The Last of Us 1×06 “Kin” is just even more proof that Pedro Pascal needs all the awards. Not just one. All. Because this is acting. This is being vulnerable to the character you are playing and completely transforming yourself into that person. He really gave it his all in 1×06 and we were presented with a side of Joel we’ve never seen. Because yes, we’ve seen him open up in the game. But we’ve never seen him be this open to showing the hurt and hope that are swirling within him. And it enhances everything we know about this character.
As for Bella Ramsey, they really came with everything they had. From that bedroom scene that felt like shot for shot the scene in the game or Ellie frantically telling Joel that she couldn’t do this alone, it all showed this actor’s true range. This is the future of Hollywood. It’s Ramsey. And to think that haters doubted Ramsey. Doubted their ability to transform into Ellie and make us fall in love with this character all over again. And here we are in “Kin” feeling so connected to Ellie. And it’s all because of Ramsey, the brilliant writing, and a show that truly understood what the assignment was.
Joel Seeing His Daughter Again, Even If for a Second
There was something about the softness around Joel’s eyes when he saw that woman who looked like Sarah. It was like all his troubles went away. Like all the loss, pain, and heartache that he had hidden away, that has been bubbling in him since Ellie came around, was wiped away and replaced by the love he held for his daughter. And he wasn’t in this post-apocalyptic wasteland. He was with her. Decorating a tree. Teasing each other about everything and anything. Just being a family. It was pure joy he felt at the sight of someone who looked similar to her.
In that moment of pure joy, he saw her for what she would’ve become if she’d survived. Certainly, the world around them would’ve changed her a little. Changed her in ways that the apocalypse has changed everyone. But she would’ve survived, thrived, and become such a brilliant woman. And she would’ve been by Joel’s side all the way, just like he would be by hers. Together they would end up in this town with Tommy. Safe. Alive. And she’d grow up, fall in love, and have a kid of her own, with her own crown of curls. That would’ve been their future.
The moment Joel realized that it wasn’t Sarah, it was like his insides collapsed. Everything rushed in. A torment whirling in him and reminding him of what he packed away. And this is why he begged Tommy to take Joel and why he turned Ellie away. Because he remembers what it was to care for someone that much. He remembers how his daughter was his world and how he fell apart when his world was taken away from him. And he can’t allow that. Not now. Maybe not ever. It goes to show you that this show knows how to show how vulnerability and strength go hand in hand.
What Made Joel Go with Ellie?
Joel needed to unburden himself of his pain. He needed to tell Tommy about his fears, the things he’s held back, and why. It was the only way that he could start processing his grief. Because he’s never really done that. Not when Sarah died. Not when he and Tommy were doing horrible things to survive. And long after that. It wasn’t until Ellie came around that he started to remember what it was to have that light and hope in his life. So it was important for him to talk to Tommy to set him on a path where he could finally come to the realization that it’s ok to open up.
So Joel thought about Sarah. He thought about who she was and the kind of woman that she would’ve been today if she were still alive. And I’ve got to believe that along the way he thought about what he would want others to do for his daughter. So why can’t he do that for Ellie? Combine that with Joel thinking about his brother and the life that he had built in this secluded little town. Maybe Joel will never get to the point where Tommy is. But he sure as hell won’t take away his brother’s chance. Because he remembers what it was to be someone’s world and that person in return being his world.
In all of this is also boatloads of self-reflection on where Joel is. Because yeah, he told Ellie that they weren’t family. But it’s a lie. They are. They’ve been for a while. And he remembers her words, about how she’d be scared if it were someone else traveling with her. He can’t live with that. And it’s too late already. He already cares about Ellie. So, why hide from it? Why deny himself that happiness? No one will ever be Sarah. But that’s ok. She’s irreplaceable. But Ellie is there. She’s funny, wise-cracking, and a light in the darkness of this shit hole of a life. And he’s ready to remember Sarah while allowing Ellie into his heart and giving this young woman a choice the Fireflies never gave her.
And that is character development.
Ellie Telling Joel the Truth
Everything Ellie has been feeling came tumbling out of her when she said, “Don’t tell me that I’d be safer with somebody else because the truth is I would just be more scared.” Ellie has never had someone like Joel in her life and The Last of Us has done a beautiful job of showing that. You can see it in the way she fights so hard for herself, whether it be getting her own tampons or finding a gun. She’s self-sufficient. She’s always had to be that way. Even in F.E.D.R.A. school. And it all changed when she got bit, the Fireflies found her, and when Joel came into her life. Ellie was no longer alone.
At first, Ellie resisted. Who wouldn’t? Change is hard and depending on someone else is even harder when you’ve always done things yourself. But Ellie has opened up to Joel just like he has opened up to her. Joel has taught her to survive, protected her, and provided for her. And that provided something to Ellie she’s never had: a parent. It says a lot about the show that we have slowly been getting to this point, especially with the way that she blew up at Joel. Because she’s not ready to go back to the way things were before Joel where she was scared, alone, and fending for herself.
So Ellie tells him. That fear that she told Sam in “Endure and Survive,” came flowing out of her. She doesn’t want to be alone. It’s her greatest fear. And it’s not like that’s going away anytime soon. Those who have played the second game of The Last of Us know that. But also anyone who has lost someone understands that. You don’t want that pain again. And if you can be happy, even if for just a second with the person you love and who loves you in return, you’re going to take it. That’s what Ellie sees in Joel. And she’s going to make sure that he knows how much he means to her, no matter the consequences.
Where Do We Go from Here?
The Last of Us 1×06 is at the edge of one of my favorite sequences of the game. A moment that feels like a hug. Like finally finding home. But before that, Ellie is going to have to figure out what the hell to do. Because Joel is hurt and she’s the only one that can help. They live in an unforgiving world and Joel has been taking care of things. Mainly. Now it’s time for her to step up and make the hard decisions for both of them. And stepping up is going to change both of them in unimaginable ways, setting the stage for the final episode of The Last of Us season 1.
For those who have watched the 1×07 preview, you know that Riley is essential to that. We must understand where Ellie came from and what she holds dear, to really understand what she would do in a situation like this. It will all act as a shift in the kind of person Ellie is from here on out and the woman she will be in season 2 of The Last of Us. And as scared as we are for it, we welcome her growth and journey. Because the strength to survive all of this has been in Ellie’s bones since the very start. But it’s the bond that she has with Joel that transforms her.
And we can’t wait to see it all, no matter the pain along the way.
- Ellie and that menstrual cup was everything. Too often shows forget that women menstruate, even at the end of the world. So it’s refreshing to see those gas station tampons and this menstrual cup. It already is a money saver in 2023. I’d imagine it will save even more in a post-apocalyptic world.
- Seeing the setup for the second game of The Last of Us hurt. From the sheep to Dina, it’s all foreshadowing for what’s to come. And if you think now is pain *laughter* there’s more. Because as beautiful as this show is in exploring the human condition, it makes us forget quite often that a part of that condition is heartache and grief.
- And the setup for Riley. It’s there. It’s been there since the moment that Ellie admitted there had been someone she’d killed. And now it’s almost here.
- The clothes. Just…Ellie’s shirt. It’s the little details that really show how much love was put into this show.
- Again, if Pedro Pascal doesn’t get some sort of award for “Kin” then what are we even doing here?!
- Elaine Miles aka Florence was really a vibe. From the moment her husband came home and she sassed him about being ok and how she made them soup. Iconic.