Anchor Staff Writer
Warning: This review contains spoilers for episode five of HBO’s “The Last of Us.”
HBO’s “The Last of Us” has consistently provided fans old and new with devastating stories told through stunning cinematography, impressive visual effects and stellar performances, all while remaining as faithful to the source material as possible. The fifth installment that was released on Feb. 10, “Endure and Survive,” continues this tradition through a fast-paced story that left a stinging pain in my chest.
“Endure and Survive” introduces us to Henry and Sam, two brothers who plan to escape the militant-ridden Kansas City with Joel and Ellie. The team almost escapes the city unscathed, but the local resistance group and a horde of infected eventually catch up to them. After a brutal fight against two deadly forces, the young Sam is infected and dies at the hands of Henry, who takes his own life after realizing what he’s done. Joel and Ellie leave Kansas City as they process yet another loss.
The episode deviates from its source material by slightly changing Sam’s character. The show’s Sam, played by Keivonn Woodard, is eight years old and deaf, while his in-game counterpart is thirteen years old and hearing. Purists may be outraged by this change, but it strengthens the show’s emotional impact. Given these changes, Sam is more vulnerable to the dangers around him, which forces him to be more dependent on Henry. As a result, Henry puts more pressure on himself to protect Sam, making him more hostile towards Joel and Ellie. Seeing their relationship grow in spite of this feels more satisfying; seeing its untimely end feels all the more tragic.
Henry and Sam’s deaths pose the characters and the audience with a difficult question: Are relationships with others worth the effort? Sure, having someone by Joel’s side may keep him from becoming even more lonely; but at what cost? Why deal with the extra stress and responsibility of caring for someone else if they’re just going to die? What good did taking care of Sam do for Henry?
As our protagonists leave Kansas City in low spirits, I wonder if their relationship will continue to grow. Is Joel willing to become close with someone at the risk of another loss? Is Ellie emotionally equipped to witness more violence and death firsthand? Will she follow in Joel’s lonely footsteps and fall victim to the lone wolf trope commonly found in post-apocalyptic media? Tune in to “The Last of Us” on Sundays at 9 p.m. to find out. Episode six, “Kin,” is available to stream now on HBO Max.