The fifth episode of The Last of Us has been brought forward thanks to the Super Bowl, and we couldn’t be more grateful for it. We’re going to need more time than usual to digest everything we’ve seen in this chapter 5, and these extra days are going to be perfect for us to do so and be able to continue with Joel and Ellie’s journey.
While episode four served as an entry for the protagonists into Kansas City, most of us saw it as a sort of trailer for the action that was to be unleashed in the next. Yes, episode four worked as a perfect showcase for the relationship between the two protagonists, and laid the groundwork for what was to follow…especially the evil Kathleen and her army. But after a trilogy of initial episodes that were memorable (especially the third), we expected a bit more development. And now we’ve been served two cups.
Beyond Joel and Ellie: the stories of the world of The Last of Us
If there is something clear with The Last of Us, it is that there are not only two protagonists. Yes, Joel and Ellie carry the weight of the initial story, but we already have two very clear examples that this can change at any time. The first example is the aforementioned chapter 3, in which we were faced with a beautiful love story that few expected but that has undoubtedly set the tone for the rest of the series.
The second example can be found in video games. Whoever has tried The Last of Us II will know what I’m talking about; for Ellie is no longer the only one who brings her point of view to the story, but Abby’s character appears, for whom in the HBO Max‘s fiction could already have an actress, and everything changes suddenly.
In the same way, chapter 5 of the series begins with a story far removed from the main one, but which is quickly linked to it. It is the life of Henry and Sam that we are presented with; the story of two brothers, the second one barely eight years old, who must survive the apocalypse in the same way that Ellie and Joel are doing.
Sam is deaf and mute, and we later discover that he suffers from leukemia, so Henry would do what any brother in that situation would do: protect him tooth and nail against all the threats that appear in his way. Although he himself thinks his actions are despicable, since he even has to betray the person he most admires, all he really does is “resist and survive” (the title of the chapter and motto of Sam’s favorite comic book) so that they can both stay alive.
Once their story is introduced, which we gradually continue to explore over the course of the 59-minute episode, a new relationship begins that is very interesting to explore; Henry and Sam’s relationship with Joel and Ellie. Henry proposes a deal to Joel: they will tell them the way out of Kansas if in return they give him something to eat and protect them towards the exit. Both parties flee Kathleen, so the alliance is created ipso facto.
Gradually, we see a more receptive Joel than in previous chapters. It is clear that Ellie is changing her way of seeing the world, and he reluctantly allows himself to be drawn into a forced friendship with his new protégés. For her part, Ellie remains the point of light the story needs; she’s once again the voice of humanity over reason, and the nail Sam grabs onto to bring a smile back to his face. Never has a joke book done so much good for humanity.
Memories of the White Walkers from Game of Thrones
The escape to the outskirts of Kansas, although it seemed to be an impossible plan at the beginning, ends up being carried out in the simplest possible way. Following a secret tunnel that Henry knows about, the four survivors cross to the outside without encountering any military or infected on the way. Everything seems to be fine… until what has to happen in a dystopian series happens.
In a housing development on the outskirts of Kansas, where no one is supposed to be, the four protagonists of the episode begin to be shot at by a sniper. Thanks to Joel‘s skill, who surrounds the house from where he is shooting and sneaks in to confront him, they manage to save themselves. But enough time has passed for the enemy to warn Kathleen and her army via radio… and all hell has broken loose.
Dozens of Kathleen’s soldiers arrive with the sole purpose of killing Sam, Henry, Ellie and Joel. They surround them and start searching for them, knowing that there is nothing left for them to do. But Joel continues to defend them from the top of the sniper’s house, and achieves something that was not planned: when he shoots at a truck that was making their way through the streets, he causes an explosion that opens the subway tunnels of Kansas. And that’s where the infected were.
Suddenly, hundreds of infected rise to the surface and begin to wipe everyone out, while Ellie, Henry and Sam continue to flee and Joel protects them from above. A new infected that we had already seen in the trailers is also introduced: the Bloater. This zombie seems to be the ultimate; it is huge, ultra-resistant and with unparalleled strength. Kathleen’s men have nothing to do against it.
This moment arises in a similar fashion to the premise of Game of Thrones: as humans fight for egos and power, the real threat that should unite humanity emerges to wipe them all out. It’s a classic reflection of zombie cinema, but one that HBO Max‘s fictions have executed up to two times in the best possible way.
A lesson for Ellie
Ellie, Henry and Sam manage, almost miraculously, to flee from there, and finally continue on their way with Joel leaving behind all the chaos generated. They have literally taken over Kansas City. But the journey must continue, so they take refuge in a house for the night, with the intention of traveling together to Wyoming the next day.
Ellie and Sam share a room, while Joel and Henry share the dining room. It is at that moment when Sam reveals to Ellie a secret he has been keeping for the past few hours: he has been bitten by an infected in the leg. Hoping for a miracle, Ellie cuts a slit in her hand and soaks her blood into the wound. If her blood is miraculous as they say, will she be able to heal him?
But not everything is so easy or pretty in The Last of Us. When morning comes, Sam has turned into an infected and attacks Ellie. Henry finds himself in this situation not knowing what to do, but finally does what he knows is needed: kill his brother. Faced with guilt, he blows his brains out and leaves two corpses in front of a shocked Ellie and Joel.
And then what? The journey continues. Ellie and Joel bury Henry and Sam, but Ellie has learned a bitter lesson: there are many sad stories because of cordyceps, and if she can really make something out of her blood, she’ll do her best.