The Last of Us Goes Full Horror with Terrifying Monster Attack, Heartbreaking Fallout

Once again, “The Last of Us” proves itself much more than just another zombie show with a deep dive into new characters.

No, this is not a mistake. Due to the Super Bowl airing on Sunday, HBO opted to drop the latest episode on HBO Max and HBO On Demand two days early. It will still air on HBO itself at its usual time on Sunday, opposite the big game, but streaming fans can watch now.

In other words, if you don’t have streaming capabilities to watch the fifth episode, you’re going to want to stop reading right now as there are spoilers galore just ahead.


After last week’s action-packed outing exemplified the worst of humanity, this week’s installment found the humanity in even the worst behavior. It also took a deeper dive into the characters of Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey).

At first, we found ourselves wondering if this was going to be like the episode that introduced us to our favorite apocalyptic couple, Bill and Frank. In that one, our leads Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) hardly featured.

This week started off with a jump back to the moment Kansas City’s rebels freed themselves from FEDRA’s yoke before quickly settling into the narrative that drove last week’s story. Kathleen is obsessed with finding Henry, the killer of her brother.

There seems to be more to it than that. It seems there’s a deeper and more sinister darkness lurking beneath that sweet appearance and voice (that Adrianne Curry seems to have a problem with).

What seemed like obsessive mania now looks like cold-hearted cruelty after she had her right-hand man Perry slaughter a group of collaborators. If you think you can justify her outrage at collaborators — well, it got a lot harder to justify her behavior as the night went on.

Of course, fans already know that she doesn’t find Henry in this sequence, as last week’s episode ended with Henry and Sam catching Joel and Ellie unawares in their sleep. So what was the point of this particular flashback? Humanizing.

What makes “The Last of Us” special in the horror genre is that it takes the time to really let these characters breathe, whether they’re short or long for this world. “The Walking Dead” became the hit it was by doing just that in its earlier seasons, and then faltered when it lost this focus.

The horror hits so much harder when you can at least come to understand the humanity within the characters — even if that humanity is sometimes extremely dark and disturbing.

In one chilling sequence, Perry finds Kathleen in the remnants of her childhood bedroom where she tells him she fully knows her brother, the former resistance leader, would be horrified at the things she’s done and would urge her to forgive Henry and move on.

In fact, he said as much to her before he died. But she doesn’t care because she doesn’t see the point in forgiveness. She is so blinded by her rage, she doesn’t see the pointlessness of what she’s doing, either. Or the risks of blind obsession.

While we were seeing just how villainous Kathleen was on the one side, we were also immersing ourselves into the world of Henry and his little brother Sam, who is deaf. We saw the doctor’s attic space they took over and Sam filled with superhero drawings.

We were with them as the food ran out and finally they had to flee, even getting a different perspective on Joel and Ellie’s wreck from last week. All of this brought us quicker than we expected to the moment the last episode ended on.

As always, Joel provided the warmest of welcomes. No, of course we’re lying. He looked like a panther lying in wait ready to pounce at any moment. Meanwhile, Henry looked terrified — a state he’d probably been in since Kathleen first put that kill order out on him.

The foursome strike a tenuous deal to get out of the city through a series of tunnels. What this sequence does is allow Joel and Henry to earn a little bit of trust, and allow Sam and Ellie to be children.

It would have been too easy to drop monsters into this journey through the tunnels, but the focus instead remained on the humanity of these characters. It was so charming seeing the children light up and hear their laughter.

Full props, by the way, to Ramsey for not only playing a character several years younger than her, but capturing that childlike persona so perfectly she meshed perfectly with the genuinely younger actor playing Sam. Their chemistry was so sweet and raw.

After an episode and a half of non-monster action, the show veered into its most video-game feeling sequence since that frantic car drive in the premiere. Everything that happened after the fearsome foursome emerged from the tunnel felt like a video game brought to life.

From Joel taking out the sniper in the high vantage point of a nearby house to the value of that vantage point as all hell breaks loose below. We could see ourselves in both Joel’s position, which becomes crucial to survival, and Ellie’s on the ground, which becomes desperate.

When someone starts shooting at the foursome, Joel orders the other three to hunker down behind a car while he takes care of the shooter. He makes quick work of him, but then hears on the radio that the guy was only supposed to keep them pinned down until Kathleen could show up.

