‘The Last of Us’ Episode 6: Kin

HBO’s The Last of Us has officially been introduced to the world and its sixth episode, “Kin” has arrived. Here is a breakdown of what was seen in the episode and how it may impact the season going forward. Please be advised that this may contain spoilers for both The Last of Us series and video game.

Following the credits, the episode opens with a brief of what transpired in the previous episode; Henry realizing what he had done to protect Ellie from his brother and kills himself. Personally, I do not know if the episode should have opened with that painful reminder given the bleakness that permeates every moment in each episode so far but the story moves forward three months as Joel and Ellie have found themselves in a snowy, wilderness landscape. This is a slight deviation from the game as following the deaths of Henry and Sam, the duo are in the fall season but the passage of time is slightly unclear during the events of the game and the show manages to provide some clarity and reinforce the vast journey the two have undertaken. 

We do not see Joel and Ellie right away but instead meet two new, original characters for the show, Marlon and Florence, portrayed by Graham Greene and Elaine Miles respectively. Marlon has returned to their remote cabin with the days hunting bounty in tow in the form of dead rabbits. The white color of the rabbits is another nod to Ellie’s solo portion of the game where she has to fend for herself. Following Florence’s tip that they are not alone, Joel mildly interrogates them to find where they are on the map and asks them if they have heard or seen Tommy in the area. It is here that they provide the duo with a chilling warning, that anything west of the nearby river is a dangerous area that holds something far scarier than infected. There are scenes of dead bodies left at the border of this area and rumors of people who wind up mutilated after journeying into this area but this does not deter them as they leave the cabin to continue looking for Tommy. Following their departure, we see another addition that was not originally in the game, Joel’s anxiety and fear have begun to take hold in him. In the game, Joel is very much the tough guy who does not open up about his feelings and just handles the situation presented before him. Adding even more emotional complexity to an already emotionally complex character provides a welcome change that the game just could not achieve.

Joel and Ellie believe they have found the “River of Death” but before they can continue on, they are ambushed by a group of mounted people on horseback. They want to move on quickly but before they can bring them back to their community, they bring out a dog that is capable of sniffing out cordyceps in people which causes Joel’s anxiety to spike again but this encounter is comically ended by Ellie enjoying her interaction with the dog. They are quickly taken back to the town of Jackson that is protected by a large wooden fence and armed guards. Fans of the game series will recognize Jackson as the safe haven of the second entry and where it feels like home for Joel and Ellie but as they journey down main street, Joel quickly recognizes his brother and the two warmly embrace like they have not seen each other in years. After not seeing Tommy since the first episode and the only bit of backstory provided by Joel, Tommy has seemed to adjust quickly to civilian life as he is seen hoisting new construction supports for a building on main street but there is a melancholy to this meeting. Tommy offers Joel and Ellie a meal in Jackson’s town hall and we are then introduced to one of the people who accosted them outside of town, Maria played by Rutina Wesley. This meeting is tense to say the least as the residents regard Joel and Ellie with an odd curiosity that even features Ellie telling off one of the more curious ones. There is some speculation that this individual is a main character from the second game, Dina who becomes Ellie’s girlfriend during the events of that story. The creators have not refuted these rumors just yet but it is also likely that the role of Dina has not yet been cast for the show’s second season and will not be known for some time. Joel is hoping for a more private meeting but Tommy reveals that he is married to Maria at which Ellie is more overjoyed than Joel seems to be in the moment and has to coerced into providing well wishes to the married couple. Joel and Tommy move to a more quiet part of town and while he does not tell his little brother every detail about his journey including Tess’s death, their relationship has shifted considerably in their separation. Joel reminds Tommy that they did horrible things together in order to stay alive and Joel does not carry the regret and shame of those things, Tommy clearly does and seems to have moved on from Sarah’s death by revealing that he and Maria are expecting a child together. This is another departure from the game as the two characters are slightly older and do not seem to be able to have children. 

