‘The Last of Us’ Unleashes Its Most Monstrous Ending Yet
With its fifth episode, The Last of Us once again gifts us a pair of new, beautifully realized characters, only to remove them from the board in harrowing fashion. Mercifully, these emotional deaths come after the show’s biggest monster sequence yet, thanks to the arrival of the dreaded Bloater—among the most iconic villains from the Last of Us video game on which the Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann show is based. More on that piece of work in a bit. First, let’s rewind the clock to the top of this tragic tale.
Written by Mazin and directed by Jeremy Webb, “Endure and Survive” begins nearly a fortnight before the events of last week’s episode. We see what, up until now, we had only heard about: Melanie Lynskey’s Kathleen and her allies taking back their home from the cruel Kansas City chapter of FEDRA. Power abhors a cruelty vacuum, and Kathleen’s here to fill it, presiding over a new group of people more than willing to execute their enemies on the streets with public hangings and shootings aplenty.
“Did it feel good, betraying your neighbors to FEDRA, watching us get thrown in prison, watching us hang, so you can get medicine, alcohol… fucking apples?” Kathleen asks a literally captive audience minutes before ordering their deaths. “Did it make you feel better? Did it make you feel safe? How does it make you feel now?”
As the episode wears on, we learn more about the vengeful tune humming beneath all of Kathleen’s actions: a laser-focused quest to find and kill the aforementioned Henry, a young man who collaborated with FEDRA to get medicine for his sick brother Sam. The cost of that medicine: selling out Kathleen’s brother, Michael, leader of the Kansas City resistance. Pushed on the subject by her second-in-command Perry (played by The Last of Us video game alum Jeffrey Pierce), Kathleen relents that Michael would have advocated for mercy against Henry. But Michael’s not here anymore, is he? And Kathleen doesn’t care about what he would have wanted, only what she wants. Given that she liberated them from FEDRA, the whole of Kansas City is backing her play. That’s the kind of commanding presence even Twitter trolls can’t deny.
In the other corner of this conflict: Henry, the most wanted man in Kansas City, and his younger brother, the eight-year-old superhero named Sam. Many years his senior, Henry wants nothing more than to get his brother safely out of the city. But after nearly two weeks in hiding and no discernible plan of action in sight, Henry and Sam’s options are starting to look rather grim — until Joel and Ellie roll into town, guns blazing.
Identifying the Last of Us leads as possible allies, Henry and Sam follow Joel and Ellie through the city and into the night, making their acquaintance by way of sticking unloaded guns in their faces. Perhaps one can forgive Joel for responding to this introduction with his “asshole voice” as he warily studies Henry and Sam. Ultimately, he hears them out at Ellie’s behest, and in time, they all agree on a plan: escape Kansas City by way of a tunnel system, once loaded with infected, now presumably empty.
The trip leads the four travelers to an abandoned underground community. An hours-long break quickens the bonds within the group, particularly between the youngest members of the party. Sam, who is deaf, immediately clicks with Ellie over a shared love of corny jokes and comic books. Joel and Henry, meanwhile, tacitly connect over a shared instinct to protect their loved ones at all costs. As Henry recounts the tale of betraying the Kansas City resistance to save his brother’s life, he openly wonders whether or not he’s crossed a point of no return.
“I’m a bad guy, because I did a bad guy thing,” says Henry. “You get it, though. You may not be her father, but you were someone’s. I can tell.”
Joel isn’t one to look back at his past. He certainly isn’t about to discuss his dead daughter with a group of strangers, even ones as pleasant as these. On the other side of their rest stop, with Kansas City falling behind them, Ellie makes a pitch: these strangers should join them on their journey to Wyoming. There’s no time to debate it, however, as the group comes under attack — first by a lone sniper, whom Joel sneaks upon and kills, and then by Kathleen’s entire army, with Henry finally in their sights.
The group faces overwhelming odds, even with Joel now standing in sniper position. He shoots a single truck driver, plowing the exploding vehicle into an abandoned house. But soon, everyone’s outnumbered. Left with few options, Henry surrenders, offering to trade his life for his brother’s safety. Kathleen refuses. “I know why you did what you did,” she tells her target, “but did you ever stop to think he was supposed to die?”