THE OSCAR PROJECT
The Last of Us episode 5 released and it was a step up from the last. My complaints about the last episode were about it being mostly filler and set-up for the following episodes and to my surprise, all that set-up was paid off in the very next episode. In the moment, this may seem like a good thing with multiple plotlines tied off quickly so our characters can move to the next step in their journey. However, I fear the future rewatchability, especially since so much time was spent setting up plot points for it to come to an end almost immediately after. Since all those threads tie up so nicely, I fear that the greatness of this episode actively makes the previous one worse.
That said, this episode is a step up from the last. Joel and Ellie are back front and center on their journey and this time accompanied by two new companions, Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard). These two bring a lot of depth to the story in the source material and I thought it would be difficult to capture it the same way given the emotional torment of episode 3. Henry is a complex character. Though we understand his position in the world, a sought after informant being hunted by those he betrayed, we also understand why he made the decisions he made. There's some discussion of morality here, the philosophy of whether making bad choices makes you a bad person, whether or not they were made with good intention, or even grey intention.
I wish we got to spend more time with Henry as I think his outlook on the world and the importance of his ethics hand the show a new flavour just when it's getting dull. Sam is an equally interesting case, and though mostly a vehicle to play out Henry's dilemmas and choices, he's given more to do in the show than in the source material. For one he has the added layer of being deaf, obviously a ploy from the creators to make him a more sympathetic character, but my God does it work well! Sam is inherently more endearing given the limited information we have on him. He has a history of cancer, he's deaf, he's eight years old, and was born into the end of days. There is very little you need to add to make him compelling to the audience, especially when paired with his father and the choices he had to make.
But the story does not stop there. It backs these two into a corner they could not hope to get out of and tragically puts an end to both characters in the most awful of manners. This show seems obsessed with making the audience feel heartbroken, really setting in the feeling of living in a world without hope. It's beautifully done, dare I say better than the original.
Away from Sam and Henry, Joel and Ellie are back but feel less like a duo in this episode than last. They get split up and paired with their new companions which mirror their situations. We get a lot more from Ellie than we do Joel this episode since Ellie is paired with Sam and to see how she responds with other children is very interesting. We monitor her as she plays and talks with somebody closer to her age, becoming more open and full of energy. This is something we rarely see because it feels disallowed when she’s with Joel.
In the case of Joel, we see him try to relate to Henry whilst also questioning his morals. But slowly we see Joel become more understanding of Henry's situation as he's in a similar one with Ellie. Not only that, he can conceptualize the horrors Henry has committed because of his own losses in his daughter.
So we see Ellie become a protector for Sam and we see Joel become more sympathetic and empathetic with Henry. It's incredibly smart because the characters needed this growth for the next part of their journey but they couldn't bring it out of each other in the way that Sam and Henry could. The writers really have a good grip on the arcs Joel and Ellie must undergo to get to the eventual climax and they've pinpointed every moment where those arcs can progress, even if it's slight.
A talk about this episode would not be complete without talking about the big fire fight finale. The intensity is through the roof, our main characters are in an inescapable bind and our main antagonistic force has seemingly won... but then the ground collapses and the real threat of the entire show presents itself once again. Not only does it present itself on a massive scale, it introduces a bigger version of itself; the bloater. This is something fans of the source material have been waiting for and it finally comes to us half way through the season. It was teased in the last episode and this is by far the greatest pay off this episode had to offer. It was as terrifying as it should be and the make-up/costume department outdid themselves once again. A truly thrilling and horrific way to end that storyline. The show lets you breathe for a moment afterwards before dropping the bombshell on you that Sam was bitten and his arc concludes along with Henry. A truly bitter way to end the episode and it could not have been any better.
I'm very excited for the next chapter in this series and it seems as though we are back on an uphill trajectory. I'm hoping for another 10/10 episode soon but for this episode I think we'll have to settle for an extraordinary…
8 out of 10