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Monday, February 27, 2023

[The Last of SQUAWKS: E6] Kin |The Last of Us

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After our Reaction Video, we go through the finer points in our full breakdown: In many ways - largely understated - the series is careening towards an end we may not be fully prepared for: Joel & Tommy reconcile over 20 years worth of baggage, which allows Joel to quickly recover nearly demolishing his bond with Ellie. Just when things started looking up - in ways we never thought we'd get to see - they suddenly take a violent turn.
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David Cameo:
Rachael Burt:
Sherrandy Swift:
Bridget Mason-Gray:

  • It's demonstrated very clearly, throughout the series, that the only people you will ever really allow into your life are the only ones who can betray you, because everyone else is sus/dead meat/untrusted.
  • Up until now, you could be forgiven if you also thought that Ellie Williams knew about Joel Miller's loss, 20 years ago. The show does a great job of saying, Oh, by the way, Ellie, Joel had a daughter/Tommy Miller had a niece, Sarah Miller. Here's her memorial. Hearing it from Maria Miller explains so much for Ellie in that moment.

  • It's also amazing that, for 20 years, nobody's really stood up to/on behalf of Joel for losing so much time that could've been spent actually living. Heaven help anyone else besides Ellie & Tommy for trying. Reminds us of the reason Rick Grimes was able to keep his savageness in check for so long on The Walking Dead: having Carl Grimes. When he lost him, he lost his moral center for a while.

  • Speaking of Carl, Ellie has the same reaction to alcohol as he does in Season 1 of The Walking Dead.

  • Speaking of yuck (with a smile on her face), the Diva Cup went into mass production in 2003, continuing the theme of Ellie finding more feminine products (like she did in episode 2).
  • The one person who absolutely understands Joel's grief is Maria: because of it, she also knows how dangerous grief like that can make you.

  • It's also interesting that both Maria and Joel blame one another for the decisions Tommy makes: Joel blames Maria for Tommy going radio-silent; Maria blames Joel for dragging Tommy into situations where they had to kill innocent people.
  • Little does Maria know (or maybe she does, hence her further concern), Joel places the burden of everyone's decisions squarely upon his shoulders. He didn't give Tommy or Ellie a choice (or at least he made it seem as though they didn't) under his stewardship. This way, if anything happens to them, he would only have himself to blame, just like he blames himself for failing to protect Sarah.

  • But just like Ellie, Tommy has agency. They also have the tools to survive that Sarah didn't have, at the time. Both Tommy and Ellie convince Joel that they can be cruel to be kind by reminding him of this and that, though we will always mourn our losses, life is too short to live in regret. These interactions are what allows Joel to relent and actually give Ellie a choice over who should take her the rest of the way to The Fireflies facility.
  • Rachael is triggered from The Walking Dead: When Maria decides to take in Joel & Ellie through the gates of her community, Rachael was worried they would destroy it.
  • Sherrandy mentions that the official The Last of Us Podcast does a great job of explaining Joel's behavior throughout the episode, particularly the interaction between he and Ellie in her room.
  • Never Let Me Down Again is played over the credits at the end of this episode. Not only was it the same song that was played at the end of the 1st episode, not only is it an 80s song (which means trouble according to the code established by Joel, Theresa "Tess" Servopoulos, Bill, and Frank) by Depeche Mode, but it was a cover sung by Jessica Mazin: the daughter of Showrunner, Craig Mazin. We didn't have this info at the time of our livestream, but the official soundtrack should be available for purchase by the time of this blog's release and will include Miss Mazin's cover (Amazon / Spotify).

  • Ellie makes note of the chasm of a difference between the things she is concerned about, as a teenager, from the daily concerns of teenagers before the fall. One of the things Rachael wanted to focus on was the Post-it note of the Top 10 hottest boys belonging to the previous owner of Ellie's room. This lead to the funny sketch on Saturday Night Live with Pedro Pascal playing a teacher whose students were making fan cams of him.
  • Lois says, in the chat, "Maria tried to kill Michonne!" That's right! Rutina Wesley played Michonne's pre-apocalypse friend, turned enemy, Jocelyn, on The Walking Dead: Episode 9x14 Scars. Interestingly enough, Maria, just like Michonne, loses a very young child early on in the zombie apocalypse.

