I know. I know. I’m late to the party on this one. Thanks to the Super Bowl, Episode 5 of The Last of Us was streamed early. This had a ripple effect in jolly old England with the newest instalment hitting our streaming service in the early hours of Saturday. However, my weekend was quite busy, and I thought four blog posts in a week was tantamount to torture. Plus, I do like a routine. So, here we are. Have you seen Episode 5 of The Last of Us? Let me know in the comments below.
For once, I was at a loss for words at the end of Episode 5 of The Last of Us. Instead, I was a tearful puddle who was trying to comprehend what I had just seen. But in the hours since being in that state, I can say this now. Perhaps more than any other episode, Endure and Survive made me think of the nature of video game adaptations insofar as how fidelity and change can walk hand in hand with one another.
Joel and Ellie’s temporary shelter is disturbed by the arrival of Henry and his little brother, Sam. After a tense standoff, Henry tries to persuade Joel to help him escape the city via a series of underground tunnels. However, things become harder as the sibling pair are being hunted by the leader of a local resistance group, Kathleen, who is hell-bent on killing them for their betrayal of the overarching cause.
Conceptually, Endure and Survive has the skeleton of the Henry and Sam section from the video game in terms of getting to the same emotional endpoint. But the deviations to get us there are fascinating and meaningful. Firstly is the difference in Sam. In the game, he was a talkative person who still had a sense of innocence. While this latter quality is retained in his television counterpart, the former is lost due to the character having contracted leukaemia. This subtle change results in a theme that gets to the heart of the game, which is the lengths you would go to for your loved ones.
To get medicine for his brother’s condition, Henry had to rat out one of the community’s best people, which resulted in his death. Lamar Johnson during the moment where he says he’s the bad guy provides an incredibly moving performance that carries the weight of ambiguity in this post apocalypse world. Equally as compelling is Melanie Lynskey as Kathleen, whose seemingly sweet and soft-spoken nature hides a dangerous side.
This juxtaposition between Sam and Kathleen not only plays like a parallel of that previously mentioned theme (with Kathleen being a dark mirror of Sam insofar as her relationship to her sibling is concerned). It also greatly informs Joel’s journey as someone who initially sees Ellie as cargo to be delivered but opens up to be a meaningful person that he grows an attachment to. This seeming change in attitude is the episode’s best moment of filmmaking. The camera captures Joel in a medium shot as he ruminates over a person’s grave. Ellie is faded in the background. Pedro Pascal captures an authentic sense of loss and wistfulness that seek to get the character to reflect on what’s been and very well could be lost.
But above all, the episode made me consider and reflect on the differences in how leadership between these insurgent groups. That’s an interesting shade of grey that the game never delved into but is great thematic material for the television adaptation.