Week after week, HBO has stunned and amazed with The Last of Us. Every episode has been exceptional in its storytelling, adapting the beloved video game rather faithfully while also expanding on some stories and characters to better enrich 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 žbanić teamed up to bring another personal story to The Last of Us series. ‘Kin’ serves as a slight reprieve from the intensity of Joel’s (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie’s (Bella Ramsey) time in Kansas City. Instead, the duo embarks on the final leg to find Joel’s brother Tommy in Wyoming, which could prove to be the most dangerous stretch of the journey so far. Continue on 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 shifting to Joel and Ellie on their journey to find Tommy. The duo holds up an older couple for directions, however, the couple seems unfazed by their guns. Joel and Ellie get the information they want but discover the journey to Tommy is going to be tedious and potentially dangerous.
They continue their journey on foot in the snow and cold, although neither seems to be bothered by it in the slightest. Perhaps I’m projecting my own hatred for the snow and cold onto Joel and Ellie, but their lack of being bothered by it seems odd. This part of their trek lasts for about fifteen or so minutes, which is at least a day if not more within the series. That’s a lot of walking, but it provides a ton of time for Joel and Ellie to continue to bond. Being forced together under extreme circumstances doesn’t always make the best connections, but these two have found a bond regardless.
Within a day or so of walking, Joel and Ellie are found by a group of individuals on horseback, who are skeptical of these two mysterious individuals. Both pass their test for infection, which is a trained dog sniffing them. Joel at first appears concerned with Ellie’s status with the dog, having been bitten before. However, Ellie passes with flying colors and the two are whisked off to a fortified town where Joel is reunited with Tommy (Gabriel Luna).
Brothers reunited in The Last of Us episode 6
Joel and Tommy are happy to be reunited, though the latter seems confused as to why Joel came all this way. Sitting down for a warm cooked meal, Tommy discloses that he’s married to Maria (Rutina Wesley) – one of the leaders of the town and an individual who found Joel and Ellie out in the wild.
Maria and Ellie split off from the group, giving the two brothers some time to catch up. The joy that Joel and Tommy expressed initially at finding each other fades quickly, once they’re by themselves. Joel becomes guarded, especially when asked about Tess, whom he lies about. He indicates is still alive.
He asks for information about a Firefly base, which Tommy says is in Colorado, a trip Joel is keen for Tommy to join him on. When Tommy refuses, due to the fact his wife is pregnant, Joel becomes annoyed and storms off. However, during his storming off, Joel grabs at his chest a second time, having done so earlier in the episode in front of Ellie. To me, it seems like anxiety or a panic attack, although Ellie interpreted it as a heart attack.
A turning point for Joel and Ellie
Ellie gets her own form of a bonding experience with Maria, which initially made Ellie uncomfortable. Maria’s mothering style kicks in, as she provides Ellie with a new coat, a diva cup, and a fresh haircut. During the haircut though, Ellie discovers something she wasn’t expecting. Joel had a daughter, a life that the audience glimpsed in the premiere episode.
Tommy comes back to Joel later, where the topic of conversation comes back to Joel’s true mission with Ellie. A truth that shocks Tommy to his core. The brothers get real about the situation, although it transitions from Ellie’s immunity to the infected to Joel’s fears and anxieties. Joel is afraid of failing, afraid of not being able to save Ellie, which seems like new territory for our hero.
Hearing the pleas in Joel’s voice and realizing the severity of the situation, Tommy agrees to take Ellie to Colorado. Joel returns to the place he and Ellie are staying at to tell her the news but is confronted by an angry Ellie. She overheard the conversation between Tommy and Joel, causing her to feel abandoned by Joel, an issue stemming from losing everyone she’s ever had in her life. Lashing out at Joel, she snaps that she isn’t Joel’s daughter, causing Joel to get angry once again and storm off.
The final stretch of the journey
The next morning, Ellie and Tommy make their way to the stables and stumble upon Joel hitching up a horse. Joel indicates that he was planning on stealing one and going off by himself, however, something stopped him. He still believes that Ellie’s best chance is with Tommy, but states that if she wants him instead, he’ll finish his mission. An offer that Ellie jumps at.
The trip to Colorado on horseback takes about five days with little to no excitement. Once they reach their destination, Joel and Ellie discover that the firefly base is barren. With the exception of his lab monkeys that have gotten loose. A map in the hideout points to the base of operation moving to Salt Lake City, presumably their next destination.
With not much time to process this information, some noises outside inform Joel and Ellie that they are not alone. The group walking around looks like trouble, and indeed trouble finds our antagonists. A fight ensues between Joel and a baddie holding a bat. Joel gains an upper hand, killing the guy. But in the middle of the scuffle, Joel is stabbed by the broken end of the bat.
The episode ends with a bleeding and unconscious Joel laying in the snow, while a terrified Ellie kneels over his body.
Additional 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 this episode down. 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 the help of Tommy, which was important for the storyline of this season. However, at the core of “Kin” was the relationship between Tommy and Joel as well as Joel and Ellie.
The purpose was to give a deeper understanding of Joel, in reflection on his relationship with his brother, as well as his relationship with his daughter and now Ellie. This is what makes the series exceptional compared to so many others I’ve watched, the desire to make almost every character in the show well-rounded with a properly developed background. This allows for a greater emotional connection and empathy for these characters.
Even though this episode slowed down a bit, it doesn’t mean there wasn’t an intensity present. The intensity came from the conversations between our characters, especially the argument between Joel and Ellie on the night before their journey. My heart broke for Ellie, who even though she speaks like a crass adult, is still a child.
When she mentions having lost or been abandoned by everyone in her life, with Joel just another disappointing adult. This conversation shows how much growth Ellie has done since meeting Joel. She was open and vulnerable, which she wasn’t when this series began. This is mirrored in her final lines of the episode. Both Pascal and Ramsey shined in this episode, mostly because of this scene alone.
I feel like I say this with every episode, but with how exceptional I found this episode to be, I don’t have anything negative to say. I can understand how some individuals may not care for the reprieve from the action that we received in this episode, but it worked for me.
If a show has one action-packed episode after another, it can become overwhelming. Instead, spending time developing 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 from The Last of Us so far and I cannot wait to see where this season goes in the last few episodes.
The Last of Us episodes 1 – 6 are available on HBO and HBO Max, with new episodes arriving weekly. What did you think about this episode? Let us know on Twitter and our Discord channel. And if you haven’t already, check out our review from episode 5 of The Last of Us.