TV Review: The Last of Us, Episode 5

By Matthew Moorcroft

Highest Recommendation

  • Directed by Jeremy Webb
  • Starring Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Melanie Lynskey, Lamar Johnson
  • TV-MA

Where do we start here?

Do we start with Henry and Sam’s tragic story – a story that, as Kathleen says in the episode, is arguably fate? Do we start with Kathleen’s own motivations, which have become twisted and warped in by trauma, survivor’s guilt, and fear of that which she cannot control? Or do we discuss how Joel and Ellie’s relationship has reached a level of mutual trust, even if they are not at the same wave length yet in terms of their full relationship with each other?

No, let’s start with how Endure and Survive, which is pretty aptly titled, pretty sums up the core themes of The Last of Us in one fell swoop. I’ve said before the main, core thesis of the game, and likewise this show, is “the things we do for love”. And while Bill & Frank’s story from two episodes ago was a prime example of a positive outcome of said philosophy, here we see what happens when that can go very, very wrong.

It’s not like Henry is necessarily a bad guy, far from it. The show does a lot to endear us to him and separate him from his initial conditions by honing in on his relationship with Sam and that brotherly bond that literally defines his life. But as we see later on, that bond is ultimately not just his own undoing, but it was the undoing for the entire rebellion as him sticking by his brother and dealing with his leukemia ends in the assassination of Kathleen’s brother. And thus, Kathleen, in her loving rage, becomes hellbent on justice. The cycle of violence continues, all suffer for it.

And in the middle is Joel and Ellie, who are still in the process of forming that love. Henry and Sam is a reflection of them and what they could be if they continue down said path, something both of them recognize but Joel likely more then Ellie. In Ellie’s case, she just sees a family taking care of each other, which more then she could ever want. In Joel’s case though? He sees what he failed to do with Sarah, and Henry’s eventual suicide at the end of the episode offers yet another failure for him as he has felt he has failed to protect yet another group of kids.

It’s a painful, sobering episode to go through, so it’s really great that Jeremy Webb kills it in the directing department here. Lots of great usages of silence and slow burn tension, and his reveal of the infected horde is a great bit of terror that manages to maintain the menace of the games. And while yes, that final scene is almost shot-for-shot like the source material, it was strong source material to begin with and both Pascal and Ramsey really kill it here. Johnson is the star of the show throughout the entire episode though, having to carry an enormous part of the episode by himself and he’s just magnetic.

With more then half the season done and gone, it’s clear that The Last of Us has become of the all time great adaptations. Whether or not it can stick the landing is yet to be seen, but I’m confident that at this point, even if it doesn’t fully, the journey getting there will be more then worth it.

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