HBO’s The Last Of Us Season One, Episode Six Review – After last Friday’s episode ended off on a traumatic and tragic note with Henry and Sam, episode six has the difficult task of following that up.
But that’s been the case for almost each new episode in this show, seemingly having to follow up what was previously an incredibly executed 60 minutes (more or less) of television.
Episode six, to its credit then does follow up episode five brilliantly. Not with more action-packed, high-intensity moments. But quiet, highly emotional moments where we see Joel’s walls finally come down.
In short, episode six, Kin, is yet another example of just how amazing both Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey are in these roles.
HBO’s The Last Of Us Season One, Episode Six Review – The Walls Come Down
You Age Faster In The Apocalypse
I have to imagine that the stress of surviving in the apocalypse ages you faster. At least I have to imagine that because in just three months time since Joel and Ellie left Henry and Sam, Joel looks to have aged years.
Tommy even calls it out later in the episode. But first, a personal gripe. What happened to the cold opens? The first two episodes had excellent cold opens, which took chances to expand our knowledge of the world of The Last Of Us.
But they’ve been absent since, and I’d really like to see one again before the end of the season.
That gripe aside, episode six begins with a grim reminder of how last Friday’s ended. Then it thankfully switches to something much lighter, as Joel and Ellie get some soup and information from an old couple who’ve been living in a small cabin not all that far away from Jackson, Wyoming.
Their banter and just the fact that it’s nice to run into some humans who don’t initially try to kill each other. Though Joel takes his own precautions, of course.
It also felt like the rabbits gathered were more than a bit of a reference to the kind of hunting Ellie has to do on her own in the game.
Once Joel and Ellie are on their way however, Joel has a panic attack of sorts that freaks out Ellie, foreshadowing the episode’s conclusion.
From the moment Ellie reminded Joel, “If you’re dead I’m f*****,” I had a strong feeling as to where the episode would end, even more so when Ellie takes the morning watch and lets Joel sleep.
Anyone who’s played the game would likely have guessed the same. Which began to illuminate a problem I was beginning to have with the episode.
As a big, big fan of the games, I’m absolutely loving how this series is making The Last Of Us come alive in new ways, and I’m getting excited about what’s to come in Season 2, especially now having seen Craig Mazin’s approach for six episodes.
Season 2 will follow Part II just as this season is following Part I, so it’s exciting to think of what’s to come, and how it’ll be done. That’s how I felt when Joel and Ellie began talking about space, and Ellie started talking about her favourite astronaut, Sally Ride.
Joel creates such a special memory for Ellie that players get to experience in Part II, and while enjoying watching more time with Ellie and Joel where they bond even further, I found myself fondly thinking on how this series might adapt that museum memory.
But that’s also where I began to wonder about how this show was continuing to adapt the game. In every episode, there have been moments where the lines or action even is almost exactly how it happens in the game.
There are even more scenes that come to the same conclusion they would in the game, but play out slightly differently. Maria’s discovery of Joel and Ellie with the rest of a patrol from Jackson is a perfect example of that.
It did however provide a confusing moment of tension with a dog, who was absolutely never going to harm Ellie. It felt like a poor attempt at putting the audience on the edge of their feet, and while it made sense within the context of the world, it more or less felt cheap.
I started questioning things further here, because it was another time something has been re-translated from the game to the show that didn’t work.
Kathleen and her freed Kansas City fighters didn’t do the trick in episode’s four and five. Neither does this fake-out with a Jackson patrol, or the “river of death” threat Joel and Ellie hear at the beginning of the episode.
I guess my objection began to be, what’s the point here? This series has shown great potential in being able to expand on the world of The Last Of Us, to create things that are wonderful additives, not subtractions.
Worse, however, has been the seemingly mediocre level of how the most recent episodes have tried to carry on the excellent work done in the first three episodes.
Each of those episodes, with three doing the most, expands the world of The Last Of Us beyond what we knew in the game, in a meaningful, and interesting way. One that lets in new fans, and old fans in a new way, into the world.
Four, five, and now six, have all failed more than they succeeded to do the same.
As I already said, I’m excited to see how some moments from the game are executed in the show. The tease with Dina in Jackson felt like an especially cool little nod. But that excitement comes from a fan who holds a lot of nostalgia for this series.
If part of the opportunity here with the show is to be able to expand on the world, we’ve not had enough of it consistently so far.
A worrisome thought when we’re getting near the end of the season, and there’s plenty of big moments still needing to happen. If episode’s seven through nine continue to follow the first game in a similar way that episodes four to six have, then I’m sure the rest it’ll be just fine television.
But it’ll feel like a wasted opportunity, and show a downward trend in the creativity poured into the show across the season.
Tommy And Joel
Sincerely, I think Jeffery Pierce is an excellent actor, and his portrayal of Tommy is also excellent, particularly in Part II. However, with just as much sincerity, I have to say that I think Gabriel Luna’s Tommy is a much better version of the character.
It just always felt that it takes until Part II for Pierce’s Tommy to be a more complex and dimensional character. Luna’s Tommy on the other hand, already feels there, and as a result is already leagues more interesting.
Making Tommy and Joel’s reunion in this episode that much more heartfelt, and important than it feels in the game, because this time Joel was actively already looking for his brother, and hadn’t given up on seeing him again in the same way that Joel in the game has.
Joel’s much more obvious close-ness to Tommy here is what also makes the two core conversations they have in this episode that much more impactful. First, we see the argument.
Tommy and Joel don’t get to the same level of raised voices they do in the game, but rather cut deeper with words that make Joel storm out, not Tommy. Less a shouting match, and more what should be a jubilant talk about Tommy’s upcoming fatherhood turned sour when Joel is truly called out for his stagnant emotional state.
