‘The Last of Us’ Episode 5 Review: ‘Endure and Survive’ – Spoilers
A devastating rebuttal to the beautiful romance of Part 3, “Endure and Survive” torments the main characters – for good reason.
(Editor’s note: Included in the following review spoilers for “The Last of Us” Season 1, Episode 5, “Endure and Survive”.)
“Kids are dying,” he says. “They always die. Do you think the whole world revolves around him? That it’s worth it all?”
Kathleen’s question is of course poetic. By the time she finds Henry (Lamar Johnson) and confronts him, she’s made it abundantly clear how she would respond. But there is hypocrisy in his accusation—a duplicity that he fails to recognize in his anger.
Yes, Henry gave up his brother Michael, the leader of the Kansas City resistance movement, and Michael was killed by FEDRA shortly after. Although we never see or hear from Michael, everyone agrees that he was a “great man”. Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey), loyal No. 2, Perry (Jeffrey Pierce, who previously played Tommy in the “Last of Us” video games) and even Henry all sing Michael’s praises. He is “a man you would follow anywhere,” and apparently people did. Henry goes so far as to claim, “I’m the bad guy because I made a bad guy.” He knows what he’s done is wrong, just as Kathleen knows what she’s doing is wrong.
But on the outskirts of Killer City, when Kathleen points her gun at Henry and promises to kill both Sam (Keivonn Woodard) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), the villain is unmistakable. The complete disregard for innocent young lives is a very important tip – “kids die, always die” is a cold-blooded bad guy quote delivered with deadpan gravitas by the great Melanie Lynskey. let’s not forget that Kathleen also contradicts herself. For him, the whole world revolved around Michael. For him, it’s worth everything – not really him, but his memory. She is willing to sacrifice the people she leads, herself, and Michael’s “great” name to get the revenge he left her to not pursue.
When the earth sinks and the infected rise, it is inevitable and shocking. The scene quickly descends into a nightmare reminiscent of the beginning of the episode, when the revolutionaries of Kansas City exacted brutal revenge on the remaining FEDRA officers – this time only they are naked prey, overwhelmed by insatiable monsters. Violence begets violence, hate begets hate. But Kathleen still gets a second chance. Thanks to Perry’s brief protection, he’s lucky enough to escape the initial wave and catch up with Henry, Sam, Ellie, and Joel (Pedro Pascal), who are far enough from the melee to escape safely. But Kathleen can’t let Henry go. After all, she is his number one priority.
So it’s only fitting that 7’s priority eats his fucking face.
Liane Hentscher / HBO
“The Last of Us” episode 5, “Endure and Survive,” is an incredible episode of television, in part because its essence changes depending on your point of view. It’s a test of endurance, as the title suggests (and the grueling losses back it up), but it’s also a survival thriller. (Our protagonists sneak around town, there’s an impressive action sequence, and there’s more than one heart-in-your-throat tension.) It’s a tragedy that unfolds through many characters while illustrating Joel’s growth since meeting Ellie. (HE do after all, he invites Henry and Sam to travel with them.) This is the second part of the series’ Kansas City duology, but is also in direct dialogue with Part 3, “A Long, Long Time”.
Let’s unpack their relationship a bit. The bittersweet third hour starts Joel and Ellie’s journey to visit Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) chronicles a life-changing romance. Here, love brings people together on the right side. A loving Frank changes Bill from a stubborn, lonely swamp to a slightly less stubborn, fulfilled caregiver. In his own words, love makes him hate the world less and like people more. But in Episode 5, love tears people apart. Kathleen’s love for her brother consumes her. It twists his soul and shatters his moral compass. The loss is simply too much to bear.
The same can be said for Henry, at least when it comes to losing. Losing Sam breaks her heart. His brother’s change is so sudden, his reaction so quick, that as soon as the pain of Sam’s death begins to dawn, Henry cannot bear it and takes his own life. Notably, Joel tries to stop her, and whether that’s instinct or something deeper, we may never know. But we know that Joel lost his daughter when she was not much older than Henry’s brother. Both are men who lose the person they loved the most. It broke Henry before he had a chance to process anything beyond the hurt. Did he break Joel too? Slowly, over decades of heartache? “He’s still going for the family,” Joel says in episode 4, when Ellie wonders why he’s bothering her by continuing without hope for a brighter future. – That’s about it.
