Since watching the first episode of The Last of Us we’ve been patiently waiting for Tommy to make his return and episode 6 ‘Kin’ gave us that and more.
Finally, Joel and Ellie have come to Jackson. And while time stayed still for Joel and Ellie as they traveled for months avoiding one bad situation after another, in Jackson, the time has indeed moved forward for Tommy and the people of the small thriving community.
I love that The Last of Us, through all its bleakness and turmoil, shows us that a peaceful QZ-like establishment can be created. Here you have a community that is thriving, well protected, and gives everyone an equal opportunity for shelter, food, and order while not being suffocating and corrupt. It seems like they’ve found a way to give everyone work and peace and also a semblance of a “normal” life, or as normal as can be achieved in such a world.
I love the location and the beautiful scenery and cinematography that went into ‘Kin’. There were lots of deliberate moments of pause throughout the episode to just take in either the backdrop of the snow or a focus on certain mundane, everyday things like Jackson’s giant wooden and steel doors or character moments such as Joel’s panic attacks. It was refreshing to get away from the more infected and hostile places that we’ve joined our duo on throughout this season, and I think it really does the episode justice to break up all that doom and gloom that has been pervasive thus far.
While we get Diego Luna’s return as Tommy, we also get to meet Maria (Rutina Wesley) as his wife who, surprise, is also carrying their baby. Tommy seems to have really found solace in Jackson and a way to make up for the regretful things he has done while with Joel and Tess. He sought redemption and found it, all the while building a life he’s proud of.
Joel and Tommy’s reunion was touching but very quickly sours as Joel, stuck in his ways, tries to uproot Tommy with another of his “missions” only to be rejected. The two brothers, who were thick as thieves in episode one, have chosen two completely different paths. It’s also very clear to Tommy that his brother is still unable to let go of the loss of his daughter. Joel himself almost feels resentful that his brother got the stable life that he should’ve had.
Joel is changing. A man once hardened by the years of hardship and survival is now coming to grips with his own mortality, his own failings, and that he is actually caring for Ellie and losing her would be unbearable. ‘Kin’ really puts an emphasis on Joel’s gripping panic attacks where his heart physically hurts, his fear leaving him nearly paralyzed alongside his grief. It’s visceral and heartbreaking to finally see him opening up to his brother that he feels so afraid, so helpless, and so weak to protect Ellie. Up until this point, we have never seen Joel so emotionally vulnerable.
There’s a scene where Joel tells Ellie that they are going to go their separate ways. And Ellie, having already overheard his conversation, opens up as well. She has experienced loss too. Joel belittles her experiences in that they can’t compare to losing a daughter. Only for her to throw it in his face that he is going to abandon her just like all the people in her life before. And let me tell you, it stung to watch the co-leads clash in hurt and anger. It felt like every word was a weighted dagger digging into the other. Where Joel is her strength and her protector, Ellie is a living symbol of the failure to protect his daughter, and it both weakens and terrifies him.
Come dawn, I was livid up until Joel allowed Ellie to make a choice, and without a second thought, she chose Joel to be her protector. Honestly, it solidified the unseverable bond that they now have. Come better or worse, Joel and Ellie are bound together, and I couldn’t imagine a more perfect and accurate way for such an exchange to be written. It both served the two characters justice and narratively delivered organic development for a human relationship that was so at odds with one another.
We have three more episodes to go this season, and yet we have another Firefly location that, for whatever reason, has been ransacked and abandoned. And to top it off, it looks as though Joel is mortally wounded.
Such a cliffhanger ending is making me nervous. But as the next episode seems to be a flashback episode to offer a look into Ellie’s life, we might have to wait to find out Joel’s fate.
Author: Micah Carrillo
Micah is studying English and Digital Design. His love of geek culture spans across diverse mediums and genres. Comics, anime, films, you name it! He enjoys video games on the Nintendo Switch and Xbox.
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