Episode 5 of “The Last of Us” Might Be the Most Devastating Yet: Here’s Why
Episode five of “The Last of Us,” which HBO Max started streaming two days early on Feb. 10, sees Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) on a quest to escape Kansas City and continue their journey west. They’re aided by Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard), two Kansas City natives desperate to escape. As we learned in episode four, Henry collaborated with FEDRA when it still held power in the city, and now Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) and her group of rebels are intent on hunting him down and killing him.
“The Last of Us” is based on the video game of the same name, and Sam and Henry do appear in it and ultimately suffer the same fate they do on the show. But the series significantly changes their path to that ending. Ahead, we’re breaking down the changes the show made and its effect on the TV series.
Changes “The Last of Us” Made to Sam and Henry’s Plot
“The Last of Us” TV series subs Kansas City for Pittsburgh, but that’s just the start of the changes to Sam and Henry’s plot. In the game, Henry and his younger brother, Sam, are part of a group of survivors from Hartford who decided to travel west to find the Fireflies resistance group. In Pittsburgh, they clash with hunters, and Joel and Ellie help them escape.
In the TV series, Henry and Sam have lived in Kansas City for a long time and, like everyone else there, were subject to FEDRA’s fascist oppression. Henry eventually reveals to Joel during the fifth episode that Sam was diagnosed with cancer, and only FEDRA has the needed medication. So Henry turned in Kathleen’s brother – the leader of the rebels and an incredible person – to save Sam’s life.
Joel and Henry lead their group to the outskirts of Kansas City through tunnels under the city. The tunnels used to be full of the Infected, but Henry learned from FEDRA that all the zombies are gone, and it’s safe. But a moment in episode four hinted that wasn’t true, and Infected were looming all along.
Kathleen’s Death in “The Last of Us”
A rebel catches the quartet in an abandoned house in the suburbs. Henry, Sam, and Ellie hide behind a car while Joel goes into the house to confront the man, who’s shooting at them with a rifle. Joel tells him that if he promises to stop shooting and lets them get away, he won’t shoot him, but the man goes to shoot Joel, so Joel kills him. Unfortunately, the man had already radioed Kathleen and the rebels, who are almost there. Joel watches from above with the man’s rifle and shoots a rebel driving a massive tank. The tank crashes into a house.
Henry turns himself in to Kathleen and asks her to let the kids go. She refuses. She also tells Henry that Sam was meant to die, so he should have accepted his fate.
And that’s when it happens. It turns out, there were tons of Infected waiting underground, and they enter through a hole in the ground created by the crashed tank. The rebels try to fight them off with their guns but fail and are quickly overtaken. Kathleen is viciously killed, but Joel, Henry, Sam, and Ellie make it away.
Sam and Henry’s Death in “The Last of Us”
In the game, Sam is secretly bitten by a zombie during the escape but doesn’t tell anyone until the infection settles in and he attacks Ellie. The show puts a spin on this, making it all even more devastating.
After escaping the rebels and the zombie horde, Joel and Henry find an abandoned motel to spend the night in. Ellie and Sam talk in their room together, and Sam tells Ellie he’s scared of becoming a monster and asks her if she thinks Infected are still themselves inside. He reveals to her that he was bitten during their escape.
Ellie tells him that her blood is medicine because she was bitten and never changed. She covers his bite with some of her blood, comforting them both a little bit. He asks her to stay awake all night with him, and she agrees.
But Ellie does fall asleep, and when she wakes up, Sam is in the first stage of infection and attacks her. They barrel into the room where Joel and Henry were sleeping, and Henry shoots and kills Sam, saving Ellie. Then Henry, panicked, points his gun at Joel and Ellie before changing his mind and killing himself while Joel begs him not to.
Joel and Ellie bury their bodies. Ellie doesn’t want to talk about it and wants to keep moving, but she leaves Sam a note that reads, “I’m sorry.”
Is Sam Deaf in the Video Game?
Another significant change the show made is that Sam is deaf, as is Woodard, who plays him. Sam and Henry communicate using American Sign Language, and he and Ellie bond over their favorite comic books and using a magic slate notepad.
Video-game Sam is also a little older than his onscreen counterpart. (Woodard is nine.) The Daily Moth, a news website that delivers news in ASL and covers deaf news specifically, wrote in December 2022 that to their knowledge, Woodard is the first Black deaf young actor to be featured in a TV show from a major studio. Woodard told the outlet of his message for other young Black deaf people: “You don’t have to be afraid! Don’t be afraid to try it out. Because that’s what my parents told me – to not be afraid to try out. I was a bit afraid at first, but I went ahead and overcame that, auditioned, and got the role with ‘The Last of Us’! I was mind-blown.”
Episode 5’s Impact
Sam and Henry are a foil to Ellie and Joel’s relationship. They have a close brotherly bond, and Joel still resists the bond he’s forming with Ellie. Henry’s actions to keep him and Sam alive are also morally gray, the same way Joel has acted in sometimes brutal ways to keep himself, Ellie, and formerly his brother (Tommy Luna) and Tess (Anna Torv) alive. The episode also ties thematically into what Bill (Nick Offerman) wrote in his note to Joel in episode three. Bill told Joel that they’re the type of men who protect the people they love, and Henry wanted to do that too. But it all ends in tragedy; protection is impossible, and Joel has never known that more. Ellie and Sam’s connection also brings out how young she is, but they live in a world where youth and joy are a danger, where happy memories turn into painful ones. Her time in Kansas City has changed her forever.
Plus, the moment when the zombie horde comes out of the ground is not only terrifying, but it also ties into the idea that humans spend so much time fighting as factions that they don’t come together when it matters. Kathleen knew about the zombie threat in episode four, but she put all her resources toward finding Henry out of revenge. Kathleen and Henry are both victims of the fascist FEDRA system, but they let their differences divide them, leading to tragedy.