In what has felt like an insufferably long three extra days wait for its next episode, HBO’s The Last Of Us made sure to reward its viewers with a swift stab in the gut for their patience and loyalty with its sixth weekly installment.
“Kin” offers viewers some much needed respite from the break-neck pace of its preceding episode, by facilitating an abundance of heartfelt conversations between its fantastic cast of characters. This splendid chapter is nearly flawless in fulfilling its intended purpose, thanks to a first-rate script and nuanced performances that permeate the entire piece.
With only a third of the way to go, the sixth episode of the post-apocalyptic series carries on from the traumatic finale of its fifth. A few months have passed since Henry and Sam, with the onset of winter transforming the dystopian landscape from an overgrown green to an overgrown white. Joel and Ellie make their way across state borders into Wyoming, still in search of Joel’s brother, Tommy.
It has become evident that the pair's relationship has progressed beyond what has been shown on-screen. Ramsey's dynamism continues to captivate, as she effortlessly communicates intense emotions, alternating with well-timed quips and cleverly disguised questions. While Joel has become more amenable to answering Ellie's inquiries, he still resists opening himself up entirely.
Pascal hones his craft with military-grade precision, demonstrating restraint on his emotions to bring out the absolute most from his character. Joel carries the insurmountable burdens of his past, which have gradually started to manifest physically with age.
We are being made privy to a side of Joel that was seldom explored in the game, with Pascal bringing new life to the character in ways that those familiar with the game could never have imagined.
Having been besieged at the supposed “river of death” by a posse of horseback riders, Joel is left frozen and helpless, only to find Ellie befriending the intimidating sniffer-dog within seconds. After being escorted towards the virtually paradisiacal municipality of Jackson, the brothers unite at long last, in a hearty warm embrace.
Jackson itself is a sight to behold, meticulously replicated from its counterpart in The Last of Us Part 2, exemplifying top-notch set design. A few pivotal emotional sequences in the narrative take place within this settlement engendering a more profound connection to this location for future seasons.
It’s interesting to note this switch in setting, as compared to the hydroelectric dam establishment in the game. In very many ways, the dam serves as a metaphor for Joel’s emotions as he struggles to keep the floodgates close. Ellie’s impeccably-timed pun seems pretty appropriate considering.
As Tommy and his new wife Maria give them a tour of the establishment, Ellie knowingly gestures at the sheep farm while both roughneck brothers remain baffled at the efficacy of a working communist model.
Here on, Ellie and Joel find themselves separated from each other for the first time since they first met. While Ellie is escorted to a bath, some fresh clothes and cool new menstrual cup she seems taken by, things aren’t looking as great with the Miller siblings.
With the initial formalities out of the way, Joel and Tommy don’t beat around the bush with their contentions. Lies, deceit and resentment rise and the estranged brother’s first moment together is cut short as Tommy blurts, “Just because life stopped for you doesn’t mean it has to stop for me,”.
Meanwhile, Ellie sports her iconic pink and white hoodie from the game and engages with Maria in conversation about the men’s disturbing pasts. With an ominous warning on misplaced faith and a quick namedrop of Sarah, Maria takes Ellie to the movies. In yet another demonstration of Mazin’s attention to detail, a screening of 1977’s The Goodbye Girl, mirrors the curious dynamic our two main characters find themselves in.
In a desperate plea for help, Joel is reduced to tears and quivers, as he lays out the truth behind Ellie’s immunity to Tommy. Pascal sheds away the indestructible ‘main character’ shell that Joel has come to be recognised with and replaces it with vulnerability, pain and fear; effectively humanising Joel like he’s never been before.
The infamous kids bedroom scene that follows is just as heart-wrenching as we could have imagined. Director Jasmila Zbanic pays very close attention to the already perfected source material for the scene as Ellie confronts Joel about Sarah, momentarily shattering their bond and leaving us holding our breaths for the outcome of the next morning.
It seems that intense clashing of perspectives was the moment of clarity that was necessary to bring the two of them closer together than ever before. Glimpses of Sarah from the past was all that Joel needed to strengthen his resolve.
A stunning horseback montage against some breathtaking Western-influnced landscapes, a great deal of old world trivia and a delightful target practice scene serves as a healthy indicator of the duo’s growing fondness for each other.
Which of course is cut short with a devastating stab in Joel’s gut that leaves him bleeding out in Ellie’s arms as the episode draws to a close to the cover of a familiar 80s track. Alas, that is the curse of being a fan of The Last Of Us. We treasure the few crumbs of serotonin the showrunners offer us to prepare for whatever next travesty they have in line for us.
For those unfamiliar with what's to come, you might want to ration those crumbs and brace for impact.
New episodes of HBO’s The Last Of Us stream every Monday at 6:30 am IST on Disney+ Hotstar.