Warning: This review contains spoilers
Many of us agree the third episode of The Last of Us’s “Long, Long Time” was probably one of the most emotionally arresting television episodes in a minute. Because of its peak, “Please Hold My Hand” might feel like a little letdown. However, it’s needed because up to this point – we haven’t had a lot of Joel and Ellie time alone for an extended duration. At this point, we all know that Ellie has a mix of sarcasm and teenage-like optimism. As much as Joel tries to keep up his s very static demeanor, Ellie finds a way to bring it down ever so slightly. We see the joke book Ellie refers to throughout the first part of the episode in the male nude mag in the car's back seat.
As much as Joel tries to play it off, he’s starting to develop a fatherly attachment to Ellie – both as a companion in getting her to the fireflies and as an overcorrection as to where he thinks he fell short with his own daughter, Sarah. This is why he barely sleeps and stays up all night in the woods to keep watch. Joel does not quite know where to strike a balance in embracing Ellie as someone whose family. It’s all about getting to Tommy (the only blood relative he has), and Ellie is a metaphor for keeping his promise to Tess (the romantic bond he lost). Once they arrive at the Kansas City FEDRA place that a resistance group has overrun, more of Joel’s softer side emerges.
Ellie asks many questions because, unfortunately, she hadn’t experienced much before the world was drowning in infected – in contrast to Joel, who lost a lot and has aged by his experiences. It was a telling choice to have Ellie play with the gun in the mirror at the beginning of “Please Hold My Hand” and then be in absolute shock when she had to use it when Joel was in trouble. He is right – “you’re just a kid. You shouldn’t know what that means.” It’s juxtaposed to the kid named Brian that attacked Joel, but then begged for his life before Joel kills them. As much as Ellie tries to play things off with a quick brushing off, all of these situations are coming down on her. You have two people trying to put on a poker face which is challenging in a world like this.
As scary as the Clickers are, human nature is almost more alarming because of the lengths people will go to for survival. Kids and teens should not be living in these types of conditions – things Joel has accepted. He killed Brian and acknowledged he had killed innocent people before. As efficient as Joel is, father time always deals a pushback. We find out Joel is hard of hearing on the right side of his ear. As much as he doesn’t want to (or has this stubborn view of always being a protector), he’s a 57-year-old man who will need Ellie's help at some point. Especially because they are both working through some shared trauma of doing some terrible things out of unfortunate necessity. (Ellie has used a gun before).
Then we meet Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey), who is hell-bent on finding the person responsible for FEDRA executing her brother. She operates out of a cold ruthlessness that only a quest for revenge can provide. That blindspot causes her to not tell her fellow soldiers about the brewing trouble that’s happening underground.
With the cliffhanger ending Episode 4 and the threads left open-ended, “Please Hold My Hand” should be considered the start of a two-pronged story. After mostly deviating from them, the slower pace brings our viewpoint back to the main characters we want to see progress.