It seemed absurdly strange to leave the last episode with a gun pointed in Joel’s face. After a very tumultuous episode, “Please Hold Onto My Hand” left us with quite the cliffhanger. After backtracking a little over a week, The Last of Us Episode 5 – “Endurse and Survive” – provides us with the context for that ending. Much of the episode revolves around two young boys trying to stay strong for one another. With excellent performances from both Lamar Johnson and Keivonn Montreal Woodard, get ready for another emotional powerhouse. Written by Craig Mazin and directed by Jeremy Webb, this Kansas City-based episode features emotional highs and action setpieces to remember.
Riots and cheers ring out in the night. FEDRA has been overthrown by the people, who continue to take their revenge. Two boys, Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Montreal Woodard), hide in the shadows. As they escape, they speak sign language (Sam is hard of hearing). They hide in the night, knowing the resistance is looking for them.
Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) and Perry (Jeffrey Pierce) question those accused of betraying their neighbors. As she lectures them, she offers them a deal. She needs information about Henry. When she tells Perry to kill the prisoners, someone tells her that Edelstein was an informant and will hide Henry. After ordering her soldiers to continue to search for Henry, Kathleen tells them to take care of the informants first. Screams ring out in the night.
Henry and Sam meet Edelstein (John Getz) in an attic. Henry lays out a plan to go through the tunnels, assuming Edelstein will join them. Edelstein nods along but does not respond. Henry comforts Sam and hands him crayons to draw on the walls.
10 days go by, and the food has run out. Edelstein has not been back in days. Sam wonders if the elderly man is ever coming back. Henry acknowledges they can no longer afford to wait. He’s spent the last few days studying the patterns of Kathleen’s soldiers, and they can escape on foot. To help Sam remain calm, Henry paints his face so he can look like a superhero. They leave the attic in search of a new hiding place.
Just before they leave, a crash can be heard outside. Henry sees a pickup truck through the window and watches Joel (Pedro Pascal) fight off Kathleen’s soldiers. They begin to follow Joel and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and senak up on them in the apartments.
Joel wakes up with a gun pointed at him. Henry tells Joel that they’ll need to trust each other and they want help. He tells Joel who they are and that he’s the most wanted man in Kansas City. Henry briefs Joel on what happened in “Killa City,” admitting to Joel that he was a collaborator. He also admits his guns were not loaded when they pointed them at Joel & Ellie.
Henry & Sam tell Joel about the tunnels. He lets them know that FEDRA pushed all the infested underground, but his source said the tunnels are clean. They go into the tunnels, hoping the source was right and that Kathleen will not send men into the tunnels.
When they first reach the tunnels, the halls appear empty. They walk slowly, finding a door into what appears to be a playroom. Joel heard of underground settlements where people tried to hide in bunkers. They use the bunker to rest, allowing the darkness to help them hide on the other side. Ellie and Sam bond over comic books.
Henry admits his time collaborating with FEDRA was meant to help Sam. Sam had been diagnosed with Leukemia, and only FEDRA had access. Kathleen’s brother was the man Henry gave up because he was the leader of the resistance. Henry knows he’s the bad guy. Joel tells everyone it’s time to move out.
Kathleen sits in her old bedroom, thinking of Michael. Perry comes in to talk to her about Henry. She admits Michael told her to forgive Henry, but she doesn’t believe there was any point. While Perry acknowledges that Michael was a great man, nothing changed. With Kathleen, things did. They resume the manhunt.
Joel, Ellie, Henry, and Sam leave the tunnels. At first, they seem safe, but a sniper opens fire. The shooter has bad aim and misses everyone in the party despite getting the drop on them. Joel tells Ellie to stay put, and he goes to stop the shooter. He sneaks through the pushes, making his way toward the house.
Joel gets the jump on the shooter and asks him to stay put. Joel shoots him and hears a walkie-talkie communicating with Kathleen. Cars carrying the Kansas Coty resistance are close, and the trio runs for cover. Joel keeps shooting, getting a driver before they catch up to Ellie.
