Written by Craig Mazin and directed by Jasmila Žbanić, The Last of Us – Episode 6 – “Kin” forces Joel and Ellie to imagine a world after the infection has been cured. However, Joel begins to understand his own mortality, causing him to question his strength as a provider. Meanwhile, Ellie demands more from their relationship. She learns more about his past and his loss but cannot imagine a world without Joel’s help. “Kin” deepens their relationship and puts them on a road they may not return from.
The Recap – The Last of Us – Episode 6 – “Kin”
The opening of the episode relives Henry’s suicide. We watch him nervously clutching a pistol after shooting Sam. Joel tried to talk him down, but he turns the gun on himself.
Three months later, a man wanders up to a log cabin from the snow. He carries a bow and several rabbits with him. The indigenous man opens the door and sees a woman sitting stiffly in a chair. The man, named Marlon (Graham Greene), puts down his bow and begins to take off his jacket. Joel emerges from around the corner, telling him to also take his gun out of his pants. Marlon does what Joel asks and takes a seat. He also jabs at Florence (Elaine Miles), the woman who made Joel soup (“it’s cold outside). Joel asks where his brother is, but the man does not know. Florence reveals that Ellie is upstairs, and she hurries down with her own gun.
Joel and Ellie are lost and ask where they’ve found themselves. They’ve already heard from Marlon’s partner, they need him to confirm. He does willingly but still has no idea about Tommy’s location. They warn Joel and Ellie to turn back east because what’s west of the river is too dangerous.
Outside the house, Joel struggles and needs to hold himself up against the fence. Ellie asks Joel if he’s okay, and he pretends it’s just the cold air. They grab a rabbit on their way out and walk up to the river. They take shelter for the night with a small fire and watch the aurora borealis.
Ellie asks Joel what happens at the end of all of this. He just wants to live life on a farm. Ellie muses about a life where she could have been an astronaut. She worries that her blood might not do the job and save people. She confesses she knew about Sam and that she tried to save him. Joel comforts her, reminding Ellie that Marlene was no idiot and he thinks it will work out.
Joel wakes up after saying he’ll take both watches. Ellie stands over Joel, letting him know she woke up early and took the second watch. He still pushes her, saying that he’s responsible for her. They approach a frozen bridge after shooting off a few warning shots. When no infected emerge, they cross over “the river of death.” They approach a dam, and Ellie wonders if this was the actual “river of death” and not the bridge they passed earlier.
As she does, a posse rides out on horses. They circle Joel and Ellie, demanding Joel drops the gun. He asks to just let them pass through, but the leader keeps his gun up. A dog emerges from the crowd and begins sniffing Joel and Ellie. It can tell if they are infected. It seems like the dog is ready to growl at Ellie, but it eventually just licks her. Joel lets the leader know he’s just looking for his brother, and another rider demands to know their names. When he tells them, Joel and Ellie are brought to a walled-off settlement. When they walk in, they see Tommy (Gabriel Luna) working. Joel and Tommy embrace.
Ellie and Joel sit and eat inside with Tommy and Maria (Rutina Wesley). Ellie shows her brashness when others appear to stare at them. Joel asks for a moment alone with “family,” and Tommy reveals he married Maria. A stunned Joel says congratulations after Ellie’s prompting. Maria gives them a tour of the settlement and explains how the commune works. Maria takes Ellie to where they’ll be staying while Tommy and Joel grab a drink.
Tommy asks about Tess and what the deal is with Ellie. Joel tells Tommy that Ellie is the daughter of a high-up Firefly and he needs to take her the rest of the way. Tommy tells Joel the route is dangerous, and they begin to fight about Tommy’s lack of communication. Tommy pushes back about the life they lived. He’s finally found peace and is going to be a father. He does not want to endanger his future.
After being upset that Joel does not congratulate him on the news, Tommy yells at Joel. “Just because life stopped for you does not mean it had to stop for me.” Joel tells Tommy they’ll be gone in the morning. He steps outside, clutching at his heart again. He looks up and sees a girl that looks like Sarah.
Ellie comes out of the shower and learns how to use a moon cup. She snickers, dresses, and walks across the street to Maria’s house. Maria walks in with a new jacket, and they laugh about the “gift.” Maria asks questions about what Ellie knows about Joel. She reveals her son Kevin died, as well as Joel’s daughter. While there’s some tension, the two keep their secrets. Maria takes Ellie to the movies, where the town is watching The Goodbye Girl.
In a shop, Joel tries to fix his boots. Tommy comes in, bringing brand-new boots for his brother. He apologizes for being angry earlier and admits it’s complicated. Joel asks if taking Ellie to the University is a mistake. He tells Tommy the truth about Ellie and that she’s immune.
