The Last of Us – Kin review S1 E6
It’s hard to overstate just how spectacular the acting has been on The Last of Us — especially for a series of this genre. I haven’t gotten used to seeing Emmy-winning quality performances basically every week of a
zombie infected show.
Three months have passed since the tragedy in Kansas City with Henry and Sam. Joel and Elle have traveled far enough to find some snow and a charming couple Marlon (Graham Greene, The Green Mile) and Florence (Elaine Miles, Northern Exposure). These two were so much fun I would have been fine with another bottle episode with Joel and Elle snowed in spending the winter with them.
Alas, they’re only around long enough to point our duo on the right path as their quest to find Tommy continues. Still, since they didn’t get killed, I politely reserve the right to request a follow-up Marlon and Florence episode.
Joel is starting to experience some chest pains, which obviously won’t come into play later. Nope, no chance.
On the road, Elle tells Joel she tried to save Sam, but it didn’t work. Thankfully, Joel doesn’t chastise her for it. It’s clear that for as traumatic as Endure and Survive was for viewers, it had just as major impact on Joel and Elle who remain haunted by their brief, but meaningful interaction with the brothers.
The Last of Us feels less like a zombie show than most because the zombie infected are more like special guests stars than a weekly threat. That threat that at any point in time, infected could emerge from the ground and overwhelm everything is so much more potent than them showing up every episode and getting taken out.
And there’s plenty of humans to provide enough of a threat anyway. Joel and Elle get rounded up by a posse, led by Maria (Queen Sugar’s Rutina Wesley). There’s a nice bit of easy uneasiness as a dog trained to sniff out clickers starts sizing up Elle and snarling before happily licking her while getting petted. It’s the little things that The Last of Us mines so well to generate effective scares and tension.
They’re brought to a huge walled compound town and find Tommy hard at work. He’s married Maria and they’re expecting, which is the main reason he doesn’t want to start traipsing off on another adventure with Joel. Maria is part of the Commune Council leading the 300 residents. What’s the over/under on how fast Rick Grimes and his crew would have had the Commune a burning, flaming wreck overrun by walkers? 24 hours? Three days? A week?
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Maria inadvertently tells Elle about Sarah; but also warns Elle about Joel before taking her to the movie theater. Granted it wasn’t Empire Strikes Back, but Elle didn’t seem nearly as impressed as I would’ve imagined. Joel is feeling a certain way with Tommy seemingly holding his past actions against him. Again, Joel isn’t a hero or an outlaw — he’s just a survivor doing whatever it takes to survive.
Joel tells Tommy everything from Tess dying to Elle being immune to the outbreak. Just as importantly, Joel tearfully explains his dreams and the feeling of loss and failure, which terrifies Joel into thinking he’s just going to get her killed. We rarely see this kind of emotion from a show’s tough guy and Pedro Pascal is absolutely killing it in this role. Having the lead show so much vulnerability and doubt is refreshing in this kind of series.
That’s reflected from Elle as well when Joel comes to talk to her and she goes off on him for trying to leave her. Bella Ramsey is doing some sensational work keeping Elle a credible cocky teen who isn’t afraid to express her own doubts and fears. Basically, The Last of Us is giving us two archetype characters who would never reveal their emotions and putting them on full display. And the show is so much stronger for it.
Despite his concerns, Joel decides he’ll leave it up to Elle. Does she want to go with Tommy or ride with him, but he doesn’t even get the question finished before Elle is ready to roll out with him.
We get more pockets of quiet as Joel and Elle travel via horseback to the university in hopes of catching up with the fireflies and making a cure for the outbreak. But the only thing left in the labs are monkeys…and scavengers looking to loot. Joel fights one off but takes a knife to the gut in the process forcing Elle to fire away while Joel barely navigates the horse for their escape.
They manage to make it safely away before Joel collapses leaving a rattled Elle to plead with him to wake up. This could have easily been a quality season finale cliffhanger, but we’ve got a few more episodes left and a few more possible memorable set piece moments from the game to re-enact.
Kin keeps the show’s hot streak going with a thoughtful episode exploring guilt, regret, loss and fear mixed in with some terrific performances to keep The Last of Us essential TV viewing in 2023.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: HBO
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