Endure and Survive: TLOU Episode 5 Recap
[Editor’s Note: By the very nature of a “recap”, there will most certainly be spoilers in these weekly pieces, we didn’t think to mention that with the premiere, but we will keep a “SPOILER WARNING” label at the top of these weekly recaps for the rest of the season. Thank you and sorry if we spoiled anything for you!]
Joel and Ellie’s journey got back into full swing last week with Ep. 4, Please Hold My Hand, as our flawed protagonists ended up getting ambushed in Kansas City and to fight their way out. Alas, poor viewer, if you thought this would be just another week of action and tension, you would be mistaken. While we may get the wildest infected action sequence of the series so far, we also get a generous helping of sadness, compliments of the introduction of Henry and Sam. Ep. 5, named Endure and Survive, is a great overall outlook on what the TLOU game presents – action, great performances, human morality constantly in flux, and pure emotionally draining moments. This was a great set-up for our eventual arrival in Jackson, Wyoming next week.
We start with a brief flashback to when the raiders liberated Kansas City from FEDRA. Emotionally driven leader Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) is interrogating a group of prisoners who she knows sold out neighbors and friends to FEDRA for such needs as food, medicine, etc. She has a one-track mind – where is Henry? After ordering her troops to extinguish them all after quick trials, one ends up coughing up info that Henry is with someone named Adelstein.
We catch up with Henry and Sam, who we see is deaf and communicates via ASL. (Side note – Sam being his little brother putting a kibosh on the “theory” I had on their connection to Kathleen in my last recap article) as they connect with Adelstein (John Getz), who we now see is the doctor that Kathleen executed in the beginning of Ep. 4. Adelstein leads them a safe house to hide until it’s good to move and leave the city (which is the same attic space that Kathleen comes across in Ep. 4). Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodward) are immediately likable and have great chemistry, beautifully communicating and getting each other through this horrible situation, especially as Henry surprises Sam with crayons to decorate the “ugly” attic space they now call home temporarily.
As they are about to leave a few days later (and coming to the realization that their friend Adelstein is not returning after going out for supplies), Henry witnesses Joel and Ellie’s gunfire-fueled arrival into Kansas City, witnessing how this strange man and his younger companion can clearly take care of themselves. Suddenly, a plan forms in Henry’s mind. Cut to the end of Ep. 4, as Henry and Sam are holding guns to Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Joel (Pedro Pascal). They don’t want to kill them, just “talk”, as Henry puts it. After pressure from Ellie, Joel agrees not to do anything rash if they lower their guns (leads to a funny line as Henry doesn’t like the tone of Joel’s voice, which Ellie labels his normal “asshole” voice). As the tension is eased, all four sit around to have a quick bite to eat. While checking out the city from an office meeting room, Henry proposes that he can help them get out of city, in exchange for Joel taking the lead and clear the way out. Henry confesses that he was a collaborator with FEDRA, a “rat” as Joel says. It becomes clear that Henry did this for an important reason, amplified when we turn to Ellie showing Sam the “No Pun Intended” book she has, which causes Sam and Ellie to laugh hysterically, something Henry says Sam hasn’t done in quite some time.
The Plan: to use tunnels under the city for maintenance that can lead them to a suburb outside the city, which leads to an embankment that will get them out of KC. The possible problem: infected were driven down into tunnels 15 years ago by FEDRA soldiers when they established order in the city. While Henry believes it’s all cleaned out now based on info he received, there is always risk that something has survived and grown to numbers unknown. Our fearsome four make their way into tunnel entrance beneath an office building, slowly make their way through while Joel takes point. Eventually, they come across a lovely entrance painted to look like a children’s room. As they enter through the door, our group have apparently come upon an underground settlement, a place where people went underground to avoid the riots and government the minute the world broke. This settlement was a big gameplay sequence in the TLOU game as well (Joel, Ellie, Henry and Sam were all in this part, but were on their way to a radio tower to meet up with other survivors in Henry’s group in the game). I loved the nods to the game with the inclusion of this settlement location (The drawing of Danny and Ish “Our Protectors, the comic book Savage Starlight), as there was much lore and background on the people who lived in these underground connected tunnels and housed some of the most horrifying encounters, especially with all the inherent darkness that comes from being underground.
We finally get the backstory on why Kathleen wants Henry so bad. Sam ended up getting diagnosed leukemia, which led to him selling out the leader of the rebellion/raiders, which just happened to be Kathleen’s brother, Michael, all to obtain medicine. The Last of US game and show have both done an amazing job of making every character morally “grey”. No one is really designated good or bad in terms of general usage assigned to protagonists or antagonists. It really does create an amazing conflict of moral expectation of the characters you are seemingly meant to like more than others. Everyone has done something they are not proud of, and that can lead to any single viewer latching themselves onto a different character they can relate to. People can gravitate toward what Henry did to save Sam, but some people can see why Kathleen wants Henry dead, even if her methods have seemingly made her no better than the oppressive FEDRA soldiers her group overthrew.
