their sleep by a Black man and Black boy pointing guns at them, and the episode ends on a cliffhanger. Sorry to spoil for non-players, but these two people are the Henry and Sam that Kathleen is after.
The Henry And Sam Mystery
In the game, Henry and Sam are simply two random people that Ellie and Joel come across in Pittsburgh. They also got held up in the city and were trying to get back on track, so they joined Joel and Ellie for a spell.
As it stands now, It's a questionable choice to have Henry be connected to Kathleen. It makes sense why they made the choice: TV shows typically create webs of characters to tie the narrative together. It's more fun for viewers when they can figure out the mysteries of how characters may be involved with each other. Yet, I think the randomness of the encounter with Sam and Henry is more realistic to the world. Everyone isn't going to fit neatly in the various QZs, and those stragglers are bound to run into each other venturing around the barren world.
Despite my reservations, the show has proven trustworthy with its divergences thus far. Henry and Sam's story will become clear in the next episode, and if it adheres to the game's version, will likely be an emotional one to witness.
Read this next: 12 Things We'd Like To See In HBO's The Last Of Us
The post How The Last of Us Episode 4 Compares to the Original Video Game appeared first on /Film.