Skip to main content

‘The Last of Us’ episode 6 avoids a tired trope, and we couldn’t be happier

'The Last of Us' episode 6 has hellos and goodbyes

There’s a key line spoken by a new character in the middle of this week’s episode of “The Last of Us”. Maria  (Rutina Wesley) is one of the leaders of a new commune in Jackson, Wyoming where Joel and Ellie arrive to reconvene with Joel’s brother, Tommy (Gabriel Luna). She’s also the wife of Tommy — therefore, she’s heard a thing or two about the eldest Miller brother in the time they’ve spent together. Maria warns Ellie during a one-on-one conversation that Joel may not be the man Ellie thinks he is and that you often have to worry the most about the people you trust in life, especially during a scenario like the end of the world.

This immediately raised my antenna. It’s not that I don’t trust Joel or Ellie, but that I didn’t trust Maria or Tommy. Even as the showrunners displayed various reasons to believe in the rebuilt world that the survivors have created in this small Northern town, I kept waiting for it to be a facade, a Trojan Horse that would bite the two protagonists in the behind when we least expect it. Instead, there was no such deceit. Tommy and Maria never pull any funny business, and Joel and Ellie are able to leave the community better equipped for the road ahead than before we began.

Related Videos
Tommy and Joel catch up Liane Hentscher/HBO

My pessimistic approach to the episode is rooted in various examples from the past of post-apocalyptic fiction creating oases that are actually mirages. AMC’s hit zombie drama “The Walking Dead” did this several times throughout its run, so much so that anytime a new safe haven is discovered, it became painfully obvious that it would only be a matter of episodes before the curtain was brought back on the dark machinations behind the scenes. This negative outcome is a tired trope in this genre, and “The Last of Us” is able to flip it upside down to devastatingly emotional results.

Even though the Jackson community has movie nights, Christmas trees, and more sheep than Joel could ever dream of, it doesn’t have the cure to the cordyceps outbreak. That panacea supposedly lies in Ellie’s bloodstream, and Joel is still determined to get her to the Fireflies so they can unearth this mysterious and hopeful antidote. He also quite simply has no other purpose than protecting his surrogate daughter.

There is a powerful scene in which Ellie confronts Joel about the death of his daughter, Sarah (Nico Parker), reminding Joel that she’s not his slain child. Joel has quite a bit of untapped trauma still from this loss, and he is clearly pained by the revelation that Ellie presents him with. Ellie asks Joel whether he cares about her, to which he emphatically responds with a yes. This is the most the audience is likely to get of a loving confession from the pairing, but we really don’t need anything else.

Actions speak louder than words. When presented with the option to follow Tommy or Joel to their next target, Ellie immediately chooses her grumpy confidant. This chemistry and trust between the two looks to rebuke the aforementioned advice from Maria at the moment, and we couldn’t be any more proud of the way “The Last of Us” helps to paint this relationship as completely half glass full.

Editors' Recommendations

‘The Last of Us’ Episode 5 Asks: Who’s More Dangerous, the Living or the Dead?
the last of us season 1 episode 5 keivonn woodard bella ramsey

Ellie and Sam Liane Hentscher/HBO

It doesn't always seem like zombies, undead, or post-apocalyptic monster entertainment would be the ideal avenue to create and answer philosophical questions about the world. Still, there is a surprising amount of depth to the genre. When placed in the very competent hands of "The Last of Us" creators, these queries run even more extensively through the characters' minds and the audience's. When the dead overrun the planet, you would think the reanimated corpses dominating the landscapes would be the main threat to the living's survival. Still, live humans are the most dangerous creatures in the world. People have natural predilections towards crudeness and selfishness. The harsh reality of an apocalypse expounds upon these negative qualities. This leads to a massive question in episode five of Last of Us about who is a more significant threat: the living or the dead?

Read more
‘The Last of Us’ episode 4 is a father-daughter story
Joel and Ellie's bond grows in 'The Last of Us' episode 4
the last of us season 1 episode 4 tlou ep

Seeing familial relationships build and blossom across many hours is one of the most rewarding aspects of a television series. The length of time we get to see the chemistry of characters organically develop into something novel and emotionally wrought is a sight to behold if done right. These relationships are sometimes even more memorable if they are between found family, or people who aren’t blood-related. Think the toxic father-son pairing of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman on “Breaking Bad” or the endearing and brotherly charm of Dustin Henderson and Steve Harrington on “Stranger Things.”

After last week’s perfect episode of “The Last of Us” that focused on Bill and Frank, two characters who will never be seen again, the writers chose this week to dig deep into the core of the franchise: the father-daughter dynamic of Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey). Remember back to the premiere episode when we got to see how much of a soft spot Joel had for his actual daughter, Sarah (Nico Parker)? We know the hardened exterior of Joel hides a softer, more vulnerable girl dad that has been gruffed up even more by the horrors of the cordyceps outbreak. Ellie is the key to unlocking Joel’s past and allowing him to get in touch with some of his pre-apocalyptic personality traits. 

Read more
‘The Last of Us’ episode 3 is a perfect bottle episode of television
Why 'The Last of Us' episode 3 is a front-runner for best TV episode of 2023
the last of us season 1 episode 3 recap murray bartlett nick offerman

If you're a longtime television fanatic like I am (and who isn't?), you're probably familiar with the term "bottle episode." These self-contained hours of a series usually attempt to tell a very specific part of the show's story, usually semi-detached from the main plot of the season. Think "Fly" from "Breaking Bad" or "Pine Barrens" from "The Sopranos." Bottle episodes are sometimes limited in their setting, and they have a small cast of characters. In the past, a bottle episode's purpose would be mostly financial: showrunners would have to scale their story down a significant margin for the week so as to not run over the network's requested budget. In the streaming era, especially on a powerhouse platform like HBO Max, a bottle episode is more of a creative endeavor, an opportunity to step away and smell the flowers (or, in this case, the strawberries).

Bill and Frank share a peaceful moment in solitude

Read more