The Last of Us
Season 1, Episode 5
Endure and Survive
While attempting to evade the rebels, Joel and Ellie cross paths with the most wanted man in Kansas City. Kathleen continues her hunt.
Warning: This episode contains graphic violence and depictions of suicide.
The episode begins 10 days in the past when resistance fighters overtake the QZ and dispose of FEDRA agents. This relatively accurate depiction of freedom rendering combines the joyful chants of the liberated with terrifying acts of brutality as newly independent warriors ride FEDRA tanks through Kansas City calling for the surrender of collaborators. Here we find Sam and Henry, the two young people that encounter Joel and Ellie in the last scene of episode four.
The two brothers then go into hiding as the audience discovers that Kathleen views him as her #1 priority when it comes to tracking down enemies of the resistance movement. Kathleen uses all her resources and any means of deception to obtain clues on his whereabouts. As the days past, the events of this story catch up to the previous episode in which Joel and Ellie make their way into town.
In the present, Sam and Henry form an alliance with Joel and Ellie as both groups have the same goal, escape Kansas City as soon as possible. The group then goes on a series of adventures involving both underground passageways and open-air conflicts with the KC Resistance that ultimately lead to a massive battle with the infected. Afterwards, a tragedy forces Joel and Ellie to reexamine their lives and personal motivations.
In a departure from the game, Sam and Henry’s backstory altered to fit into the Kansas City Resistance narrative. Sam is also aged down and given a new obstacle to overcome. Even though I loved these two characters in the original work, the added depth given to the brothers not only provides a deeper emotional connection to the viewer, it also shows how the love and family and need for survival will trump all heroism and idealistic endeavors.
Their relationship is also juxtaposed with Joel and Ellie, who were initially thrown together as a business transaction. As the four team-up, both their similarities and differences are highlighted. This new relationship has a profound effect on Joel who begins to regain a bit of the humanity that he lost during the years after the cordyceps outbreak.
I really love how the show presents the initial aftermath of a successful movement. Kathleen is violent, angry, and singularly focused. The same energy that she used to produce powerful results for the oppressed, now turns her into a merciless oppressor. I think the creators used a profound storytelling method to show how easy it is for a former victim to take on the same tactics of their abuser. This episode, in my opinion, also provides social commentary on current stories of militia groups overthrowing their former governments. A movement without human understanding or empathy causes more harm than good. It also asks the question: What is freedom?
Also, I must show my appreciation to the cast. I was so impressed with the secondary actors in this episode. Melanie Lynskey’s portrayal of Kathleen was phenomenal. It takes a special skill to make a character both sympathetic and rage inducing.
Then there were Sam and Henry played by Kevionn Woodard and Lamar Johnson, respectively. I was already wary to watch this episode as I still remember the heartache I felt while playing the game. Yet, watching these two young actors in live action brought me to tears. Their conveyance of hopefulness, turmoil, and later sorrow touched me deeply. Especially Kevionn Woodard, whose performance was both stunning and groundbreaking.
And as always leads Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey presented their characters with a mixture of charm and melancholy that leaves you breathless. I continue to be impressed with this series and how each episode takes the time to honor the original game through its creative storytelling and chilling visuals. Well done creative team and HBO Max.
Stay tuned for an “Inside the Episode” segment for additional contact that breaks down the dynamics of the program’s creation and the major changes from the videogame.