The Last Of Us Episode 5 Feels Very Much Like A Video Game Level

This post contains spoilers for episode 5 of "The Last of Us."

Well, before we get to the main recap, a revelation. We are not in Pittsburgh, but in Kansas City — likely a change meant to signal that the show is making a lot of changes to this part of the story.

And those changes start with the opening scene, which is once again a flashback! We travel back to the night Melanie Lynskey's Kathleen takes control of the Kansas City QZ and draws FEDRA out. Now, so far, we've had a laugh or two at FEDRA based on Ellie's comments about their schools being terrible or Frank saying they are nazis, but this episode truly shows the evils of the Federal Disaster Response Agency. We learn from Kathleen that FEDRA used informants all around the city to round up people they deemed undesirable, turning neighbor against neighbor, and as Henry says later on, they "raped and killed people" for 20 years — no wonder the people were chanting and celebrating when Kathleen's militia took over, even if they are still a militia, one that executes those who act against their wishes. 

To make matters worse, Joel mentions later in the episode that he had heard rumors about the Kansas City FEDRA being particularly bad, which brings to mind another post-apocalyptic game with mini-governments that turned out to be quite awful — the vaults in "Fallout" which resulted to be sadistic experiments.

We then meet Henry and Sam, the two kids Kathleen is relentlessly sending her entire militia to look for. They managed to escape liberation day in KC and hide with a former FEDRA guy, barely scraping by. Sam is 8 and deaf, and he passes the time decorating their hideout with superhero drawings. This is significant because the show's apocalypse took place in 2003 before superhero movies became bleak and brooding.

Sneaking around

When Henry sees Joel crashing through the shop window in front of his hideout as we saw last episode, he gets a new idea: to use him to escape. Joel is good at killing, and Henry knows the way out of town.

We then catch up to where we left off last week — with Henry and Sam pointing guns at Joel and Ellie. There's a great scene where Henry asks Joel if they're cool and calm enough to put their guns down, but isn't convinced by Joel's threatening voice, something Ellie totally acknowledges and supports, because that's just how Joel talks. Coming to an understanding, the two groups leave the building and head to some underground tunnels.

The bulk of the episode is dedicated to the escape, which is phenomenally adapted. While episode 3 is a standout standalone episode, this one shows the strengths of "The Last of Us" as an adaptation. The stealth feels straight out of the game, with the characters going down side alleyways in silence and without their flashlights to avoid detection, and just like in the game the moment you do run into enemies it becomes pandemonium. This is the true source of horror in the game; not the zombies or even just strictly the humans, but the very idea of running into a fight and knowing you can't win alone.

Before the fight, they come upon a fascinating, and heartbreaking location of the game: Ish's hideout. In the game, it served as background worldbuilding you could easily miss but helped make the world feel real. Sadly, the show doesn't do much with the location beyond pointing out that there are abandoned settlements throughout the land but it does offer some cute scenes of Ellie and Sam getting rest and playing soccer.

Actions have consequences

The group exits the tunnel unharmed. As they walk through a dark neighborhood at the end of town, they get shot at by a sniper from a nearby home. Joel takes him down but then realizes the guy works for Kathleen and has already called for backup — the stealth is over, time for mayhem.

We get a phenomenal set piece where the militia's fleet of cars chasing down the kids, almost like it was "Maximum Overdrive" while Joel shoots at them before his gun gets jammed. It is a scene straight out of the game, and it rules. The best part? It takes place completely at night, shot mostly with natural light, and yet you can see everything that's happening — take that, "Game of Thrones"! 

It turns out, Henry is being chased by the militia for being a FEDRA informant. Worse yet, in order to get the medicine needed to treat Sam's leukemia from FEDRA, Henry killed the leader of the resistance, who happened to be Kathleen's brother. Henry knows he is the bad guy for what he did, and snaps at Joel when he doesn't immediately agree. When Kathleen confronts the group, she says Sam was always meant to die, because kids die all the time. She understands why Henry did what he did, but the world doesn't revolve around Sam and it was foolish to think otherwise — there are consequences for playing with fate.

Total mayhem

Speaking of fate, just before Kathleen can execute Henry, one of the militia trucks explodes and opens a hole in the ground, from which comes out a whole horde of infected! Better yet, we finally get a look at the meaning bloater we first saw in the trailer. He is huge, he is terrifying, and he rules.

What follows is an absolute massacre, a "Day of the Dead"-like nightmare, with the infected quickly overrunning and tearing the militia guys apart. Though he saved Sam from the illness, Henry's actions doomed the entire Kansas City settlement. As the group manages to escape the mayhem and leave town, we see the sight of a little infected girl killing Kathleen while the rest of the horde runs around, heading towards the city. He did so because of his love for his brother, but was it right?

After they leave, Joel tells Henry they can stick around and accompany them, it might do Sam and Ellie some good to have a friend their age — and based on their dynamic and the fun they had playing soccer in the tunnel hideout, he's right.

Later, once they settle for the night, Sam asks Ellie if she is ever afraid, to which Ellie responds she is scared all the time, scared of ending up alone. Sam says he is scared of what happens when you turn into a monster, and the idea that he'll still be himself, trapped inside the infected body. Turns out, he was bitten in the leg, and even though Ellie tells him she is immune and tries to cure him by pouring some of her blood on her wound, Sam succumbs to the infection by the following morning.

When Ellie approaches him, Sam tries to kill her, before Henry stops him by shooting his brother in the head and then shooting himself out of grief. Ellie is in absolute shock but quickly brushes it off and acts normal. Joel knows she is lying and sees Ellie buried Sam's notepad with him with the words "I'm sorry" written on it.

Game spoiler corner

If you haven't played "The Last of Us," stop reading now. I haven't done actual game comparisons with spoilers because, well, the changes weren't so tied to the end of the game so far. That changed this week.

Having Henry be essentially a parallel and a foreshadowing of Joel's actions at the end of the game is fascinating. What truly sells the change, however, is having Joel already hear two people on both sides of a conflict say that it is totally wrong to go murder someone good to save a loved one is bad. And, as we see at the end of the episode, it was all for nothing. Henry killed someone to save his brother, but his actions also inspired Kathleen to become so driven by vengeance that her actions led to the destruction of her entire militia and possibly the whole settlement. It is tragic, and it totally fits the themes of the game.