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HBO’s The Last of Us debuts its new character, Kathleen, in episode 4

Melanie Lynskey’s character isn’t in the original game

Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) surrounded by other Hunters looking intense Photo: Liane Hentscher/HBO
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

HBO’s The Last of Us takes Joel and Ellie — and the show’s viewers — to Kansas City, Missouri in its fourth episode, adapting the game’s Pittsburgh storyline to fit the new location. If you’ve played the games, you know that Pittsburgh’s bad guys are called the Hunters, a largely faceless group that provides bullet fodder for the player to run up against. They’re tough and iconic, with the massive “RUN” plow, but that’s just about as much depth as they’re given. HBO’s The Last of Us changes that, giving the faction a face and new motivations.

Melanie Lynskey takes over an entirely new character named Kathleen, the ruthless leader of Kansas City’s rebels. Jeffrey Pierce (the voice of Tommy in the games) plays Perry, Kathleen’s top soldier. Because she’s not in the game, there’s not much we can infer from her backstory there, but the fourth episode has definitely set up her motivations.

[Ed. note: This story contains spoilers for The Last of Us on HBO.]

Who is Kathleen?

Lynskey’s Kathleen is clearly a villian, the leader of the Hunters. This ferocious group wiped FEDRA out of Kansas City. Kathleen’s brother was the original leader of the group, someone Lynskey told EW was “basically Jesus” to the group. She took over when he was killed, taking a different approach: “The thing I found very interesting about her is, when she did step into the role, she didn’t have a lot of guilt about doing bad things, whereas her brother did,” Lynskey said. “She found out that she was quite heartless and so she was able to be pretty effective in a way that he maybe wasn’t because she didn’t care about people.”

Her quiet, sweet voice masks a tendency toward ruthless violence, as seen we see in episode 4. We’re dropped right into her story when she’s interrogating a doctor — the doctor who delivered her — for information on the person she blames for her brother’s death: Henry.

Lynskey described Kathleen to EW as someone you might overlook at first, unaware of her violent influence over the group.

“I do feel like there was something about her being a person that you might dismiss, that you might not be necessarily afraid of until you suddenly realize, ‘Oh shit! This is somebody who I’m supposed to be the most afraid of,’” she said. “I wanted her to be kind of gentle. I wanted her to be soft spoken and delicate in the way she looked around. I wanted her to feel like a sweet person, and then to have a surprising capacity for violence. I thought the difference between how she carries herself and how she speaks and the things she’s doing would be interesting.”

And indeed, she is capable of violence: We see it first when she shoots and kills the doctor and sends her troops on a citywide manhunt for Henry.

The Last of Us’ fifth episode will likely continue Kathleen’s story, and it’ll be interesting to see how HBO weaves together Henry and his brother Sam’s story with the Hunters.