The Spool / Recap
The Last of Us sees the best-laid plans fall to ruin once again
Ellie and Joel seek to flee Kansas City with the town’s Most Wanted as the city shakes up its own secrets in a sobering episode.
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Ellie and Joel seek to flee Kansas City with the town’s Most Wanted as the city shakes up its own secrets in a sobering episode.

Welcome back to another installment of the Fungal Apocalypse Pain Hour, AKA The Last of Us. This week’s episode, “Endure and Survive,” is another heartwrencher, bringing us back to Kansas City and back into the den of people Joel was trying to avoid. Written by Craig Mazin and directed by professional heartbreaker Jeremy Webb, “Endure and Survive” shows us how hard those options are.  

We open in Kansas City after its rebellion against FEDRA. A crowd shoots off celebratory flares and chants “Freedom!” and “Fuck you, FEDRA!” while elsewhere in the city, people burn the bodies of FEDRA employees while beating and killing others. The pair from last week’s cliffhanger, brothers Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard), hide in an alley from a pair of armed trucks announcing that collaborators must give themselves up. In the former FEDRA jail, people huddle in a cell as Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) and Perry (Jeffrey Pierce) enter.  

The Last of Us
Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) and her chief goon Perry (Jeffrey Pierce) hunt for vengeance in The Last of Us on HBO.

Kathleen pulls up a chair and smiles as she berates the prisoners for snitching on their friends and neighbors to FEDRA for perks like medicine and alcohol and apples. She wants information from them: the whereabouts of Henry. “We could put you on trial,” she offers. “You’re all guilty, so that’s how that would go.” She promises they’d just have to spend a little time in jail. Kathleen sighs in disappointment when no one speaks and tells Perry to kill them. This spurs one man into action who tells Kathleen that Henry is with Edelstein (the doctor from the last episode), but he doesn’t know where exactly that would be. Kathleen and Perry leave, and Perry asks if they’re really putting the prisoners on trial. Kathleen, practically rolling her eyes, says no, they aren’t. Oh, and when they’re dead, please burn the bodies. It’s easier. She leaves, and Perry and a group of other armed folks head back into the cell.  

Henry and Sam make their way to an abandoned house and meet Edelstein (John Getz). They’re low on food and out of ammo, but Henry managed to pack Sam a bag of crayons so that his brother can draw, so there’s a little bit of brightness in all this horror. Ten days later, the brothers are almost out of food. Edelstein is missing after leaving more than a day before (and we know he will not return). Henry watches the militia do their rounds and wakes Sam to tell him they must leave. As they’re sneaking from the house, they witness Joel and Ellie’s crash and subsequent firefight, and Henry tells his brother they have a new plan.  

“Endure and Survive” is a perfect look at the seeming futility of this post-apocalyptic world.

Joel (Pedro Pascal) wakes to find himself and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) held at gunpoint by Henry and Sam. Henry doesn’t want to hurt anyone, saying he’s the most wanted man in Kansas City and suspects Joel is number two; he wants their help in escaping the city. Everyone has an awkward snack and introduces themselves before Henry and Joel have a little tête-à-tête while Ellie and Sam laugh at her joke book. (Note: Sam is deaf and communicates via sign and a reusable notepad). Henry confirms Joel’s understanding that the Kansas City FEDRA were monsters but confesses that he was a collaborator. Joel immediately refuses to work with “rats,” but Henry says today he does because what choice has he got? Henry plans to use city maintenance tunnels to leave the part of the city controlled by Kathleen. They’ll come out in an abandoned residential area and then leave the city via a pedestrian bridge. Henry explains that people believe that the tunnels are full of Infected, which FEDRA have driven underground, but a FEDRA contact of Henry’s told him that the tunnels are clean.  

They enter the tunnels through an old bank building and find themselves in an abandoned kindergarten/daycare. Joel notes that after Outbreak Day, many underground settlements popped up, but there’s no real answer as to what happened to this one. Ellie begs for a break to hang out a bit, and she and Sam bond over a favorite comic book while Joel awkwardly semi-apologizes to Henry for calling him a rat before. Henry confesses that he’d lied to Joel earlier when he claimed to have never killed anyone: he turned in Kathleen’s brother Michael to FEDRA in exchange for medicine for Sam. Michael, we’ll hear from Henry and others, was a great man, full of love and forgiveness, but he was also the head of the rebellion. He was killed after Henry turned him in. Henry says he is a bad guy because he did a bad guy thing, but he thinks that Joel gets it since “You might not be her father, but you were someone’s.” Joel announces it’s time to leave.  

The Last of Us
Ellie (Bella Ramsey) shares a comic with Sam (Keivonn Woodard) in The Last of Us on HBO.

Up top, the search for Henry continues as Kathleen takes a breather in what remains of the room she shared with Michael as children. Perry finds her there, and she tells him a story of Michael comforting her as a child and admits the things she’s done would horrify him. She knows he’d say to her to forgive Henry. In fact, he did when she visited him in jail, but look where his compassion got him. Perry tells her that while Michael was a great man and they all loved him, he didn’t get things changed: Kathleen did. They’re with Kathleen. Here is an excellent time to touch on a hint of discourse and mention that Melanie Lynskey is fantastic in this role, and anyone who doesn’t think that an ice-cold organizer who can drum up the loyalty of men like Perry would be able to run a rebellion and set themselves up as the new boss has a genuine lack of imagination. People respect those who get things done; from everything we’ve been told, Kathleen gets things done.  

