HBO’s The Last of Us has officially been introduced to the world and its fifth episode, “Endure and Survive” has arrived. Here is a breakdown of what was seen in the episode and how it may impact the season going forward. Please be advised that this may contain spoilers for both The Last of Us series and video game.
As the episode opens, the loud chants of “Freedom!” are repeatedly heard as residents shoot flares in celebration but among those chants are those of “Fuck FEDRA” as the bodies of FEDRA soldiers are stripped, dragged through the streets, tortured and even executed. While the aftermath of this particular revolution is shown in the game, the departure in the show is that we can see it in in progress and its violent conclusion; There are soldiers hanged for their alleged crimes and former collaborators who are about to be executed for selling out their neighbors. It is in this chaos that we see Henry and Sam trying to escape from the carnage and find safety before they are discovered.
Their escape then transitions to a FEDRA lockup that now houses those whom Kathleen has deemed traitors to begin their interrogation. This is clearly several days before we met Henry and Sam in the prior episode but Kathleen makes her contempt for them clear and obvious. She goes through how her new regime will work; they will lose their position in the community, be put on a show trial and summarily executed for their crimes but the most important item on her agenda is finding Henry. Her reasons for her burning desire are still unknown at this point in the episode but her immediate focus on finding Henry also means that she is neglecting the immediate concerns of her newly found leadership. After obtaining the information she needs, she opts to have the prisoners executed anyway and coldly tells her subordinates to burn their bodies.
After Henry reaches his rendezvous, we discover that he has been working with the doctor that we briefly met in the last episode before he was quickly executed by Kathleen. Henry grabbed what he could for himself and his brother but they are still light on provisions and even lighter on ammunition but it takes a discussion from the doctor for Henry to realize that Sam is scared because Henry is scared so in an effort for his little brother to feel at ease, encourages him to begin drawing on the walls of their drab hideout in order to brighten up the place as music from the original game begins to play over their actions. The performances of Lamar Johnson as Henry and Keivonn Woodward as Sam are incredible and they share an amazing intimacy as Sam really truly depends on Henry for safety. In another departure from the game, Sam is deaf in the show and has to communicate via ASL. As ten days pass in their hideout, Henry makes the decision to leave and try and escape from Kansas City and Henry recognizes there is no point in lying to Sam about the probably death of the doctor and tells him they need to escape but as they are about to leave, Henry witnesses the arrival and subsequent ambush of Joel and Ellie and he quickly realizes that he has a means to an end.
As we catch up to where the last episode ended, Joel is understandably tense as he sees two strangers point guns at himself and Ellie but he tensely states that he will be calm but this is rebuked by Ellie as she explains to Henry that he just has an “asshole voice” but after this tense moment is defused, the two groups begin to share a meal but Joel is still beating himself up after sleeping on his bad ear and not hearing either of them stepping on the glass he had carefully laid out on the floor. Joel recognizes that Sam is too young to not be sequestered away in this world and even offers him the remains of his meal to make the young boy has a full stomach. It is then revealed that Sam is eight years old as in the game, he is fourteen years old and even seems to have a crush on Ellie. In this iteration, Sam quickly bonds to Ellie and he begins to trust and look up to her.
Joel gets right to the point by offering to just let the two brothers move on but Henry offers them a way out of the city. He remarks that Kansas City is known as “Killer City” as the rumors about FEDRA ruling the city with an iron fist were true; that civilians were raped and murdered by those who were supposed to be protecting and that it was only a matter of time before they rose up and overthrew their oppressors. As the scene offers a fantastic panoramic shot of the cityscape, Henry then reveals that he was a collaborator with FEDRA but amongst this seriousness is the growing dynamic of Sam and Ellie as the young boy cracks a laugh that Henry has not heard in a long time but Henry has to return to reality and his plan; use the maintenance tunnels under the city to escape into a residential neighborhood and cross a nearby bridge into freedom. Joel has to ask the obvious question; what about infected in the tunnels? While Henry is not sure if there will be infected where they are going but he states that FEDRA had driven the infected underground and had been performing routine checks to ensure that the infected were not breaking through. Joel is not thrilled about this plan but quickly realizes it is the only one available and reluctantly agrees to go along with it.
