[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for The Last of Us, Season 1 Episode 6, “Kin.”]
One of the best aspects of The Last of Us is how grounded the series is in the realities of life for its characters. After last week’s installment, no one could ever accuse this show of skimping on fungal-zombie-related action, but the specifics of daily survival are given equal weight, especially as the characters of Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) grow closer on their journey to potentially find a cure for the plague that broke the world.
So, in celebration of this approach, let’s break down some of the best details from the newest episode, which picks up after the tragic conclusion of Joel and Ellie’s time in Kansas City. A lot of ground is covered literally, as the pair arrive in Wyoming before then traveling down to Colorado, but there’s also some significant storytelling as well, as Joel and Ellie discover a new safe haven before continuing on their quest. As we see so often in this show, the little things add up to something big.
01. Ellie Really Notices Joel’s Age
Over the past few episodes, Joel has been caught slipping twice: First by the ambush in Kansas City and then when Henry and Sam got the drop on them. In “Kin,” Ellie picks up even more signs that Joel is losing his edge.
Early in the episode, Ellie worries when Joel has heart palpitations, and while it appears she isn’t as concerned when he falls asleep while on second watch, there appears to be a tacit agreement she might have to pick up more slack. This all comes to a head when Joel gets stabbed and falls off the horse while they’re getting away from the attackers.
02. A Town With Christmas and Bacon
The Last of Us hasn’t pulled its punches when it comes to the brutality of life after Cordyceps — and there’s only more darkness to come, most likely. But the relief of Joel and Ellie not just finding Tommy (Gabriel Luna), but discovering a beacon of civilization after weeks of scrambling, cannot be understated, and director Jasmila Žbanić does a stellar job of capturing the specifics of life in Jackson, with its working lights, a movie theater, and ice for your drinks.
03. The Diva Cup
We’ve previously seen Ellie contend with the struggle that is finding feminine hygiene projects during the post-apocalypse — in Episode 3, she spent a decent portion of screen time hunting down tampons. So the gift from Maria (Rutina Wesley) here is one that she may not immediately appreciate, but while there are plenty of present-day women who don’t love this particular method for handling that time of the month, there’s no doubt that the reusable nature of the device makes it a godsend in a time when CVS is not open 24 hours.
One historical note: Variations of the menstrual cup have been in use for a long time, going back to the 18th century, but the Diva Cup website proudly proclaims that the company “brought the DivaCup to the mass market in 2003.” So yes, technically the company was in business before the world fell apart in the Last of Us timeline, but was it mass-producing enough devices by that point? Eh, we don’t need to nitpick this particular detail.
04. Movie Night
Screening at the local theater is the Oscar-nominated 1977 romantic comedy The Goodbye Girl, starring Richard Dreyfus, Marsha Mason, and Quinn Cummings — Dreyfus won the award for Best Actor for his role as a struggling actor who moves in with a single mom and her precocious daughter. Beyond the theme of found families, it’s hard to be sure why this particular film was picked for inclusion in the episode; it probably doesn’t hurt that WarnerMedia (which of course also owns HBO) owns the rights, but the film isn’t currently streaming on HBO Max. Maybe it’ll get added to the TCM hub come March.