The Last Of Us Episode 6 Brings Heartfelt Reunions And Heartbreaking Goodbyes

One of the most interesting (small) changes "The Last of Us" has made to the source material is having Joel be hard of hearing in one ear, compared to the game where he has super hearing like Daredevil. It hasn't been a huge deal in the show, mostly because Joel himself is downplaying and hiding it. But this episode makes it crucial to show that, well, Joel is not a young man. He is 56 years old, he is no superhero, and he doesn't have beskar armor or a darksaber.

The episode picks up three months after the Kansas City incident. After failing to really threaten a cute old couple out in the middle of nowhere for directions, Joel and Ellie start getting close to where Tommy is supposed to be, but they are warned that there is nothing but infected in that direction. 

Along the way, Ellie opens up about Sam and her trying to save him with her blood. She is starting to doubt whether there can be a cure, but Joel says to trust Marlene, it will work.

After a while, the two are ambushed by people on horseback who test if Ellie and Joel are infected. This is a great example of how the show creates tension, as the camera is fixated on Joel, unable to look back or give away that he is concerned about Ellie. Pedro Pascal communicates all the different scenarios that go through Joel's head as the infection-sniffing dog approaches Ellie, and, waiting for the worst, he lets out a huge sigh of relief when the dog simply starts playing with Ellie none the wiser.

When Joel mentions his brother, the two are allowed to enter Jackson, a rather charming little town, and we get an emotional reunion between Joel and Tommy. 

Living instead of surviving

One of the show's biggest weapons is Ellie, particularly in regards to her being a kid who never knew the pre-apocalypse world. She is amazed by everything, and it is both delightful and heartbreaking to see her react to the town of Jackson, which has lights, sewage, plumbing, and schools. They even have a well-equipped bar, and if it was up to Tommy, pigs in order to get bacon and be set for life. By contrast, Tommy's wife Maria is kind of shocked by how feral Ellie is, in how quickly she talks back at adults, how vulgar she is, and how she keeps asking for her gun. 

These are signs that she was never really allowed a normal life free of worries, so it makes sense that Ellie kind of freaks out when Maria gives her some new clothes, female hygiene products, and even a haircut. For Ellie, it is bizarre that once upon a time people had mundane concerns, that boys and matching clothes were the biggest sources of stress for young girls. 

A highlight of the episode is a scene where Ellie is taken to a makeshift cinema in town where all the kids (and there are a lot of them!) watch a movie. It's a small but emotionally impactful scene, one that brings to mind the "Empire Strikes Back" reenactment scene from the criminally underseen "Reign of Fire," or the many scenes in the "Dr. Stone" anime where Senku shows the marvels of science to the people of a post-apocalyptic town that never knew what ramen, or glasses, or even music was.

Many zombie stories focus on surviving and finding safety. We tend not to see what comes after, when people start bringing back some semblance of civilization, and that makes this show rule.

Joel is not invincible

Unsurprisingly, things aren't as nice as they initially seem. When the two brothers finally catch up, Joel immediately gets angry about Tommy going off the radar and abandoning him without saying anything — he was prohibited from contacting the outside world, to keep Jackson safe. 

After he gets yet another panic attack, Joel finally breaks down and begs Tommy to take Ellie and finish the job. He is too old, too scared, and too weak. He tells Tommy everything: his failure to save Tess, to avoid Ellie shooting someone, and to avoid Henry killing his brother. It makes sense, Joel has spent the past 20 years surviving, not caring about anything nor taking anything personally. He didn't let anyone in, but it's different with Ellie, and now, for the first time, he is afraid of failing her, afraid that he will care if something happens to her. He thinks it's just better to leave before he starts feeling something. 

When Ellie discovers what Joel is planning, she loses it. She accuses him of treating her like his daughter, and of not trusting Ellie to take care of herself when he knows she can. Joel tries to fight back, telling Ellie she doesn't know what loss is, but she snaps and says everyone she ever cared about either died or left her. The next morning, before they leave, Tommy and Ellie find Joel in the stables. He tells her she at least deserves a choice, but he still thinks she'd be better off with Tommy. Before he can say anything else, she gives her answer by simply telling him "let's go."

Tragedy strikes

Joel and Ellie head out to Colorado, where Tommy says the Fireflies retreated. Along the way, she asks Joel if Jackson is how the rest of the country used to work, with everyone working on equal terms and getting equal rewards. Joel explains that it wasn't, some people wanted to own everything, and some didn't want people to own anything at all. More importantly, he also tries to explain football, which Ellie (correctly) assumes is very boring based on the description, but its violent aspect may be interesting. 

When they reach the university in Colorado, they find an empty campus, no Fireflies in sight — but a bunch of escaped lab monkeys! They do find a clue, with a map showing the location of the Fireflies headquarters in Salt Lake City. Before they can head there, however, hunters arrive and one of them stabs Joel. Thankfully, the two manage to escape, but soon enough Joel falls off their horse and collapses, the episode ending with Ellie begging him to wake up.