How Did Michael’s Death Turn Kathleen Into A Monster? Do Kathleen And Perry Die In ‘The Last of Us’?


The character of Kathleen was introduced in the fourth episode of the series, “The Last of Us,” and from the word go, she had our attention due to an innate ability to be cruel and destructive without thinking about the ramifications which was a trait similar to the infected. It seemed like Kathleen was an able leader, as she had been able to unite the rebels under one banner and lead a resistance movement that uprooted the FEDRA regime and forced them to abandon Kansas City. But the more we got to know about her, we started realizing that her mission wasn’t just about losing a loved one and avenging his death; there was some other hidden motive that was deeply rooted in her subconscious and feeding her hatred, which probably even she wasn’t aware of. We learned from her that her brother Michael had been beaten to death by FEDRA soldiers and that she was willing to burn the world down to find the person she blamed for it. It is because of the intel provided by Henry that FEDRA was able to find Michael and kill him. 

Kathleen wanted to find Henry at all costs and skin him alive. To say that Kathleen was a shrewd woman would be an understatement, as she was so self-seeking and egocentric that she didn’t mind manipulating those who had put their faith in her. Joel and Ellie had arrived in Kansas City at that time, and they had killed two soldiers in Kathleen’s army. Kathleen knew that if two unknown people had infiltrated her territory with such huge supplies, then the safety of her tribe was at stake. Had she been an empathetic leader, she would have set aside her personal agendas and looked for those who posed a threat. Instead, she managed to pin the blame for the murders on Henry so that no one would question her if she launched a wide-scale search for him.

When Kathleen and Perry went to the basement of the building where Henry and Sam had been hiding, they noticed cracks in the floor and knew exactly what it was. Perry tried to tell Kathleen to take some sort of precaution, as there would be grave consequences of letting her people stay in a place where there were a lot of infected people below ground. But Kathleen told him not to utter a word about the probability of hundreds of infected—and even a Bloater—present underneath them. Perry’s impulses told him otherwise, but he was so loyal to Kathleen that he agreed to walk straight into the death trap.

In the fifth episode of the series, “The Last of Us,” we are taken back to that day when FEDRA had just left Kansas City, and the people were rejoicing as if, after a long dictatorial regime, democracy had finally come back to liberate people and give them the freedom that they deserved. Collaborators were being lynched, the property was being vandalized, and the most heinous sight was that people were celebrating violence. In that extreme state of chaos, we saw humanity being bludgeoned to death. There were announcements being made that the collaborators were going to get a fair trial, but Kathleen had no such intention. Kathleen, after the coup, went to the room where all the collaborators had been held, and she told them that she wouldn’t kill them if they were able to give her information about the whereabouts of Henry. 

After getting to know that Henry was still in the city, she asked Perry to kill all the inmates who were sitting in that room. There was an air of ruthlessness in the manner in which she told Perry to do what was necessary. She told him to burn the bodies after he was done, as it was an easier method. What Kathleen was doing was worse than dictatorship, as she didn’t even put up a false pretext of being fair or democratic in her approach. Perry always reasoned with her to do the right thing, but Kathleen was blinded by her rage, and she was not ready to budge even an inch, even if the advice came from a confidant like Perry.

We come to know in the fifth episode of the series, “The Last of Us,” that Michael actually wanted Kathleen to move ahead in life and forgive Henry and Sam. Michael seemed like a prudent man who knew that anybody in the post-apocalyptic world would show such survival instincts and fend for their own interests and their families. It was easy to blame someone, but the truth was that if Michael or Kathleen had been in his shoes, they would have done the same thing. Kathleen even tells Perry, much later, after the demise of her brother, that had Michael been alive, he wouldn’t have recognized her, and he surely would have hated the kind of person she had become. So why was Kathleen on a rampage when it was not something that would have made her brother happy and, in fact, would have horrified him?

There was a scared girl that hid behind that cruel exterior who always had her brother by her side to protect her. She felt safe in his presence, and it felt like the world was not such a bad place to live in. Kathleen’s childhood room was her cocoon, and Michael had made her believe that until she was within it, she did not need to be scared of anything. Even after the outbreak, she took shelter in his shadow and felt that as long as they were together, she would survive the plagued world. But then he died, leaving her alone, and it broke that one last thread that kept her from becoming insane. The breaking of her illusion had an unimaginable impact on her as she felt abandoned, and the world became a jungle for her, which was not governed by any laws, principles, or ethics but only one rule: either she became the predator and killed others who posed a threat, or she became the prey and got hunted. Kathleen leaned on her brother more than she had imagined, and once he was gone, she had nothing to root for. She knew that her acts were sinful, but once she lost her sense of belonging, there were no values or ethics that could bind and motivate her to do some good in life.

Kathleen was a believer in the fact that there was no justice in forgiveness, and this crooked theory became the driving force behind her actions. Towards the end of the fifth episode of “The Last of Us,” Kathleen arrives with her cavalry to kill Joel, Henry, Ellie, and Sam. Henry tries to bargain with her and says that he would come out and surrender himself if she allowed the kids to leave. Kathleen said, in a voice that normalized her heinous actions, that she wouldn’t leave anyone alive because they were all probably supposed to die. Kathleen credited herself with at least understanding why Henry had gone against her, and she wanted him to take solace in it. The conversation reflected how impassive and brutal Kathleen was, and her brother’s death had given her that little nudge that was needed to unleash her madness. She talked as if she was being forced to choose the path she was treading on, and as if it were not in her hands to keep Henry and others alive. Her brother’s death had opened a dark, bottomless chasm inside her, and she was drowning in it. 

Kathleen had no hope that she would come out on the other side, and she didn’t want others to entertain that possibility. Kathleen thought that she could choose the destinies of others, but a cloak of invincibility blinded her foresight, and she failed to consider the consequences that her actions could end up having. She was pointing a gun at Henry when she saw the ground collapse and hundreds of infected come out of it. A Bloater rose from the abyss and came charging towards Kathleen and Perry. Perry realized that he wouldn’t be able to survive the attack, which is why he asked Kathleen to run away and save her life. Perry continuously shot at the Bloater, but it had little or no impact on its hard skin. Perry died a painful death as the Bloater ripped him apart. Even in such a situation, when death was dancing over their heads, she was still after Henry and others and trying her best to not let them escape. 

Kathleen had made the inhumane remark that Henry shouldn’t make such a big deal about his brother dying because children died all the time. She was going to shoot Henry, Ellie, and Sam when she was attacked by what seemed like an infected kid. The infected kid tore her into pieces as if it had come back to take revenge for all that she had said and done. Kathleen’s miserable life came to an end there, and it was probably the only way by which she could have gotten rid of the fear that had almost consumed her.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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