Kathleen asks Henry to come out. When Henry offers to come out if she’ll let Sam and Ellie go, she refuses. Instead, Kathleen asks why Henry thinks Sam is unique. Henry steps out, but before Kathleen can kill them, the infected come out of a hole in the ground.
In the chaos, Ellie finds cover in a car. Perry sacrifices himself to a giant infected to save Kathleen. The monster decapitates Perry. Ellie escapes a clicker to save Henry and Sam. As the four of them escape, Kathleen stops them one last time. However, a clicker pounces on her, allowing everyone to escape the chaos.
In a motel, Henry and Joel discuss future plans. Joel invites Henry to stay with them. Sam and Ellie read more comics and talk about being scared. Ellie makes jokes but also lets Sam know she’s scared to be alone. Sam reveals the truth. He’s been bitten. He’s scared he’s going to turn into a monster. Ellie acts quickly, cutting her hand open and putting her blood on his wound. Sam asks Ellie to stay awake with him as long as she can.
The following day, Sam sits at the edge of the bed, watching the sunrise. When Ellie approaches, Sam turns and attacks her, revealing he is now infected. Henry and Joel jump for the gun. Henry points it at Joel, but when Sam tries to bite Ellie, he shoots. Realizing he’s killed his brother, Henry turns the gun on himself. Ellie and Joel bury the brothers. Ellie leaves Sam’s notepad on their graves, and the two of them continue West.
This is now two episodes over the course of the season that have driven us to tears. While “Long Long Time” told an independent story, “Endure and Survive” put Joel and Ellie in critical roles. Having each person bond with another potential companion opened more doors for them. The Last of Us, particularly “Endure and Survive,” benefits when it allows our characters to grow independently of each other.
Despite working in closed quarters, The Last Of Us has found stretches of dialogue to ensure the world expands. This again rears its head in “Endure and Survive,” forcing our characters into a literal bunker while Henry reveals his role in killing Kathleen’s brother. His guilt jumps off the screen, and as Lamar Johnson delivers a gorgeous monologue, it’s clear that Pascal understands his pain. It’s a brilliant small moment, and it also reminds us that greater forces than zombies cause some to do terrible things to save the ones they love.
Johnson and Woodard own the screen from the minute they appear. While brothers, its clear that the age disconnecting them forces Henry into protector status. It’s important we never find out too much about their past, because its apparent tragedy is all that exists. This story already holds enough of that, and the two young performers craft memorable sequences with brilliance. The emotional, locked-in moments make for some of the best shots of the year, and Johnson will have many projects to choose from after this showcase. While “Endure and Survive” needs Ellie and Joel to complete its arcs, one almost wishes for another spin-off following these two. Both
The moral grey area becomes a fun sandbox for Mazin this week. Lynskey’s turn is once again phenomenal, providing even more emotional heft and desperation than “Please Hold Onto My Hand.” If not for the emotional sequences with Henry and Sam, she might have stolen this episode. Her moment in the bedroom, not only retelling a happier time but realizing she would be ignoring her brother’s wishes, is a masterclass. Lynskey nails each beat and emotional turn of her story. It never feels rehearsed, the most important piece in helping us feel her loss. Yet, at other moments, it’s evident that she has lost herself in her grief and anger. These scenes are filled with tension, and at times, horror.
The closest TV episode to what we just watched, in recent memory, is “Hardhome” from Game Of Thrones. That episode sings, and has the best action set piece that show ever staged. I doubt this is the best we ever see The Last of Us, simply because they operate at such a high level. The fight choreography was stunning in the sheer number of moving pieces. Combining clickers, infected, and bloaters delivers a fantastic action sequence.
Another brilliant work of game adaptation, The Last of Us hits another home run with “Endure and Survive.” We might be halfway through the season, but one has to be worried about what’s in store. We know that Joel’s brother is on the horizon, and Ellie will likely find herself in danger down the road. Yet regardless of where this narrative takes us, we appear to be in good hands.