The Last of Us: Melanie Lynskey Teases Kathleen's Backstory

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from The Last of Us episode 4.] Hell hath no fury like a sister scorned. Sunday's episode of The Last of Us, titled "Please Hold My Hand," takes a detour to Kansas City, Missouri, as Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) try to reach Joel's brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) somewhere near Cody, Wyoming. Ambushed and trapped inside the Kansas City QZ, Joel and Ellie are hounded by the vengeful Kathleen's (Melanie Lynskey) rebel forces hunting down brothers Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Wood).

We learn three things about Kathleen. One, she'll do anything in her hunt for Henry, who she believes is responsible for her brother's death. Two, she's ruthless: she unflinchingly guns down a doctor who delivered her — taking out the man who literally brought her into this world. And three, she's not her revolutionary brother, who was beaten to death inside a FEDRA holding cell.

"[Showrunner and episode writer Craig Mazin] said to me, 'I hope you're not offended, but I would love for you to play a war criminal.' I said, 'Ugh, I don't know.' He was like, 'I felt like that would be your reaction. Let me tell you a bit more,'" Lynskey told EW. "He told me that her brother was basically Jesus. Like, imagine growing up as the sibling of Jesus and being like, 'My brother's the greatest human being. He's leading the world. He's the kindest, most decent person. I don't think I'm that great of a person. I don't really need to be anything in particular because I have this person by my side.' And then somebody brutally kills him and it's so unfair. Who are you after that?"

Lynskey continued: "You are forced to step into a role that you never asked for and you don't think you're very good at. The thing I found very interesting about her is, when she did step into the role, she didn't have a lot of guilt about doing bad things, whereas her brother did. She found out that she was quite heartless and so she was able to be pretty effective in a way that he maybe wasn't because she didn't care about people. That's a very interesting dynamic."

In her approach to playing an original character who isn't in the video game, the Yellowjackets star saw Kathleen as "being a person that you might dismiss, that you might not be necessarily afraid of until you suddenly realize, 'Oh sh-t! This is somebody who I'm supposed to be the most afraid of.'"

"I wanted her to be kind of gentle. I wanted her to be soft-spoken and delicate in the way she looked around. I wanted her to feel like a sweet person, and then to have a surprising capacity for violence," Lynskey explained. "I thought the difference between how she carries herself and how she speaks and the things she's doing would be interesting."

The inhabitants of the KC QZ are the show's version of the game's Hunters, territorial gangs who hunt "tourists": victims who are killed and robbed for trespassing in the quarantine zone they seized from FEDRA (in the game, it's the Pittsburgh QZ.) But like Joel — a hardened survivor whose hands are far from clean — there are shades of gray in Kathleen. And much more still to learn.

"[Melanie's Kathleen] is a very complicated character," Mazin said during a panel at Brazil's CCXP convention. "She's a brilliant actor, and we needed somebody who could portray somebody that was doing terrible things, but then when you got to know her, you understood why and actually felt for her. One of the things that [The Last of Us game writer and series co-creator Neil Druckmann] created with the game was this philosophy that no one's ever purely good, no one is ever purely evil; we have the capacity to do both. And Melanie Lynskey plays somebody that I think you're gonna hate and then you're gonna love."

Fans won't have to wait as long to find out what happens next: episode 5, "Endure and Survive," will air earlier on Friday, February 10th, ahead of Super Bowl Sunday.

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