Title: The Last of Us S1.E06 “Kin”
Released: 2023
Series:  The Last of Us

Previously: Joel and Ellie team up with Henry and Sam to escape Kansas City; the group is almost caught by Kathleen, until the ground opens up and a swarm of infected (and one big bad Bloater) emerges and the resistance is decimated; POOR BABY SAM GOT INFECTED and is killed by Henry, who then kills himself; Joel and Ellie resume their trek to Wyoming.

Last week, Stephanie asked me whether I’d choose to live in above or underground during an apocalypse. I originally written up the whole spiel below before commune town became an option, but I feel like people might still ruin it somehow. Also, I’m skeptical about what I would do in a commune town, as someone who’s indoorsy and chronically online.

I’d also need more information about the underground dwellers, since they very well could have been the infected’s amuse bouche, and we unspoiled have no idea who these Ish people are (per the children’s drawings of “our protectors”). Plus, one of my wild speculation theories is that there be cannibals somewhere in this world, and the risk of that is probably highest underground. The shorter answer, though, is that I probably would have long returned to the earth during the TWENTY-PLUS YEARS APOCALYPSE.

From Wyoming to WHY OH EM GEE

Three months after leaving Kansas City, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) are wandering aimlessly in Wyoming. Not only are most towns overrun by the infected, but they’re also lost. After getting directions from a couple who were living off the grid before it was a survival tactic, Joel and Ellie are caught by a group of masked horseback riders. They both pass a rigorous cordyceps detection test (aka a doggo), and they’re allowed to join the riders when Joel tells them his name and that he’s looking for his brother.

The walled town of Jackson is basically a post-apocalyptic commune utopia — where Joel finally finds Tommy (Gabriel Luna)! Who’s now married to Maria (Rutina Wesley)! Who’s also newly pregnant! But the good times are short-lived, when Joel asks Tommy to finish escorting Ellie to the Fireflies because Joel’s worried that he’ll fail her — which Ellie overhears, and she calls Joel out for being yet another person who’s abandoning her.

The next morning, Tommy and Ellie head out, only to find that Joel had a change of heart. Joel offers to be Ellie’s protector again, which she accepts, and they bond way more over the next five days than they have in the entire three months prior.

Joel and Ellie arrive at the Fireflies’ base at the University of Eastern Colorado, which has been deserted by everyone except for the lab monkeys. The next quest objective Firefly facility is in Salt Lake City, but they run into raiders on their way out, with Joel getting stabbed in his side. They evade the raiders, but Joel falls unconscious from his wound as Ellie desperately tries to stop the bleeding.

Best Joel/Ellie Moment

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but so many good moments! Especially after they choose each other, instead of just being stuck together out of obligation. (If you’d rather feel sad, there’s also Ellie begging for Joel to live, but I’m choosing to bask in the good times.)

Survivors of the Week

As soon as she spoke, even while masked, I immediately thought, “HOLY SHIT, it’s Rutina Wesley!!!” But when it became clear that this was Tommy’s reintroduction, I thought I might have to go with him or both of them, but I’m still going with only Maria lol.

Tommy: “Everything you see in our town, greenhouses, livestock — all shared. Collective ownership.”

Joel: “So, uh, communism.”

Tommy: “Nah. Nah, it ain’t like that.”

Maria: “It is that. Literally. This is a commune. We’re communists.”

Tommy, tell me you grew up in the U.S. during the Cold War without telling me.

Also, the way her parental instincts kicked in around Ellie and omg the Diva Cup! (Ellie, you thought tampons were exciting?? This is going to be a GAME CHANGER. Although I’m a little concerned about her access to clean water, since she doesn’t need to deal with another kind of fungal infection.)

Honourable mention for the husband and wife at the beginning (Graham Greene and Elaine Miles), who are basically doing what Bill and Frank did but with a much higher difficulty level.

