The Spool / Recap
A family reunion brings more than expected on a fraught The Last of Us
Joel and Ellie make their way to Jackson, but can’t outride their pasts as Joel struggles to find his footing.
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Joel and Ellie make their way to Jackson, but can’t outride their pasts as Joel struggles to find his footing.

I hope everyone brought their emotions this week because The Last of Us’s sixth episode, “Kin,” is here to toy with all of them.

Three months after Sam and Henry’s deaths, a man (Marlon, played by Graham Greene) enters his cabin to find his wife Florence (Elaine Miles) held at gunpoint by Joel (Pedro Pascal). Marlon isn’t too impressed by Joel, particularly when Ellie (Bella Ramsey) comes barrelling down from upstairs against Joel’s wishes. “Who’s this little psycho?” Marlon asks. Hey, that’s our little psycho. 

Joel needs Marlon’s help figuring out where he and Ellie are. It seems they’ve gone off track. Marlon and Florence warn Joel and Ellie not to cross a nearby river. Sometimes they find bodies–human and Infected alike. All Florence and Marlon know is whoever’s killing them lives across the river.  

Last of Us Kin (HBO)
Graham Greene welcomes you to this recap. (HBO)

Overcome with the new information, Joel has a panic attack but brushes it aside. He and Ellie camp out in a cave overnight. Ellie asks Joel what he’ll do with his life if the vaccine works. He’ll raise sheep, he tells her. They’re quiet and do what they’re told. Ellie speaks exuberantly about her dream of becoming an astronaut but quiets down as she asks Joel if he really thinks the vaccine will work. She tells him about her attempt to heal Sam with her blood, but Joel assures her that Marlene knows what she’s talking about. She wouldn’t have sent them on a fool’s errand. Joel falls asleep despite taking both watches. He wakes from a nightmare to find Ellie keeping watch instead. She’s pretty peppy about it, but falling asleep makes Joel angry at himself.  

They cross the river and approach a dam (Ellie: “Dam!”), and before Ellie can even ask how hydroelectric power works, Joel cuts her off to say he hasn’t a clue. They come upon another river which Ellie worries is the one Marlon warned them about. 

Then a cluster of armed people on horseback crest a nearby hill. They have a dog with them that can smell Infection. Joel passes the test but starts to panic again when the dog approaches Ellie. It’s a false alarm, however, as the dog loves Ellie and vice versa. Finally, Joel explains that he’s looking for his brother. A woman (Maria, played by Rutina Wesley) comes forward to ask his name.  

Last of Us Season 1 Episode 6 (HBO)
Ok, look…what if Rutina Wesley, Gabriel Luna, Pedro Pascal, and Bella Ramsey just, you know…stayed here. (HBO)

They all ride back to Jackson, now a walled fort with a guarded gate. The normal, even picturesque town inside stuns Joel and Ellie. Joel sees Tommy (Gabriel Luna) working on a building and yells his name. The brothers embrace in the street while Ellie stays on her horse, just the slightest bit jealous and hurt to see Joel so emotionally demonstrative with someone else. Maria and Tommy take Joel and Ellie to get some food Ellie calls “fucking amazing,” much to Joel’s chagrin. She also barks an angry “What?!” at another teenager peeking at them from behind a pillar, drawing a “What is wrong with you?” from a frustrated Joel. Dad problems! 

Joel asks Maria if he and Tommy could maybe get some family time. Oops, turns out Maria is Tommy’s wife. It’s clear that Maria knows about the past actions that Joel and Tommy are trying to make up for, and she’s no fan of Joel. Maria notes that one of the ways that they keep Jackson safe is by avoiding the radio. Tommy and Joel exchange glances as Joel realizes Tommy was fine and simply stopped calling. Ellie is eager for a house to stay in, but Joel is rather defensive. He thinks they have been doing fine all on their own.  

Ellie and Maria head over to the house while Joel and Tommy go to the local bar for a drink. Joel explains Ellie away as an important Firefly’s daughter, and Tommy tells him that the Fireflies have a base at the University of Eastern Colorado, about a week’s trip away. He warns Joel that the ride between Jackson and the University is completely messed up with Raiders and Infected. Joel assumes that Tommy will be joining them, but Tommy refuses. Tommy stops Joel getting nasty about Maria’s “control” of his brother by explaining the woman is pregnant. Joel stomps outside after saying he and Ellie will leave in the morning. He has another panic attack and briefly mistakes a local for an adult Sarah.  

Whenever this show mentions menstruation and its difficulties in a post-apocalyptic world, an angel gets its wings.

Ellie takes a shower and emerges to find that Maria has left her a pile of clean clothes and a Diva Cup. Whenever this show mentions menstruation and its difficulties in a post-apocalyptic world, an angel gets its wings. Ellie heads to Maria’s house and stops to look at a little memorial board on the mantel, with birth and death dates for Kevin and Sarah. Maria bustles in and sits Ellie down to trim her hair. When Ellie offers condolences for the deaths of Maria’s kids, Maria tells her that Kevin was her son, but Sarah was Joel’s daughter. Ellie freezes, her eyes widening just a touch. Bella Ramsey’s facial expressions are next level in this episode. 

