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Review: Episode 6 of ‘The Last of Us’

Week after week, HBO stunned and amazed The Last of Us. Each episode has been outstanding in its storytelling, rather faithfully adapting the beloved video game while also expanding on some stories and characters to better flesh out the overall experience. Does The Last of Us episode 6 continue the pattern?

After the heaviness of the last episode, “Endure and Survive,” writer/showrunner Craig Mazin and director Jasmila žbanic teamed up to bring another personal story to The Last of Us series. “Kin” serves as a slight respite from Joel’s intensity (Peter Pascal) and Ellie’s (Bella Ramsey) now in Kansas City. Instead, the duo take the final leg to find Joel’s brother Tommy in Wyoming, which could prove to be the most perilous leg of the journey yet. Continue for a full breakdown of The Last of Us episode 6 “Kin”.

[Warning: Spoilers from The Last of Us episode 6 are below]

A cold day in hell

Our journey begins with a quick flashback to the final moments of “Endure and Survive” before transitioning to Joel and Ellie on their journey to find Tommy. The duo ask an elderly couple for directions, however, the pair seem unfazed by their guns. Joel and Ellie get the information they want but find that the journey to Tommy will be boring and potentially dangerous.

They continue their journey on foot in the snow and cold, although neither of them seems to be bothered in the least. Maybe I’m projecting my hatred of snow and cold onto Joel and Ellie, but their lack of annoyance feels odd. This part of their journey takes about fifteen minutes, which is at least a day if not more within the series. It’s a lot of walking, but it provides plenty of time for Joel and Ellie to continue bonding. Being forced together under extreme circumstances doesn’t always make for the best connections, but these two have found a bond regardless.

After about a day of walking, Joel and Ellie are found by a group of individuals on horseback, who are skeptical of these two mysterious individuals. Both pass the test for infection, which is a trained dog sniffing them. Joel at first seems concerned about Ellie’s state with the dog, having been bitten before her. However, Ellie passes with flying colors and the two are taken to a walled city where Joel is reunited with Tommy (Gabriel Luna).

Brothers gathered in The Last of Us episode 6

Joel and Tommy are happy to be reunited, even though Tommy seems confused as to why Joel has come this far. Sitting down for a hot cooked meal, Tommy reveals he is married to Maria (Rutina Wesley) – one of the town’s leaders and an individual who found Joel and Ellie on the loose.

Maria and Ellie separated from the group, giving the brothers some time to recover. The joy Joel and Tommy initially expressed at being reunited quickly fades once they are alone. Joel becomes guarded, especially when asked about Tess, which he lies about. He indicates that he is still alive.

He inquires about a Firefly base, which Tommy claims is in Colorado, a trip where Joel wishes Tommy would join him. When Tommy refuses, because his wife is pregnant, Joel gets angry and storms off. However, during his rampage, Joel grabs his chest a second time, having done so earlier in the episode in front of Ellie. Sounds like anxiety or a panic attack to me, even though Ellie interpreted it as a heart attack.

A turning point for Joel and Ellie

Ellie gets her own form of bonding experience with Maria, which initially made her uncomfortable. Maria’s motherly style takes over, as she provides Ellie with a new coat, diva cup, and a new haircut. During the haircut, however, Ellie discovers something that she did not expect. Joel had a daughter, a life that audiences got a glimpse of in the first episode.

Tommy returns to Joel later where the topic of conversation returns to Joel’s real mission with Ellie. A truth that upsets Tommy to the core. The brothers take the situation seriously, even if it goes from Ellie’s immunity to the infected to Joel’s fears and anxieties. Joel is afraid of failing, afraid of failing to save Ellie, which feels like new territory for our hero.

Hearing the pleading in Joel’s voice and realizing the gravity of the situation, Tommy agrees to take Ellie to Colorado. Joel returns to his and Ellie’s location to tell her the news, but is confronted with an angry Ellie. She overheard Tommy and Joel’s conversation, making her feel abandoned by Joel, a problem that comes from losing everyone she’s had of her in her life. She lashing out at Joel, she says she is not Joel’s daughter, angering Joel once again and she storms off.

The last leg of the journey

The next morning, Ellie and Tommy head to the stables and come across Joel harnessing a horse. Joel indicates that he was planning to steal one and go off on his own, however, something stopped him. He still believes Ellie’s best chance is with Tommy, but he claims that if she does, he will finish his mission. An offer that Ellie jumps at.

The Colorado horseback trip takes about five days with little to no excitement. Upon reaching their destination, Joel and Ellie discover that the fireflies’ base is barren. With the exception of his lab monkeys who broke free. A map in the hideout indicates the base of operations moving to Salt Lake City, presumably their next destination.

Not having much time to process this information, some outside noise informs Joel and Ellie that they are not alone. The group going around looks like trouble, and indeed trouble finds our antagonists. A fight ensues between Joel and a villain wielding a bat. Joel takes over, killing the boy. But in the midst of the scuffle, Joel is stabbed by the broken end of the mace.

The episode ends with a bloody and unconscious Joel lying in the snow, while a terrified Ellie kneels over his body.

Further thoughts on The Last of Us episode 6 – “Kin”

With the intensity of the last episode, I think it was a brilliant choice to slow down this episode. This episode was similar to episode three “Long, Long Time” in that it was more person-centered than adventure-driven. Yes, this episode served both purposes, Joel and Ellie needed Tommy’s help, which was important to the storyline of this season. However, central to “Kin” was the relationship between Tommy and Joel, as well as between Joel and Ellie.

The purpose was to give a deeper understanding of Joel, reflecting on his relationship with his brother, as well as his relationship with his daughter and now Ellie. That’s what makes the series stand out from so many others I’ve seen, the desire to make almost every character in the show well-rounded with a well-developed background. This allows for more emotional connection and empathy for these characters.

While this episode slowed down a bit, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t an intensity present. The intensity came from the conversations between our characters, especially the discussion between Joel and Ellie the night before their trip. My heart broke for Ellie, who even though she speaks like a crude adult, she’s still a child.

When she mentions losing or being abandoned by everyone in her life, with Joel just another disappointing adult. This conversation shows how much Ellie has grown since she met Joel. She was open and vulnerable, which she wasn’t at the beginning of this series. This is reflected in his final lines of the episode. Both Easter AND Ramsey shone in this episode, mainly because of this scene alone.

I feel like I say that in every episode, but with how great I found this episode, I have nothing negative to say. I can understand how some people might not care about the reprieve from the action we received in this episode, but it worked for me.

If a show has one action-packed episode after another, it can get overwhelming. Instead, taking the time to develop the characters instead allows for a mental break from the action and builds the emotional connection that will bring people back for more season after season. “Kin” is definitely one of the best episodes of The Last of Us so far and can’t wait to see where this season goes in the last few episodes.

The Last of Us Episodes 1 through 6 are available on HBO and HBO Max, with new episodes arriving weekly. What do you think of this episode? Let us know about Chirping and our Discord channel. And if you haven’t already, check out our episode 5 review of The Last of Us.

Review: The Last of Us Episode 5 – “Resist and survive”

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