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The Last of Us episode 5 asks: What if prestige TV shows had boss monsters?

I think we all need a hug after that episode's conclusion...
Enlarge / I think we all need a hug after that episode’s conclusion…

Kyle: Like anyone who’s played the games, I imagine, I’ve been kind of dreading watching this episode ever since we first saw Henry at the end of the last episode. The ultimate fate of him and his brother Sam is one of the most indelibly sad moments in a game series that’s full of them.

Part of me tried to hold out hope that they might change that fate for the show—they’ve changed a lot of other stuff about the narrative, including a lot about Henry and Sam themselves. But really that was probably just wishful thinking born out of a deep connection with the characters. The specifics might change, but this plot beat needed to stay in there, precisely because it’s so emotionally raw.

Andrew: I don’t know how every beat is going to play out, but I do know the story is defined by the Joel-Ellie dyad. Which gives the show this sad air of inevitability whenever someone else joins the party. First with Tess, and now with Henry and Sam. I don’t think that every ally they make along the way is going to end up dead or infected or both, but the odds of them heading west with Our Heroes seem pretty bad.

Kyle: Yeah, if you are traveling alongside Joel and Ellie for any significant period of time, you might as well break out a red Star Trek uniform. Really, though, Henry was kind of asking for it with his “I’m absolutely sure there are no dangers in this creepy underground tunnel vamping. Just no Genre Savvy at all…
I'd say "Nice knowing ya" but... well... it wasn't that nice?
Enlarge / I’d say “Nice knowing ya” but… well… it wasn’t that nice?
Andrew: And the Kansas City vigilantes really should have assumed that Chekov’s Pulsating Basement Floor from the last episode was going to be an issue. I’m not going to say I would be great in an apocalypse, but knowing how these stories work definitely seems to give you a leg up.

So, you say lots of details of the Henry-Sam story are different than in the games, and you said last week that this Kansas City story and the characters in it were different from the games. Without knowing what’s coming in the next few episodes, what purpose do the changes serve? Just reformatting things to be more workable on TV or something else?

Kyle: Some of the changes are kind of incidental in the grand scheme, like making Sam a bit younger and deaf. The biggest change to this whole arc is the creation of Kathleen, who gives a stronger narrative focal point to the more anarchic Hunters faction in the game. I did appreciate them trying to humanize her a little bit with her reminiscence about her brother and such, but in the end, I did not really feel bad when Little Miss “LOL, no trials for these jokers” got her comeuppance.

Andrew: The show decided it needed to make Kathleen a monster and humanize her inside of just two episodes, and that’s hard to do, especially when all we know about her brother is told and not shown. Melanie Lynskey gives it her best shot, but at the end of the day it is hard to root for the character advocating for child murder. The way that Joel and crew just kind of… leave her to her fate was kind of darkly funny, whether it was meant to be or not.

Kyle: Yeah, after the second time you point a gun at someone only for Infected to distract/eat you at the last moment, you know the writers are just out to mess with you at that point.

By contrast, one thing the show managed to establish quickly was the friendship between Ellie and Sam. We’ve talked about her “tough girl” exterior here before, but the thing this story hammers home so well is that, deep down, she’s just a lonely kid who’s quickly realizing that everyone she grows close to could leave her.

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