  • In the lunchroom scene, we spot Dina, who appears in Part II of video game series, who is played by Paolina Hernandez Van Kleef. Sherrandy also notes that Shannon Woodward, most notably Elsie Hughes from Westworld, was the original voice actor of Dina in the video games.
  • Because of the interactions in the chat, from Takeerah and Lois, it allows us to focus on the fact that - as soon as he gives Ellie the choice and relinquishes the burden of taking responsibility over everyone's actions - Joel starts to think of actually having a life in Maria's Jackson, Wyoming community, even reigniting the dream he had of becoming a professional singer song-writer. It's a huge relief after Dave has consistently worried about what it might mean to lose Ellie for several episodes.

  • We finally discuss the tense scene between Joel & Ellie. Bridget understands Joel's urgency to relinquish his quest to Tommy because of his panic attacks. Sherrandy understands Ellie's anger over not even getting a choice in the matter. Rachael hones in on Joel's parental side and distances himself from losing another daughter-figure (especially in the wake of failing to protect Sam Burrell & Henry Burrell).
  • To add to this all, it only makes matters worse knowing that he was taken by surprise and almost dies at the hands of Kathleen's Kansas City Revolutionaries and felt utterly helpless at the prospect of Maria's people almost killing Ellie at the border of their community.
  • What's worse is the way Joel shit-talked Tommy to Ellie about not being the most reliable person - being both a joiner and a quitter (of The Fireflies, for starters).
  • What's great, narratively, is knowing that it's very possible that Ellie overheard the entire conversation between Tommy & Joel and still can't understand the depths of Joel's grief enough to sympathize with his decision... perhaps, until the end of this episode. Until that time, she's just a child, looking to her father figure, wanting him to protect her.
  • But it's not as if Joel doesn't want to complete this mission himself: there's a large part of him that wants to get Ellie to where she needs to go - not just for Tess - to make up for the tragedy that befell Sarah. He needs this win. When he acknowledges his human frailties and the possibility that, because of them, this mission might not be accomplished, he looks to Tommy as his buoy.
  • Sherrandy brings up the movie the community was playing, The Goodbye Girl. When Tommy returns from his conversation with Joel, the little girl in the movie is overheard asking her mother what being tactful means. When her mother says it means to lie, Sherrandy takes it to mean that Joel is lying to himself to avoid failing Ellie.
  • Even though Tommy definitely does not want to be responsible for keeping Ellie safe, especially since he would have to lie to the mother of his soon-to-be newborn child, he agrees to Joel's plea because he understands Joel's 20-year torment and that acquiescing might bring him that much closer to the land of the living.
  • One can also interpret Ellie throwing Sarah in Joel's face as a childish attempt of telling him to stop feeling things for her so that he can take care of her without any qualms. At the end of the day, though, it's not just about who is most qualified for the job; it's about completely trusting one another and having each other's back and that might not be the case with Tommy. Joel not only protects Ellie, but Ellie has saved Joel's life, too.
  • Bridget notes that regardless of how well suited Tommy may or may not be, he's definitely more familiar with the region, which is a life-or-death advantage; however, it's alluded to by both Maria (in this episode) and Joel (in the series) that Tommy isn't a leader and might not make the best decisions in a pinch. It also might be the case that he saves his skin over hers, since he has a growing family waiting for him back home.
  • Dave ultimately agrees; however, it's worth noting that Tommy is the one who made the memorial for Kevin, Maria's son, and Sarah. Sarah meant a lot to him, too, and there must be a part of him that feels even slightly remorseful for allowing himself to move on from the tragedy of losing her, too. He, too, would want to get Ellie to where she's going for both himself and Joel.
  • Sherrandy takes a moment to compare and contrast Joel's loss with, i.e., Maria's and how she was able to move on when Joel couldn't. Bridget compares Joel's loss to alcoholism: his personal development stops at the moment of his loss, while going through the motions of having a life. We take a moment to compare this to when Rick loses Lori Grimes: though it was agonizing - as a viewer - to watch his grief unfold, we try to understand it (even if some of us couldn't help but jokingly act out our frustrations).
  • Rachael continues these thoughts by proclaiming that men are bigger babies when it comes to loss. Dave counters that it must be similar to what women go through during post-partum depression, which is a viscous cycle of depression, shame, and self-loathing, wrapped in helplessness. Men have the unfortunate disposition of both being rendered incapable of consoling the losses of their loved ones or, when losing the ones they love, ashamed that they couldn't do anything to stop it.

