The Last of Us’ fifth episode is the most important one to date
| Last updated
Featured Image Credit: HBO
Bill and Frank’s ‘Long Long Time’ may go down as most people’s favourite episode of HBO’s The Last of Us, but episode five is officially the series’ most important instalment to date. ‘Long Long Time’ showed us the exception, not the norm. As tragic as it felt, Bill and Frank found their happy ending. They discovered a reason to live within one another and spent the rest of their days relishing in that discovery. Episode three proved that finding peace is possible but it’s also rare.
As every other episode has shown, this is not a peaceful world. It’s cruel and perilous. Sarah was killed by a man who should’ve offered her safety. Tess died while trying to help out a friend. Henry and Sam were offered only the briefest glimpse of freedom, of a life outside of Kansas City, before they too were taken. As the episode title ‘Endure and Survive’ suggests, the world these characters inhabit is one that is full of threat. Episode five warns us of exactly what those threats are and the risk they pose.
If you’re excited for episode six, take a look at the trailer for ‘Kin’ below.
The most obvious threat to be found is - of course - the infected, and ‘Endure and Survive’ delivered The Last of Us’ most powerful infected scene yet. Already, the series has been careful to show that infected are not cannon fodder. In the second episode, Joel, Ellie, and Tess were almost overpowered by just two clickers - an encounter that we later learn directly resulted in Tess’ demise. The horde sequence showed a level of threat far beyond that. ‘Endure and Survive’ proved that if the infected have the numbers, you really don’t stand a chance.
The star of the sequence was undoubtedly the bloater who I’m glad to see wasn’t easily finished off with a couple of Molotov cocktails. Perry emptied out an entire round on that bad boy and his bullets achieved nothing. In fact, that’s not exactly true. They did achieve something. They infuriated the bloater. If Perry’s fate wasn’t already sealed, his own attempt to save his life ensured the fact.
To date, infected have sought to spread the fungus. That’s not the case for the bloater. When it rips Perry in half, its goal is to destroy - to help the spread by protecting its own kind as runners and clickers are more susceptible to gunfire. The thought of getting overrun by a swarm of infected is terrifying enough. Add to that fact that we now know almost impenetrable soldiers like bloaters exist, it's a stark reminder of what’s out there. When the bloater stomps off back towards Kansas City, you know there’s no stopping it - and that’s truly frightening.
Beyond the infected, ‘Endure and Survive’ also reminds us that one of the greatest threats we can face comes from within. Kathleen is consumed by a thirst for revenge and the repercussions are extensive. As the episode explains, Henry killed Kathleen’s brother who, when alive, encouraged Kathleen to forgive and move on. ‘What does that achieve?’ she asked Perry. Let’s flip that question. Kathleen chooses revenge. What does that achieve?
It ensures her death. Kathleen met a grisly end at the hands of the child clicker who swiped at Kathleen with such ferocity that I’m glad we didn’t have to see the aftermath. The infected horde was released only due to the presence of Kathleen and her troops. If they hadn't chased Henry down, the vehicle wouldn’t have crashed and fallen through to the maintenance tunnel, therefore releasing the infected. No good comes of revenge. If Kathleen had forgiven Henry, she’d likely still be alive.
The repercussions of her revenge extend far beyond that though. Kathleen led all of her best troops out to catch Henry and co - and we can assume, they were probably carrying with them most of the city’s firepower. As we’ve just established, there’s no succeeding when you’re up against an infected horde and after ploughing through Kathleen’s group, the horde marches off back towards the centre of Kansas City where Kathleen’s people are residing. It’s safe to say that with the group’s troops gone, those left in the city are defenceless. Kathleen has doomed them too.
Perry did warn her earlier in the episode, questioning whether it was sensible to focus all their resources on one man in one area. It felt insignificant at the time. With the infected believed to be buried underground, there was no reason for Kathleen to think that there was any other threat to focus on other than Henry. Had she listened to Perry, those who were left behind in Kansas City may have stood a greater chance at escaping the horde.
In allowing herself to be consumed by rage, Kathleen devastated the lives of so many - and that’s an important point to establish when we think forwards to where The Last of Us Part II is heading. We recently spoke to Perry actor Jeffrey Pierce who explained the significance of Kathleen’s actions, saying, “It becomes this cycle that is unsurvivable. I think that it's great that that's a key element of the story that we're already exploring because, you know, it becomes pivotal to our experience in the second game. Going forward, it becomes the centre of this universe.”
The final threat ‘Endure and Survive’ introduces us to is perhaps the most cruel. It’s the threat of being human - of loving and trusting, of being vulnerable. These are innate feelings but these simple emotions can lead our characters down dark paths. If you think about it, Kathleen’s violent desire to avenge all began with a love for her brother. This is a world that has a habit of warping feelings. It poses the question, is it safer to shut yourself off?
When Ellie ignites the possibility that she might be able to save Sam using her blood, she ultimately sets herself up for more heartbreak. That heartbreak is intensified by the fact that she fought against the communicative barrier between them to forge a friendship. Ellie didn’t have to geek out over Savage Starlight with Sam, but she wanted to. It’s this burgeoning friendship that later leads to a greater sense of loss and guilt over his death. That too is going to be pivotal moving forwards as love and loss are closely intertwined.
As The Last of Us’ story progresses, both throughout this season and beyond, we’ll look back at ‘Endure and Survive’ and notice that it was here that the series really upped the ante. Ellie and Joel need to be wary of others. They need to keep an eye out for infected but perhaps most importantly, they need to keep an eye out on their own feelings. Both Kathleen and Henry were consumed by loss. For Kathleen, that loss manifested as revenge. For Henry, it was an inescapable guilt. Both die because of it and that’s a discussion I’m certain we’ll revisit further down the line.