Joel, Ellie, Henry, and Sam make it out of the tunnels outside Kathleen’s jurisdiction. Ellie invites Henry and Sam to Wyoming, and as she’s teasing Joel, someone begins shooting at the group. They dive behind a car, and Joel sees the shooter in one of the boarded-up houses. Joel ducks around the back of the house, gets inside, and scrambles to the shooter’s room. Joel tells him to slide the gun over and wait an hour for them to leave but shoots the man as he turns his weapon on Joel. Joel discovers a walkie-talkie and hears Kathleen’s call to the shooter, telling him they’re almost there. Joel yells at the trio outside to run as vehicles approach.  

Kathleen and her troops send one of their trucks to run down Ellie, Henry, and Sam as Joel shoots at it from the house. He hits the driver, and the truck careens into one of the houses and explodes. Kathleen calls Henry out for what he did to Michael and says, “Kids die, Henry. They die all the time.” Henry tells Ellie to take Sam and run and stands to face Kathleen, who is about to shoot him, when everyone is distracted by the crashed truck falling into what appears to be a sinkhole. Remember that moving sinkhole from last week? Remember what FEDRA did with the Infected?  

The Last of Us
Joel (Pedro Pascal), Ellie (Bella Ramsey), Henry (Lamar Johnson), and Sam (Keivonn Woodard) take cover in The Last of Us on HBO.

There’s a distinct sound of snarling in the air, and dozens of Infected burst out of the ground. It’s immediate chaos, and Ellie becomes separated from Henry and Sam as Joel picks off Infected from the house. She climbs into an open car window to hide. Perry screams for those in vehicles to start running the Infected down and protects Kathleen as there’s suddenly a deep grumbling noise. Time seems to stop for a moment as a Bloater climbs out of the hole. If the Infected know, on some level, what’s happening to them, do the Bloaters? Or are they too far gone? At any rate, this one makes its way towards Perry, who tells Kathleen to run, and as she flees, the Bloater tears Perry’s head in half in the background.  

A Clicker manages to get into the car with Ellie (a child Clicker, no less), and while Ellie escapes, she sees Henry and Sam trapped under a truck by several Infected. Joel clears a path for her to get to the brothers, where she kills the Clickers with her knife. The trio races for the house, but Kathleen stops them and is promptly taken out by the child Clicker from before. Kids die all the time, Kathleen. You said so yourself. Joel gets the gang moving again as the Bloater and the other Infected start winning the fight behind them. I don’t think we will hear much else from Kansas City.  

The foursome finds a motel to hide out in, and Joel and Henry eat as Ellie reads to Sam in the other room. Henry asks Joel if he thinks the kids will be okay (NO); Joel thinks it’s easier when you’re a kid (WHAT) and don’t have anyone relying on you since that’s the hard part. Joel invites Henry and Sam to Wyoming, and Henry accepts, deciding to tell Sam in the morning. “New day, new start.” We all know you can’t say that on The Last of Us.  

Ellie has still primarily seen all of this as her grand adventure; how will this affect her optimism?

Sam asks Ellie if she’s ever scared. She admits that she’s scared all the time and that she’s most afraid of ending up alone. Sam then asks, if you turn into a monster, is it still you inside? He rolls up his pant leg to reveal a bite. Ellie, horrified, shows him her scars and tells him that her blood is medicine, cutting her palm and rubbing the blood into his wound. Sam asks Ellie to stay awake, and she promises she will. The following day, Ellie wakes by Sam’s bed to find him sitting facing away from her on the other side. She gets up to check on him, and he lunges at her, snarling. He’s Infected.  

They burst into the other room, waking Joel and Henry, both of whom reach for a nearby gun. Henry reaches first and shoots at Joel’s feet to keep him away from Sam. There are a few desperate moments where Ellie screams for Joel as Henry wavers with the gun, but ultimately Henry shoots Sam before turning the gun on himself in despair. Joel and Ellie bury the brothers. A stoic Ellie places Sam’s notepad on his grave, then walks away. As Joel follows her, he looks over at the note she’s left for Sam: it simply says, “I’m sorry.”  

“Endure and Survive” is a perfect look at the seeming futility of this post-apocalyptic world. Michael died because Henry wanted to save Sam. Kathleen rose to power because Michael was dead. The people of Kansas City are likely doomed thanks to the firefight releasing the Infected. Henry protected his brother and made a good plan for escaping, which was working! And then it all came collapsing around them. So many lives were torn apart, all to end in a few minutes in an abandoned motel. Ellie has still primarily seen this as her grand adventure; how will this affect her optimism? Even Joel was opening up a little. Will this cause him to backslide? When does living become surviving, and can it ever change back?

Airborne Spores:  

  • Can Ellie have a gun? Yes. Joel even asks her to use it! 
  • I like to keep everyone updated on the Internet’s current Sweetheart, and I must announce that this week it’s…the Bloater. Good for them?  
  • It’s perfect that we never get any actual explanation about the fate of the underground settlers. Maybe they left. Maybe they died. Perhaps they were in that crowd of Infected. We’ll never know. 
  • This week’s closing music is “Fuel to Fire” by Agnes Obel.  
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