In light of the Superbowl airing at the same time The Last of Us would this Sunday, episode five premieres two days early on HBO! This incredibly hard-hitting yet beautiful episode continues Joel and Ellie‘s journey, accompanied by new allies and an encounter with the most terrifying threat yet. The heartbreaking story, which fans of the game know all too well, delivers the same emotional punch in live action.
*Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Last of Us episode five*
Episode four of The Last of Us offered us a brief glimpse at two characters joining the ensemble, Henry and Sam. We learn that the Queen of Kansas City, Kathleen, is in search of the brothers and is unlikely to stop until she gains vengeance for the death of her brother at Henry’s hands. The pair have a brief stand-off with Joel and Ellie, ending in a very skeptical truce. It’s clear Joel is unsure of the pair and refuses to trust easily. Ellie seems glad of the new company, especially as she and Sam are close in age.
Before all of this, however, we learn more of Henry and Sam’s situation and Kathleen’s involvement—including the shocking revelation of her brother’s death. In showrunner Neil Druckmann‘s never-ending quest to humanize his villains, viewers perhaps sympathize with Kathleen here. She solely wants justice for her brother, right? Does this make her the bad guy? We’ll see.
“He’s scared because you’re scared.”
Circling back to episode four again, we return to the doctor, who Kathleen executes for collaborating with Henry and Sam. We see him do so in this episode, providing them with shelter and supplies in order to avoid Kathleen’s wrath. The brothers’ relationship is heartwarming. The two are all each other has left, which is an all-too-familiar occurrence in their world. Henry has to be strong for Sam. He has to preserve his fear and worry to protect his little brother from the horror of the world. In a desperate attempt to better their future, they seek help from Joel and Ellie.
The master plan
Henry points out something one might have noticed about this town; there are no infected. It’s not often you see somewhere completely lacking a few odd clickers, so where are they all?
It turns out FEDRA drove them all underground shortly after they gained control of the city. Henry admits it’s one of the very few things they did right. He proposes to Joel that the four of them venture into the old maintenance tunnels to avoid encountering any soldiers on their journey to freedom. After heavy reassurance that it is safe, the group heads off into the maintenance tunnels.
In these same scenes, we learn Henry is a collaborator; snitching and exchanging information in order to consolidate his and Sam’s place in the city. It gained him trust and respect amongst the soldiers and proved to them that he was worth keeping around. Henry explains he did what he had to do to protect what meant most to him, Sam.
A refreshing friendship
We also see the formation of a new friendship between Sam and Ellie. The two quickly bond over comic books, and whilst Sam’s deafness presents a communication barrier, they clearly understand how one another feel. They were both deprived of a normal childhood; playing with other kids and enjoying their lives, not living in fear of what’s around the corner. It’s something they share, so it is nice to see them get a break from having to be mature for a little while.
Viewers see Kathleen reminiscing on simpler times she had with her late brother. She explains how safe she felt whenever he was around whilst visiting her childhood bedroom. Another successful execution of humanising the “bad guys.” Melanie Lynskey brings the perfect sheer coldness and underlying emotion to her character, and carries a strong sense of unease. She will do anything to get what she wants, making us worry about what revengeful remedy may be simmering for Henry.
Joel, Ellie, Henry, and Sam successfully exit the old maintenance tunnels without encountering any danger. Their time underground provides more sweet friendship moments between Sam and Ellie, but also explores the mutual respect for one another from Joel and Henry. After travelling back to surface level, they encounter a lone shooter targeting them from a nearby building. Heroically, Joel strides off to eliminate the threat before any harm can come to Henry and the kids. He finds the shooter, but also discovers their communication with Kathleen. She’s coming.
“Run!” Joel yells down to the three on the ground, but it’s too late. Kathleen’s cavalry arrive with heavy-duty vehicles, clearing a path to their target. Ellie, Sam, and Henry are cornered by the ambush behind a car. There’s no escape. Henry pleads for the pardon of the kids, but Kathleen shows no remorse. He surrenders.
