WARNING: Spoilers for The Last of Us Episode 6
Three months after the traumatizing events in the last episode, Joel and Ellie are nearly to their destination. Lost in the wilderness, they find themselves robbing an old couple for some information. The two actors in this scene (Graham Greene and Elaine Miles) did a phenomenal job pulling me into the episode right away with a comical but intense scene. It’s a glimpse into how far Joel and Ellie’s relationship has come since the beginning. The Stoney-Boomers give them some valuable information warning them not to cross the “river of death” because no one ever survives the people up there.
While Joel seems to hold himself together for the harmless robbery, he starts to have a panic attack, which begins triggering many more. Ellie's fear for Joel shows how she has come to care for him, but her out-loud realization that “if he dies she’s fucked” probably added to the panic attack if I'm being honest.
Joel and Ellie share a strong drink to ”warm up” and talk around a fire about what they would do if they could have "real" lives.
As meaningless as this scene may seem to some, it allows us once again to see how much their relationship has developed over the time jump in their adopted roles as father and daughter. They both seem to have a lot more trust in each other and display an openness that grows with each episode. Ellie shows a lot more responsibility by staying up all night to protect Joel as he sleeps. This mirrors how their journey started when Joel watched over Ellie all night, symbolizing that their roles as protector and protected are slowly switching as Joel reaches his limits.
Joel and Ellie reach the dam at the edge of the death river (semi-replicated from the game) and are greeted by horsed gunmen and a dog that sniffs out infected (which is just visually bad ass.) And all of this takes place in the snow adding to the excitement for me.
Even knowing Ellie has shown as infected on FEDRA’s test gun, Joel is powerless to the sniffing dog; paralyzed by another panic attack. After this moment he begins to contemplate whether he is capable of taking care of Ellie anymore. Luckily, the dog doesn’t find any scent on Ellie which further proves that she is not infected on the inside The gunmen then take Joel and Ellie back to their mountain basin fortress for an emotional reunion with Tommy.
Tommy is now part of a community that his new wife, Maria (Rutina Wesley), points out is technically a commune of communists. As a Texan, Joel doesn’t take too kindly to that idea and gives Tommy a comical “WTF” look. But this seems to be a very successful commune where Tommy is safe and happy. Children freely play in the streets, they have movie theaters, and anything else they could dream of in the worst times. It’s a funny comment on how most people don’t really understand what communism is anymore.
Afterwards, Joel and Tommy have a tension-filled fight over a glass of whiskey where Joel finds out that Tommy is going to be a father. During this exchange, we see a dark side of Joel. Pedro Pascal's performance is phenomenal. He uses the tone of his voice and his facial expressions more than his dialogue to show his contempt for his brother. Clearly anything fatherly is triggering for him. It even leads Joel to another panic attack.
When asked by Ellie, Maria spills the beans about Joel’s daughter Sarah. This opens the door for Ellie to understand Joel much further. Maria continues to press Ellie about Joel, expressing “the only ones who can betray us are the ones we trust”. Clearly she has an issue with Joel’s past and is worried for Ellie’s future. I thought Rutina Wesley’s performance was phenomenal and really gave off a caring and protective vibe. You can see she is a strong leader in their secret commune... even though she suggests they have no one leader.
Joel, finally realizing his own physical limits, begs Tommy to finish the quest for him in fear of getting Ellie killed. Despite the fact that he is going to be a father soon, Tommy agrees. But Ellie doesn’t. When Joel gives her the push-away speech, she speaks more honestly and angrily; leading to another powerful scene from both actors. I am continuously impressed with Bella Ramsey’s ability to keep up with Pedro Pascal’s acting in every scene.
After a night of nightmares about his daughter, Joel decides to treat Ellie like an adult and give her the option of who she wants to be her guide/guardian. She picks Joel with no hesitation. They then continue on their journey, bonding even more. Joel even finally teaches Ellie how to shoot a rifle.
These two actors continue to reek of genuine father/daughter chemistry on the screen.
When they arrive at their destination (the eerie University), it slowly becomes more obvious that the Fireflies are no longer where they had thought. The pair are greeted by raiders instead. During the scuffle Joel proves he’s still got it, but ultimately takes a gnarly stab from a wooden steak to the stomach. And just like that we are left with a huge cliffhanger as Bella Ramsey gives another great performance as she pleads for Joel to wake up.
Thank you Craig Mazin for the voluntary weekly torture you put us through.
Episode 6 started off with a bang and carried that momentum throughout. There were multiple Emmy worthy performances in this episode, but the writing was excellent as well. I am curious as to how they are planning to wrap up the events in the first game in only 3 remaining episodes, but I am excited for it.