The Last Of Us – Season 1, Episode 6: Kin


For anyone somehow still unaware, The Last Of Us isn’t just a show about fungus laced zombies and grotty looking humans looking fatigued and miserable; it’s also a show that takes unflinching looks about how humanity reacts in such extreme conditions. Every episode so far has featured an example of the diverse effects the apocalypse can bring, from the moving touching relationship of Bill and Frank to the various shades of grey highlighted by the grudge between Kathleen and Henry, the show has shown us hope and dunked us headfirst into the darkness and the newest episode is obviously no different.
However, after the harrowing ending of Henry and Sam’s tragic end, it’s time for some positivity to once again rear its head in the form of a community in Jackson, Wyoming that may finally spell the end of Joel and Ellie’s journey – but before we let our guard down, there’s still deeper issues that run under the surface…


Four months after their run-in with Henry and Sam ended in death and suicide, Joel and Ellie trudge through the snow as they pick their way through Wyoming in order to find Joel’s brother, Tommy. After stopping by the cabin of a reclusive old couple and getting the information they need as they hold them at benevolent gunpoint, they prepare to head on despite the warnings that anyone who crosses the river into town usually ends up dead.
However, upon arriving and being surrounded by gunweilding people on horseback, they are led into Jackson, a settlement where this little pocket of mankind has still managed to retain a semblance of civility thanks to the fact that they still have electricity and working plumbing. It’s here that Joel, finally, reunites with his brother only to find that instead of being the full-throttle idealist he remembers, Tommy has settled down and even is expecting a child with his wife, Maria and the mood soon sours between the two as opinions and memories about the things they once did to survive are all churned up again.
However, Joel has good reason to be upset due to the fact that he was hoping Tommy could take the headstrong Ellie off his hands as he’s started suffering crippling panic attacks that he fears will effect his protection of the foul-mouthed girl in his care.
Of course, Ellie is none too pleased to discover this and manages to piece parts of Joel’s unspoken past back together once she finally finds out that Joel had a daughter who was killed during the original breakout of the Cordycep epidemic and after having it out with her adopted father figure, Joel reluctantly agrees to carry on to find the resistance group known as the Fireflies, but potential tragedy, as always, waits round the corner.


While we get another hope inducing look at another dollop of civilisation thriving in this dystopian landscape, the main focus of Kin isn’t the outside world, but instead the one within as it seems that the harrowing events of Henry and Sam’s infection/murder/suicide has triggered something within Joel that causing him to suffer debilitating panic attacks. While the script it too mature enough not to spell it out, it seems that the normally monosyllabic smuggler has, against his better judgement, let his teenage companion get past his spikey, inner defences and it’s triggered latent memories of his dead, parental instinct. A slower reaction time thanks to the unavoidable strain of aging has caused him to believe that he can no longer protect his smart-mouthed ward, thus leading to him freezing up at the worst possible times. It’s been a long time coming, but Joel’s rigid fascia of stoney calm is finally starting to crumble. Not helping his mental state much is his long awaited reunion with his brother, which only stirs up memories of the murderous acts he and Tommy had to perform in order to survive, something that stings even more when Joel finds out his brother has not only settled down, but is married with a child on the way.
It’s an interesting juxtaposition to the relative serenity that the town of Jackson offers as it goes on about its business almost (almost, mind) like the world hasn’t collapsed into a hellish state. I really don’t want to keep comparing The Walking Dead unfavourably to The Last Of Us, but I guess its unavoidable at this point as it tackles similar themes, subjects and scenarios in a way that’s far more moving and effecting – plus they’ve actually gotten round to showing that the weather actually changes (snow!) in a fraction of the time.


It’s another deep breath episode, not unlike Please Hold My Hand, that continues to enrich the relationship between the two leads and Ellie finally finding our about Sarah is seismic in shifting the balance between them. Ever her stoic protector, when offered the chance to be handed off onto the younger and less grizzled Tommy in order to complete her journey to find the Fireflies (which now means a jaunt to Colorado), Ellie doesn’t even pause, angry that she even has to be asked.
It’s a good job too, especially considering that once again, their journey teeters on disaster once they find the Firefly camp in a Colorado college emptier that your stomach feels once the episode ends with Joel seriously injured after a brush with bandits. It’s high time that Ellie is tested and will no doubt be an aspect of the next episode (I’ve never played the game, so I’m in the dark, here) and it’ll be a true test of how beneficial Joel’s (admittedly grouchy) influence has been as she’s forced to fend for both of them.
While some may add that the episode is a tad predictable (anyone who thinks that a character played by Pedro Pascal is actually going to abandon his young charge clearly hasn’t watched The Mandalorian), the sheer weight of the drama is undeniable and the shift in climate gives the usually dark surroundings a vibrant brightness as the pure snow seeming hints at Jackson being almost a heaven on earth with the local movie house even showing 1970’s Richard Dreyfuss rom com The Goodbye Girl. It’s not far off, as the episode almost has the feel of a sweetly benign neo-Western and an earlier scene with Joel and Ellie getting information out of the old, reclusive couple is actually played for grim laughs.


Of course, this can only mean one thing: if we’re getting this much light with only three more episode to go, things are probably about to get mightily fucking dark and it’s a testament to how well this episode is put together that we dread the thought of venturing back into the blackness.


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