Sunday, February 12, 2023

REVIEW: 'The Last of Us' - Ellie Forms a Friendship Tested by the Brutal Journey to Escape Kansas City in 'Endure and Survive'

HBO's The Last of Us - Episode 1.05 "Endure and Survive"

While attempting to evade the rebels, Joel and Ellie cross paths with the most wanted man in Kansas City. Kathleen continues her hunt.

"Endure and Survive" was written by Craig Mazin and directed by Jeremy Webb

It's futile for anyone to believe in a multi-faceted life full of joy, laughter and love. That world ended twenty years ago. Humanity was easily overcome by the infected. Sure, little pockets of civilization have survived. They aren't built around meaningful lives. People are simply meant to endure heinous acts of survival. This life is the most that is feasible right now. It's pointless to hope for anything more. That's especially true given the threat from the infection still lingers. It hasn't gone away. The government has eradicated it from various areas. It must always be monitored. It only takes one mistake for all of this to end. That's the brutal lesson that's delivered again and again. That could grow annoying at some point. Joel and Ellie survive this journey across the country. They are given importance because they serve as that potential hope for a world beyond this current existence. Even that can be hard to believe at times. Ellie is immune to the infection. However, she can still be ripped apart by the creatures. She's still in danger when that swarm pops up from its hiding spot. She and Joel have established trust. All it takes is one long to understand exactly what they are going to do in a dire situation. It was terrifying when they were woken up at gunpoint by Henry and Sam. Henry was positioned as the most dangerous man in Kansas City. Of course, that was solely Kathleen's understanding of him. He's dangerous because he caused the most heartbreaking betrayal she has had to endure. Her brother was a visionary. He led the resistance. His death sparked the call for rebellion. The people overpowered their tyrannical government. They punished them the same way they have been treated for decades. Kathleen and Perry proclaim their people as free now. That's far from the truth. Kathleen is completely focused on one mission. It distracts from every other responsibility. Toppling the government was satisfying enough for someone like Perry. That wasn't all the revenge Kathleen needed. She needed Henry to pay for turning Michael in. She understands why he did so. She doesn't care. No one can have the luxury of being innocent in this world. It's full of dark and monstrous choices that have to be made. Michael preached forgiveness. However, he wasn't destined to survive. He could inspire his people. That wasn't good enough to fulfill his ultimate mission. Kathleen carried the cause to its rightful conclusion. That too wasn't good enough. She needed more. That demand is perfectly reasonable. It's similar to the journey Joel and Ellie are on. For Kathleen, she is too blinded by her personal quest for vengeance to recognize the threat that has doomed humanity for the last twenty years.

At times, it's easy to forget about the infected. The warnings are apparent. However, the evidence persists that the threats are reasonably kept at bay. As such, people can shift their attention elsewhere. Kathleen chose to ignore the warning signs. FEDRA may have cleaned the tunnels beneath the city at one point. It allowed Joel and Ellie a path out alongside their new friends. The creatures still lurk and are plentiful. That's the common story throughout this world. What's unique is the expression of emotion in the face of all of that. Befriending Sam reveals a new side to Ellie. For once, she is allowed to be a kid. She has always had a childlike wonder of the world. She's thrilled to explore the remnants of the civilization that came before her. Moreover, Joel explains how it's actually easier on the young to cope with the tragedies that occur. They don't have people relying on them. As such, they can quickly process things and move on. The same clarity isn't apparent for those who have so much to lose. Henry sold out his friend to provide Sam with the medicine he needed. He chose the last remaining family he had over the community that was trying to build something more. Kathleen still achieved her goal. Henry became a target just like the numerous FEDRA officers. That's where she directed her attention. He needed to suffer. Henry did a bad thing. Everything he touched needed to burn. Joel and Ellie aren't some innocent bystanders to this conflict. They survive. Henry sees Joel as precisely who he needs in order to escape. He knows how. He just doesn't have the skills to face the darkness that it might entail. Joel carries a soldier's mentality. His life has been consumed by so much death. Henry is uncomfortable simply pointing a gun at someone. He wants to do what's best for his brother. He will make the hard choices. He simply doesn't have the conviction to lead that mission now. Joel understands that bond. He is quickly discovering just how attached he has gotten to Ellie. He has something to lose. She isn't his daughter. He must protect her as if she is. Their mission is simply too important to fail.

And yet, the story ends the same way it always has. Kathleen takes dangerous risks. The infected overpower her army. It's scary and costly. The city is lost for good. No one can prosper in this environment anymore. People couldn't look beyond themselves to focus on the greater good. It's an effective and terrifying action sequence. And then, the heartbreak comes afterwards at the hotel. Sam is scared after being bitten. He doesn't want to lose himself. Ellie believes she has the cure. Her blood doesn't save him. Instead, he has to be put down like every other infected. Henry carries that burden. He can't handle it. That's a new form of deadly depravity Joel and Ellie are exposed to. Ellie seemingly moves on more easily than Joel. It leaves them back as the only two on this mission to Wyoming. The loss along the way is immense because it risks disrupting all that Ellie has been told about herself. It takes away every precious emotion she wants to nurture. Instead, the world demands she become just as jaded as the remaining facets of society. That's the only way to survive. It's not bad to aspire for more. That simply means different things to different people. It introduces questions of who has good and noble intentions at the end of the world. Is surviving ultimately worth it? Or is just expected to endure the suffering in the name of some foreign concepts that no longer exist? If Ellie loses hope, then the rest of the world has no reason to believe in it either. She has inspired Joel at least. That's striking and unnerving. He doesn't know how to carry these emotions anymore. Tragic things happen. He can't move on as quickly as he once did. Instead, he has to find a way to endure it all and survive in the face of it. Those are the concepts they must embrace even though they are cheesy when detailed through a comic book adventure. That story brought connection to Ellie and Sam. They forged a bond of friendship. And yet, Henry and Sam die. Was it all worth it? Or is misplaced hope just as deadly as the countless other threats out there? Kathleen and Henry provided for their loved ones. That was meaningful but only briefly. After that, their decisions only moved things towards tragedy once more. Joel and Ellie are a part of that story. This affects them. They understand each other. They have faith in a specific mission. That's all they have to hold onto. If that isn't enough, then is any suffering worth enduring just to survive?