Kin – The Last of Us, Episode Six
We’re back at it with season one episode six of HBO’s The Last of Us. Based on the thumbnail alone, this is the episode where Joel reunites with his baby brother Tommy. With their relationship so changed in the show as compared to the game, I wonder how this will play out. Only one way to find out. C’est parti!
We begin with a recap of the ending of the last episode. I didn’t really need the depression, HBO.
It’s now winter; and we open up on a cabin with someone returning from a hunt. Three rabbits. Nice. We’re introduced to two indigenous characters, which is really lovely to see, as I don’t recall any such representation in the game. Played by well known indigenous American actors, Graham Greene and Elaine Miles, this has got to be one of the best scenes in the whole show.
I adore the auntie, who not only welcomed the strange armed man and his strange armed child companion into her home while her husband was out hunting, but also, as her husband incredulously points out, made them soup (“it’s cold outside”), but she also clearly delights in Ellie. The dialogue here is brilliant, funny and just a delight to watch.
There is also a fantastic foreshadow of a later scene when Joel notes that “Your answer better be the same as your wife’s.” Those who know, know.
We also get, immediately following, the first signs of Joel’s mental state — the disorienting, numbing weight of a panic attack. We never see this in the game. Game Joel is colder, and has compartmentalized his trauma in a deeper, darker box.
The camping scene that follows in which Joel and Ellie chat, also not in the game, is quite sweet. It’s interesting to note that the farm Joel speaks of is more or less exactly where Ellie finds herself living in the second game. I also adore that Ellie reveals her love of space here. It is a large part of her character revealed in the second game.
It also underscores Ellie’s growing abilities, revealed when Joel falls asleep and she takes the watch. She’s tough, and it shows here.
Ellie learning how to whistle is straight out of the game. Like her joke book, it’s something she pulls out every time there is a significant lull in the action or player progress, and it put a smile on my face to see it in the show.
In the game, Joel and Ellie attempt to enter the hydro-electric dam and end up meeting Tommy. It plays out differently in the show. Here, Joel and Ellie are surrounded by a posse, complete with a sniffer dog. The dog is a new thing. There wasn’t a sniffer dog in the game. Just a camp dog that you can pat.
As it turns out, one of the group is Maria, whom we learn later in the game and the show is Tommy’s wife. That is how she recognized Joel and brought him to their town. In the game, Maria points a gun at Joel at the gate of the dam, and Tommy shows up to diffuse the situation.
The meeting between brothers is much chummier in the show than it is in the game; but they do a good show of exposing some of the tension between the brothers in the game. This is particularly exposed when Joel is made aware that Maria is Tommy’s wife.
[Side note: There are a lot of references to the second game this episode. I highly suspect the girl spying on Ellie and Joel in the mess hall was Dina. We meet her in the second game, and hopefully the second season. We also meet Shimmer. The less said about that the better. I’m still heartbroken.]
I am a little disappointed that the hostility between Joel and his brother was somewhat lessened. In the game, it was clear that Tommy was traumatized by his time with Joel (I believe his last words to his older brother were something along the lines of, “I never want to see your God-damned face again”). The argument packed a bigger emotional punch. Hell, Joel threw his brother against the wall and reminded him that, “You survived because of me.” To which Tommy heartbreakingly replies, “Wasn’t worth it.” We don’t get that in the show, and I do feel it is poorer for it.
The show bounces around a bit in a way the games did not here. We cut from Joel storming out of the bar away from Tommy in the show, and to Ellie. Happily, this means we get get more ‘women surviving the apocalypse’ with Maria gifting Ellie a menstrual cup. Ellie and Maria’s conversation is great here too. In the game, it happens off screen. I enjoy how ardently Ellie defends Joel in that conversation.
