THE LAST OF US 1×05 “Endure and Survive” is back into the adventures of Ellie and company. I complained about the changes to the past two episodes, but I’m pleased to say this episode gets back into fidelity to the game and is all the stronger for it. I’m a big fan of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey are fantastic casting but they’re getting pushed out of what is an already note-perfect story.
The premise is Joel and Ellie have found themselves on the run from the revolutionaries who have overthrown the Kansas City branch of FEDRA. The revolutionaries are in full Robespierre mode and carrying out mass executions of collaborators as well as former regime personnel. Kathleen, the leader of the revolutionaries, wants to avenge her dead brother more than anything. This despite the fact that her brother told her to forgive him.
It’s interesting to note that FEDRA is much eviler in the show than in the game. In the game, it’s clear FEDRA has been reduced to its awful actions because of the desperation of the times as well as the inability to contain the cordyceps infection. In the show, FEDRA is a fascist authoritarian government engaged in horrifying evils seemingly for their own sake. However, the show makes a point that the people trying to overthrow them are not only every bit as evil as FEDRA but also incompetent.
A brief diversion into real-life politics, I’m not sure the depiction here is a particularly good one. Making comparisons between Covid-19, the federal government during that time period, and the people trying to overthrow the US government are clearly not what the show is doing. However, they make enough allusions throughout the show that it’s impossible. I’m not sure if the show is making any political commentary but it seems to be, “fascists bad, revolutionaries bad.” Which is disappointing but to be expected from such a grimdark setting.
However, while original the series, I think Kathleen justifies her existence in this episode. While “humanity is its own worst enemy” is nothing new in zombie stories, Kathleen is specifically someone who ignores the larger issues of her community because she’s more interested in carrying out a witch hunt for her political enemies.
Maybe I’m drawing too much of a parallel but there’s plenty of cases where leaders don’t care about governing if they throw shade on the other side. FEDRA may have been utterly evil in Kansas but compromises have to be made in a survival situation that she’s utterly uninterested in making. It’s also a shame we never get to see her face the results of them.
My earlier comments that there wasn’t enough action is quickly dispelled by this episode as we have a running chase between the revolutionaries and Joel’s tiny group. I love Henry and Sam. Both characters are a sign of what might happen to Ellie and Joel. Henry is willing to do anything to protect Sam and it’s arguably something that is destroying both their lives. Sam in this version of the story has both leukemia as well as deafness.
I don’t think they needed to go to the lengths they did to make Sam as vulnerable as he was. The character is already vulnerable enough as a child in the setting, but I am glad that they did some disability representation. They also managed to avoid ableism. Sam is a capable and effective survivor that doesn’t get brought down by his deafness. I also give Ellie props for trying her cordyceps cure at the end. Damn, it ends with a punch.
Plus, the Bloater was a great “mini-boss” this episode.