Beyond the emotional dichotomy of episodes 3 and 5, “Endure and Survive” is a powerful examination of heroes and villains, one of the show’s favorite themes. (Some of you may have heard co-creator Neil Druckmann talk about how much he loves humanizing villains on the fourth episode of BTS.) What do we think of Henry’s fate? From Sam? Kathleen is a bit straight considering her act and so is Sam since nothing that happens is her fault. He had no say in Ellie’s attack, nor in the leukemia that first threatened her life, prompting Henry to protect her.
But Henry’s role in all of this is complicated. If he hadn’t turned Michael over to FEDRA, could the beloved leader have led a less violent uprising? Could the opening scene of episode 5 have been a more peaceful surrender, where the abusive government forces surrendered and received a fair trial instead of merciless beatings? Isn’t it worth protecting the leader who can save hundreds of lives? Of course, FEDRA may never have been defeated if not for Michael’s martyrdom. Perry tells Kathleen that they all loved Michael, but “he didn’t change a thing—you did,” implying that it took his vengeful leadership for the rebels to take control of the city.
So… what is the right choice? What should Henry have done? What should any of them have done? The simplest answer is the one Kathleen flatly rejects: forgiveness. “What did (Michael) get out of it?” he asks (rhetorically again). “Where is the justice in this? What’s the point that?” Well, Kathleen, the point is that it allows you to move forward. It guards your heart and protects others. Are literal health benefits, but for your immediate purposes it can save lives. Just look at everyone who died in his absence.
Forgiveness is easier preached than given, and the messiness of episode 5 is intentional. Craig Mazin and Druckmann subvert the easy labels often applied to action-adventure, if not to stories, and acknowledge that life is full of hard choices with no clear answers—pre- or post-apocalypse. Audiences have been exposed to similar ideas throughout the age of antiheroes on TV, but the provocations, decisions, and resulting conclusions are rarely so open-ended.
But as Ellie forces herself to trudge on and Joel dutifully follows, “The Last of Us” refocuses on its central duo. Joel’s mission – conveyed by Tess (Anna Torv) in her final words and confirmed by Bill’s letter – is to save who he can save. Does that mean a child? One life? Do you think the whole world revolves around you? How is he worth it all?
“The Last of Us” airs new episodes Sundays at 9:00 PM on HBO and is available to stream on HBO Max.
Liane Hentscher / HBO
• Keivonn Woodard as Sam and Lamar Johnson as his older brother Henry are exceptional in small moments. I loved Woodard’s desperate demands after spending 10 days in hiding; his grand gestures perfectly illustrated how dire their situation had become, mainly because his actions up until then had been small, even restrained. Johnson, meanwhile, never goes too far despite the extreme pressure on his character. They keep us together through Henry and Sam’s predicament while drawing us into their relationship. (Look for an interview with the two soon, right here on IndieWire.)
• “So you could have fucking apple?” All I can say is… “wow!” What a line! Melanie Lynskey’s initial interrogation scene, where she questions the FEDRA informants who betrayed her case, has been recreated in acting classes across Hollywood for years, and I doubt anyone attempting the mock monologue will be able to capture the level of the original performer. barely controllable contempt, casual urgency, or reckless cruelty. Lynskey is always her own best advocate – primarily through her talent, but also Twitter – and yet you have to say: What an actor.
• Henry and Joel offer plenty of interesting parallels (as outlined above), but it’s worth noting that elderly caregivers have different styles of survival. Well, Joel is just trying to survive; Henry tries to comfort a frightened child. “He’s afraid because you’re afraid,” Henry is told, and instead of not caring (the Joel way), he takes the time to talk to his younger brother, listen to him, and engage. He encourages Sam to paint. It helps turn their hideout into a home. Together, they bring beauty to an ugly situation, and it’s all because Henry sets the tone. Joel’s tone is angry, hostile, and merciless—something Ellie learns to emulate, as seen several times during her time in Kansas City. She wipes away her tears after shooting Joel’s attacker and refuses to let her sympathize with him. He does the same after burying Sam. Joel instills fear in Ellie to protect her. Henry did the same to Sam, but with hope. Just look at that superhero mask.
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