The conversation in show that follows Ellie and Maria between Joel and his brother — the conversation about Ellie being immune — happens during the afore-mentioned argument. I liked how they explained Joel’s fears here, and that there is some pay-off for making Joel less scary in the show than he is in the game. In the show, Joel asks Tommy to take Ellie because he’s terrified he’ll just get her killed. In the game, it felt much more like Joel was still trying to guard his heart; to spare himself the pain of connection by removing that which he is connected to… Ellie. And, very characteristically, I might add, selfishly foisting that responsibility and possibility of pain off onto his brother.
The scene that follows, where Ellie reveals she overheard Joel fostering her off on his brother, is nearly word for word the same in the show as it is in the game, at least for Ellie, though where, and under what circumstances, the conversation happens is quite different. We didn’t need Ellie stealing a horse and running away like she did in the game. This works just as well.
The decision that keeps Joel with Ellie for the last of the journey is quite different in the game as well. While both are great, we do miss out on the fantastic bit of dialogue Joel offers to Tommy that happens in-game at this junction. I tried to find a gif, but I could not. Instead, have this heartwarming one instead:
What follows are some great scenes where we see Joel finally let himself bond with Ellie; teaching her how to shoot (which harkens back to earlier in the game during the escape from Pittsburg [Kansas City in the show]), reminiscing about life before the collapse of society, trying to teach the rules of American Football, revealing Joel wanted to be a singer. It’s all very adorable.
I also very much appreciate how closely the university in the show resembled the same set piece in the game. I do feel, though, that there was a missed opportunity to make the escape from the university hospital much more tense (more sneaking would be great). As it was, it all felt rather… rushed.
Also, the manner in which Joel is injured feels so much more brutal in the game. I imagine it was done to make it more realistic, really. I mean… there is no way anyone would survive what happened in game. In the show, he’s much less superhuman… though surviving this at all will make him superhuman enough. He’s one tough old codger.
We end the episode as the game chapter ends; Joel dying on the ground in the middle of nowhere with just Ellie and a horse to watch on. I wish I could have watched this episode with someone who had not played the game. I’d love to watch them just for the reactions.
All in all, a fantastic episode… as can be expected at this point. I liked how they explained the changes they made to Joel’s character here. I trusted there would be a pay off/reason and there was. While, personally, I still miss the terrifying violence of game-Joel, what they’ve done with show-Joel makes perfect sense and, had I not had the gaming experience, I think I’d have loved it all the more.
I am anxious for next episode, however, as I’m worried we’ll meet David* and David, in the game, was so triggering my stomach literally rolled while playing. I had to take some serious decompression time after playing that particular story.
[*Future Sonia here. We do not, in fact, meet David next episode. Thank goodness. We do, however, meet him in episode eight. Gross.]
See you here for the next episode!
Articles in this series:
When You’re Lost in the Darkness: The Last of Us, Episode One
Infected: The Last of Us, Episode Two
Long, Long Time: The Last of Us, Episode Three
Please Hold My Hand: The Last of Us, Episode Four
Endure and Survive: The Last of Us, Episode Five
Kin: The Last of Us, Episode Six
When S.M. Carrière isn’t brutally killing your favourite characters, she spends her time teaching martial arts, live streaming video games, occasionally teaching at the University of Ottawa, and cuddling her cat. In other words, she spends her time teaching others to kill, streaming her digital kills, teaching about historical death, and cuddling a furry murderer. Her latest novels are Skylark, Daughters of Britain, and Human.
Show Joel looks much like someone suffering from PTSD, with his “freezing” under fire reactions, so transferring Ellie to Tommy makes a lot of sense in the show’s terms. And in some ways, I think it also makes him bad-ass, as PTSD needs some serious T to trigger all that S. Seeing him work through it by bonding with Ellie does provide a lot of emotional pay-off for watching the show.
Though I may quibble that Show Joel is also clearly super-human, as surviving his wound, in those surroundings, is pretty miraculous, to put it mildly. I mean, infection, anyone? Even with a round of antibiotics.
I agree! Though there are aspects of the game Joel that I miss quite a bit. Also, show Joel is superhuman… but not as superhuman as game Joel, who probably had tetanus on top of a punctured torso.