This is further explored when we cut to Kathleen hanging out in her old bedroom, which she shared with her brother Michael. As she tells her 2nd in command, Perry, a story of how Michael comforted her during thunderstorms, and begins to cry while telling it (and revealing that her brother wanted her to forgive Henry, which she just can’t accept), really exemplifies the heartbreak that she is going through and truly hits you, even if you ultimately believe this character is clearly the more sinister of the bunch or not. It takes a deft hand in writing to elicit this kind of emotion and it’s great to watch when its effectively executed.
We come back to our Joel, Henry, Sam and Ellie and they emerge on the other side of the tunnel in an abandoned suburb. As they are almost at the embankment, sniper fire rings out in the dark night from a house down the block, trying to take them out. I was blown away that they kept this sequence in the show, as this was an intense sequence during the game that had multiple layers and progressed to more and more dangerous levels as it continued (setting this at night, as opposed to during the day in the game, was also a nice adjustment to add tension and a lack of clarity). Joel ends up sneaking down the block and getting into the house, only to discover an old man is the culprit behind the gunfire. After giving him a chance to surrender, the old man attempts to take Joel out and loses. However, the old-timer already tipped off Kathleen to their whereabouts and they are already descended upon them.
Joel picks up the sniper gun and provides cover support for Henry, Sam and Ellie to get down the block and away from the stampede of vehicles plowing through the neighborhood, even shooting the driver of the lead vehicle, leading to it crashing into one house and blowing the house and truck to bits. Kathleen and her crew end up surrounding the area and have them trapped. Henry attempts to surrender to give Sam and Ellie a chance to escape. As Kathleen is about to shoot Henry, the ground shakes behind them where the destroyed truck and house where and it sinks into the ground. To say that I yelped and said a few good “Holy Shit” lines is the understatement of the year. A swelling of infected and clickers come barreling out of the sinkhole, running full speed, and overwhelming the armed militia. We also get our introduction to the massive and fearsome bloater, a creature that has been infected since the beginning and has mutated to a severe degree. The moment where it emerges from the ground in slow-motion is already iconic. Beautifully framed and shot.
We are treated to the most amazing and intense massive action sequence so far in the series, full of gore and mayhem. A litany of great moments pop-off in a brief span – the bloater rips Perry’s head clean off, a child clicker is trapped in a car with Ellie, etc. We see that Henry and Sam are in trouble as they are under a car with two clickers desperately trying to grab them. Ellie escapes the child clicker and stabs the two clickers trying to kill Henry and Sam. As they are about to escape, Kathleen corners them and is about to kill them all. Unfortunately for her, that same child clicker also escaped the car and pounces on Kathleen, pounding on her before biting her real good. Melanie Lynskey, we hardly knew ye.
Joel, Henry, Ellie and Sam end up at a motel outside the city, a place to crash for the night before they all move toward Wyoming (Joel invites Henry and Sam to tag along, which Henry gladly accepts). As Ellie and Sam have great interaction before bed reading comics and chatting via that magic eraser pad Sam uses to communicate, Sam reveals that he got bit on the leg during the scuffle in the suburb. Ellie decides to cut her hand open and use her own blood on the wound, seemingly believing that since she is immune, perhaps this will help in staving off the change. It’s heartbreaking, not only because game players know exactly what’s coming next, but that Ellie is desperate to also try and save someone in her life, just like Joel is trying to do after the failures or Sarah and Tess. I loved that Sam revealed that he was bit to Ellie (in the game, the bite was revealed to the player but Sam was not around any game characters at the time) as it led to this wonderful interaction. Keivonn Woodward knocked it out the park, and Bella Ramsey continues to impress as her character continues to evolve week to week.
Unfortunately, by the next morning, the same result players of TLOU are expecting comes to fruition. Sam is infected and attacks Ellie. As Joel tries to help, Henry pulls a gun on Joel and shooting in from of him, not ready to come to the realization that Sam is infected and gone. Henry eventually shoots Sam and is stricken with such guilt in what has transpired and how it all came crashing down at the last minute, that he decides to take his own life. The quick yelp that Bella Ramsey’s Ellie lets out puts an exclamation mark on what just transpired. Joel and Ellie bury them both out back of the motel. Ellie lays the magic eraser pad on Sam grave, with the phrase “I’m Sorry” written on it and walks off. Ellie drops Joel’s coat and backpack near him and is coldly asking where is west and essentially barks an order to Joel to come on and let’s go. The coldness in Ellie’s demeanor and voice resembles how Joel responds to most situations where death plays a part, seemingly doing a role reversal of how she was acting with the death of Tess in Ep. 2/3.
Episode 5 was the most jam-packed episode of the series outside of maybe Ep. 1. Intense action horror sequences, amazing acting performances from all parties involved, and an almost absurd amount of emotionally draining events that took a toll on this viewer. As we got a tease of Ep. 6 and the arrival of them in Jackson, Wyoming and Joel’s tearful reunion with Tommy, we are given an inkling of respite from all the pain and drama that comes with The Last of Us. However, players know better. This is merely a calm before the storm, and I for one can’t wait for how this will proceed.