Each week, we recap the biggest moments from HBO’s The Last of Us before placing bets on the odds of our favorite characters surviving – like the sick, twisted, soulless monsters that we are.
This week, The last of us returns to its regular program. By that we mean the show gets back on the air Sunday night and breaks our bloody hearts again.
In the sixth episode, “Kin,” Joel finally reunites with his brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) and discovers that there’s a very different way of life outside of Boston’s QZ. Joel’s “homecoming” isn’t as happy or as heroic as he thought, sending him into a spiral of fear and driving a wedge between the old drifter and his traveling companions – threatening their mission and maybe even their lives.
After reminding us (rudely) of the heartbreaking ending to Henry and Sam’s story in episode five, the show picks up again sometime after Ellie and Joel escape Kansas City. They’re now officially out west, having wandered the country only to hold an elderly couple at gunpoint because neither of them can really read a map. It’s cold, everything is wet, and there’s a landmark called The River of Death that Ellie and Joel are warned about, so seriously, we can’t recommend trying this particular post-apocalypse road trip.
The time they spend trudging through barren, snow-covered landscapes gives the couple time to reflect on the tragedies that seem to be piling up in their wake. Ellie reveals that she doubts she is a cure for humanity because of her failed healing experiment with Sam, and Joel bluntly reassures her that developing a vaccine will likely be more complicated than either of them can comprehend. For his part, Joel isn’t so willing with the memories that keep him up at night, brushing off his recent panic attacks to avoid confronting their root cause.
Pedro Pascal might be one of the most likable actors on TV right now, but rooting for Joel in this episode is difficult, especially when Ellie is so desperate to form some kind of connection with her guardian and he’s completely withdrawn. He’s not her father, sure, but can he at least be her boyfriend? His constant expression of annoyance at literally everything she does—whether it’s pestering him with questions, prompting him to think of a future when the world is being put right, or even uncomplainingly picking up his watch when he falls asleep at work— is scratchy to say the least. There’s a moment where they bond over their shared love of space heroes like Sally Ride and joke about dreaming of sheep farms on the moon — which, by the way, would make for a killer named ska band — that gives you a glimpse Bonding into what they are might seem like Joel is just about to pull his salt-and-pepper hairy head out of his ass, but we never really have time to delve into that.
Instead, the pacing of a nine-episode series requires us to grind our way forward, through some seriously great dam puns to an old-fashioned, gun-drawn standoff between Joel and Ellie and a masked militia on horseback in charge of the natural are the ominous nickname of the landmark. They poison Joel and Ellie with a sniffer dog to make sure no one is infected, and the few tense moments before the snarling mutt decides the young girl is “clean” send Joel into yet another internal existential crisis. Luckily they pass the test and are greeted by the group leader (Tara is out True Bloody’all!) after Joel reveals who they’re looking for.
It turns out that living in a commune is the way to go should the world ever go to hell in a hand basket. Joel is a bit bitter when he discovers what makes his long-awaited reunion with his brother Tommy less sweet. The two laugh and cry and hug, but beneath the surface of their “hello” and “how are you?” simmers a resentment that’s pretty obvious. Things only get more awkward when Tommy reveals he’s married to the woman who was holding Joel and Ellie at gunpoint — her name is Maria (Rutina Wesley), she’s a former prosecutor, and she’s badass — and that he’s even happy with his life when Joel wasn’t around. Making the first hot meal the duo has had in months and a slice of PUMPKIN PIE (???) is an odd announcement, but congratulations we think? After Maria volunteers to take Ellie to shower and change, the brothers meet up over a premium whiskey – really, what is this place?! — and things quickly turn sour. Joel is furious that Tommy intentionally stopped responding on the radio and chose to protect this place rather than let his only remaining family member know that he is alive and well. Tommy is upset that Joel can’t be happy for him, especially when he breaks the news that Maria is pregnant. One brother is stuck in the past, the other is trying to run away from it. It’s nobody’s fault, but it feels particularly unfair for Joel, who lost Tess and suffered so much only to find someone who didn’t want to be found. As much as Tommy loves his brother, Joel is a constant reminder of all the horrible shit he had to do to survive. He’s the embodiment of Tommy’s regret, wearing a familiar face and biting his heels, trying to get him to acknowledge a part of himself he’s been fighting since leaving Boston. It’s sad to see both men blow each other up instead of confronting their feelings of inadequacy and guilt — but we can’t say it’s surprising.
