Episode 1×04 of ‘The Last of Us’ has not been the mountain of emotions that the previous one had, with the story of Bill and Frank, but it has served to introduce several characters who promise to be very important for the future of Joel’s journey (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsay).
‘The Last of Us’ has introduced two characters into the series at the end of the episode who, without revealing who they are or what they will do, are key in the video game. And it has also revealed the Kansas City Hunters and two of their leaders, Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) and Perry (Jeffrey Pierce). However, there is another very important element that has gone more unnoticed… Ellie’s joke book, ‘No Pun Intended: Volume Too’, written by the fictional Will Livingstone.
Finding out, Ellie tries to lighten the mood by reading Joel a series of the worst jokes we’ve heard in a long time, such as “Why was there a bathtub on top of the ambulance? To bring the mermaid” or “Why do the circus seals look up? By the spotlights.”
The book is one of the most remembered and beloved items from the original game. ‘No Pun Intended: Volume Too’ might seem like one more nice touch to those who watch the “virgin” show without knowing the source material, but it’s actually a critical element to the structure of the game and is key to smoothing out the relationship between Joel and Ellieas well as to highlight Ellie’s innocence in a world that is anything but innocent.
Speaking to official podcast of ‘The Last of Us’the showrunner craig mazin explained why it was so important to him and his partner Neil Druckman to include the book in the series:
“I remember being surprised that the game suddenly offered me something that had no apparent benefit. That’s what I loved, that it was seemingly superficial but at the same time charming and human. […] The reason why I thought it was essential to include him in the program is that weakens what happens when adults write adolescents on paper, and that is that they write them too young or too old. My friend Scott Frank had the best description of this, and I experienced it myself with my children when they were going through that age. ‘I call that moment in life “fuck you, tuck me in.”“‘.
Mazin continues to elaborate on how important it is for him to set the tone for Ellie at such a difficult age between childhood and adulthood: “They’re ready to go it alone, they want to be in charge, they want a gun, they think they know everything, but they are also just children. I love how Ellie has this joy over something so juvenile and stupid and she knows it’s stupid but she loves it and it’s an honest joy., and I always connect with the characters that show me what they love. Pedro’s reaction is amazing, but what Neil and I agreed on when we discussed including him, is that it’s not just something that pops up dynamically and disappears when you pause the game, we thought ‘what can we do with this book of jokes and how does it manage to change their relationship?‘”
The jokes in the book serve to “break the ice” in a natural way and so that both characters open up to discuss other personal experiences with each other, strengthening their relationship. “You can see their relationship connects more organically with each other, they’ve been trying before, but because of the joke book, it’s just happening,” Mazin continued. “Joel has been quiet for three episodes, but now he’s talking to Ellie. She asks him about Tommy, and he goes on for a long time about his brother, and I loved the idea that Joel doesn’t even realize it’s happening.”
The joke book will return (we hope) in episode 1×05 of ‘The Last of Us’, which will premiere early on HBO Max this same weekend so as not to coincide with the Superbowl.