One of the things “The Last of Us” on HBO has done so consistently well that keeps viewers coming back is the way it leaves fans of the game with the “wait until you see this” mentality, while also still finding a way to surprise this same audience with changes that feel vastly different while being so subtle that it’s still true to the source material. The show’s fifth episode, which premiered a few days early because of the Super Bowl, is a prime example of this.
Joel and Ellie’s run-in with Sam and Henry is one of the memorable plot points of the original game. In essence, the brothers are another version of the two protagonists, except they’re obviously bound by blood.
In the game, they’re a little older, but we don’t know much about what they’re doing, so we assumed they’re just a parallel to Joel and Ellie that’s there to survive.
In the show, they’re a little younger and after last week’s introduction to Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) and Perry (Jeffrey Pierce), we find out after the cliffhanger that the brothers are on the run. The biggest difference, though, isn’t in their youth or the fact that we know they’re on the run–it’s that the younger brother Sam is deaf, among other things.
Whether it was with Sarah, Tess, or Bill and Frank, The Last of Us has done a masterful job of getting us attached to characters with hardly any time at all. Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard) are no different from any of these great characters, and the fact that Woodard is actually deaf himself made the performance that much more impactful and impressive.
In addition to sign language, Sam uses a magic paper saver to communicate to Henry, so despite being deaf, he still has the ability to read and write. This was key to Sam befriending and trusting Ellie, who reads the same comic books he did as we’re treated to various scenes of Sam and Ellie just having fun.
Kids being kids aside, we also learn why Kathleen is trying to hunt them down and without going into too much detail, it’s another story about love and revenge–something HBO hasn’t been afraid to touch upon, to go along with the series’ constant theme of love and its many forms, in addition to what people do because of it. A common action? Violence.
Speaking of violence, “Endure and Survive” is by far the goriest episode of the season. We see the lengths of what Kathleen is capable as far as getting what she wants, and we see a huge horde of infected have their way just outside of Kansas City. We also see the first Bloater in the series–one of the most gruesome forms of infected in the series, along with the nastiest death scene the series has featured… in addition to one that’s also rather satisfying.
Going from the way the show is going, fans of the games should be happy with the way things turn out as again, it stays very close to the source material while also finding other avenues to care about these versions of characters we’ve hung around and possibly fell in love with.
It’s going to be absolute hell for Joel and Ellie to get out of Kansas City, and it’s an absolute joy to watch the struggle happen with Henry and Sam taking the lead.