The Last of Us Episode 5: Joel and Ellie Dodge Deadly Hunters and a Bloater

A deft blend of game-based and original storytelling delivers an epic showdown between Kathleen and her Wyoming-bound prey: Joel, Ellie, Henry, and Sam.

by | February 10, 2023 | Comments

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With last week’s “Please Hold My Hand,” The Last of Us approached its mid-season with a nail-biting cliffhanger that saw Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) held at gunpoint. While not explicitly spelled out, it was strongly hinted siblings Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard) – the same pair being hunted by ruthless rebel leader Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) – were the ones pointing the weapons at them.

Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal in The Last of Us

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

Episode 5, “Endure and Survive,” confirms these suspected identities while digging deeper into the details of their conflict with Kathleen. The brothers also receive some welcome backstory via a lengthy flashback. That said, you’ll want to brace yourselves, as their tale is a far cry from the sweet, emotional side-story Bill and Frank received in episode 3. So buckle up – and watch out for Bloaters – as we bravely dive into the fungal apocalypse for a fifth time.

Spoiler alert: The following contains details about The Last of Us season 1, episode 5, “Endure and Survive.” Stop here if you have not watched the episode.


Lamar Johnson, Keivonn Woodard in The Last of Us

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

The previous chapter’s introduction of Henry and Sam seemed to suggest the series was sticking close to its source material, leaving little room for fans of the game to be surprised by their story arc. But Kathleen’s appearance added a significant new wrinkle, one that further fleshed out the siblings’ narrative path while also giving viewers a juicy new villain to jeer at.

In the game, Henry and Sam’s story begins when they ambush Joel and Ellie, just as they did in last week’s episode. But the show rewinds their timeline by about 10 days. Kathleen and her Hunters have taken Kansas City from FEDRA in a brutally violent coup – also original to the series – which sees the rebels beating, torturing, and killing their government oppressors. They also round-up all their neighbors who’d previously colluded with FEDRA. Kathleen interrogates these “guilty” collaborators on Henry’s whereabouts before ordering their mass execution.

When we catch up with Henry and Sam, it’s revealed they’re not quite exact replicas of their polygon counterparts. For starters, Sam’s just 8-years-old in the show versus a young teen in the game. In the series, he’s also deaf, communicating with sign language and a Magic Slate toy (younger readers may want to Google that one). The changes result in Sam being much more reliant on Henry than in the game, as well as the show painting an even more emotional, sympathetic picture of their relationship.

Melanie Lynskey and Jeffrey Pierce in The Last of Us

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

The episode also attempts to humanize Kathleen — a bit — offering additional details on her motive. While reflecting on her childhood, in the very bedroom she grew up in, she opens up to Perry (Jeffrey Price) about the incredibly close bond she shared with her older brother Michael, the Hunter’s former leader and the man Henry supposedly had a hand in killing. We also learn Michael was so kind and caring that, in his last conversation with Kathleen, he’d asked her to forgive Henry.

This series has never shied away from muddying its characters in the morally murky waters between what’s right and wrong, and this episode is no different. While it offers a peek at Kathleen’s softer side it also, conversely, pulls back the curtain on Henry’s darker deeds. As he guiltily explains it to Joel, he did indeed willingly betray Michael — his friend and mentor — giving the leader up to FEDRA, who ultimately beat him to death. He did so in exchange for medicine for Sam, who was suffering from leukemia.


Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

The episode does an excellent job expanding Henry and Sam’s story, while also tying it — and complicating it — with their connection to Kathleen. This nicely sets the stage for a final encounter that closely follows the game’s events, but significantly ups its emotional stakes, as well as its gore-soaked action.

As in the source material, Joel, Ellie and the brothers team-up, relying on each other’s’ strengths — Joel’s ability to turn Infected to pulp and Henry’s knowledge of the city — to escape Kansas City (Pittsburgh in the game.)