The Last of Us big bad
Now, remember last episode when Kathleen completely ignores the way the concrete ground moves and vibrates? Well, she might have wanted to deal with that. Rising from below, an enormous army of infected swarm the area, killing countless soldiers and attacking Henry, Sam, and Ellie. Joel uses the sniper from above, helplessly trying to clear a path for the guys to escape, but there are too many of them. Clickers and runners become the least of their worries, however.
Rising from below comes one of the franchise’s biggest threats; a bloater. The enormous, monstrous figure sets off on a rampage through the gathered soldiers. Jeffrey Pierce‘s Perry sacrifices himself, allowing Kathleen to complete her mission and go after Henry.
The rushing swarm of infected is horrific. Their boneless movements and piercing screams send shivers down your spine. It’s a wonder our protagonists escape unharmed, or so we think. Kathleen gruesomely meets her end at the teeth of a clicker child. R.I.P. Queen.
Safe and sound… right?
After the events of the day, Joel, Ellie, Henry, and Sam retreat to an old motel to get some rest before they plan to leave town the next morning. Joel extends an invitation of heading to find Tommy in Wyoming to Henry, who gratefully accepts. They agree it will be nice for the kids to have a friend on the enduring journey.
Ellie and Sam secretly disobey Henry, who tells them to get some sleep and stay up to read comics and enjoy one another’s company. Their conversations are emotional; Sam asks Ellie if she is scared after explaining she never seems like it. She admits her fear is constant, and her biggest fear is ending up alone. (This is another line taken straight from the game, one of the most emotional ones at that.) Sam subtly shows understanding and compassion. Things take a turn, however, when Sam reveals a secret to Ellie.
During the attack in the city earlier, Sam obtained a bite on his lower leg. He wonders if any part of him will remain inside once he turns into a monster. Ellie desperately attempts to better the situation by flooding Sam’s wound with her blood, assuming the contents are “medicine” and would pass on her immunity.
More heartbreak in The Last of Us
Her attempt sadly fails. When morning comes, Sam is fully infected. He attacks Ellie, who bursts into the room with Joel and Henry in a desperate attempt for help. There is fear in both their eyes, but for very different reasons. Joel wants Ellie to be safe, he is scared Sam will hurt her. Henry wants Sam to be safe, he doesn’t want anyone to hurt him.
In a climactic split-second moment, Henry shoots Sam. Very quickly, he is overtaken by guilt and grief. The only person he loves is gone, by his own doing, nonetheless. “My brother.” he cries. His trigger is pulled again, but this time aimed at himself. Unable to live with his guilt, he ends his own life. The silence is deafening. Viewers undeniably feel Henry’s pain and emptiness in those final moments.
The following scene is eerily silent, besides the scraping of shovels in the soil. Previous events seem to be taking their toll on both Joel and Ellie. The pair barely speak or meet each other’s gaze. After arguably the most emotional moment of the series thus far, we feel the weight of grief alongside them. Ellie leaves a note displaying the words “I’m sorry.” atop Sam’s grave. Joel acknowledges the sign, but respects the situation enough not to pry. Even with two words, Ellie’s note is another huge emotional punch. The episode closes with Joel and Ellie back on track, heading west to find Tommy, and the Fireflies.
Episode five of The Last of Us is an emotional rollercoaster. From the joy of Ellie and Sam building a new friendship and the relief of Henry securing a new, better life; to the horrendous heartbreak and emptiness following the demise of Henry and Sam. The adaptation continues to show its capability week after week to explore deeper themes and do them incredible justice. Loss is evidently one of these themes, and the delicate attempts to tackle grief are as beautiful as they are powerful. Hats off to Mazin and Druckmann.
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey shine brighter every week. Lamar Johnson and Keivonn Woodard play their roles to perfection. Their ability to move and affect an audience in such a way is astounding. We can only look forward to meeting the remainder of this incredible cast in the coming weeks. How are we on episode five already? Episode one feels like yesterday!