  • Bridget responds to this debate by reflecting on Joel's awful behavior during the conversation he and Tommy had at the bar. Joel struggling to feel happy for Tommy having a kid is exactly how Bridget felt when her friends and family were having babies after having miscarried two of her own.
  • In response to this, Sherrandy takes a step back to sort of defend Tommy: when he sees Joel with Ellie after several months (maybe even a year) since they last saw one another, he must be thinking that maybe he's starting to live again and it would be OK to share his happy news. Even if that were true (and to a small extent, it is), we all agree that having another child could never take the place of or erase the grief of losing the previous one.

  • Dave's mother had two miscarriages (between the births of his 2nd sister and his baby brother) that he only found out about later on in life. She often wonders what their lives would've been like, which lead to Rachael sharing her own miscarriage (prior to her son, Silas): she would've been 18 by now. After his conversation with Tommy, spawning another panic-attack, Joel sees a woman in the crowd that resembled what his daughter might've looked like (at 34 years old) hugging her daughter. Though beautiful to watch, it must've been heartbreaking to also realize that he might've been a grandfather, by now.
  • The bottom line is that even though men and women grieve differently - and also depending on the circumstance - we all have different ways of processing that grief and attempt to live our lives in the tremendous wake of our loss. Some of us might even overachieve, like Bridget and Maria.

  • It's incredibly special when a show can conjure up a story that we manage to invest in fast & hard enough to appreciate when our protagonist suddenly sheds his archetype - the trope of stoic patriarch - by relinquishing his fatal flaw and acknowledging and accepting his frailties. When Tommy sees this - someone who has also managed to mature and grow past his failings - he can't help but acquiesce.

  • Speaking of betrayal, Walking Dead Eternal asks whether Rick finally figured out that Warrant Office Anne "Jadis" Stokes betrayed him in TWD 9x05, which gives everyone the perfect opportunity to talk more about Yellowstone... but in the context of the show, Graham Greene, who played the old native man in the cabin at the start of the episode, was actually on the Yellowstone spin-off 1883. Continuing the Yellowstone connection, he also acted alongside Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves. He's also a character on the best ever show, Longmire. One more: the river of death Joel & Ellie cross is actually the Yellowstone River.
  • And speaking of the elderly couple providing us with terrific humor in the beginning of this episode: Sherrandy said they reminded her of a post-apocalyptic Dan & Rosanne Connor (from Rosanne) while Bridget was reminded of the dead-pan Innuit family Citizen-Z adopts (or they adopt him) on Z-Nation.
    Editor's Note: Apparently, the actors who played Florence & Marlon (the characters' official names), Elaine Miles and Graham Greene, acted alongside one another in the classic TV Series Northern Exposure.
  • Even though we've brought this up in previous episodes, in a different context, it's hard not to think of Black Summer's 2nd season due to its winter landscape - but also its Elk Valley Lodge as a refuge, much like the Jackson Commune was for our characters.
    Editor's Note: both series were filmed entirely in Alberta, CANADA.
  • Rachael thinks the infected-sniffing dog was a cadaver dog that didn't detect the presence of putrescene (the smell of rotting flesh) on either Joel or Ellie. Bridget remembers something Craig Mazin mentioned: the dog couldn't smell the infection because Ellie's wounds had long since healed (whereas an infected person's wound would be exposed long enough to sniff what's in their blood). Regardless, like Joel, most of us were petrified. Dave's Bill theory of the week is that whatever suppresses Ellie's infection is actually reversing the damage, so the dog couldn't sniff it.
  • The monkeys present around The Firefly's lab in University of Eastern Colorado are a callback to when Ellie asks Joel how the outbreak occurred in Episode 3, Long Long Time. She presumes, "I bet it was monkeys." This actually inspires a conversation about a humans body temperature being slightly lower than the majority of mammals. Just wait until the cordyceps adapt, we'll have Cowdeceps, Cordysheps, and Cordydoodles - oh my!
  • It was funny when Joel relays to Ellie - after explaining Capitalism versus Communism (people either wanted to own everything or made sure nobody owned anything) - that he just did his job [in a Capitalist society] as a contractor. When he first sees Tommy, he's actually perched atop building scaffolding, just doing his job in a commune.
  • We take a moment to bully Little Tommy O'Mara.
  • Dave notices that the rifle Tommy ends up giving Joel is the 700 he brags about near the beginning of the episode. ADHD commandeers our conversation into talking about The 700 Club, Televangelists, and conjuror James Randi and the JRF exposing Faith Healers, Mediums, and Psychics as the charlatans they are.
  • Sherrandy takes a moment to bring up the great cinematography throughout, namely the scene with Joel & Ellie riding away on their horse, which allows Dave to bring up the outstanding B-Roll shots of landscapes and Joel & Ellie spending time together on over the water against a cliffside at a campfire.
  • Back to The 700, while Joel & Ellie are practicing with it, you notice that Joel is enjoying his time with her. It doesn't matter what happens moving forward, he's allowing himself to live.
  • Which brings us back, briefly, to the cobbler shop where Joel spills his guts to Tommy: it's a lot similar to when Bill finally allows himself to admit to Frank, I was never afraid until I met you. We are privileged enough to witness two men, who probably spent most of their lives living in regret, finally allowing themselves to step into the land of the living. It's terrifying for them, but it's the only way they can seize their happiness (again).
  • What was great about them relinquishing the stoic protagonist trope, at the risk of alienating the audience who might not have fully bought into Joel's suffering, is how they are also relinquishing the will-they-won't-they trope of Joel rejecting Ellie indeterminately (as a daughter figure) in order to bait the audience into watching their relationship slowly build over time. This is dissimilar to most shows, but quintessentially Smallville, whose Clark Kent & Lana Lang will-they-won't-they almost became a parody of itself until they violently made it impossible for them to become a thing. Keep all of this in mind, including Ellie's misunderstanding of Joel's vulnerabilities: seeing Joel incapacitated at the end of this episode makes is so important for her to fully understand why he kept her at arms length this whole time.

