TV Review: The Last of Us, Episode 6

By Matthew Moorcroft

Highest Recommendation

  • Directed by Jasmilla Zbanic
  • Starring Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Gabriel Luna, Rutina Wesley
  • TV-MA

Joel has always been a uniquely fascinating character to me. In the realm of mentor figures, he’s always been one of the few that the writers are not afraid to critique and deconstruct; his imperfections are brought forth as part of the main core thesis of his character. And yet, he still manages to be a likable, if a bit jaded, figure whose dedication to the people he loves is ultimately what grounds him.

Joel’s deconstruction is at the heart of Kin, which is yet another show stopper of an episode for the show which seems to be unable to put out anything less then a spectacular episode at the moment. As Joel deals with the death of Henry and Sam and his failure to protect yet another person, he is left with a choice of his own making – leave Ellie in Jackson where she can be safe, or keep her along where he is convinced that he will get her killed. On the surface, this seems like a rational choice, and one that makes sense if you look at it from a perspective of him caring. Leaving Ellie in Jackson would let her survive, and ultimately be the best decision for the both of them.

But people aren’t rational. They never have been, and Joel’s actions are anything but altruistic here. He’s far more interested in self-preservation, and he believes lugging Ellie around is just going to bring back more bad memories for him. It’s selfish and even a little cruel, and Ellie calling him out on this later in the episode is one of the finest moments in the show as well as in the game. But in a weird way, Joel’s actions also make him more likable in spite of his selfishness. It’s a humanizing moment for character of this stature that we normally don’t get in things like this and it makes the surrounding events all the more interesting and engaging.

Ellie is no slouch here either. If Joel is dealing with death in his own way (aka poorly), Ellie is dealing with it in her own way as well. Turns out she’s mostly numb to it, having lost countless numbers of people around her and seemingly unable to die herself due to her immunity. Bella Ramsey has always been amazing as Ellie but it’s really hitting me now just how damn good she really is in the role, able to translate the complicated emotions about a parental figure lying to you to screen while maintaining her strong, almost wholly sarcastic resolve. All of her scenes here highlight just how different she feels compared to everybody else in the village, and once she leaves it’s almost like she’s back in her element. She like the hunt, the thrill.

As for the rest of the supporting cast, Gabriel Luna returns in a meatier role then before and he has great chemistry as per expected with Pascal. Tommy is the kind of character who has a bigger role as time goes on and here it’s clear that set up in being placed in gradually. His breakdown scene with Joel is a highlight as well, and you really get to feel the rift that has grown between them without saying a whole lot about what happened off screen. Really great storytelling here on the part of writer Craig Mazin, who is consistently the best person to write this series and understands it at a core level.

Taking over directing duties this time around is Bosnian director Jasmilla Zbanic, who did the phenomenal war film Quo Vadis, Aida? and brings her delicate touch to this episode in particular. Her focus on the environment and the small details rather then the big picture make the intimate focus of the episode soar, and make it’s final moments all the more impactful. And yes, those final moments are a shocker to those who haven’t played the game, and leaves the viewer on a note of desperation and uncertainty.

With three episodes left in the season, it’s clear the show has no signs of slowing down when it comes to being a strong adaptation. The question now is whether or not it’s next episode, which is slated to be the long awaited adaptation of the Left Behind DLC, can live up to the potential and fully cement this as one of the greatest game adaptations of all time. Time will tell as per usual, but in my mind I think without question we all know the answer to that.

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