After Henry and Sam’s death, both Joel and Ellie make the final push to find Tommy in Wyoming. What they find leads to an explosive confrontation between the pair that would shift their dynamic forever. Although they are one step closer to the end of their mission, what lies in wait at the finish line? What happens after everything is done? Let’s dig into this drama known as episode six of HBO’s The Last of Us.
Note: If you’ve watched the episode and don’t necessarily want to read the synopsis, feel free to skip down to the analysis portion!
The environment and season has shifted dramatically. It’s cold and snowy, and the scene opens with a figure carrying rabbits back to an isolated cottage. Perhaps this pays hommage to the rabbit Ellie hunts in the video game, but let’s not jump too far ahead. Turns out, this figure is neither main character, but rather a named Marlon (Graham Greene) who returns home where his wife, Florence (Elaine Miles). Joel appears, weapon raised, and demands to know where on the map they are currently located.
Although the man is alarmed, the wife seems unfazed–she even fed them soup. After some witty banter to break up the tense scene, Ellie bounds down the stairs, much to Joel’s chagrin.
Who’s this little psycho?-Marlon, The Last of Us
Marlon points out their location. Joel and Ellie follow up with a line of questioning: ‘so you haven’t heard the name, Tommy?’, ‘what about the Fireflies?’, and ‘you have any advice on the best way west?’.
Yeah, go east…If you come this far, then you know what’s out there.-Marlon, The Last of Us
Marlon and Florence continue about death that looms beyond a nearby river. They aren’t able to tell who is responsible, but bodies of both human and Infected are left out as warning to those that trespass. While Ellie seems unaffected, Joel freezes in fear. In fact, the old lady calls him out on it, and after Joel and Ellie leave, Joel suffers what seems to be a slight anxiety attack.
Joel and Ellie traverse the barren landscape and end up camping near a riverbank. After setting up a fire, Ellie asks what would become of them after the Fireflies make a “cure” from her blood. Joel scoffs at the word “we”. Ellie relunctantly backtracks and asks what he would want to do. Joel answers with owning a farm house and raising sheep.
They’re quiet, and they do what they’re told.-Joel, The Last of Us
Ellie makes light of his pointed remark and then answers her wish to explore space. She was inspired by books from the QZ library, and Sally Ride is her hero. She also shows some vulnerability after confessing her attempt to save Sam with her blood.
It’ll work right? The vaccine?-Ellie, The Last of Us
After taking another swig of liquor, Joel sends Ellie to bed and insists he take both first and second watch. Joel ends up falling asleep, and he wakes up to Ellie standing watch. She comments that he continues to mumble in his sleep, but Joel only scolds her for not listening, again. However, Ellie is still eager to prove herself, claiming to check off every important step like he taught her.
I’m responsible for you, okay?-Joel, The Last of Us
What can I say, man? I’m a natural.-Ellie, The Last of Us
They pack up and cross “Death” river with zero incident. There were no Infected or raiders that crossed their paths. After passing by a dam, a group of people on horseback charge their way. With masks up and guns raised, they bark orders for Joel and Ellie to drop their weapons and stand a few feet apart. One sends a dog to sniff out infection, and Joel winces when it growls at Ellie; however, the dog ends up licking and playing with her. Joel is relieved to buy a few more moments to explain themselves.
Joel asks if anyone knows a man named Tommy. A woman steps forward and asks for his name. Without another word, the scene changes, and Joel and Ellie ride with the group to an enclosed settlement in Jackson, Wyoming. Ellie stares in wonder at the community within the walls, admiring the decorations and the electricity. Joel slows down when he spots Tommy (Gabriel Luna), and the two embrace in a very emotional reunion.
I’ve come here to save you.-Joel, The Last of Us
Despite the wonderful moment of two brothers coming together after all these years, the sentimental feelings didn’t last long. Joel and Ellie are first brought to the dining hall, where they devour their meals. The woman from the group that found them, Maria (Rutina Wesley), is there, sitting with Tommy. Not only is Ellie swearing and yelling at some other girl staring at her, but Tommy reveals that Maria is his wife. He now has a new, rather comfortable life here in Jackson, Wyoming. Although Joel doesn’t say much, his face darkens.
After the meal, Maria shows Ellie where she can shower and change, giving the brothers time to talk. Tommy and Joel drink at a bar and catch up.
Thanks for still giving a shit about me.-Tommy, The Last of Us
Tommy asks about Tess, and Joel skirts around the truth. Same with Ellie, and Joel inquires about the Fireflies’ location. Tommy mentions they have a headquarters at the University of Eastern Colorado, about a week’s ride south; however, the trek is notoriously dangerous. Joel quickly fires back that it wouldn’t be tough for them both. Tommy balks…and confesses Maria is pregnant. He said he needs to be more careful, but Joel doesn’t congratulate him.
That’s all you got?…Just because life stopped for you, doesn’t mean it has to stop for me.-Tommy, The Last of Us
The episode continues to weave back and forth between Ellie’s experience and Joel’s. Ellie washes up, and Maria insists on cutting her hair. Ellie asks about a plaque on the wall, and there she learns that Maria lost a child. She also learned that’s Joel’s daughter was named Sarah. Despite Joel and Tommy’s relationship, Maria warms Ellie that the people closest to us are also to people that could betray us. However, Ellie remained defensive of Joel the entire conversation. Then they end up in a community building watching a movie, but Ellie doesn’t stay long.
