[Ed. note: As you might’ve guessed from the headline, this post contains spoilers for a death at the end of The Last of Us episode 5.]
Everything goes wrong for everybody at some point in the suburb throwdown at the end of The Last of Us episode 5. “Endure and Survive” ends with an elaborate action set piece, with infected swarming out of a sinkhole and overrunning Joel (Pedro Pascal), Ellie (Bella Ramsey), and their Kansas City allies and enemies alike. A lot of people die. But few get as brutal a death as Perry (Jeffrey Pierce), who gets torn to pieces by a bloater.
Even out of focus in the background as Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) escapes, it’s a particularly gnarly kill. And Pierce, who also voiced Joel’s brother Tommy in The Last of Us game, wouldn’t have it any other way — and not only because it’s an Easter egg.
“Craig [Mazin, co-showrunner] said, ‘Look you’re gonna get the best death of the entire season,’” Pierce tells Polygon in an interview. “And for me — he is a man who has lived by a code of honor. And the idea that he gets this honorable death that he gets to choose, and to sacrifice himself in the hope of Kathleen potentially being able to escape, is really as heroic and selfless an act as you can hope for.”
That strength was something Pierce wanted in every moment that Perry was on screen. The way he saw it, Perry was former military, had no interest in joining FEDRA and their death squads, and had been moving around until he found Kathleen and her brother and joined their cause. Pierce describes going back and forth with the props department, assembling the look that he wanted for the character he envisioned: a plate carrier tactical vest, a personal weapon along with his FEDRA Beretta, three separate knives (“In the lore of the game, your knives run out,” Pierce notes), and a med kit on his back. The goal was for him to feel steely and professional, in line with the “mythology of cowboys and samurai.”
“So, yeah, I love that that’s the way that he got to choose to end things, despite the fact that she doesn’t quite take advantage of the window that he buys her,” Pierce says with a laugh. “Maybe somebody got away because he sacrificed himself!”
Ultimately, the Kansas City cul-de-sac just wasn’t big enough to contain the Cordyceps network beneath the city. And Perry becomes yet another distinctive zombie kill in a world full of them. Still, Pierce will always treasure his memories of sacrificing himself in the line of duty like that.
“We did everything up to the bloater grabbing hold,” Pierce says, noting that there was a real guy in the bloater suit. “He was hilarious. Like a 6-foot-5 rugby player from Australia, and he would do, like, Michael Jackson dances in the bloater outfit in between takes, it was fucking hilarious. But also, when a guy that big is running across the street at you, it’s a little terrifying. […] None of [the acting there] was hard.”