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‘The Last of Us’ Episode 5: Let’s Process That Ending Together

Sam sits in his attic hideout in The Last of Us.

Part of what makes The Last of Us so affecting is its emphasis on children. Many apocalypse stories focus mainly on adults, but The last of Us doesn’t flinch from the effects of the Cordyceps outbreak on the most vulnerable—whether they’re showing an infected kid being euthanized in the QZ, Ellie reading from her joke book after she plays with a gun, or Sam (Keivonn Woodard) escaping into superhero fantasies.

Oh, Sam. If you’re here reading this article, then you’re looking for some space to process the ending of episode 5, so let’s get into it.

Spoilers ahead, obviously.

What happens to Henry and Sam at the end of episode 5?

If you played the game, you probably knew what was coming in the final scenes. If not, the sudden turn of events was devastating.

To recap: Joel, Ellie, Henry, and Sam flee Kathleen’s resistance group and the horde of Infected that emerge from the sinkhole outside of town. They make it to a motel, where Ellie and Sam share a room. Once alone, though, Sam reveals a bite mark on his ankle. “If you turn into a monster,” he asks her, “are you still you?”

Ellie has an idea, and rubs some of her blood on Sam’s wound. Since she’s immune, she figures, her blood will protect him from turning. He asks her to stay up with him, and she tries to, but she eventually falls asleep.

In the morning, Sam is sitting on the edge of his bed, staring out the window. Ellie taps him on the shoulder, but he whips around and attacks her, revealing that he turned during the night. The two burst out of the bedroom door, and when Henry realizes that Sam is infected, he shoots him.

In the horrible few seconds that follow, Henry almost shoots Joel before murmuring, “What did I do?” and turning the gun on himself. Ellie and Joel bury them both outside of the motel, and Ellie lays Sam’s writing pad on top of his grave, with the words “I’m sorry” written on it.

Why Sam and Henry’s deaths hit so hard

So far, Ellie and Joel have been leaving a trail of bodies behind them as they head to Wyoming: first Sarah, way back in the past; then Tess; then Bill and Frank; and now Henry and Sam. The constant stream of deaths show how high the stakes are. This is what life is like, post-Cordyceps. Everywhere, people are succumbing to the infection and turning into monsters, or simply suffering from lack of medical care (it’s true that Bill and Frank have one of the best possible post-Cordyceps lives we’ve seen, Frank still comments on the lack of a “door to door MRI machine”). The deaths will continue until there’s a vaccine, and the weight of that responsibility lies solely on Joel and Ellie.

The strain is hard enough for Joel to take, but its effects on Ellie are unimaginable. No 14-year-old should have to watch someone die by suicide. In a moment of naive optimism, Ellie believes she can save Sam, and then feels responsible when she fails. It’s more than any child should ever have to bear.

As for Henry—Sam is his whole reason for being, the driving force behind all his actions. The deep love he has for Sam is palpable from the start. For Henry to be the one to shoot him after he turns is the cruelest possible twist of the knife.

The hardest part of the episode to watch, though, is the transformation in little Sam himself. What quiet terror does he experience, sitting up all night, slowly turning? What goes through his mind as the Cordyceps takes him? Can he feel it happening, after Ellie falls asleep and he’s left all alone? I spent the whole episode rooting hard for Sam to make it, and my heart broke the moment I saw that bite mark.

This episode was a tough one to watch. If you’ve got a little person in your life, give them an extra squeeze tonight.

(featured image: HBO Max)

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Julia Glassman (she/they) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and covers film, television, and books for The Mary Sue. When she's not making yarn on her spinning wheel, she consumes massive amounts of Marvel media, folk horror, science fiction, fantasy, and nature writing. You can check out more of her writing at, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.