The halfway point of The Last of Us arrived with a one-hour episode to highlight the story of Henry and Sam; brothers hiding from the wrath of Kathleen and her gun-totting troopers. Henry is the most wanted man in Kansas City, while his little brother is deaf in a world that is very reliant on all five senses. Following an introduction to the characters in their lead-up to meeting Joel and Ellie, episode 5 then picks up where episode 4 left us – with the brothers holding our heroes at gunpoint. But as we learn quite quickly, they are not the danger in a city full of war.
This episode has everything survival horror/adventure could ask for: full scale action as if playing a video game, enhanced threats from the infected, a deeper dive into the characters briefly seen in episode 4, and further growth for Joel and Ellie. There are touching moments as Ellie has a chance to make a friend in Sam, but Joel also finds someone he can relate to in Henry. They are almost mirrors to one another, understanding the motive of doing anything required to protect a loved one. Joel is uncomfortable that Henry can read him so well, which enhances the bond without needing much screen time.
The action is a highlight near the conclusion of the episode. Gunfights, clickers and a special treat for gamers present the biggest set-piece we’ve seen so far in the series. Nobody is safe and the body count will mount. It is also worth mentioning that Kathleen’s right hand man is the voice of Joel’s brother Tommy in the game – another fantastic Easter egg in the basket, and another all-round great performance. Kathleen is an interesting warlord, as we begin to understand her reason for violence but also want to know more about its backdrop. A scene reminiscing in her childhood bedroom is an example of showing both sides of the coin.
It is impossible not to be connected to Sam – despite his reliance on his older brother to survive, he still manages to find joy in little things like comics and football. Ellie also has this ability, demonstrating how different it is for people that were born during the decay as opposed to those who saw the world fall (Joel, Tess, Bill, etc.). By the end of the episode, we know more about the central characters and ponder their next step towards Wyoming. For every step so far has been covered in death, tendrils and fear.
If episode 3 has been the highlight of the season so far due to its characters, episode 5 runs a close second by way of its action sequences. The quality, emotion and progression never drop, which is a testament to the showrunners. Bring on the second half of the series!