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Sam’s Face Paint in ‘The Last of Us,’ Explained

A small, but notable, deviation from the game

Keivonn Montreal Woodard as Sam in The Last of Us with face paint

Episode five of The Last of Us premiered on Friday and continued the series’ trend of irreparably breaking our hearts into a million pieces. The episode sees the introduction of Henry Burrell (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard), who appeared in the game portrayed by Brandon Scott and Nadji Jeter, respectively. Both in the game and the TV show, Sam and Henry meet a very tragic ending. However, their lives and their short stint with Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) that have a profound impact on our main duo.

In the show, the two brothers become acquainted with Ellie and Joel in Kansas City. The city has become overrun by revolutionaries led by Kathleen Coghlan (Melanie Lynskey), who gained control after brutally overthrowing FEDRA. However, Kathleen’s brother was killed during the revolution—Henry betrayed him to FEDRA in exchange for medicine to save Sam. Henry’s 8-year-old brother, Sam, is deaf and had been diagnosed with Leukemia, which necessitates the medicine. Kathleen cannot forgive Henry, even though she understands his actions. She is dead set on murdering both him and his little brother.

For a while, Sam, Henry, Joel, and Ellie are able to help each other as they try to get out of the city without being captured by Kathleen. While on the move, Sam and Ellie begin to bond, getting a chance to just be kids together for once. Ellie reads comic books with him, communicates with him through sign language and writing, and even plays soccer with him. She manages to get rare laughter and smiles out of Sam. Viewers will notice is that Sam is wearing orange face paint throughout most of the show. This detail was added to the show and wasn’t present in the game, leading some viewers to question its meaning.

Why Sam wears face paint in The Last of Us

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

Sam’s face paint is explained in the opening of episode 5, “Survive and Endure.” The episode starts by showing a glimpse of Sam and Henry’s past, in order to explain the events that led to them finding Joel and Ellie. The two brothers were given refuge by Dr. Eldelstein (John Getz), who hides them in an attic in the city. They have a bag filled with enough canned food to suffice them for a short period. Of course, living in an old attic on nothing but canned food isn’t exactly an ideal situation for an 8-year-old. Henry is able to help Sam cope by giving him a large bag of crayons and letting him decorate the place. Sam is obsessed with superheroes from the few comics he has collected, and he soon draws little crayon hero figures all over the walls.

However, when Eldelstein leaves one day and does not return, it becomes apparent that he has been captured and killed by Kathleen. With the pair being down to one can and with Kathleen certain to uncover them eventually, Sam and Henry have no choice but to find another location. It is a very risky but necessary move. The idea scares Sam, who is hungry and saddened by Eldelstein’s death. Henry notices that Sam has been drawing himself as a hero, “Super Sam,” with an orange mask over his face and is struck with inspiration. He paints an orange mask over Sam’s face to make him feel braver, as if he really were Super Sam.

The face paint mostly goes back to Sam being a kid in a post-apocalyptic world. He has so few opportunities to just be a child, because his life is filled with so many tragedies and horrors. However, his imagination provides him with just a bit of relief, so his brother tries to capitalize on that by providing him with crayons and painting a mask on his face. Using his imagination, Sam can stir up the courage to journey with Joel and Ellie, despite the chances of being confronted by the Hunters or infected.

(featured image: HBO)

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Rachel Ulatowski is a Freelance Writer, blogger, and aspiring author. As a Freelancer Writer she hopes to give readers the same comfort and enjoyment that she finds in all things nerdy and noteworthy, as a blogger she enjoys snarking on YouTubers and reality stars, and as a future novelist she hopes to raise awareness for child abuse through literature.