The latest instalment of HBO’s hit series The Last of Us uncovers more emotional connections and features characters both new and familiar. Joel and Ellie finally reach their destination of Wyoming and reunite with Joel’s brother Tommy.
The pair take a break in the setting of a formed society, something almost unheard of in their world. From a promising start, to a tense dénouement, episode six definitely has the potential to be a fan favourite.
*Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Last of Us episode six*
The opening of this episode takes place in a secluded farmhouse occupied by an older couple that is hit with the harsh winter snow. Joel and Ellie seek information on Tommy, whom they are travelling to find. The unintentionally hilarious couple point them in the right direction and allow their journey to continue.
Here, we briefly see Pascal’s Joel use an interrogation tactic famous to his character in the video game. It goes as follows: Take each hostage separately, get one to point to your desired location on a map, and then ask the second to do the same. If their answers match, they’re telling the truth. This is a less violent variant, but it works nonetheless.
We also witness Joel experience an anxiety attack, clutching his chest and gasping for air after exiting the farmhouse. The couple explain that travellers who venture along the river where Joel and Ellie are heading, more often than not, don’t return.
After facing so much danger on their journey so far, this information understandably unsettles Joel. His anxiety is explored again later in the episode, adding a much-needed exploration of grief to his character.
Welcome to Wyoming
After a treacherous journey across the so-called “river of death” (as described by the farmhouse couple), Joel and Ellie reach new territory and encounter a herd of guards on horseback. Joel guides Ellie behind him for protection, but that doesn’t make a difference when the riders surround them and begin their interrogation.
Joel fears that it's over when a dog capable of sniffing out infection approaches Ellie. With a sigh of relief, however, Joel realises they are in the clear. The dog takes a liking to Ellie, and they play in the snow. This could perhaps be interpreted as a detail from the video game. When Joel reaches Tommy, he is introduced to a guard dog named Buckley. “She ain’t much of a guard dog…” A nice little callback that fans of the games will enjoy.
Joel pleads with the riders to help them after explaining his quest to locate his brother, Tommy. One of the riders offers her support, clearly recognizing the name Tommy. Ellie and Joel are finally escorted on horseback to a reformed society secluded in the mountains of Wyoming. It’s here we see an emotional reunion between the Miller brothers. Joel helplessly cries out for Tommy and the two rush for a warm embrace, emotionally amplified by their time apart. It’s obvious they still love and care for each other, despite their separation.
Gabriel Luna's return has been anticipated by fans for weeks. We haven’t seen him since the borderline-traumatizing scene in episode one when he is present for the loss of his niece, Sarah. Joel explains in previous episodes that Tommy was a do-gooder, he wanted to save the world. He joined the military, and then the Fireflies. He bought into the propaganda of doing the right thing and bringing peace back to the world. Tommy explains later in the episode that Maria and her community found him and took him in. They cared for him and gave him a home when no one else would.
A quick catch-up
Tommy guides Joel and Ellie to a dining hall, where they indulge in more food than they have eaten in years. Seated at the table with them is Maria, who we previously see on horseback, and who recognises Joel’s search for his brother. Her character will be familiar to players of the game. Portrayed by Rutina Wesley, Joel is enlightened to learn that she is Tommy’s wife. He has a reluctant and guarded reaction to this new information.
Later in episode six, we find out she previously had a son, Kevin. His name is written alongside Sarah’s in Tommy and Maria’s home, with their birthdays and the dates of their deaths below. The memorial showcases their shared experiences and their ability to reciprocate the necessary compassion and support one another needed after suffering such great losses.
Back in the dining hall, Maria explains they can provide Joel and Ellie with shelter and ample food and clothes before they hit the road again. In a brief encounter, Ellie shouts, “What are you looking at?” to a young girl peering around the corner at her. This character is listed as ‘Staring girl’ on IMDB, but can be interpreted as another game easter egg. In The Last of Us Part II, we meet a character named Dina. The girl’s features and style point towards this being a young Dina, as we learn she arrives in Jackson before Ellie does. The two have a romantic relationship in the second game and after Bella Ramsey hints that this will be explored in season two, could this be their first introduction to one another?
Family is everything in The Last of Us
Maria offers to take Ellie to the house where they will be staying to give the brothers some time to catch up. Joel and Tommy share a drink and exchange playful comments. They are clearly happy and relieved to be back in each other's company, and this is one of the first times we see Joel relaxed and not anticipating danger. The conversation first turns south, however, when Tommy asks about Tess. Joel pauses before answering, “She’s fine.” A blatant lie, perhaps so he can avoid both the emotions resurfacing and the confrontation surrounding the situation.
