As a series that deals with the post-apocalyptic struggle for survival caused by a fungal outbreak and the ever-present zombified monstrosities that threaten to wipe out humanity entirely, HBO’s “The Last of Us” finds its strength in its well-written characters and the interactions among them. In the previous episode, we found Joel strengthening his determination after reading Bill’s letter, and in this episode, which deals heavily with the theme of the loss of innocence, we are introduced to the brothers—Henry and Sam—quite appropriately. After their car crashed during the assault by the Hunters in Kansas City, Joel and Ellie decided to station themselves in one of the buildings to avoid detection by the revolutionary group. Joel dozes off, and the next time he opens his eyes, he sees two brothers, Henry and Sam, holding him and Ellie at gunpoint. The series, which so far has been faithful to the source material, will shed more light on the characters who play a significant role in Joel and Ellie’s journey in the next episode. We will try to focus on what we know so far about the brothers and how the episode’s theme establishes an appropriate connection with Sam.
Who Are Henry And Sam? What Role Will They Play In The Future?
In the source material, i.e., the game, Henry and Sam were introduced in the Pittsburgh section of the storyline, where the violent group of looters, the Hunters, squared off with Joel and Ellie. The series deviates from and adds a number of elements to the original narrative, and the showrunners chose Kansas City as the setting to tell the story related to the fan-favorite brother duo and the reimagined version of the revolutionary Hunters. The series provides a personal angle associated with Henry and Kathleen, the leaders of the Hunters, whereas, in the game, Henry and Sam are survivors from Hartford QZ, who just happen to get themselves targeted by the Hunters like any other victim.
The first time we hear of Henry Burrell is from Kathleen. From the conversation between her and the doctor, we get to know that for reasons unknown, Henry had betrayed the revolutionaries and leaked confidential information to FEDRA, which resulted in Kathleen’s brother’s death. What we know from the game is that Henry is not the least bit interested in fighting for causes and even loathes FEDRA, so for him, there’s no political leverage to gain. That being said, in the game, he is shown to be extremely protective of his younger brother Sam and can go to any extent to ensure his safety. Hearing the doctor’s account of FEDRA threatening people into giving away crucial intel, it can be assumed that Henry was forced to defect after Sam’s life was threatened.
Although we don’t meet the brothers until the very end of the episode, the attic room that the Hunters discover, where the brothers used to stay, gives us some insight about the younger brother Sam. He is almost the same age as Ellie and was born during the outbreak years. However, the frustrating, despondent situation has not been able to snuff out the ray of hope from the young mind. We see the attic room is filled with Sam’s artwork of superheroes, with the character sharing striking similarities with Superman, the ultimate symbol of hope and positivity. The kid imagined a better world where he and his brother fly together, save lives, and have nothing to be afraid of. Unfortunately, this is also a grim reminder of the harsh reality of the world in which they live in, which is unforgiving and ruthless and where justice is a forgotten concept. Sam’s interest in geeky stuff is also reminiscent of his game version, where we saw him fawning over a transformer toy that Henry wouldn’t allow him to keep. A significant change has been made with the character of Sam in that in the series, he has been made hearing impaired, and actor Keivonn Woodard, who is also hearing impaired, will play the role. Regarding the decision, creator Neil Druckmann has said it’ll make a particular sequence more impactful on screen.
As Ellie and Joel settle into a building to spend the night, they are caught off guard while sleeping by the brothers and are held at gunpoint. In the game, in a similar vein, Joel and Henry got into a fight and later decided to help each other to evade the Hunters. It’ll be interesting to see how the ensuing sequences play out in the series.
The Core Theme Of The Episode And How Sam’s Action At The End Integrates With It Perfectly
The fourth episode highlighted the theme of loss of innocence, primarily through Joel and Ellie’s course of action. As previously seen, Ellie had a childlike infatuation with the gun she stole and was very excited about how badass she might look while wielding one. It wasn’t until she had to injure the Hunters’ member, Brian, by shooting him in order to save Joel’s life that she had the faintest idea about the repercussions of her action. The showrunners did a great job humanizing Brian instead of leaving him unnamed like the rest of the assailants. In his last moments, a scared Brian pleads for his life and remembers his mother, and actions like these shake Ellie to her core as it dawns on her that she is partly responsible for the death of a fellow human being. In the previous episode, we saw her kill a trapped infected, but there were no humane vestiges left in him, so it was easy and impersonal even for a child. This time however, a human capable of feeling and expressing emotions and empathy is groaning in pain in front of her – due to Ellie hurting him using the gun, she was so infatuated with something, which makes it all the more harrowing for her.
As a parent, Joel knows the absolute tragedy of the situation and can’t stop blaming himself for not being able to fend off the attackers himself, which is what propelled Ellie into taking action on her own. He laments that in a fair world, a child should not have to go through the trauma of being responsible for someone’s death, as there’s no going back to the state of ignorant bliss after something like that happens. But neither the world nor “The Last of Us” is fair or forgiving. At the end of the episode, we see Sam, Henry’s young brother, who is almost the same age as Ellie’s, holding a gun and pointing it at Joel, indicating Joel’s tragic recognition has attained fruition once again. The boy who hoped for a better tomorrow, as all the superhero drawings in the attic and his paint-tinged face shaped like his favorite character’s mask suggest, has been handed an instrument of death—by none other than his protective elder brother. The episode begins with Ellie posing with the gun in front of a mirror, with childlike excitement on her face, and ends with another kid, Sam, pointing the gun at Joel and Ellie, in a totally opposing context, as being on the run from a brutal militia has forced his innocence to make way for an unkind realization, as the history of violence comes full circle.
See more: ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 4: Who Is Kathleen? Why Did She Hide The Situation Regarding The Bloater?