Pour One Out For…

No one really died, except for a rabbit and potentially Joel?!?? Not knowing anything about the games, I don’t know if the show would kill him off so soon, but Pedro is pretty busy…

Best Time To Cover Your Eyes

I was naïve enough to think that I had been blessed with an episode free of jump scares. To be fair, this was relatively tame, since the most tense moment were the cordyceps-sniffing dog and the university hallway that led to monkey business. (Despite Joel getting stabbed, the first encounter with raiders was not at all intimidating. They weren’t even played by notable actors! (A little offense to those actors, but they’d probably agree.))

We Must Adapt To Survive

Here’s Stephanie with her adaptation thoughts!

• There were SO many nods and small lines to set-up Part II in this episode that I’m like scouring my brain of what I can even say that won’t be too spoilery. Everything that happens in Jackson takes place at the hydro-electric dam and the outskirts of it in the game, but I loved this earlier, sneak-peek of Jackson now. It looks so freaking game accurate down to the kids building snowmen, the string lights in the cafeteria, and those two very blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos!! (IYKYK.)

• That scene in Ellie’s makeshift bedroom was almost word-for-word from the game and was still just as powerful and (surprise, surprise) made me tear up with how great Pedro and Bella played up their emotions.

• A new moment that I absolutely loved (which would’ve been tough to show from Joel’s perspective in the game, but we see him pass Ellie off as he goes and talks with Tommy) was Maria and Ellie’s tête-à-tête, giving us that insight into Maria’s character as well as Ellie’s passionate defense of Joel (and also the planting of that little seed of fear that he’d disappoint her, which, of course…).

• Wandering the university is a lot more truncated than it is in the game, which is fine because we were more than fed with all the emotional moments earlier in the episode, but they kept in the best parts like seeing the monkeys and Joel teaching Ellie about football and confessing he wanted to be a singer. Changing how Joel gets injured works more realistically as well (and a perfectly timed cut before we see how she manages to get him back on that horse, lol).

Graffiti On The Wall

  • Between this and House of the Dragon, these recent HBO freshmen shows are doing wild things with the passage of time. I get skipping over the immediate aftermath of Henry and Sam, but Joel and Ellie’s relationship seemed pretty stagnant for three months. (Then again, this is the man who famously thought of his longtime partner as “like family”.)

  • Speaking of family: the dates on Tommy and Maria’s memorial are April 3, 2000 – September 29, 2003 for Kevin, and July 20, 1989 – September 27, 2003 for Sarah.

  • Yet another instance of someone promising not to fall asleep! (Sarah in Episode 1, Ellie in Episodes 4 and 5, and now Joel.) And probably the most devastating, with Joel being haunted by his dreams.

  • More callbacks: characters saying they’ve never asked for anything from someone, when they’re asking for something. (Tess to Joel in Episode 2, Frank to Bill in Episode 3, and now Joel to Tommy.)

  • A callback that I don’t want: Tommy knowing about Ellie’s immunity coming back in a bad way! I’d hope not, but Maria did warn that “the only people who can betray us are the ones we trust”.

  • Lots of animals in this one. Has it been established whether animals can get infected?

  • Also in worldbuilding: this is the second safe haven town that we’ve come across, and the actual travelling has been uneventful. It seems like the most dangerous places are ironically the quarantine zones.

  • Very fitting that I got another extremely Alberta episode, with all the mountain scenery and town shots in Canmore! I also appreciated REAL SNOW, even though some of the outdoor scenes were clearly filmed at different times of the year, based on how much was on the trees.

  • I’m fully ensconced in PedroTok, so I couldn’t help assessing which brooding close-ups are going to get fancam’d. (That shooting lesson audio is going to be POPULAR.)

  • Updated map, now with travel times! I had to make a guess based on Tommy’s directions for the University of Eastern Colorado, which I didn’t realize is fake lol and everything along Interstate I-25 is maybe only slightly eastern Colorado.

  • Things to ponder for next week: Stephanie, what would your contribution be in a commune town?

What did y’all think of this episode? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.