Around that same time, Tommy leaves Maria’s side at the movies and finds Joel, attempting to mend his shoes. Tommy apologizes for using harsh words, and Joel begins to break down. Joel has failed to protect several people and sees himself as a complete failure. The burden of traveling with Ellie has taken a heavy toll on him–for the viewer, it’s the most vulnerable we’ve seen Joel. When all was said and done, Tommy agrees to take Ellie to the Fireflies instead.
When Joel returns to his quarters, he finds Ellie reading a diary that belonged to a girl that once lived in the house. She muses over the problems teenagers had before the outbreak. The banter quickly fades, as Ellie reveals that she overheard the brothers talking. In a clashing of words, the two argue over Joel’s decision. She presses the fact that she is not Sarah, and everyone that she’s met has either left or died…except for Joel. The scene ends with Joel sitting in his bed as images flash of his daughter right before he goes to sleep.
In the morning, Tommy collects Ellie, and the two march to the stables in silence. Few words are exchanged; however, when they arrive, they find Joel packing up. Joel states in a matter-of-fact tone that Ellie should have the option to choose who she wants to travel with, and Ellie immediately picks Joel. The two mend their relationship and prepare to leave Jackson. Before they leave, Tommy tells the two they have a home here when their mission is complete.
The final scenes of the episode focus on their arrival and exploration of the University of Eastern Colorado. Yes, they made it through that perilous week’s travel without any trouble. Hopes are quickly extinguished as they notice no guards at their post. The building is empty, save for a packing list and random supplies scattered about.
They follow a noise upstairs, only to find monkeys jumping about. Without a human in sight, the two are about to give up, but they notice a map with flags pointing toward Saint Mary’s at Salt Lake City. Before they have plan out next steps, raiders sweep onto campus. Joel and Ellie sneak out the back door. Right when they are about to leave, one raider charges as Joel. The two men grapple one another, but Joel eventually overpowers the raider. However, Ellie stares in horror–Joel was stabbed in the abdomen with a splintered baseball bat.
More raiders give chase, and the two barely escape with their lives. After gaining enough distance, Ellie comments that they have lost them. Joel barely answers and falls off the horse. Ellie leaps off in panic, begging Joel to open his eyes. And that, my friends, is where episode six leaves us.
There were several powerful scenes in episode six, despite minimal action sequences.
We continue to witness Joel’s struggle with transporting Ellie. It’s clear that despite labeling her as cargo, he has grown attached to her, and it shows in his anxiety and eventual breakdown in front of his brother, Tommy. Ellie’s attachment to Joel is also apparent, and despite her rough exterior (and foul mouth), we see her hurt when Joel does not see himself involved with her once the mission is complete. This pain comes to a breaking point when she hears Tommy and Joel talking in Jackson. They argue, and Ellie tries to convince Joel that she shouldn’t be punished just because he lost his own daughter. In fact, these powerful lines in this scene are ripped directly from the game.
I’m sorry about your daughter, Joel. But I’ve lost people too.-Ellie, The Last of Us
You have no idea what loss is.-Joel, The Last of Us
Everybody I have care for has either died or left me. Everybody…fucking except for you! So, don’t tell me that I’d be safer with somebody else because the truth is, I would just be more scared.-Ellie, The Last of Us
You’re right. You’re not my daughter. And I sure as hell ain’t your dad.-Joel, The Last of Us
Another dynamic worth mentioning is the reunion of the two brothers. Despite the conflict that had occurred between the outbreak and now, their initial greeting would have suggested it was all water under the bridge. However, Joel’s stiff body language and curt dialogue suggested disappointment that Tommy has actually been flourishing. Pain and jealously fuels his outburst after learning Tommy was going to be a father. Everything–from losing Sarah, Tess, Henry, and Sam have all been reminders that he’s failed to protect those he loved or grown to care about. Sarah even haunts his mind–in one scene, he sees a woman that had her hair, but it turns out to be a mother with her child. That would have been his life if the outbreak never occurred.
Joel’s pain is extremely palpable in this episode. And yet, at the end, he chose to go all in, to take Ellie to the Fireflies…and even teach her how to shoot a rifle properly.
Comparing the episode to the game, the story beats are relatively faithful; however, a lot of content was cut. More on this in the verdict.
For an episode lacking in action, it made up for a powerful emotional sucker punch. Right when I thought I witnessed heart break after watching Bill and Frank’s life and Sam and Henry’s tragic end, episode six finally digs deep into Joel’s closet of skeletons. While nothing is new, this is the first time we witness his vulnerability. He is scared. He is tired. He feels like a failure.
But back to the lack of action. While I understand not every show needs to have gunfire and explosions at all times, I felt that stretches in time without running into any trouble make it hard to believe. Joel and Ellie traveled a lot in episode six, but they didn’t run into any Infected (there were Infected, even a Bloater, at the University when you play the video game) and only a handful of raiders with melee weapons (there were also tons of raiders this time of the game). Both the elderly couple and Tommy warned of danger around every corner, but the show failed to convince me. While we are moving from one emotional moment to another, I feel like we are almost neglecting realistic dangers. What happened to the Infected “network” that seemed to play a big role in Boston? This is a rare criticism for me, as I also don’t want to see non-stop action for action’s sake.
Overall, it was a solid episode. As someone who has played the game though, I’m astonished at how the show is progressing at breakneck speed. I’m starting to form the opinion that perhaps HBO could have benefited at least a couple more episodes so it doesn’t always feel like we are leaping through time so frequently.
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One thought on “TV Review: HBO’s The Last of Us Episode Six, ‘Kin’”
I found it a tad unrealistic that a 400lbs woman could exist 20 years after the outbreak. The guy seemed like a skilled rabbit hunter and all, but they ran out of cheetos a long, long time ago.