The Last Of Us - Episode 05 - Endure and Survive Review
*It’s rare that we at Player 2 cover anything that isn’t in the video game realm, but with it’s roots firmly in gaming, and the prestigious talent involved in it, HBO’s adaptation of The Last Of Us is an incredibly fascinating project. So join us, each week as we dissect the newly released episode, from the series’ first to its last.*
It has ben a hot minute since we’ve begun an episode of The Last Of Us with a flashback, and while the throwback is much smaller in scale than what we’ve seen in both 1968, and Jakarta, the brief look at the fall of FEDRA in Kansas City is an insightful one, As FEDRA is overrun and the local militia, headed by both Kathleen and Perry begin to clean up the mess, and high atop their list of priorities is tracking down Henry and Sam. As disturbing scenes take place around them, the brotherly pair are evading detection, while the patrols try to track them down. Kathleen is quick to cut celebrations short and accelerate the search as she gathers a large crowd of former FEDRA supporters for interrogation. Its not yet clear why she wants to find Henry, but her determination is fuelled by something that burns fiercely, leading her to massacre the entire group when they cannot provide her the information she requires.
Meanwhile, Henry and Sam enter a building and meet with our dearly deceased elderly friend from the prior episode, providing them a safe space in the antic that we saw both Kathleen and Perry exploring in the prior episode. The pair settle in as Sam, who is deaf and uses sign language to communicate, senses Henry’s anxiety and asks what has happened. Henry isn’t willing to project his stress onto Sam and so he deflects, attempting to protect Sam in ways that draw parallels to Joel in his early stages with Ellie. Ten days pass and they’ve been out of food for a while, even their elderly friend hasn’t been back in a while (which we know is because Kathleen caught up with him), and Henry senses the trouble that this could bring them, so they clear out, Sam leaving numerous wonderful pieces of art depicting his heroic brother. Before clearing out entirely, Henry paints markings around Sam’s eyes, turning him into that hero in a heartwarming moment, but as they sneak out, their timeline begins to cross with that of Joel and Ellie, as they witness the accident, and Joel and Ellie’s takedowns of their militia attackers. Cue that evening as they’re holding Joel and Ellie both at gunpoint. The negotiation is quite swift, with no violence quickly agreed upon, as Henry explains that he’s the most wanted man in Kansas City, as Ellie and Sam quickly hit it off despite the communication barriers between them.
As the next day begins and their planned escape attempt is on the verge of execution, Henry explains to Joel that he was a FEDRA collaborator and that reason alone is why he’s being hunted. While this causes some instant friction, the four quickly get back to task, planning to go underground to escape the city. The underground tunnel navigation touches on a few key notes from the game as we see references to Ish, a mysterious character who we never actually see but learn a lot about through environmental storytelling, while Ellie gets her hands on a Savage Starlight comic book. Amidst the tunnels, they find a safe space, one that was clearly a home for dozens previously but is now abandoned, and this space ends up becoming a layover point for the group. While Sam and Ellie play soccer against a wall, Henry shares further details on his FEDRA alliance. Sam has leukemia, and its this diagnosis that prompted him to work with FEDRA so that he could get medicine for this brother. This collaboration however, meant that he had to sell out Kathleen’s brother Michael, the former head of the resistance and the story again leans on the commonalities between Joel and Henry’s stories, that they’ll do whatever it takes to protect the ones they care the most for.
As the team escape the city they almost find themselves in the clear before they find themselves almost completely pinned down by a sniper, firing upon them from in a double storey home. Joel manages to evade the shooter and slowly navigates his way around and into the house, first begging Ellie for her trust as he leaves them to do so. Eventually Joel makes his way into the house and kills the shooter, but it’s too late, he has already alerted Kathlee and the militia, who we see arrive moments later with their trucks we’d seen in the prior episode. They face insurmountable odds, but suddenly just as Kathleen is about to pull the trigger and execute Henry, an already totalled house collapses in an explosion, and the ground erupts with infected, who, as we’d learned in the prior episode, had clearly been lingering underground and just needed the right circumstances to make their presence felt. That circumstance played out and the result is a bloodbath, as gunfire pierces the night while the screams of Runners, Clickers, and even a dreaded Bloater gradually overwhelm the militia group, killing Perry and countless others. Ellie escapes into a van, but soon faces her own threat as an infected manages to evade Joel’s gunfire and joins her. Fortunately she escapes but as she does so she spots the brothers trapped. Ellie makes her way towards them with Joel providing covering fire, Ellie using her shiv to kill the attacking infected and the trio begin to escape only to be cut off by Kathleen. She has them dead to rights before a Clicker launches itself at her, ending her quest for vengeance. They join up with Joel and escape to a hotel which they bunker themselves in.
In the aftermath Joel extends an invite to Henry for both him and Sam to join them in Wyoming once they find Tommy, but in the meantime, a far sader plot point is unfolding. As Sam and Ellie are reading Savage Starlight, Sam asks Ellie about what happens when you’re bitten and whether or not you turn into a monster. This leads to Sam revealing to Ellie that he had been bitten in the earlier chaos. Ellie, being immune, hopes that her blood might be able to save Henry and so she cuts herself and wipes the blood over Sam’s wound.
Sadly the next morning, things get even more dire as Ellie awakes to find that Sam has turned despite her best efforts, but her movement disturbs Sam and he attacks, the noise alerting Joel and Henry. As Joel attempts to fire on Sam to protect Ellie, Henry intervenes and has to make the heartbreaking decision to kill his brother, then, grief-striken by what he’s had to do, turns the gun on himself, commiting suicide. The impact this has upon Joel and Ellie is profound, the pair burning the brothers, before continuing on in their journey, Ellie leaving one final note for Sam that reads, “I’m sorry”.
The parallels that this episode often tries to draw between Henry and Joel, Sam and Ellie are plentiful, and do a wonderful job of increasing the tension around Joel and Ellie’s journey. As we see this relationship continue to strengthen, the viewer is left to wonder about what Joel might do in the event that he sees Ellie’s life at risk, or worse, what would he do if he dies? We see, through the lense of Henry and Sam, just what might transpire in that event, and it’s a depressing sight.
Once again though, The Last Of Us has delivered a powerful narrative that leans heavily upon its peripheral characters to drive a powerful message home. Each experience, from the loss of Tess, to the story of Bill and Frank, to their brief but important meeting with Henry and Sam has continued to mould the relationship that Joel and Ellie share, but, as it strengthens, we share warning signs emerging through the way the lives of others are ending. As the back half of this first season begins to take shape, we can be sure that there’s more heartbreak on the way, and more heartstrings that will be pulled.
The Last of Us is available to stream now on BINGE, with new episodes every Monday. This episode was reviewed with early access kindly provided by BINGE.