Episode 5 of HBO’s The Last of Us is a terse one, expanding on Kathleen’s motivations, giving us a great battle scene, and ruminating on how sometimes we can go through so much only to have fate decide it was futile.
This is a recap and review of episode five. Spoilers to follow!
The Last of Us Episode 5 Recap and Review
The episode begins ten days before the last episode, with a riot in Kansas City, presumably Kathleen’s resistance rising up against FEDRA. Kathleen has collected a group of people in a cell and is berating them in her soft-spoken voice for ratting out their neighbours to FEDRA. She offers them their lives if they tell her where Henry is. One man admits that Henry is with Edelstein, the doctor from the last episode. In this case, it turns out snitches get a whole lot more than stitches, which serves to show how ruthless Kathleen is.
We next follow Henry and Sam as they arrive at the attic where Elelstein is waiting. Henry distracts Sam by asking him to draw on the walls.
Jumping ahead ten days, Henry realizes they must leave the attic because Edelstein hasn’t returned and they need food. To make him feel better, Henry paints over Sam’s eyes with paint so he looks like he’s wearing a superhero mask. Before they leave, Henry spots Joel’s fight with the resistance in the laundromat. This explains why Henry and Sam happen to show up in the same room of the highrise where Ellie and Joel are sleeping: Henry had followed them.
He did so to ask for Joel’s help to get out of the city, as he’s not skilled in fighting. He also admits he’s a FEDRA collaborator, to which Joel is less than impressed, but he explains Joel and Ellie need him to avoid Kathleen. He also explains that Sam is his brother, not his son.
After describing his plan, Henry leads them to maintenance tunnels under Kansas City. Despite Henry explaining that FEDRA wiped out the infected in these tunnels five years previous, Joel is wary.
They enter and find a room that is either the school or children’s area of an underground settlement. Ellie and Joel bond over a graphic novel and convince Joel to let them hang out in the room for a while.
This conveniently gives time for Henry to explain that he was a collaborator because Sam got leukemia and needed medicine. To obtain what Sam needed, Henry gave FEDRA information about Kathleen’s brother, the previous resistance leader.
Kathleen and Perry have a moment in Kathleen’s childhood home where Kathleen talks about Michael, her brother. She explains how even as a child, he was already a great leader and protector. She admits she knows what she’s doing is wrong, but she refuses to stop. She wrestles with the concept of forgiveness, but it’s no matter, as Perrry explains he and the resistance are with her regardless of her methods.
As Joel and team exit the tunnels, they engage in joyful banter (well, not Joel), until gunfire rings out. They hunker behind a car as Joel attempts to pinpoint the shooter. Joel heads towards the gunfire, entering an old house. On the upper level, at a window, he finds an older man with a rifle. He tells him he’ll let him live if he gives him the gun. The man refuses, so Joel shoots him. Over the radio, a voice calls for “Anthony,” saying, “we’re almost there.” It’s Kathleen, who does indeed arrive, barrelling in with a truck convey that wishes it were the War Rig from Mad Max: Fury Road.
Joel takes out the driver seconds before they run over Ellie. An explosion is trigged by spilled gasoline, allowing Henry and Ellie to get to cover. Kathleen advances while Henry attempts to bargain for the kids’ lives. Henry asks Ellie to take Sam and run. He exits cover with his hands up.
Everyone is distracted as the exploded truck sinks into the earth. As the ground gives way, a Dawn of the Dead number of Cordyceps burst out of the earth like bees from a hive, swarming everyone. Joel uses the rifle to keep them off Ellie as she makes her way to the back of a truck.
As the fight continues, a massive Cordyceps crawls from the pit (called a “bloater” in the game). Perry tells Kathleen to run as he takes the creature on. Perry is no longer so dapper after that encounter.
Ellie, in the truck, is beset by a very nimble (and decidedly creepy) “Clicker” Cordyceps but manages to escape. She sees Henry and Sam trapped under a car and heads to their rescue. Joel continues to cover her in the chaos. Ellie takes out the Cordyceps attacking the brothers with her knife, and the three escape … only to have Kathleen appear. The nimble Cordyceps attacks her, pummelling and biting her – I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than Tess’ fungal kiss of death.
Having escaped, the group hole up in a hotel. Joel suggests that Henry and Sam accompany him and Ellie to Wyoming. In another room, Sam asks Ellie if she’s ever scared, and she explains that she’s scared all the time. She tries to turn it into a joke, then explains she is in fact scared of ending up alone (she doesn’t expand on whether this means without Joel or because she’s the only immune human). Sam reveals he was bitten by a Cordyceps. She shows him her immunity and cuts her hand. She spreads her blood on his wound. I don’t think it would work that way? Would he need a transfusion from her or something? (Then again, how would she know that?)
Unfortunately, my nit-picking was on the money, as Sam turns in the night. When he attacks Ellie, Henry shoots him and then, in horror at what just transpired, turns the gun on himself.
Ellie and Joel bury the brothers, with Ellie writing one last message for Sam on his communication pad that reads, “I’m sorry.” Again a pair, they continue their journey on foot.
Terse and quick-paced, the episode reinforces not just the caring aspects of humanity but the darker skeins. Kathleen is a villain, but one who understands she’s immoral and wrestles with it. While she’s not sympathetic to the viewer in the slightest, she’s nonetheless layered and far from generic. I thought the Kansas City storyline would last longer than it did, but the quick (and definitely harrowing) time spent on this subplot serves to reinforce the dangers Ellie and Joel face, from both Cordyceps mutations and that of humans thrust into a world where revenge is often mistaken for justice, and no one is safe from tragedy.
The next episode airs Feb 19 on HBO Max.