Tommy begins to get nervous and struggles with the news. He makes Joel tell him the whole story. He does while revealing he’s afraid for the first time in years. Joel admits he’s suffering from panic attacks and suffering from PTSD. He does not believe he can help Ellie and begs Tommy to do it for him. Tommy agrees that he’ll take her out at dawn.
Back at the movie, Maria watches The Goodbye Girl, until Tommy begins to avoid her. She knows something is wrong. Joel walks into the house with Ellie, who is reading a book from before the infection. Ellie furiously yells at Joel for ditching her and sticking him with Tommy. She brings up Sarah, and Joel turns cold. Ellie tells Joel that everyone she’s ever cared for is dead or left her. She admits that Joel is the only one who ever cared for her and that she’ll be scared with anyone else. Joel lets her know it’s time to head their separate ways. In the night, Joel begins to think about Sarah again.
The following day, Ellie is packed and ready to leave. Tommy picks her up, and they head to the stables. Joel waits for them and has been there for more than thirty minutes. He tells Ellie that she can choose between the brothers, and she instantly picks Joel. He jumps on horseback, and they leave Jackson.
On the road, Joel teaches Ellie how to shoot. He tells her about his life before the infection, as well as his job as a contractor. Their trip to the University takes only five days, and they reach the Colorado college, where Tommy thought the Fireflies were located. On the signage, they see Firefly graffiti. However, there are no guards.
They find a packing list and hear clanging upstairs. They slowly walk through the corridors looking for signs of life. Monkeys from the labs escape through the windows and explore the room. A board with pins and a map indicates the Fireflies left for Salt Lake City.
Before they can escape, raiders appear outside. Joel and Ellie try to escape, but one stabs Joel with a shank. Ellie gets Joel on horseback and shoots wildly to get the raiders to back off. However, after they’ve escaped, Joel falls off the horse, dropping because he’s lost so much blood. Ellie attempts to wake up Joel, begging him to get up because she cannot do this alone. The episode ends with Joel passed out in the snow.
The Last of Us – Episode 6 – “Kin” Breakdown
“Kin” revolves around Ellie and Joel, and despite losing the three months after “Endure and Survive” we know their relationship has only grown. Mazin wisely pushes through some of the dialogue, even if there’s little reason for Ellie to tell Joel that’s stood watch before (he would of course know that). Still, it’s nice shorthand to get us over a good chunk of time.
The use of the excellent Graham Greene and Elaine Miles was a fun little surprise. Both indigenous actors deliver consistently excellent work. Getting to spend even 5 minutes with them helps build out the world while also setting up the stakes for the trip West. While Joel and Ellie are ultimately safe, it does push us to question whether or not they can get out of another jam.
The cinematography from Eben Bolter is stunning in “Kin.” Just off the top our heads, three shots are already among the best in the series run. A nice one that stands out is watching Ellie walking through the snowfall. The light shining off the horizon while they’re on horseback toward the end is also brilliant. Yet the campfire sequences are better than ever. The shot (used as the featured visual on this article) is simply breathtakingly framed. Bolter also captures a lot of non-verbal performances from Pascal, Ramsey, Luna, and Wesley.
Speaking of which, Luna and Wesley deliver some excellent work. There’s a chance we end up back in Jackson in future seasons, partly because of their great performances. It does feel like Luna is forced into reaction mode a lot, but Wesley gets to showcase her talent. Not only does she make for an intimidating outlaw, but her demeanor changes depending on her scene. She shifts from motherly to concerned wife and even to jokester. It’s easily the most emotionally diverse role in the episode, and she communicates so much with her expression and body language it would be a shame to miss out on more of her in the future.
The choice to roll with The Goodbye Girl certainly has its parallels. While a borderline romance, it is the relationship between Richard Dreyfus (in an Oscar-winning role) and his roommate’s young daughter that clicks the story into place. He leaves and returns on several occasions but always returns to Paula and her daughter. The choice is a little messy (after all, Dreyfus’ character is in a relationship with the mother), but the sentiment is the same. When you find your people, you can never leave them, regardless of the opportunities available.
The final sequence is heart-wrenching, and Ramsey has really come into her own. She can certainly carry the emotional burden of the series, and given the preview for next week’s episode, it seems likely she’ll be doing it again in Episode 7. This also means we may have to wait on seeing how Joel is going to survive this. There’s no way he’s going out like that. Given the breadcrumbs from Ellie about everyone she’s ever cared for leaving, this could be a tough one on the horizon.