The Last of Us episode 5 review: The Worth of One Life

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Last of Us provides yet another stellar episode with the fifth instalment using the build-up of episode 4 to create an emotional ride filled with horror, heartbreak, and hope. Much of the series is about survival, found family and hope in the darkest and desperate of circumstances but one thing the series differs at and excels at is how anger-fuelled grief can be a catalyst for change. That change can be in a person and how that changes the surroundings around them. Joel’s (Pedro Pascal) grief caused him to close off, Kathleen’s (Melanie Lynskey) grief grew an anger so fierce she overthrew a government.

This episode brings Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard) into the centre as the focus of episode 5. The previous episode felt like it was building up for the next, not a bad thing, and in doing so created one of the most entertaining arcs so far. The other key players are vengeance and survival, in opposition to each others aim. Henry wants to escape the city and Kathleen wants to kill him. Both at odds and both racked with grief. Kathleen was ruthless in the previous episode, racked with grief, anger, and her own sense of justice, but this episode shines a light on how infested Kathleen is with revenge. Lynskey gives a chilling performance every second she is on screen, crafting a sinister mix of calm and white-hot anger, not caring who gets in the way of her revenge. Lynskey is a treat to watch with a chilling and sadistic performance that makes one of best villain performances to date. Kathleen is pragmatic, appearing cold, but, in fact she is seething with rage. Opposite to that is Henry, who is her sole focus on bringing to justice. Paired with his brother Sam, there is an instant likability to the two and an instant need to want to protect them. Being the focus of the episode, the two brothers take command of every scene they are in and pair excellently with each other and other actors. There are some truly adorable moments between Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Sam as they can act like children for the first time, reiterating the cruelty of the world by having some simple child moments that they have been deprived of. Sam is adorable, the instant you see him, the show has aged him down from 13 to 8. It makes his arc so much more influential and portrayed by the talented Woodard, his journey will leave a lasting impression on fans of the show and the game. Ellie showcases her fun side when around Sam and has a vulnerable compassionate one that she has not been able to share with anyone. The progression from the almost feral child we saw in the beginning to the Ellie we are seeing now is masterfully performed and directed.

There are many memorable and emotionally resonant scenes, and not just with the younger cast. Henry makes a confession to Joel, an impassioned speech about what led him to this point and Kathleen’s wrath, but reveals he sees himself as the villain. Johnson captivates in this scene, holding down some strong dialogue with a performance to match. It is an interesting comparison to Kathleen, who knows what she has done; that it is wrong, but she cannot forgive and does not see herself as a villain. She is a survivor. A victor. And the comparison between her and Henry creates another interesting and impactful dynamic to the series that has benefited from the changes from the original source material.

As with the other episodes, there are changes to the game, but, again, the changes are done to make the story more effective and coherent in the adaptation. Sam and Henry are a perfect example of that. They have a real need to escape the city and have more depth in the series. There are no huge changes like with Bill and Frank. The end remains like the game enough to have the impact many will remember, but the feeling is deeper due to the characters being more fleshed out. There is one change with Ellie and Sam that will stick with viewers for a while and touch on the characters for the rest of the series. There is one moment in the game that was so heart-wrenching that it did not involve any of the main characters directly that Neil Druckmann hinted was not included, but somehow the creative team managed to capture the moments that emotionally resonated. The appearance of the long-awaited Bloater makes its debut in a sequence that is truly horrifying. Suspense is crafted perfectly, creating horror in already tense situations. For those concerned about how few infected have been shown, those worries will be none existent.

Endure and Survive is a masterclass in storytelling. The cinematography is breath-taking, taking full use of the environment and theme. The performances are captivating, profound and true to the source while using the changes to deepen the effects.

The MVC of this episode goes to Henry. He holds a profound amount of guilt while navigating the role of protector for his brother and dealing with the atrocities of the world and his own actions.


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