Warning: This review contains spoilers
During times of absolute chaos, things like morality tend to operate in a shade of gray. A scarcity of resources will turn even the most civil of men cruel and animal-like, as evidenced in the opening of The Last of Us’s fifth episode, “Endure and Survive.” The line that divides a big government organization like FEDRA and resistance groups like the Fireflies and the one in Kansas City tends to be very thin. On the one hand, you have a government entity that fills the power vacuum, but is oppressive in its own right. Then you have leaders like Kathleen who seem like liberators, but have their own form of vigilante justice on their minds. In the middle are the people who are just trying to get by the best they can – even if that means giving up their cohorts to FEDRA (rats).
A question that is a slow-building theme throughout these five episodes is how far will you go to save yourself and the ones you love? We see the subject of Kathleen’s ire –spending time with Henry (Lamar Johnson) and his younger brother Sam (Keivonn Woodard). There’s a departure from the game because Sam’s character is deaf in the live-action version. One of the things this series is done previously is establishing other characters well other than Joel and Ellie. The path of Henry and Sam connects to the primary Last of Us lessons in two ways surrounding necessity.
First, it’s how they got on the run. Sam has leukemia, and medicine is notability scarce. The only way to get it was through FEDRA – unfortunately, that meant coming at the cost of the human collateral of Kathleen’s brother Michael. Us on the outside can question the ecosystem, which turns citizens against each other to fill basic needs (it’s all sorts of terrible). Henry is caught between a rock and a hard place. Do you let your brother die or try to keep one of the pillars alive in a world where...many people aren’t? It’s a tricky proposition – which means there will always be a loser.
Melanie Lynskey delivers a terrific monologue to Perry (Jeffrey Pierce), speaking about how her brother was always her protector. Michael’s memory holds firm to the Hunters (and Henry himself in how he talks about him), and he’s a martyr for the cause. Sadly, one sibling had to die for one to live – which has turned Kathleen into a movement of ruthlessness. It’s entirely suitable to disagree with her and understand where she’s coming from in her anger. Her methods, however, are very wrong.
Another is the essence of children in this calamity of the apocalypse. Henry tries to keep things lighthearted, with Sam having him draw a cartoon of himself being a superhero. Later on, Ellie plays with Sam and speaks to him about comics that they like. In episode four, Joel expressed Ellie shouldn't have to go through something like this. In turn, it’s nice to see two young people have the space to be just that. Unfortunately, Henry doesn’t get the chance as Sam’s caretaker.
Now, if you were wondering when the next amount of Clicker action was coming, “Endure and Survive” provides it. Henry’s tunnel plan was sure to have a caveat, but the warning of something brewing underground revealed itself in a big way. Not only were there a lot of Clickers, but there was also something else named a Bloater – the enormous, nightmare-inducing brute. No, we don’t need to see the infected every single episode because when we see them, they are that much scarier. Besides, humans are more than willing to fill the antagonist void.
For Ellie specifically, we see past her sarcastic interior while she hangs out with Sam. Notability, she reveals that she’s scared to end up alone again. In typical Ellie fashion, she covers up being vulnerable with a joke. Her willingness to help hits an apex when Sam reveals that he got bitten. I’m no scientist, but I'm pretty sure Ellie putting her blood on the wound was always destined to fail. In that action, there is a youthful hopefulness to what she does to protect Sam.
It just has to cut her up inside, knowing she’s immune and that not being remotely helpful in the immediate present to people she cares about. From what we know about cordyceps infection, the fungus attacks the brain and slowly takes over all your motor functions. At least in the beginning, you are aware of what is happening. This makes Sam’s question, “is it still you inside” much more heartbreaking.
The final moments of this episode are precisely what the title describes – you must endure a lot of loss and somehow survive. (some don’t get to do that). How much can one person withstand this until they break?