So when Tommy goes to find Joel and apologize, it sets the stage for what truly is the best scene in the episode, and the best showcase of Pedro Pascal’s talent as Joel so far.
Joel admits to Tommy that Ellie is immune, and begins to tell him the whole truth of his and Ellie’s situation, rather than lying like he tried to before. But much more than that, Joel admits to his brother that he is not the man he once was.
He reveals the deep fear he feels that can appear so intensely, he feels like his heart stops. Joel tells him about his nightmares, unclear in all other details save the fact that he feels like he’s “lost,” and that he’s “failed her.”
This scene was heartbreaking. It was also incredible to watch, as we really see Joel’s walls come down, we finally see what’s under the gruff and gritty shell held for so long in the games.
In fact, we don’t even get this kind of an emotional look into Joel until playing through Ellie’s memories in Part II, where we see him finally be honest with her. Before that he’s either angry and closed off or playful and slightly ajar.
It made me so happy to see, as a fan and as someone critiquing the show, to see Joel be so much more emotionally expanded, and really made to feel more human than anything else in this show.
It’s far too easy to forget that Joel isn’t actually just a killing machine after the tenth room full of hunters and clickers you’ve played through.
This is exactly the kind of expansion of the world of The Last Of Us that I griped about not seeing in the above section. What I said still stands, but Joel and Tommy remain the exceptions for episode six.
Ellie And Joel
Just like in the game, (though not really since the conversation being had in both cases was wildly different) Ellie overhears Tommy and Joel talking, and Joel asking Tommy to take Ellie the rest of the way to the Fireflies.
Unlike the game however, Ellie doesn’t run away, probably because running away would be an actually insane thing to do at this point, and also not likely easy to do, behind the secure walls of Jackson.
So her and Joel have their (second, in my opinion) most intense conversation we who know the game have all been waiting for.
Before that can happen though, this time we see the conversation where Ellie finds out about Joel’s daughter Sarah, from Tommy’s wife Maria.
Maria, now being played by Rutina Wesley, goes immediately to her maternal instincts with Ellie. She gets Ellie and Joel fed, gets Ellie fresh clothes, a diva cup, which is the second time so far the show has actually brought up realities that the games otherwise ignore.
She begins to take care of her, getting her what she needs, including time spent just being a kid by going to the movies. While cutting Ellie’s hair, a conversation about Tommy and Maria’s memorial for Maria’s lost son Kevin and Tommy’s lost niece, reveals to Ellie that Joel lost his daughter, and you can almost see the lightbulb go off in Ellie’s head.
Credit to Bella Ramsey for her acting there, continued through her line that it “explains a lot” about Joel. After the movies failed to keep Ellie’s attention, she wanders off, eavesdrops on Tommy and Joel, and returns to her new room, where her and Joel talk.
The conversation they have is not exactly the same from what’s in the game. There’s no initial shouting about Ellie having run away, but rather Ellie asking Joel why he hasn’t gone off in the night when no one was looking.
A subtle switch from the game’s conversation that sets off what’s coming. Joel and Ellie really hash it out, and then for a few lines the game and the show are once again identical.
This is such an important scene in the game, and I was happy to see it executed so well here. Again we see the show’s ability to take the game’s biggest emotional highs and adapt them perfectly.
One thing I am realizing about the show, despite my worries of it not being expansive enough for my tastes, is that it is really doing a much better job at the emotional storytelling than the game ever did, at least for me.
The morning after Ellie and Joel’s fight felt like a good example of this. In the game, Joel decides during a quiet horse ride back to Jackson that he’ll take Ellie the rest of the way, and while it still works, it always just felt like what was going to happen.
By that point in the game, I doubt any player was thinking they’d return to Jackson and play as Tommy for the rest of the game. There’s still a bit of that here, but much less because how we get to the point of Joel changing his mind is filled with much more thorough emotional storytelling.
As Joel and Ellie make their way, we get more quality “dad and daughter” time, as it were. Joel starts to teach Ellie how to shoot, he teaches her about football, about the job he used to have and the world before the outbreak.
Ellie continues to rag Joel about his lamenting to have a sheep farm when they get to the University and see the school’s old mascot. Go Big Horns.
I’m just constantly feeling so glad that Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal were casted. They are Ellie and Joel. No doubt about it. The relationship between Ellie and Joel in the game, outside of the gameplay, is the driving force that keeps players engaged.
It’s the same here, and every scene we get with just the two of them is a true joy.
After a monkey scare, it doesn’t take Ellie and Joel long to figure out the Fireflies are gone, and have moved on to Salt Lake City, and St. Mary’s Hospital.
Before they can move on though, Joel is stabbed in a fight with a raider, and though him and Ellie are able to get to their horse and ride away, he loses a lot of blood and falls off their horse.
I’m very interested to see just how Ellie takes care of Joel, and what we see of that time. In the game everything is quite rushed, because you skip a bunch of time where Joel is presumably resting, then Ellie gets kidnapped by David, and Joel just, feels better? After a little while longer?
Seeing a much more realistic take on those events in this show will be much more interesting to me.
It feels like we’ve made it to the last three episodes so quickly. There’s still plenty for the show to cover, and like I’ve said many times now, anyone who has played the game could likely see just how episode’s seven through nine will play out.
Before looking ahead though, while episode six, Kin, may have further pointed out to me an issue I’m having with the show, it would be tough not to put it up there with one of the series best episodes so far.
A feat achieved thanks to the incredible performances of Bella Ramsey, Pedro Pascal, Gabriel Luna and Rutina Wesley. Each of them were excellent, with a special shout out to Luna and Pascal.
If we keep getting performances like that, even if the rest of the show does what I fear, and fails to expand the world further, it’ll all still be more than entertaining to see.