Editor’s note: Major spoilers for ‘The Last Of Us’ season 1, episode 5 below:
After teasing the duo at the end of episode 4, the fifth episode of The Last of Us‘ first season introduces two characters that are well-known in the lore of the game– Henry and Sam.
In the show, the brothers are played by Lamar Johnson and Keivonn Woodard. The episode makes some tweaks to the characters, but the two are still given a devastating story that will certainly leave viewers shocked and heartbroken. One change the show does make is that Sam is deaf, as is Woodard who portrays him.
The fourth episode ended with Sam and Henry pointing guns at Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), but this was just a ploy by Henry to ally with them so they could help each other. Though Kathleen has spread word that Henry is dangerous is responsible for her brother’s death, that is actually the furthest from the truth and he is actually averse to violence, wanting Joel’s protection as he shows him the way. After Kathleen finds them and has a bounty on Henry, Joel and the kids, they end up escaping to safety–but Sam was bitten. After getting a bit of a reprieve, things suddenly descend into chaos as Sam, who has now turned, attacks Ellie, forcing a confused and panicked Henry to shoot his brother. Not being able to live with what just transpired, Henry then shoots himself.
Johnson spoke with Shadow and Act ahead of Friday’s premiere to speak about the episode, telling us that he was super familiar with the game and character when he first signed on for the project.
“I was a fan of the game prior to me getting the audition and getting the opportunity,” he said. “As soon as I got that email from my team and [it said] The Last of Us, I was buzzing, because the game was so popular and it was so good that the idea of there being an adaptation, especially that HBO was doing it, I was like this is going to be good. Of course I was familiar with the actor that played Henry and what he did in the game, but I didn’t want to create a carbon copy of that. I wanted to really create my own interpretation of what his relationship is with Sam and [his relationship with] Joel and Ellie, and what that feels like on camera and just being as present as possible with whatever I was given and environment, because Craig [Mazin, showrunner and co-creator] did change a few things within the story. So I was just trying to just honor whatever was on the page and just trying and be as honest and truthful as I could.”
On the relationship between Henry and Sam and then the dynamic that they both have with Joel and Ellie, Johnson explained, “Sam is all Henry got, right? Their parents are gone, so Sam is really all he and Henry has. He’s very much the protector. That’s his little bro, he loves him and he wants to protect him at all costs. And if that means having to make some tough decisions in order to protect him and keep him safe, then Henry’s willing to do that. If that means that his brother can survive and [he] can try to create some normalcy for him, even though this world is just terrible, he tries the best that he can.”
Johnson also believes the Joel-Ellie relationship mirrors the Henry-Sam one. “I think the dynamic between Henry and Sam mirrors [Joel and Ellie] itself in a very interesting way, because Joel is the same way,” he said. “He is the protector– he is that for Ellie, even though Ellie is not defenseless by any means, but Joel takes that responsibility to kind of be that protector and be that sort of figure for her. I’m sure Joel will also make tough decisions and sacrifices to make sure that Ellie is protected and safe because he promised Tess that he would. So those things weigh heavy. Henry and Joel are very similar in many ways, and Sam and Ellie are very similar in many ways, and you can kind of see that within the episode. You see Sam and Ellie have a lot of moments of connection and Henry and Joel have a lot of moments of connection. I think that it comes down to just the familiarity of their position and their sort of roles.”
The actor also compared the familial love that they shared to the love between Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), as presented in episode 4.
“What’s interesting between Henry and Sam is even though we’re living in a world where you kind of have to make selfish decisions, he’s purely selfless for Sam,” Johnson said. “That’s his everything. That’s his world. That’s his purpose. It’s very similar to Bill and Frank’s [storyline]. Bill said to Frank, ‘You’re my purpose….you’re the reason I live.’ Everything [from] the situation that he’s in with Kathleen, to the fact that he wants to run from Kansas City– all of these things are a detriment to Henry, but ultimately it’s to make sure that Sam is safe and that Sam doesn’t get caught up in any of that. I’m pretty sure Sam is not even aware that any of these things even happened, because I’m trying to protect him– even though it’s understood that he’s gonna see things and he’s gonna be affected in specific ways. But I think what is important is to find that joy in him and still keep him childlike, because it’s just like a tough thing to have the stomach [for that], especially as a parent, caregiver or protector. Joel says it with Ellie–he’s like, ‘I understand that it’s not your first time, but you shouldn’t have to see that. You shouldn’t have to experience this. You shouldn’t have to go through all these things.’ And I feel like Henry has the same sentiment as Sam. Like let me take the brunt of that for you and let you just be a child.”
When talking about the tear-inducing conclusion to the episode, Johnson said the best word to describe everything that happened is “shock.” Having never shot a gun, the first time he has killed someone is his brother.
“I think Henry is just shocked,” he added. “I don’t think he knows even what to think or how to even process anything that’s happening. Of course, he understands the timeliness of this moment, especially because Sam has turned and he’s now threatening Ellie, even though I’m not even sure if Henry is even aware that Ellie is immune. I think that if she’s scratched or if she’s bitten, then not only is Sam gone, but Ellie’s gone too. It’s really a lose/lose situation. Henry’s in shock. He sees Joel stepping in and he understands how violent Joel is and how he can be. So automatically I jumped for the gun, because I don’t want Joel intervening and ultimately killing my brother. So I jump in and I intervene, but then obviously understanding what’s happening…I just make a decision and I end up shooting him, but then instantly regret it.”
He continued, “[Once Henry] realized that [Sam] was gone and he was my purpose, he was my reason to live…and once I no longer had him–I sort of no longer had a reason to live. Henry ultimately didn’t want to live in a world without his brother, especially with everything that he’s already sacrificed to keep him safe and protect him after everything that they’ve already gone through in the episode. It’s shock and not knowing how to think, how to move and how to process. There’s even a moment where he even looks at Joel and he is like, ‘What did I do?’ He’s not even aware of what’s happening until it finally hits him. He’s like, ‘Hey, you know what? I’m going to join my brother.'”
Ultimately, Johnson believes and hopes this episode means a lot to the fans for having both emotional beats but also some of the most action that has been shown in the season so far.
“I think with this episode, a lot of fans are really gonna enjoy this just because of all the action and the bloater, a lot of people are anticipating that and waiting for that,” he added. “So you get all of that in this episode along with great story and great arcs for our characters. And you know even for Joel and Ellie, you know that meeting us affected both Joel and Ellie in ways. I think from here, it’s going to continue to push this story forward and I think Craig just did a fantastic job with this show– and I’m just very grateful to be a part of it.
The Last of Us airs new episodes on HBO on Sundays (streaming on HBO Max).
Note: Episode 5 was available to stream early on HBO Max and on HBO on-demand on Friday due to the Super Bowl.