How the latest episode of The Last of Us keeps viewers asking one question non-stop

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Attention: this article contains spoilers for The Last of Us on HBO Max up to its fifth episode.


One of the pillars of post-apocalyptic storytelling is the brutal truth that regardless of the monster around the corner, the violence of humanity is always the most dangerous threat. From the shocking final moments of Night of the Living Dead to the flesh eaters of The Road to the many roaming bands of murderers of The Walking Dead, humanity will always find a way to horrify us more than the creatures at hand. door. In the latest episode of HBO’s The Last of Us, the series picks up on that thread (adapting the game’s violent community known as Hunters) and adds a morally complex context which asks viewers to consider how far they would go to survive.

Endure and survive.

The episode begins on the night of the fateful Kansas City uprising. Although we had seen FEDRA commit atrocities in Boston (such as hanging people leaving the quarantine zone), the violence and joy with which they act against the government agency on the streets of KC tells us that this FEDRA group was even more brutal and cruel in his “peacekeeping”. It is a time of loud and boisterous celebration of overcoming oppression and, more importantly, survival. Kansas City residents have done what they had to do to be free and live another day, but it’s not enough. They want revenge and that’s what drives Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey). In a world where most people have lost someone they love, she has been consumed by Phaedra’s murder of her brother and is willing to burn the world down to find the person she loves. what a fault

Lynskey makes Kathleen’s portrayal even scarier, as she looks like an ordinary person any of us might know. She’s not a muscular Linda Hamilton taking on the T-1000 and she’s far from the people we usually see depicted as “villains” in these stories. A woman who puts her family above all else, whatever the cost.. This makes her a terrifyingly realistic nightmare, someone you recognize. But like everyone in The Last of Us, she’s not just a simple villain either.

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Stories set after the fall of society tend to tickle that very specific part of the brain that wonders “what would I do?”. Kathleen’s quest for revenge against Phaedra and Henry, the man who gave her brother to them, is compelling. Who doesn’t sometimes feel that fierce, innately human anger when they hurt us?

An uprising against a fascist government is a fair thing. But we’ve also seen Kathleen’s militant side. A few minutes into the episode, we see her sentence an entire room of FEDRA collaborators to death. It’s a grim action but, as Kathleen paints it, these people were sentencing their neighbors to death for a few pieces of fresh fruit. Of course, as we know, the truth is not nearly so simple, but it is to her advantage to claim that it is. Just like Kathleen and hers rebel hers, there is a spectrum of what people are willing or have to do to survive.

It is revealed that Henry, Kathleen’s enemy, was put in the most horrible of positions. He could rat out the kind, forgiving and generous man leading the rebellion in Kansas City or let his sister Sam die of leukemia without the help of medication only Phaedra had access to. It’s the kind of choice none of us would ever want to make., especially since the presence of FEDRA in Kansas City was, by all accounts, the worst version of the group. They were violent murderers, rapists, and generally used the fall of society to create a masochistic power imbalance that allowed them to control everyone in their charge while living what seems like a relative life of comfort. Henry did what he had to do to make sure his sister could survive. It’s a harsh reflection on the loss of Kathleen. She would have done anything to save her brother (even become a collaborator if given a choice) and yet she can’t see the equivalence through her pain.

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Henry’s love for his brother, the hope he manages to instill in him, and his guilt over what he had to do make for an incredibly likeable portrait of someone who was, to all intents and purposes, a fascist collaborator. That is the credit of the creators of the series, who understand that there is no right and wrong in a world that has fallen by the wayside, where survival is valued above all else. Henry’s choice was the right one for him and for Sam, the only person he had left in the world. It’s a beautiful story that continues the trend the series has approached so well, expanding on the psychological complexity of the game by introducing larger, emotionally driven backstories.

Just as Bill was introduced as a reflection of Joel in Episode 3, here we are shown that Henry and Kathleen are two sides of the same bloody coin.. But as Kathleen seeks to take a life from her, Henry makes a trade, offering Kathleen’s brother to save his. Kathleen’s life is defined by seeking death, but Henry has dedicated his to keeping Sam alive and giving him an existence with at least a glimmer of hope, as seen in Sam’s love for comic book superhero Savage Starlight. While Henry may not be the hero he thinks Sam deserves, Sam believes in the greater good. In Henry’s mind, he had to make a wild choice, which made him “the bad guy,” but in Kathleen’s perception, she is the hero in a righteous quest to make things right. It is this difference in awareness and self-awareness that lets us know that Henry has retained her compassion and empathy even in the face of horrifying odds, while Kathleen’s grief has robbed her of hers.

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This is made even clearer when she is about to kill him, and Kathleen reveals that knows why Henry did what he did and that his brother begged for his forgiveness. Those factors are irrelevant to her. Kathleen has lost her ability to forgive others (even if she pauses for a moment before pulling the trigger), while when she gave up on her brother Henry lost his ability to forgive himself, something that leads directly to his tragic death. of her at the end of the episode.

All this makes Resist and Survive the darkest episode of the seasonThough there are moments of kindness and light, especially in the way Sam and Henry impact Joel and Ellie’s lives in the short time they spend together, it’s all for nothing. In the end, Kathleen gets what she wants: Henry and Sam die in disturbing ways, but so does Kathleen and all of her followers metaphorically and literally consumed by her quest for revenge.