Maria realizes too late that she shouldn’t have mentioned it. Ellie defends Joel when Maria brings up his past, and Maria decides to drop the subject. Instead, she takes Ellie to the movies. It’s a full house of Jackson kids and adults watching The Goodbye Girl, a film about a girl learning to deal with a new father figure. Speaking of such girls, Ellie is uncomfortable in the crowd. She looks around to see Tommy heading out the door.  

Tommy is on his way to give Joel a new pair of boots. He delivers them to the storefront where Joel’s trying (and failing) to repair his current boots. Joel tells Tommy about Ellie’s immunity. Tommy asks for the whole story. Ellie wanders down the main street, looking for Joel. Uh-oh, I sure hope she doesn’t overhear anything that she might potentially misconstrue! Back in the store, Joel explains that taking Ellie to the Fireflies was Tess’ dying wish. But he knows he’s not capable of taking care of her. He talks about Ellie having to shoot Bryan back in Kansas City and his recurrent nightmares and panic attacks. Finally, Joel says Tommy has to take Ellie to Colorado because he’s too weak. Tommy agrees to do it. 

Last of Us Season 1 Episode 6 (HBO)
Gabriel Luna and Pedro Pascal take the time to bend their elbows a bit. (HBO)

Bella Ramsey has been doing superb work in this episode, but Pedro Pascal deserves the same kind of praise. He’s playing a man falling apart at the seams. He sees everything from Sam and Henry’s deaths to his falling asleep on watch as a personal and moral failing. Tess died. They lost their supplies in Kansas City. All of it stretches back to Sarah’s death. In his mind, it all sits on his shoulders. For Joel, he’s not abandoning Ellie so much as saving her.  

Joel heads to the house and finds a none-too-pleased Ellie, who assumed he had already left her. Ellie points out that she’s lost people too. While Joel might think it’d be safer for her to go with Tommy, she knows she’ll be more without Joel. Joel holds fast, saying they’re splitting up at dawn. He retreats to his room, sitting and thinking of Sarah before turning out the light.

Tommy comes for Ellie the next morning. The pair go to the stables, where they find Joel fussing around with a saddle. He tells Ellie it’s her choice. She immediately cuts him off, handing him a bag and saying, “Let’s go.” And so off to the University they ride. Joel gives Ellie a little history lesson as they ride, including that he used to be a contractor. “Everyone loved contractors,” he declares. Okay, Joel. 

“Kin,” written by Craig Mazin and directed by Jasmila Žbanić, demonstrates once again the level of worldbuilding and storytelling in The Last of Us.

They make it to the campus without encountering any of the issues Tommy warned them of, never a good sign on this show. Instead of Fireflies, they find a pack of escaped lab monkeys and some abandoned guard stations. Inside, the place seems deserted, although they can hear metal clanging upstairs. The noise turns out to be still more monkeys. Still, the trip upward isn’t a waste as the two also find a map that suggests the Fireflies moved their operation to Salt Lake City.  

Soon, voices alert them to the arrival of four Raiders. Ellie and Joel make it back to their horse before one of the Raiders attacks. Joel easily dispatches the man, but a horrified Ellie points out the broken end of a baseball bat stabbed into his skin. He pulls the wood out of the wound. Joel, I don’t think you’re supposed to do that! 

They escape the Raiders. After a while, a relieved Ellie concludes they’re no longer being followed. As she does so, though, a pale and silent Joel falls off the horse. Ellie tries to stop his bleeding, begging Joel through her tears to wake up. He doesn’t. 

Last of Us Season 1 Episode 6 (HBO)
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey appreciate quite the view. (HBO)

“Kin,” written by Craig Mazin and directed by Jasmila Žbanić, demonstrates once again the level of worldbuilding and storytelling in The Last of Us. We’re introduced to new characters, reunited with old ones, shown a whole new community that feels real and lived in (if the slightest bit too idyllic), and get hit with the possibility of losing one of the mains all in one hour. Yet, not a bit of it feels rushed. Both Joel and Ellie lost some of their walls this week. Despite themselves, they’ve made a little found family. There was no point in fighting it, you two! 

Joel’s potentially fatal injury is a chilling cliffhanger. While it’s likely he still has a bit of plot armor left on him, how will Ellie help him? What can you do about a stab wound when you don’t even have bandages? I guess we have to wait and see.  

Last of Us Kin (HBO)
Elaine Miles gets it. (HBO)

Airborne Spores:

  • Can Ellie have a gun? She absolutely can. Thank goodness for it. 
  • When Tommy happily explains Jackson’s community nature, Joel remarks that it sounds like communism. Tommy quickly denies it, but Maria points out that’s precisely what this is. They live in a commune. They’re communists. Tommy needs a reset after that. 
  • We demand a spin-off about Marlon and Florence immediately. 
  • Marlon asks Florence why she didn’t shoot Joel. “The gun was all the way over there.” I feel that, Florence.  
  • This week’s closing music was a cover of “Never Let Me Down Again” by Jessica Mazin.