The Last of Us Episode 4: What did they change from the game?

The Last of Us Episode 4
The Last of Us Episode 4 /
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For the most part, HBO’s adaptation of The Last of Us has been remarkably faithful to the 2013 video game on which it’s based. Last week’s episode, “Long Long Time,” deviated from the source material as it laid out the decades-long love story between Bill (Nick Offerman) and his partner Frank (Murray Bartlett). But the show veers back into familiar territory in Episode 4, which adapts a bunch of iconic scenes from the game while still building out the world of The Last of Us in new and unexpected ways.

Let’s break down all the ways The Last of Us Episode 4 paid homage to the video game, as well as the ways it switched things up. As always, there will be SPOILERS for this week’s episode of The Last of Us as well as for the game.

The Last of Us Episode 3
The Last of Us Episode 3 /

The Last of Us Episode 4: HBO show vs. video game

If last week’s episode deviated the most from the video game, then “Please Hold to My Hand” plays it by the book. There were still plenty of changes, but none near as big as how the show reimagined Bill and Frank’s relationship.

In order to discuss how The Last of Us approached Episode 4, we have to talk about the big picture a little bit. There is really only one scene in opening act of the episode that is taken verbatim from the game: when Ellie finds Bill’s porn magazine and the Hank Williams tape with the song “Alone And Forsaken” in Bill’s car.

In the game, that scene happens immediately after Ellie and Joel drive away from Lincoln, Massachusetts. Afterwards, the game cuts directly to the duo finding the blocked highway and taking a detour into Pittsburgh that ends in an ambush. From there, Joel and Ellie fight their way through the city until they eventually encounter a pair of brothers named Sam and Henry.

The HBO show expands Joel and Ellie’s road trip, letting us see more of their quality time together. When the pair are ambushed (in Kansas City in the show, as opposed to Pittsburgh), the show condenses the action into a single sequence instead of having Joel and Ellie fight their way through multiple waves of bad guys. And since it’s a TV show that can depict things outside of Joel and Ellie’s perspective, those bad guys are better developed through the secondary plotline with Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey), and their motives to find Henry and Sam explored in more detail.

Those are the broad strokes that inform a lot of the major changes of the episode. Now let’s talk details.

The Last of Us Episode 4
The Last of Us Episode 4 /

Joel and Ellie’s road trip

Starting at the top, Ellie’s scene with the gun in the gas station bathroom is brand new and wouldn’t have worked in the game’s continuity, since she never steals a gun. Instead, when Joel is being suffocated (drowned, in the game) during the fight in the city, she picks up his gun that he can’t quite reach and shoots his attacker.

The scene where Ellie walks outside to talk to Joel while he’s siphoning gas is filled with game references, though. To start, Joel is using a hose to siphon gas out of abandoned cars; in the game, Bill gives him a gas siphon and specifically tells him to try it out on old abandoned cars, but we never actually see Joel use it. Then there’s Ellie’s pun book, which she is given by Riley in the Left Behind expansion for the game. Some of those puns are straight out of that expansion.

From there we move into aforementioned the road trip scene with the magazine. This is one of the most game-accurate scenes in the show so far. The following camping scene, with Ellie and Joel talking as they set up sleeping bags, is a type of scene that creator Neil Druckmann always wished he could have done in the game, but wouldn’t have worked as well in that medium. Also, Joel’s hunting rifle in this episode is very similar to the one he wields in the game.

The camping scene also contains an interesting bit of foreshadowing for the season’s endgame: after Ellie worries that people might come across their camp while they’re sleeping, Joel assures her that won’t happen, only to then get up himself and keep watch through the night. We see that Joel is willing to lie to Ellie in order to preserve her safety, comfort and well-being. Keep that in mind as we head into the back half of the season.

The following morning, the pair discuss the merits of coffee. While Joel doesn’t brew any coffee in the game, during the trip through the Pittsburgh QZ he talks about how he used to frequent cafés, and comments specifically on missing coffee when you find a broken espresso machine.

This brings us to one of the bigger changes about Joel and Ellie’s road trip: the reason they’re looking for Tommy. The pair discuss Tommy while they’re driving, and Joel says the main reason he’s searching for his brother is that he’s concerned he’s stranded by himself out in Wyoming. Joel is searching for Tommy out of fear for his life, but in the game Joel wants to find Tommy because he believes he’ll know where the Fireflies are, which means Ellie can find them.

Finally, that quick cut from Ellie complaining that she’s not tired to her passed out is lifted directly from the game. It also mirrors an earlier scene with Joel’s daughter Sarah.

The Last of Us
The Last of Us Episode 4 /

The ruins of Pittsburgh Kansas City

Now we get to the ambush. As in the game, Joel and Ellie come across a blocked section of highway, take a detour they hope will get them back on track, and get attacked. The show does something interesting though, and shows us that the QZ is abandoned and FEDRA has been overthrown while Ellie and Joel drive through town. This is information you learn over time in the game by finding notes and overhearing conversation, but the show puts it front and center as part of the actual plot.

As for the ambush itself, we already mentioned it takes a bunch of the big events from the early parts of the Pittsburgh section of the game — Joel and Ellie fighting off attackers, Ellie saving Joel’s life by shooting a man — and combines them into a single action sequence. The show plays up some things from the game, like how the raider begs for his life (something they will do in the game if you hesitate long enough while holding them at gunpoint).

There are lots of cool little easter eggs in this scene. The hunter shouts curses at Joel after his friend is gunned down, something that the enemies do in the game as well. The framing for how Joel retreats and the bad guy moves up to the next bit of cover recalls the game. After Ellie shoots the final attacker, Joel kills the man with his knife to conserve ammo, which is very much in the spirit of the game, where the player has limited resources. And after the dust has settled, Joel has Ellie help move a barricade so he can get into another room, something they do all the time in the game. Even the way he pushes open the door while she pulls on the cart blocking it looks like how it does in the game.

The bit where Ellie shoots the guy is a little different though; she shoots him in the face in the game, then mutters “I shot the hell outta that guy, huh?” in total shock. Joel accepts the help much less gracefully, which leads to one of the first real times he and Ellie bicker since he’s a jerk to her right after she saves his life.