The tunnels recreate a rather memorable set piece from the game where the group encounter an entire community that was abandoned after the cordyceps began to infect its inhabitants and while the show does not entirely replicate this sequence from the game, all of the hallmarks are present; the leader, named Ish, is depicted in a child’s drawing on a wall, the rules for this community, the classroom setting and even the soccer goal drawn on the wall. No one knows what happened to the community and no one dwells on it or try to investigate the circumstances but Sam and Ellie are overly excited to see another Easter Egg from the game; the Savage Starlight comic books that appear as collectible throughout the course of the game’s original story and where the title of this episode comes from as one of the heroes states “Endure and survive” after a large battle. While Sam and Ellie have their moment, Joel and Henry have theirs as Henry reveals why Kathleen has been pursuing so fiercely; after learning that Sam was diagnosed with leukemia, Henry had to obtain medicine for his brother and the only he could do it was to inform to FEDRA and sell out the leader of Kansas City’s resistance who was Kathleen’s brother. Henry’s actions caused her brother, named Michael, to be killed by FEDRA and he views himself as a bad guy but the act was done to save his brother out of love, not rationale. Henry had an impossible decision to make to save his brother and Joel recognizes that protecting his family would have been the same decision he’d make in that position.
The episode briefly moves away from the traveling group to show Kathleen visiting the home she grew up in with her mother and brother with her lieutenant, Perry, arriving to check in on her. She begins to recount that Michael did everything he could to make her feel safe in their home and it is evident that she misses her brother but Perry is quick to remind her that Michael did not take action to free their city, she did and now people follow her and look to her for guidance. Kathleen wants to use her position for revenge and forsakes the wellbeing and care for her community and this story parallels that of the Washington Liberation Front seen in The Last of Us Part II.
Joel, Ellie, Henry and Sam emerge from the tunnels to find an abandoned neighborhood until they encounter a sniper. This showcases another memorable moment from the game when it feels like the group is truly about to escape and find relative safety but are ambushed by more hunters from Pittsburgh but it is a turning point for Ellie as it is the first real moment that she begins to trust Joel and as he creeps his way around the homes and finds the sniper, he finds out that an old man is the one who has been shooting at them. The two adversaries share a brief interaction but the pain is clear on Joel’s face, he does not want to shoot this man but also does not hesitate to do so when the old man turns the gun on him but this sadness is quickly broken by Joel’s realization that this old man was in communication with Kathleen via radio and that she is on her way.
What follows is the most tense moments in the show so far when the large plow vehicle seen in the last episode shows up and begins to knock cars out of the way until Joel’s miracle shot forces the vehicle to crash into a house and start a fire. Henry, Sam and Ellie are cornered behind a car when Kathleen begins taunting him and orders to come out and surrender. She is disturbingly callous about Sam’s illness and even has the gall to remark that “kids die all the time” and even goes as far to misinterpret her desire for revenge to the designs of fate but as she is about to execute him, the large vehicle is swallowed up by the ground and the horrifying screams of infected are heard when a horde sprints out of the ground to attack Kathleen’s group. This horde contains mostly Clickers and some Runners but a new variety of infected arrives in the form of a Bloater, individuals who have been infected for over 10 years and the fungus has grown to form a type of armor over the person’s body and has made them incredibly strong and dangerous. The Bloater’s strength is immediately displayed as it kills one solider with a single punch and brutally kills Perry by grabbing him by his jaw and ripping his head in two. Chaos ensues as Ellie makes her way into a vehicle to protect herself until a bit of nightmare fuel enters when a Clicker contorts its way into the car to attack Ellie but she is able to escape and saves Henry and Sam before they run into Kathleen one final time but she is killed by the child Click Ellie just evaded. The infected horde then leaves the neighborhood to presumably wreak havoc on Killer City.
The group moves on and finds refuge in an abandoned motel to catch their breath. Joel and Henry share another dad moment and he invites them to join them on their journey to Wyoming since it is unlikely they will find another working vehicle to get them there. Henry wants Sam to get some rest and finds the two children bonding over the Savage Starlight comic books once again and while the two are in private, Sam then reveals that he was bitten on his ankle. It is another scene that is lifted from the game but the change here is that Sam willingly reveals his bite in the show but is concealed in the game. The dialogue is largely the same but Ellie offers to try and make Sam feel better by cutting open her hand and believing that her blood will cure the infection. It a sweet gesture but one that is ultimately hollow as Sam succumbs to the infection anyway and during a struggle between Sam and Ellie, Henry is forced to kill his own brother. He almost does not seem aware of what he was doing but was taken over by instinct to protect Ellie from harm but in his grief and realizing that his purpose in life is now gone, he decides to kill himself. The two solemnly bury their friends with Ellie leaving a lone note on Sam’s grave simply stating “I’m sorry”. Ellie’s naïve notions about her immunity are dispelled and she is forced to bury her pain in an effort to move on and continue on their journey to Wyoming. Joel’s face speaks to a lifetime of pain as he has to bury yet another person this world has taken but his journey is not yet over as he is continuing to wrestle with his growing feelings towards Ellie.
Featured Image Credit: HBO via The Ringer