  • Walking Dead Eternal rates this Season 8/10 and asks us what we think. Sherrandy: 9/10 (because it's not Yellowstone); Bridget 6/10 (the game is much better); Rachael 5/10 (or much higher, depending on how it wraps-up); Dave 8/10 (he's a tough, but fair critic - that's a high rating for him). Sam Elliott is providing all the guns Dave is pointing at everyone's head for these ratings.
  • Dave has a corny insight about Joel needing to resole his boots because his soul is wearing thin. Nobody seems to like it.
  • Bridget brings up something Neil Druckmann says about The Goodbye Girl: it was more to highlight the relationship between the male protagonist and female lead's daughter than with his love interest. It goes to show that Ellie is the only one actually watching the film (since she's already on the same page). This brings us to the remake of The Goodbye Girl and how it breaks our hearts that it sucks because Jeff Daniels is a national treasure.
  • Bridget goes through the rest of the easter eggs in the episode. Of note:
    • The Tipsy Bison (the bar where Joel & Tommy have their first heart-to-heart) doesn't even appear until Part II of the video game series.
    • The white and purple jacket (not the winter coat) that's given to Ellie by Maria is same one she wears in the video games.
    • Purple is a color that shows up a lot: Tess & Sarah's shirts are shades of purple, the curtains in Sarah's room, and Ellie's clothes have all had a purple-ish color to them.
    • Shimmer, the horse Ellie meets after they eat, is also in the video games.
    • They designed Ellie's temporary housing on the show to match the room in the game.

    • We excluded more spoiler-specific details, but if you want to read more about them, click or tap here, to read Kirsten Acuna's article on Insider:
  • On the note of similarities to the game, much like the similarities between The Walking Dead comic panels and how they appear on screen, the way scenes were story-boarded in this episode felt similar to how they would play out in the video games. What is dissimilar is the way Joel is shivved in the video game versus the TV series: the former gave us major Rick vibes in TWD episode 9x05. This also makes us think that perhaps The Walking Dead might've borrowed that move from the video game, since it came out 5 years prior to that scene.
  • I know that it was brought up, repeatedly, how much Dave appreciated Joel admitting his fears and failings to Tommy but - on the note of similarities to the video game - this scene never happens in the game. Rachael particularly appreciated it because she hates it when we don't get to where we're going in a story fast enough.
  • For those who know what happens in the video games, like Dave mentioned in the Reaction Livestream, it feels like we're careening towards the end; however, the next episode will take us way back to events that transpired before the present-day scenes in the pilot. Nobody was listening to what he said: all they heard in their heads was Jack telling everyone how they had to go back to The Island in Lost. Oh yeah, and Sawyer from Lost is in Yellowstone. Also, Sam Elliott says if you don't take care of your pee-pee, you'll get the YellowSQUAWK.

  • Responding to Dave & Walking Dead Eternal having never read The Walking Dead comic books, Takeerah mentions that she, too, hasn't, even though she has all the compendiums. This produces much anxiety among Rachael & Bridget, since TWD on AMC has finally completed its run.
  • The remaining episode titles of the season have finally been posted (episode 7-9): Left BehindWhen We Are in Need, and (they did not disappoint and bookended the season with the last episode's title) Look for the Light.

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