When I was fortunate enough to get early access to the first four episodes of The Last of Us at the tail-end of last year, I knew instantly that episode 3 would bring the house down. But it was actually The Last of Us episode 4 that made the strongest impression on me.
That’s because episode 4, "Please Hold My Hand," fixes one of the biggest problems not just with The Last of Us game, but arguably video games in general. And that’s all down to the casting of Melanie Lynskey (Yellowjackets) as a new character created specifically for the show.
The Last of Us fixes gaming’s grunt problem
The Last of Us, like many video games, tasks you with killing an awful lot of faceless enemy NPCs throughout its runtime. In the Pittsburgh-set chapters of The Last of Us Part I — which is the section of the game episode 4 is adapting — Joel and Ellie mow down wave after wave of generic bandits as they attempt to escape the city.
Now for the sake of providing the player with engaging gameplay, it makes sense that these enemies are, for want of a better word, disposable. After all, The Last of Us is a third-person action game. It's expected that you’ll encounter groups of unnamed enemies, dispatch them with a variety of weapons, and then move on without a care in the world. But in a TV show that approach doesn’t quite work. So, in steps Kathleen…
Kathleen could be The Last of Us’ best new character
Kathleen, played by the wonderful Melanie Lynskey, is a brand new character created by The Last of Us co-showrunner Craig Mazin to be the leader of the group of hunters that Joel and Ellie encounter after being ambushed in the ruins of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
As noted in the video game, the hunters are not humanized at all. They are a faceless group that exists purely to give the player an enemy to fight during this specific section of the game. But the creation of Kathleen gives this group of survivors some much-needed depth and gives us viewers greater context for exactly why they are so intent on hunting down our two heroes.
Kathleen also makes the hunters feel like a significantly more credible threat, one that could cause major issues for Joel and Ellie down the line. The character also gives us further insight into the state of humanity decades on from the cordyceps infection decimating society as we know it. She’s a hugely welcome addition to The Last of Us canon.
The Last of Us continues to be hugely additive
HBO's adaptation of The Last of Us does a masterful job in its first episode of expanding the game’s original story, and this continues to be true as we move further into the first season.
The overarching storyline has remained mostly unchanged — bar episode 3’s significant departure — but an extra shade of color is being added to the story through new scenes and new characters like Kathleen. And that's something I didn't even know I needed beforehand.
Now that the regular broadcast has caught up with what I was able to see in advance I can’t wait to see where the show goes next, and what fresh additions are made to further expand The Last of Us’ brutal but captivating world.
I had my doubts ahead of The Last of Us premiering, but Mazin and Neil Druckmann have washed them away less than halfway through the show’s first season. So, here to more screen time for Kathleen in The Last of Us episode 5, and to the next five episodes of this unmissable TV show. I hope they can impress me even half as much as the first four. And speaking of, don't wait until Sunday for the next edition, as The Last of Us episode 5's release date just moved up.