Surprise: The Last of Us Introduces Henry and Sam Taking Aim At Joel
The following is a spoiler-free look at Henry and Sam, the newest characters in HBO’s The Last of Us.
After some puns and camping, Ellie and Joel, having made their way to Kansas City in Episode 4 of The Last of Us, awake to intruders—Sam and Henry—and two guns in their face.
So far this season, the series has remained faithful to the 2013 video game of the same name, also written by Neil Druckmann who serves as co-showrunner of the HBO adaptation alongside Craig Mazin. Last week, the writing pair took a detour from the source material to tell a stand-alone story of Bill and Frank, two peripheral characters in the game (one of whom, in fact, never appears in gameplay). The decision was made to help unspool the series’ themes: “outward love and inward love—the people who want to make everybody better, and the people who want to protect particular people at any cost.” (That’s Mazin in an interview with The New Yorker.)
The use of paired characters is a common theme in both the game and the series. In the game, pairing is a gameplay mechanism, as the playable character—at first Sarah and then Joel and then later Ellie—must function alongside a partner. The pairing emphasizes those themes of protection, and as those partners drop away (such as when Sarah and Tess die), we’re made to appreciate the consequence of their absence.
In the series, character pairing is mostly thematic, with each pair foiling our main duo, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey); we’re made to see their relationship through the dynamics of other pairs. Bill and Frank, for instance, represent a decade-long relationship, where burden and caution give way to trust and care—also foreshadowing Joel and Ellie’s growing bond, as well as the things they will do to protect one another.
In Episode 4, we meet the next pair on the road: Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard).
We’ll avoid spoilers here, as the video game also includes these two characters; given previous fidelity, we expect their fates in the series to resemble the source material. You can look up their storylines if you want to know their fates. (Here’s the gameplay; skip to 5:09:24).
In the game, Joel and Ellie also meet Henry and Sam under similar circumstances: the latter attack the former. The meeting occurs at the halfway mark of the game, when Joel and Ellie reach Pittsburgh. (The series has swapped Pittsburgh for Kansas City.)
As in the game, the city is full of paramilitary forces. In the game, they are “the hunters.” In the show, they seem to be a revolutionary force that overthrew FEDRA. (The game doesn’t explore the internal politics of the faction; the series appears to be making its leadership structure another storyline.)
What’s important to note about Henry and Sam is that they more clearly match the Joel/Ellie pairing than any other characters we’ve met. The storyline in the game between these two pairs (which encompasses at least an hour of gameplay) helps to further foil and develop the relationship between Joel and Ellie.
We expect the series to do the same. If it’s anything like the game, we’re in for a wild ride.
Joshua St Clair is an Assistant Editor at Men’s Health Magazine.
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