Suddenly, with no warning, she was there, plowing through vehicles and ultimately winding up just feet away from the three as she urged Henry to come out and pay the price for turning in her brother, leading to his execution by FEDRA hands.

Henry had only done so because Sam has leukemia and FEDRA had the only supply of medications that would keep him alive. Kathleen’s question, though, is what gives Henry the right to say Sam’s life is worth more than her brother’s?

If we didn’t already think she was beyond redemption, she made that crystal clear when Henry said he’d turn himself in if she would spare the children. Her response was that she simply wasn’t going to do that. No, her intention was to kill all of them.

Just as she’s about to shoot Henry, who had emerged from the car in a clear cut scene break from the video game action of the scene, the vehicle she arrived in collapses into a sinkhole that just erupted.

Remember when she and Perry were worried (but not enough) about sounds and movement from under the city? It turns out KC FEDRA had pushed the cordyceps monsters underground, where they apparently continued to thrive and grow.

Out of nowhere, a swarm of clickers comes jumping out of the hole, quickly targeting and attacking and killing Kathleen’s men and women, or anything that moved.

Trying to escape now both people and clickers, Ellie got separated from Henry and Sam, leading to a creepy sequence where she gets herself into a vehicle and a young girl clicker flops into the vehicle with her.

There’s such a haunting tragedy in this particular clicker because young girls play such key roles in this series. Joel was driven to a darkness of his own after the loss of his daughter, and now he faces this new young girl who is is charge and possibly the hope for all humanity.

Ellie managed to escape that clicker and made her way to Henry and Sam with key assistance from Joel in his watchtower, picking off any clickers who get too close. Again, this is a sequence it’s so easy to just imagine playing either as Joel or Ellie.

The three of them almost make their way to the house Joel is in, with a horrifying sequence of terror behind them as the clickers continue their assault on everything and everyone, only to be stopped at the last moment by Kathleen.

She was alone now after a charging, rampaging, oversized clicker had emerged from the hole and homed in on Perry and Kathleen. Perry sacrificed himself to the creature to give Kathleen a chance; as she ran, we saw it ripping Perry’s head off.

Regardless of the carnage and death all around her, and not to mention the danger for her and all of her rebels, Kathleen’s singular obsession with killing Henry superseded everything, including good sense.

She was ready to take them all out when the little girl clicker Ellie had previously closed in the car pounced on Kathleen and began ripping her apart. Her revenge had caused her to dismiss the obvious growing threat beneath their feet last week and now has led to the slaughter of her people. Their hard-won freedom rendered useless because she couldn’t choose to forgive and live.

There’s a lesson in there.

Now free from Kansas City, Joel and Ellie had ultimately decided they could take Henry and Sam with them to Wyoming on their continuing quest to find Joel’s brother, Tommy.

In a motel room, the kids continue their bonding in the bedroom where Sam asks Ellie how she can be so brave. She certainly carries that no f—s given attitude, but reveals to Sam that she’s scared all the time. Her biggest fear? Being left alone.

Sam then asks her if you’re still you inside after you turn into a monster, tragically sharing that he’d been bitten during their mad escape from the neighborhood swarm.

After all this time, Ellie had finally found someone closer to her age that she felt a bond with, almost like a big sister. Once again, Ramsey was killing it with this performance, desperately trying to rub her own blood (as a possible cure) onto his wound.

The next morning, though, when she touched his shoulder, Sam attacked her and immediately threw her out of the bedroom and into the shock of Joel and Henry. In a moment that surprised even him, Henry pulled his gun on Joel to stop him shooting Sam. But then he shot his brother himself.

Once again, Henry turned his gun on Joel when he tried to go to Ellie. It was as if his body had acted on instinct and his brain was desperately trying to figure out what had just happened. When it finally did, he turned the gun on himself.

It all happened so quickly. And just like that, this newfound family that Ellie had started to feel for was gone. The friend she tried to save was gone. Their deaths rendered Kathleen’s obsession all the more pointless. In the end, it cost her everything and they died anyway. Sometimes nobody wins.

Joel and Ellie survive to carry on their mission, while their track record for other people they encounter on their journey remains absolutely deplorable. Tess, Bill, Frank, Kathleen, Perry, Henry and Sam. The body count is rising, but they carry on.

The journey continues on “The Last of Us,” Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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