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The Last Of Us: Episode 4 Recap - No Laughing Matter

Contains spoilers for "The Last of Us" Episode 4 – "Please Hold My Hand"

While it almost feels like HBO's latest humdinger of a show should have closed up shop and gone home after last week's heartbreaking episode, here we are again with "The Last of Us." Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank's (Murray Bartlett) story is in our rearview, as much as we hate to say it. Once again, we're pushing on with Joel and Ellie (Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey), who are finally clicking (no pun intended) with each other, something fans of the franchise — new and old — are no doubt happy to see.

Even still, this world is a harsh one, and the arrival of an all-new character to "The Last of Us" spells trouble for our favorite duo. But just as the post-apocalyptic world deals out new enemies, it also lines up some fresh potential allies. So, just who are the two strangers who give our heroes a rude awakening, and what connection do they have to vengeance-minded Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) and her crew? And what, exactly, is the enormous, concrete-shaking threat that is hiding out under the feet of this new faction? Strap on your seatbelt, check your sightlines, and take a trip with us into "The Last of Us" Episode 4. 

Let's open with a joke

We're here now: HBO's versions of Joel and Ellie are officially becoming the inseparable pair fans of the games have backed and bickered over for 13 years. After leaving Bill and Frank's, they're on the road siphoning gas, with Ellie lightening the mood with a book of jokes. These humorous moments are a simple, yet very important element in the game that help fortify the bond between these two partners who didn't exactly ask to be thrust into this situation together. It's also another wonderful mood lifter that is carried easily by Bella Ramsey, who is finally getting to showcase the dynamic nature of Ellie's complex relationship with Joel and his brooding demeanor. 

Speaking of books, Ellie's discovery of Bill's "reading material" is another like-for-like moment from the game that was, back then, the only allusion to Bill's personal life. It's another excellent display of chemistry between this pair whose relationship is beginning to develop the more time they spend together. With that said, their interactions are still prickly in places, but that's something that won't ever change — families never do. It's something that's put to the test even further when they run into one of the biggest threats in this post-apocalyptic world: other people. 

Kathleen has entered the game

Midway through the episode, Joel and Ellie nearly get caught in a roadside ambush. Joel evades the trap, but they are still forced into a brutal shootout. As Ellie goes behind a wall, the camera stays with her, lingering on Bella Ramsey's performance in a moment of guilt and realization. Things get even more intense when Ellie must shoot one of their assailants to save Joel's life. Ultimately, Joel is the one who puts the pleading man out of his misery in a brutal execution that, even if she doesn't see it, shows Ellie once again just the kind of guy she's traveling with.

Of course, the people in that scuffle are only the vanguard of a larger group. "Yellowjackets" star Melanie Lynskey plays Kathleen, a brand-new character to the franchise who is the appointed leader of a band of survivors who have taken out the occupied FEDRA group and are on a mission to take on anyone who opposes them. Apparently, someone called Henry is on the hit list, a man seemingly responsible for killing Kathleen's brother.

It becomes clear very quickly that Kathleen is a strong and, at times, ruthless leader who is marked by her determination. Killing family doctors and throwing orders around without a second thought, she has a history and an agenda that plenty of people are backing — this is evidenced by the crowd of people who hang on her every word. One, in particular, who might stick out to fans of the game is her highly-armed right-hand man, Perry, played by the original game's Tommy, Jeffrey Pierce. He is likely to cause problems for our heroes, but there's also no doubt that they will pale in comparison to the problems caused by an unseen threat lurking underground.

Feeling a little bloated

Following some more time with Joel and Ellie traversing through Kathleen's territory, we learn that this new group might have more issues than an opposing faction in hiding. Away from prying eyes, Perry reveals a large crater in the ground under which something is clearly living. The inspection is cut short when a loud groan can be heard beneath, leaving the two to quickly seal it off and make the absolutely unwise decision of not giving the problem any attention for the moment. As anybody who both knows the game and was paying close attention to the trailer might surmise, this is likely going to cause big trouble very soon.

In both the teaser and trailer for "The Last of Us," one of the most horrifying shots was the image of a monstrous version of an Infected emerging from a pit in the ground. This particular type is known as a Bloater and in the games, they are one of the most dangerous and destructive enemies. Given the literal groundbreaking matter Kathleen has discovered and the past previews, it's highly likely that this is what's waiting to make an entrance at the worst time possible. It's also worth considering what new danger it'll deliver when packing tendrils instead of spores.

Well hello there, Henry

Contains mild potential future spoilers for HBO's "The Last of Us"

In the final moments of this episode, Joel and Ellie continue to chip away at each other, with the former still carrying the guilt of putting his "cargo" in a situation she shouldn't have been in. After revealing earlier that it's not the first time she's been involved in killings, Joel pushes Ellie for more details, which she refuses to give. It seems both have a history they'd rather not revisit, and Joel has total respect for keeping it that way. In addition to being a pivotal moment between the pair, it's also another subtle but spectacular moment from Bella Ramsey, who switches from battle-hardened hero to teenager in the dark, once again breaking through Joel's armor. That's all before they're both rudely awoken by the two intruders who have Kathleen so stressed out.

Waking from Ellie yelling in his bad ear, Joel is greeted by a gun in his face with a child's finger on the trigger. The kid in question is Sam (Keivonn Woodward), younger brother of Henry (Lamar Johnson), the apparent threat Kathleen is so bent on eliminating. Panic not, though — if this aspect of the show follows the games, this sibling duo is here to help Joel and Ellie. And given that they are actively being hunted, the help will be much needed.