Tommy shares some intended joyful news with Joel; Maria is expecting, and he is going to be a father. This clearly strikes a nerve for Joel. It must be hard for him; of course, he wants to be happy and proud of his little brother, but the fate of Sarah still clouds his judgement. “I guess we’ll see, (if Tommy will be a good father)” he says dryly. Tommy is clearly jerked by this comment and delivers one of the most gut-punching lines of the series; “Just because life stopped for you, doesn’t mean it has to stop for me.” Tensions are high between the Miller brothers as they go their separate ways.
Joel once again experiences a burst of anxiety after his conversation with Tommy. He stumbles outside and steadies himself before scanning the crowd of people ahead of him. A young girl catches his eye, with big curly brown hair and a tall build. He sees his daughter Sarah right in front of him. Joel longs for her, longs to be her father again. He snaps out of his trance, however, when the girl turns around and reveals her face. With teary eyes, Joel carries on.
We cut to a freshly showered Ellie in a previously occupied house decorated as if it belonged to another young girl. Maria sets out some clean clothes on the bed along with a note reading “I’m across the street.” Ellie crosses the snowy street and enters Maria’s home. It’s here she finds Kevin and Sarah’s memorial, and Maria notices her curiosity. She innocently explains to Ellie that Sarah was in fact Joel’s daughter, not hers. Ellie is visibly surprised, and it looks like part of her puzzle about Joel has been solved.
“You have no idea what loss is.”
Tommy and Joel regroup in a workshop in the centre of town, where Joel shakily confesses the truth to Tommy. He explains their whole journey; Ellie’s immunity, Tess’ death, their end goal to reach the Firefly hospital. Tommy is in disbelief, but reluctantly agrees to Joel’s new plan; He is to be the one to transport Ellie to the hospital.
Joel believes she is safer with him, and he needs to leave her. What the brothers don’t know is that Ellie is outside the door listening in on their plans. We arrive back at the house where Joel and Ellie are staying, and what follows is one of the most important scenes in the series.
This scene is once again cut almost directly from the source material. Ellie reveals to Joel she knows he wants to “abandon” her. She explains that everyone she has ever cared for has either died or left her.
“Everyone… everyone except for you.”
Another incredibly emotional exchange consists of Ellie distancing herself from Sarah. She believes Joel is treating her like his daughter, wanting to protect her and keep her safe. (And she’s not wrong.) Ellie saying Sarah’s name clearly sparks something within Joel, his defenses rise, and he continues driving Ellie away. He states Ellie will leave with Tommy in the morning and they will go their separate ways.
Pascal and Ramsey portray their emotions of guilt and anger incredibly, with great honour. Week to week, they continue to deliver award-worthy performances. This episode in particular contains some of the most emotional scenes and crucial dialogue, which are executed beautifully by Pascal, Ramsey, and Gabriel Luna.
A bump in the road
Joel finally comes to his senses and realises he is wrong about leaving Ellie with Tommy, and decides to continue his journey, delivering her to the Fireflies himself. They leave on horseback and head to the (fictional) University of Eastern Colorado, the location of an old Firefly base. When they arrive, however, they are met with a group of raiders who attack Joel and Ellie and leave Joel injured.
Though they escape the attack alive, Joel's condition isn't great. He topples off the horse and the last thing we see is Ellie pleading for him to wake up. She knows she can't do this without him; he is her only hope in reaching the Fireflies and ending this mission to save the world.
What's next in The Last of Us?
In a preview for episode seven, we see a look into Ellie's past. She briefly explains how she obtains her bite and that she attended a FEDRA school, but a lot of her backstory is a mystery. It will be interesting for viewers to learn more about the character and delve into her past relationships. We know the series will explore a character named Riley (played by Storm Reid), who is a close friend of Ellie's in the video game.
The question weighing on everyone's mind is, will Joel make it? His condition seems critical and with Ellie's lack of direction and supplies, there's definitely cause for concern.
This is another incredible addition to HBO's The Last of Us adaptation, and fans are heavily anticipating the upcoming episode. If you want to talk more about the show, The Fandom Academy Podcast contains our in-depth thoughts on each episode of The Last of Us, and you can hit me up on Twitter to chat more!