The Last Of Us Ended Its Latest Episode With The Perfect Song

This post contains spoilers for "The Last of Us" season 1, episode 6, "Kin."

When a haunting cover of "Never Let Me Down Again" begins playing at the end of "The Last of Us" season 1, episode 6, "Kin," one cannot help but sit up and take notice. At passing glance, it's a somewhat questionable choice. After all, the lyrics of Depeche Mode's original 1987 version of the song are commonly interpreted as beingĀ an allusion to the temporary euphoria provided by drug use. (For example: "I'm taking a ride with my best friend/I hope he never lets me down again.") However, when re-purposed in the context of the series, they function as a surprisingly profound commentary on the complicated nature of Joel and Ellie's relationship.

"Kin" picks up with our dynamic duo three months after the horrors and heartbreak of Kansas City, as they're shocked to find Joel's brother Tommy rebuilding his life in an isolated, prospering community in Jackson, Wyoming. Joel, who has been dealing with panic attacks in the wake of Henry and Sam's deaths, tells Tommy the truth about Ellie and begs him to accompany her the rest of the way to the Fireflies' base in Colorado. The words almost pour out of him like water bursting from a shattered dam; it's clear Joel is beginning to grasp just how important Ellie has become to him personally, and is absolutely terrified by the thought. His terror is only matched by the fear and anger Ellie unleashes upon him after secretly listening in on his and Tommy's discussion.

Selfish on the surface, selfless in the subtext

Yet, far from driving them apart, Joel and Ellie's confrontation in Jackson only winds up bringing the two of them closer together. Before they know it, the pair are even bonding over shooting lessons and Joel's stories about the pre-Cordyceps world on their way to what turns out to be the Fireflies' abandoned base in Colorado. "Kin" then ends with the pair barely evading a pack of raiders on horseback before Joel collapses from being stabbed in the gut mid-scuffle with one of their attackers. Cue the all-too-perfect needle drop that closes out the episode as it ends on this cliffhanger.

Commenting on the official "Last of Us" podcast, co-creator Craig Mazin noted that Ellie's reaction to Joel passing out ("I don't know where I am. I don't know what the f**k I'm gonna do") is both "beautiful" and "selfish" in that her words are all about her and not him. Their subtext, of course, is another matter entirely. It's clear at this moment Ellie is thinking only about Joel and not herself. With the betrayal of him trying to pass her onto Tommy still fresh on her mind, Ellie's fear and anger from earlier are only amplified during this scene. Juxtaposed with this turn of events, the lyrics and even the title of "Never Let Me Down Again" take on a whole new meaning.

"She was taking a ride with him, and he has let her down, even though it's 'Never Let Me Down Again,'" Mazin observed. He added that he wanted to "re-present that song but in this point of view of just sadness and loss."

A tale of two daughters

The theme that love is a double-edged blade is one "The Last of Us" has hit on again and again during its first season. It resurfaces once more in "Kin"; for both Joel and Ellie, their growing emotional dependency on one another is as much a source of concern as it is one of comfort (if not more so). The episode drives this idea home in its final scene, yet it also emerges when the duo is in Jackson and Joel has a vision of Sarah, all grown-up and with a child of her own. For all the temporary comfort he finds in remembering her, the way Joel dwells on the memory of his daughter has perhaps done him more harm than good at this stage. Mind you, that's not at all to suggest Joel fixating on the memory of Sarah is the same as someone using a literal drug. Still, there are some uncomfortable parallels between the two, enough so as to make "Never Let Me Down Again" all the more strangely fitting a choice to close out the episode.

On a lighter note, the episode's cover of Depeche Mode's hit also touches on this daughters motif in an amusingly meta fashion. Speaking on the show's podcast, Craig Mazin confirmed the song was actually performed by his own 18-year-old daughter. Stating he's "very cognizant of the whole nepo baby discussion out there," Mazin admitted, "The problem was that there was this kid down the hall from me in my house who I knew could crush it." And crush it she did ... after ignoring her dad's request for two weeks and only recording it when he kept pestering her. Somewhere, Joel is (begrudgingly) smiling right now.

"The Last of Us" airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO and HBO Max.