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Show vs Game – The Last of Us Episode 6 – “Kin”

Welcome to the wilds of Wyoming! I really enjoyed this episode, even though the show is now borrowing from TLOU Part 2 video game (almost like they knew there’d be a second season). Spoilers ahead for show episode 6, TLOU game chapters Tommy’s Dam and The University and some very early parts of TLOU2.

Whatever I say in Wyoming, do the opposite.

Dressed for cold weather, Ellie and Joel hike through unspoiled Wyoming country (filmed in Calgary), three months after the events of Kansas City. Continuing episode 5’s implied discussion of Native American erasure, we meet show-invented characters Marlon and Florence (Graham Greene & Elaine Miles). Unfazed by gunpoint, they feed and good-naturedly help Joel work out where Tommy may be. Joel suffers a panic attack, Ellie copes by wisecracking, “all we have to do is cross the river of death.” Ellie wonders what they’ll do after they’ve created the vaccine, confessing admiration for astronaut Sally Ride, but Joel just wants to herd sheep.

Check out our coverage of The Last Of Us
Finally, a game nod, Ellie tries to whistle! They’re accosted at a large Dam by Maria’s (Rutina Wesley) gang, luckily her Infection-sniffer dog is fallible, so Ellie and Joel are taken to the pseudo-communist, multi-faith town of Jackson. Joel and Tommy reunite (Pedro Pascal delivering an exquisitely painful call of Tommy’s name) and Ellie has her “first proper meal.” But something’s off, it’s as if Jackson is…gentrified! A girl stares at Ellie (likely to be Dina from TLOU2) and Tommy announces (to a nonplussed Joel) that he and Marie are married. Then we meet Shimmer the horse! At the local bar, Tommy and Joel catch up and we learn that the Fireflies have a base at East Colorado university, Maria stopped him contacting Joel, Tommy is remorseful for his murderous past and Maria is pregnant. All this exposition and seeing a girl who looks like Sarah prompts Joel’s second panic attack. Meanwhile, Ellie is having a whale of a time with her gift of a Moon cup! Maria’s candlelight vigil for her dead son leads to Ellie learning about Sarah, with Maria ominously advising, “the only people who can betray us are the ones we trust.”

During a screening of The Goodbye Girl (about independent single mothers, baby!) Joel comes clean to Tommy about Ellie’s immunity, his deafness and fear of losing her, begging Tommy to take Ellie to the Fireflies. Ellie overhears and is livid, telling Joel, “everybody I have cared for has either died or left me.” Joel (literally becoming a dad) tells her “I sure as hell ain’t your dad,” storming out to the melodic sounds of the game score. Morning comes and before Joel can finish giving Ellie the choice of him or Tommy as escort, she chooses him. They head out on horseback. En route, Ellie learns rifle shooting, the rules of American football and economic history from that famously unbiased optimist, Joel: “some wanted to own everything and some didn’t want anyone to own anything.”

They arrive at the university, former home of the Big Horns, current home of escaped lab monkeys. It’s otherwise deserted, allowing Joel to casually admit that he wants to be a singer! Alas, the Fireflies have gone to Salt Lake City, and only evil raiders remain. Like all show episodes and one Paul Thomas Anderson film, there will be blood, Joel casually breaking a raider’s neck (there’s my game murderbot Joel!), but not before getting stabbed. Ellie shoots and rides them out of town until Joel falls from the horse, bleeding and unconscious. Ellie shakes him with, “I can’t do this without you” and we fade to black. Echoing game-Joel, I’ll close my eyes and say “oh, he’s gonna be just fine.”

Dam, Joel!

I laughed at Ellie’s terrible show joke, but, well, damn, we are about to spend a lot of game time at a hydro-electric dam. As it’s only autumn, it’s lush, green and rainy. Joel picks up a new gun and tells Ellie that he and Tommy fell out because “Tommy saw the world one way I saw it the other.” Instead of learning to swim, a sarcastic Ellie must “step on the fucking pallet” so Joel can push her across the dam. I catch Ellie journaling, a big mechanic in TLOU2.

I hate these pallets

The Joel and Ellie game relationship continues to evolve. One minute they’re high-fiving, the next, by a tiny grave marked with a teddy bear, Ellie tries to talk about Henry and Sam, but Joel shuts her down with a quick “move on.” Luckily for them, Tommy and (a very different) Maria are trying to re-power the dam, giving us a warmer Miller brothers reunion than in the show. Maria and Joel immediately bond, and we get to pat a horsey! Tommy gives Joel a photo of him and Sarah (from Sarah’s bedroom in the game prologue) but Joel declines it, as the hydro generator gets fixed. Joel tells Tommy about Ellie’s immunity and Tess’s death, and like the show, asks him to take Ellie to the Fireflies. Where show Joel was anxious, game Joel is angry, physically pushing Tommy when he refuses. (Un)fortunately, they’re interrupted by raiders breaking in (what riches they hope to find in a hydro-station are beyond my comprehension). After more killing, Tommy witnesses Joel and Ellie’s connection and agrees to take her, causing Ellie to ride off, giving us some fun horseback-chase gameplay.

Guess what? Tommy and Joel run into more soon-to-be dead raiders, then they find Ellie in an abandoned ranch. So were all those pills Joel’s been collecting anti-anxiety meds? The jury’s out…Ellie reads an abandoned diary here (not in Jackson, like in the episode), asking Joel, “is this all they had to worry about? Boys, movies…” and they argue about Joel leaving her until more raiders enter the ranch-house. After they’re dispensed with, the three sombrely trot back to a hill that overlooks Jackson. Tommy mentions the university medical lab and Joel simply decides he’ll take Ellie onwards, with a quick “Adios, little brother.”

The next chapter opens outside the empty university. Ellie, having named their horse Callus, is mystified by the concepts of university and lifestyle choices. She decides she wants to be an astronaut, “wouldn’t it be cool to be up there all by yourself?” and Joel says when he was young he wanted to be a singer (I sense a song coming in game and show). The lab monkeys introduce themselves and I get to explore dorm rooms, while fighting more Bloaters! Joel reveals he never went to college because he had Sarah so young (in his teens, I guess) and was married for a while, but revealing anything else is “too personal.” He does call Ellie kiddo, warming my cold, dead, murderous heart.

The game provides audio logs from scientists. They’re heading to St Mary’s hospital in Salt Lake City (and getting bit by infected monkeys, suggesting animals are immune). When Joel tries to leave the building, there’s another raider shoot out, but here Joel’s injury comes from falling on a spike. Ellie has to pull him off it, and it’s disgusting! One raider has the audacity to tell a bleeding Joel “those were my friends you killed, asshole,” before, er, Ellie kills him. Joel staggers outside, not even making it to Callus before collapsing. Damn, Joel!

So they’re not The Last of Us?

I’m not going to spoil TLOU2, that’s all to come in season 2, however, as I recognised the Jackson showcased in episode 6, I decided to have a quick look at TLOU2 to remember it all. TLOU2 is an aggravating game from the very start, but there is no denying the graphical improvements. This is the first time I played it on the PS5 and Wyoming looks stunning. You may recognise Jackson and the gorgeous Shimmer in the images below:

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