As Joel goes through a full-blown family crisis, Ellie enjoys the comforts that girls her age took for granted before the outbreak. She had a hot shower. She had a haircut. She traded in an aubergine parka. She was given a free Diva mug. She’s experiencing what we call “luxury” for the first time… and she’s unsure how it makes her feel. Maria’s attempts to connect with her and instill some wisdom in her relationship with Joel are met with some defensiveness and the girl’s characteristic sneer. It’s clear that Tommy’s wife doesn’t see her brother-in-law in the best light, but Ellie stands up for her traveling companion and rightly counters that whatever terrible things Joel did, Tommy was by his side to do it too . Maria leaves Ellie with some prescient advice, telling the child, “The only people who can betray us are those we trust.”
She thinks Joel will do Ellie wrong, and she’s right. The more he cares about Ellie, the worse his panic attacks get. He hasn’t really processed the death of his daughter and that trauma is starting to grow through the cracks like emotionally invasive mushrooms, leading him to self-destruct in ways that hurt those he cares about most. He tells Tommy the girl’s secret and asks him to take her to the Fireflies in his place because he can no longer be trusted to protect her. Ellie overhears their conversation and immediately concludes that Joel is trying to let her down. Still crossing wires and not addressing each other’s shortcomings, it all escalates into a heartbreaking argument that turns nasty when Ellie brings Sarah up and reassures Joel that she is not his daughter and that he will never be her father becomes.
Wow, even after the apocalypse, breakups are tough.
Again on the street
Though Tommy has agreed to lead Ellie to the fireflies if the couple leaves, Joel is waiting with a saddled horse that he’s been trying to talk himself into stealing all night. His reluctance to leave Ellie is sweet, and when given a choice, she quickly decides that Joel is the better caretaker, despite his crippling anxiety attacks. The two head to the university to meet Marlene’s group, joking with each other and ignoring last night’s tension, but when they arrive on campus, they encounter an empty base. Things only get worse as they search for signs of life – apart from the escaped monkeys roaming the grounds – and find that the group has been apprehended and headed south. On the way out, the two encounter some scavengers and one jumps on Joel. They are able to escape on horseback, but Joel is badly injured and the rapid loss of blood causes him to fall off his horse when Ellie begs him to wake up.
That’s how the episode ends — and we’re all wondering if The last of us is about to pull a three episode Ned Stark in its first season. (We’re not irrationally concerned, you are!)
chances of survival
Tommy (4 to 1 odds)
Tommy’s a carpenter and that’s gotten him into some tough spots in the past, but he had one hell of a stroke of luck when he stumbled upon this communist utopia — even if the C-word hurts him. Stop questioning your political theories and be thankful that your wife took pity on you and gave you access to hot water, you idiot.
Maria (8 to 1 odds)
Maria has gone from former district attorney to elected councilor for a 300-person commune that, Ellie marvels, is “actually fucking working” in the midst of a mushroom apocalypse. Maria will be fine.
Ellie (9 to 2 odds)
Ellie has terrible accuracy as well as a common skill when it comes to her survival skills this season. She made it through a horde of walkers in Kansas City, shot a guy to protect Joel, stayed awake during her watch and covered the pair in gunfire while they escaped from some amateur villains. She’s doing pretty well for a girl who doesn’t know how dams work.
Joel (2 to 1)
Do we think this show will kill Pedro Pascal before the finale? No. Are we sure? Absolutely not. Joel has reconciled with his brother, he’s finally accepted his feelings for Ellie and he’s doing the right thing for once in his life – of course, that would be the most tragic time for his death. We ask the showrunners not to take that bait.
https://uproxx.com/tv/the-last-of-us-episode-6-recap/ ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 6 Synopsis: ‘Kin’