Fans of the game might instinctively reach for their PlayStation 5 controllers when the group’s path down a suburban street is protected by a sniper with an itchy trigger finger. Players will recall this sequence leads to a very video game-y challenge, where Joel must stealthily sneak up on and eliminate the shooter, then use his victim’s rifle to carefully pick-off targets aggressively pursuing Ellie, Henry, and Sam.

Melanie Lynskey in The Last of Us

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

The series retains this sequence’s pulse-spiking intensity, delivering the show’s biggest action set-piece yet. But it also organically weaves Kathleen’s dogged pursuit of the group into it. The game’s generic sniper is traded for one of Kathleen’s Hunters, who’s pinning his targets down until she can arrive with back-up. Both the game and show see Ellie, Henry, and Sam chased by the armored vehicle with “RUN” spray-painted across its front, as well as attacking Hunters.

In the episode, however, there are far more Hunters, led by Kathleen. The bigger difference though, is triggered by that truck’s explosive demise. Rather than catching fire and unceremoniously crashing into a house, courtesy of Joel’s sharp shooting, its collision opens a massive sinkhole inhabited by hungry Infected. Kathleen nearly catches her targets and gets her revenge, but this massive eruption of fungal freaks interrupts her plans, while giving fans a brutally satisfying send-off for both her and Perry.

Keivonn Woodard, Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

With her character arc brought to a face-mutilating conclusion — seriously, that Infected tears into her like a toddler opening a Christmas present— the series returns to the game’s regularly scheduled programming. Joel, Ellie, and the brothers catch their breath and prepare to bed down before continuing their journey west. Of course, being The Last of Us, this happy ending is just a tease. It’s soon revealed Sam was bitten, leading him to attack Ellie the next morning, resulting in Henry killing his brother before turning the gun on himself.

The key difference here is Ellie’s knowledge and reaction to Sam’s infection. She learns of it the night before, keeps it a secret from Joel and Henry, and even tries to cure him by spreading her own immune blood on his open wound. It’s not clear if she truly believes this remedy will work or she’s just attempting to comfort a terrified Sam.

Regardless, she spends the night in the same room with him — another variation from the game — and the next day’s events play out the same. This leaves the audience, especially those who don’t know this is coming, heartbroken as more characters they’ve become attached to receive a gut-wrenching goodbye. At least in the show, Joel buries the brothers’ bodies and Ellie writes “I’m Sorry” on Sam’s Magic Slate before placing it atop his grave.


For those complaining the series has been comparatively light on Infected-focused action, this episode more than makes up for it; in fact, that final battle brings the long-anticipated arrival of the Bloater. Teased in the series’ trailers, this hulking mass of mushroom-y menace serves as a sort of boss battle in the game, one that unfolds earlier, in Bill’s chapter. The beast is just as terrifying in the series, and that’s before it tears Perry’s head off with all the effort of a person opening a bag of chips.

Bella Ramsey, Keivonn Woodard, Lamar Johnson in The Last of Us

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

Beyond the Bloater, game fans might notice how the series plays with a betrayal that takes place in the source material. The game features a tense moment where Henry abandons Joel and Ellie while they’re trapped and under attack. He later rescues them from a river, but he’d initially left them to die so he could save his own and Sam’s hides.

The episode recalls this betrayal but reverses and tweaks it. While Joel’s sniping from his perch in the distance, Henry begs Ellie for help from under a car, prompting her — who could easily leave him behind — to look to Joel for a signal. With a subtle nod, he gives her the OK to help the siblings.

We also get another call-out to Ellie’s beloved comic book series, “Savage Starlight,” as well as a near line-for-line conversation between her and Sam about what scares them. The latter hits a little harder in the episode, as the boy communicates his feeling via his Magic Slate. Henry pausing to enjoy the sound of his little brother’s long, lost laughter, and a quick shot of the “House Rules” board in an underground settlement are also pulled directly from the game.

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