The Last of Us 1×05 “Endure and Survive” is…as cheesy as this sounds…hard as hell to describe. Because most people know what’s coming and that they shouldn’t get attached. But you can’t help but fall in love with these characters and want them to survive their struggles even though you know they won’t. So all I can do is sit here, cry over Henry and Sam, and try to unravel why this episode hit me so hard and why this episodes changes everything. For Joel. For Ellie. Just…it changes all.
Henry and Sam….Just Everything About Them
Those who have played the game or watched playthroughs, we knew this moment was coming. And while we knew it was going to hurt, we had no idea that it would hurt this much. That was thanks to the impeccable writing, set design, and acting of Lamar Johnson as Henry and Keivonn Woodard as Sam. They had such a believable bond that made every Henry and Sam so much more poignant. So much so that as the episode was coming to that moment, we didn’t want it to happen.
But it did. It happened. And like Ellie and Joel, we’ll have to carry that pain with us.
As for the changes made when it comes to Sam, I love that he was deaf. Too often, apocalyptic shows forget or often ignore that people with disabilities or different ways of living actually survive too. They survive the zombies, the plague, or whatever fungal infection is destroying the movie/TV show in question. So it matters that Sam was deaf and that they integrated it into this episode. Because representation matters and validates the experiences of those watching. And yes, that even counts on The Last of Us.
Then there’s Henry. Johnson did something different with Henry. I knew his pain from the game. But I don’t think I understood it until now. He did everything to protect his brother and give him a chance at living a better life. And to save someone else, he killed his own brother. Yes, the infection had already taken him. But for Henry, that was his little brother and he blamed himself for how things ended. And I think it hurts more because we remember the moments of joy and love in that attic where he painted a heroes mask on Sam’s face.
I just…I wish we had more time with them and their joy. Especially Sam. *stops writing because the sadness is coming once more*
Seeing Ellie Bonding with Sam
The best part of The Last of Us 1×05 was seeing Ellie and Sam bonding. It goes to show you, even at the end of the world, there is light. And it’s personified by these two and the instant bond that formed between them through comics, playing, and just the mutual understanding of being a kid in the middle of the apocalypse. Because yes, they have Joel and Henry. But they’re older and don’t understand completely what it is to grow up in this world.
For Ellie, I loved how kind and considerate she was when it came to Sam. She tried to learn some ASL, was quoting comics with him, and even went so far as to give her blood to Sam on the off chance that it would save him. It goes to show you what kind of person Ellie is and the light still within. And if given the chance, she would protect Sam with her life and end up being a badass sister/brother duo taking on the apocalypse together.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. And this death…it changed her. Because she’s seen death before and taken life. But it’s never been like this. It’s never been with someone younger than her. Someone that she felt like she could protect and that was kind, loving, and deserved the world. And when Ellie is asking Joel for directions, it’s because she’s set her mind. She’s going to do anything and everything she can to find a cure for Sam and kids like him. Like her.
Essentially, The Last of Us “Endure and Survive” was a linchpin episode for Ellie. And she’ll never be the same.
Joel Getting Perspective on It All
With every episode that passes of The Last of Us, we see Joel open up more. Not only to Ellie, who is becoming his adopted daughter, but also to himself. He’s rejected another connection like this since Sarah’s death. But no matter what he does, Ellie continues to shine with her terrible puns and fierce loyalty. So it’s kind of a shock to see Joel opening up more just as Ellie is shutting down after the death of Sam and Henry.
In many ways, I still think that Joel is terrified of what he is feeling and the lengths he’s willing to go for Ellie. But he’ll do it. Because there totally is a small part of him that has hope. Even if that hope is packaged in a tiny girl that swears like a sailor. It’s not just about the “cure” or whatever the hell the Fireflies promised him. Hell, even the promise that he made to Tess. This is his job, his responsibility and it terrifies the hell out of him.
All of this is why I think he invited Henry and Sam to travel with them. Yes, he understands that there is power within numbers. But Henry doesn’t bullshit around and calls it like he sees it. And Henry sees that Joel was a father while Henry himself takes care of Sam and is his pseudo-father figure. They’re similar. And Joel wants someone to have his back that understands what it is to care for something so fragile that scares the hell out of you.
It makes it all the more tragic when you think about how Joel asked for the gun from Henry. Because even then, Henry had a place with Joel and Ellie and the former would help Henry through this. Basically, the Joel that Ellie met in the beginning is no more. Joel is a new man. A changed man. And a scared man who keeps trying when it counts. That matters. And here’s hoping he keeps opening up and getting the perspective he needs.
The Last of Us airs new episodes every Sunday on HBO.