The Last of Us on HBO: Was Sam Deaf in the Game?

Endure and Survive.

by J.R. Waugh
Sam Deaf The Last of Us
Image: HBO

Sam and Henry appear in the final moments of episode 4 and throughout episode 5 of The Last of Us on HBO. They’re the newest pair of fellow survivors to meet Joel and Ellie on their journey and are taken straight from the game. But while watching The Last of Us you may have noticed that Sam is deaf, and might recall things feeling different from how they were in the game. Does this affect their journey much if at all, or does it bring them to the same destination?

The Last of Us HBO Differences With the Game: Was Sam Always Deaf?

No, Sam wasn’t deaf in the game of The Last of Us, but this creative change is certainly a welcome one, bringing in an excellent performance from Keivonn Woodard. Woodard, after all, comes from a deaf family, many of whom are also actors, and can turn in a tense, emotional performance much like what has already been seen in the show.

In the game, Sam is vocally speaking with Henry but their bond is still very similar.

Does This Change Sam’s Story, or Henry’s?

While it affects how Sam can hear, it doesn’t stop their ability to communicate, using writing and American Sign Language to speak to each other. Even Ellie, who is already quite clever, bonds with this fellow child through their mutual appreciation for comic books, quickly picking up on Sam’s ways to communicate along with a poignant message in a motto of sorts, “Endure and Survive.” It allows each of them to retain their innocence and demonstrate their abilities to adapt, while still being petrified of a cruel, unforgiving outside world.

Henry and Sam’s bond is also felt strongly by Joel and Ellie in the show as it was in the game, with an intense feeling of anguish if one were ever to lose another. It’s another lesson imparted much like the one we experienced in episode 3. But ultimately, the ending of their story still plays out almost identically to the one in the game, ending shockingly and abruptly, with heartbreak but not enough to shake Joel and Ellie’s will to move on.

The Last of Us premiered on January 15, 2023, on HBO and HBO Max, and will air weekly every Sunday. International viewers can catch this series on Sky Atlantic and Crave.

- This article was updated on February 11th, 2023