The Last Of Us – Episode 06 – Kin Review
*It’s rare that we at Player 2 cover anything that isn’t in the video game realm, but with it’s roots firmly in gaming, and the prestigious talent involved in it, HBO’s adaptation of The Last Of Us is an incredibly fascinating project. So join us, each week as we dissect the newly released episode, from the series’ first to its last.*
The Last Of Us has so far been driven by some pretty powerful character narratives, each of which run perpendicular to the core plot vehicle of finding the Fireflies, but with each passing episode we get a wonderful look at some fascinating characters, from Bill and Frank, to Henry and Sam that act as a mirror to look at Joel, Ellie and the changes in their relationship that form. With Episode 06 – Kin, The Last Of Us pivots back towards Joel and Ellie’s driving motivators of finding Tommy and the Fireflies as Winter takes hold through the remains of the United States.
Months have passed since we last saw Joel and Ellie, but we find them interrogating an elderly couple who have holed themselves up in a fairly safe hiding space. Joel has questions about both Tommy and the Fireflies, and while the couple have nothing to share, they issue Joel with a stern warning as they intend to continue their journey West – the threat on the other side of the river is extreme and that they will not survive should they journey in that direction. Nonetheless, Joel and Ellie push on, but stop short of the river for the night. Joel and Ellie both slide into their normal roles, Joel focussed on the job as he tapes up his boots, Ellie fascinated by the night-sky and all that is going on with it. Ellie, completely fascinated by the world and all it offers turns to Joel and asks what he would have liked to do, if he could do anything, as is a little surprised when Joel speaks of his want to be a sheep farmer. It makes a little more sense to her though when Joel cites the lack of noise and their ability to do what they’re told. Ellie however, in a connection made to the events of The Last Of Us Part II, discusses her love of space, and how she wished that she could explore it. It serves as a wonderful touch for fans of the games who know what transpires in the sequel. After a brief conversation about how Ellie had tried to save Sam with her blood, Ellie goes to sleep for the night while Joel stays on watch.
The next morning begins with Joel having dozed off on the job and Ellie having assumed the role on the guns while he sleeps, Ellie highlighting for both Joel and the viewer all that she has learned in her time so far. From here the pair set off towards a bridge that leads over the “River of Death”, but there seems to be no sign of any nearby threats. Conversation breaks out as Ellie tries to learn how to whistle, and also asks Joel to teach her how to hunt. They happen upon another bridge and wonder if this was in-fact the dangerous path that the elderly couple alluded to, but they have little time to think further on it as they quickly find themselves surrounded by a number of armed on horseback. The tension ratchets up as they bring out a dog who is capable of sniffing out infection, Ellie’s previous bites creating pause for concern, but they dodge that threat and are taken to the safety of the township of Jackson, where Joel is reunited with his brother Tommy.
A large portion of the episode from this point becomes about Joel and Tommy reigniting their relationship, catching up on what has transpired along the way. The town of Jackson has given Tommy a lot, from safety, to love in the form of Maria (Rutina Wesley). Jackson has been wonderfully realised with several locations from The Last of Us Part II all wonderfully recreated, off-handed comments are made connecting the running of the township to Communism as Maria and Tommy explain how the town works, but it works for those who live there, and Joel cannot argue with the fact that their way of living has helped all residents to thrive.
As Joel and Tommy get some time together, Tommy questions Joel about Tess and Ellie, Joel lying about Tess’ death and his reason for bringing Ellie with him, but pitches Tommy on accompanying him to Colorado to track down a Firefly encampment that would help him achieve his objective. Tommy reveals to Joel that Maria is a few months pregnant, and as such he cannot accompany Joel and Ellie, which angers Joel who leaves, and then has a flare-up of a chest concern that we see plaguing him a handful of times throughout the episode. Meanwhile, we cut to Maria and Ellie, who get to have some girl time, Maria giving Ellie the opportunity to indulge in some things that she has either rarely, or never been able to experience, from a hot shower to a movie. In a brief moment of serious conversation, Maria stresses the importance of placing trust in others wisely, her intentions behind the comment, are not especially clear.
Joel and Tommy get another opportunity to talk, following the prior heated conversation where this time, Joel lets his guard down with his brother, explaining Ellie’s immunity, and the reason that they’re trying to find the Fireflies, Tess’ death, and more. We learn that Joel’s chest issues are a result of what he believes to be purely a fear-related response and that the weight he is bearing is getting too great. Tommy agrees to take Ellie off Joe’s hands in the morning.
Joel returns to find Ellie reading a girl’s journal, mystified by the stress that their petty dramas would cause anyone prior to the world ending. She then reveals that she overheard Joel’s conversation with Tommy, and conflict emerges between the two, Ellie furious as Joel’s perceived giving up. A near 1:1 recreation of Ellie discussing Sarah and her own feeling of abandonment takes palace, highlighting the myriad of ways that Joel has changed Ellie’s life and been an important force for good despite the challenges they’ve faced. Joel, having been trying to suppress the pain of Sarah’s death begins to have flashes of Sarah as a result.
Tommy keeps to his word and is ready to take Ellie the next morning, however the conversation the night prior has recalibrated Joel and he’s ready to journey out once again. Tommy gives them access to a horse, and embraces Joel, as they leave Jackson to find the Fireflies in Colorado. Along the way, Ellie gets an all-important lesson on shooting a rifle.
The journey leads Joel and Ellie to a university, with the conversation between Joel and Ellie remaining quite warm as they discover a Firefly symbol on a wall. Things are looking good until the pair happen upon a guard station that is unmanned, they dismount from their horse and head inside cautiously to investigate. The former science labs of the university play tricks on Joel and Ellie as monkeys roam the location, but their noise leads them to a map that points to Salt Lake City. The Fireflies have abandoned the scene but as Joel and Ellie quickly learn, raiders have settled in. Joel and Ellie make a stealthy escape, but just as they’re about to mount their horse and leave, they’re spotted by a raider who attacks. Joel manages to kill him, but in doing so is stabbed in the stomach. They both manage to get on the horse and flee, however shortly after Joel falls from the horse, too gripped by pain to keep upright. The episode ends with Ellie in tears as Joel seemingly bleeds out.
Kin is an interesting episode of The Last Of Us because it straddles a line of exposition, world-building, and still the moments of combat that we’ve seen in episodes prior. The landing isn’t stuck quite as well as we’ve seen in prior episodes, with it feeling like more could be done in Jackson to flesh out how and why Tommy arrived in Jackson in the first place, with further time perhaps being needed to flesh out the relationship between Joel, Ellie, Tommy and Maria as well. Overall though, Kin serves as another incredible episode of The Last Of Us, one that positions the game in a great place to surge towards some of the game’s next enormous action and emotional beats.
The Last of Us is available to stream now on BINGE, with new episodes every Monday. This episode was reviewed with early access kindly provided by BINGE.