After this tense meeting where Joel seems resolved to move on from Jackson immediately, he encounters a woman who bears a striking resemblance to his daughter and causes his anxiety to spike. The loss of a child is unfathomable and Joel’s growing paternal feelings towards Ellie are causing him to feel terrified about the possibility of failing someone he is supposed to protect once again. The episode moves away from Joel for a little bit to show Ellie and Maria getting in some quality time. The generosity of this community is a welcome change from the hostile landscape they have encountered over the past several months and Maria notices that Ellie is in need of a haircut and it is Ellie’s turn for a tense conversation. Ellie noticed a sign in Maria’s living room that listed two children’s names, Sarah and a young boy named Kevin who also seems to have died in the early days of the outbreak but when Ellie offers her condolences about their deaths, Maria corrects Ellie by letting her know that Sarah was Joel’s daughter. It is a moment that sucks all of the air out of the conversation as Joel has not made one mention about his daughter or revealed much about his past other than what he did to survive but when Maria tries to warn Ellie about Joel and his past, Ellie quickly reminds her that Tommy did those same things so is not is real position to judge him. The feelings are growing on both sides for Ellie and Joel but she is more open about them and is more willing to form a connection to the grizzled survivor. 

As Joel is preparing to leave Jackson, Tommy finds him repairing his shoes and offers him a fresh pair and tells him to tell the entire story of how they arrived in Jackson. As Joel recounts everything; Ellie’s immunity, Tess’s death, Bill and Frank’s death and the events in Kansas City, Pedro Pascal delivers the monologue of his career. As he begins to explain why he cannot finish this job, his eyes well up with tears as the events of the last 20 years are finally breaking him down. The pain on his face is evident; Sarah’s death, losing countless friends over the years, having to murder innocent people just to survive in an unforgiving world and finally, forming a connection with someone who reminds him so much of his dead daughter, it has become a burden he is not willing to bear. This conversation goes much differently in the game but to be honest, this is how it should have played out; with all of Joel’s vulnerabilities laid out for his brother to witness and Tommy, in an act of brotherly love, offers to bring Ellie to where the Fireflies are heard to be stationed in the area; the University of Eastern Colorado.

Unbeknownst to Joel, Ellie was eavesdropping on this conversation and when he goes to tell her of the new plan, she confronts him about his feelings and his daughter with the simple phrase “I’m not her” and while he does not know how she found out, he knows precisely what she is saying. This is a moment that lives rent free in the heads of many fans of the game as Joel flat out refuses to speak about this but when Ellie tries to sympathize with him, he immediately rebuts that by saying “You have no idea what loss is” but she recounts that she is terrified of being alone because she has been alone for her whole life; her mother abandoned her, she has likely lost countless friends and has suffered loss during this journey no matter she does to help. Joel is not willing to console her and they both retire to their rooms for the evening but Joel cannot help but think of his daughter and possibly have a change in heart.

Tommy arrives early the next morning to collect Ellie and take her to Colorado but Joel is in the Jackson stables preparing a horse and when presented with a choice of Joel or Tommy to take her, she chooses Joel without hesitation and they depart for the university. The two continue to connect on their journey with Joel recounting how politics worked in the old world, how people “loved” contractors back in the day and even how football worked. As they arrive at the University of Eastern Colorado, a lot of attention has been paid to not only the feel of the campus but also the experiences. This section of the game was heavy on exploration and combat as Joel has to navigate the abandoned halls by himself but they do encounter a group of monkeys that were used for experimentation at one point and as they arrive at the Science Building, they find out that all of the Fireflies have migrated to St. Mary’s Hospital at Salt Lake City in Utah but as they find this out, they notice a group of armed men entering the building and they discreetly make their exit. As they are leaving, Joel has a brief fistfight in which he brutally kills his attacker but finds himself stabbed in the abdomen. They still have to make a quick escape but when Ellie believes them to be safe from the attackers, Joel collapses and falls off the horse. The episode closes with Ellie attempting to wake Joel up and not knowing what to do next as she grows more uncertain and more fearful of a possible future without Joel. The next episode will certainly be based on the events of the downloadable content, Left Behind and will explore the events leading up to Ellie’s infection; how life in the orphanage and how Riley wanted to see her friend one last time before joining the Fireflies.

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