February 22, 2024

After a very heavy episode 5, HBO’s sixth episode The last of us, “Kin”, spends a lot of time lightening the mood. But the comedy does more than let you laugh your way through broken hearts: it subtly deepens the central relationship between Joel (Peter Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and establishes Joel’s mini-catharsis of relief from his failures and responsibilities as a father. Even the episode’s unexpected laughs help reinforce one of the show’s essential truths: There’s still lightness and joy in the world, even now. It’s still a world worth living in, or could be, but it’s also a world with a lot to lose.

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The Last of Us Episode 6 Bella Ramsey Ellie Campfire
Image via HBO

To appreciate the comedy and its effects, we have to review what might be the most painful moment of the show so far, except Sarah’s (Nico Parker) death Henry (Lamar Johnson), faced with the inability to protect his formerly sweet and now tainted 8-year-old brother Sam (Kevin Woodard), shoots first Sam and then himself as Joel and Ellie look on, dashing any hope that these two couples will become a foursome to face the dangers that come together. It’s unspeakably grim, and when “Kin” opens with a flashback of that terrible moment, it seems like the episode would be sitting on that sadness. We’ll see how Ellie and Joel come to terms with their loss. We mourn the brothers again.

But immediately, our expectations are turned upside down; instead, we’ll move forward three months. Ellie and Joel have arrived in Wyoming, and had to go into a cabin to get directions. But the home invaders are not convinced. Florence (Elaine Miles) makes soup and waits patiently for her husband, Marlon (Graham Greene) – “the gun was ahead of it”, after all. When he arrives, they gleefully debate how hospitable they should be to a menacing stranger and a “little psycho” apparently held at gunpoint, and display an unglamorous knowledge of the political turmoil out in the middle of nowhere (“Are There Firefly People?”, asks Florence with a disbelieving laugh.) For this couple, life has gone on a bit as it did before Outbreak Day, leaving Joel and Ellie (and the audience) in shock, reminding them that not every moment has to be so tight; for some, life can go on, with all of it. .daily laughs and moans.

Comedy as an answer to tragedy

Kevin Woodard Lamar Johnson Last of Us
Image via HBO

The episode also uses comedy to immediately show that the events in Kansas City and the loss of Henry and Sam have strengthened the Joel-Ellie partnership, but not plunged them into misery either. That tragedy could have hardened Joel and Ellie. Instead, the only thing that has hardened is Ellie’s determination to save the world when Sam couldn’t. As they follow the pair’s directions, if not their advice, Ellie’s sense of humor is intact, making light of the River of Death and the “still raw” alcohol in Joel’s flask. Yes, she’s perfectly capable of continuing to watch over him, as Joel taught her, even though she’s not quite ready to let him. And yes, Sam’s death and the failure of his attempt to save her with blood are heavy on the heart. But instead of dampening his spirit, the show lets him — and us — laugh, reveling in the possibilities of his quest to reach the Firefly doctors and the living Sams, Joel, and the still-living Sams to have a ranch or go all out. the way to the moon Or, in a rare Joel joke, have a sheep ranch good Moon.

But the show also uses comedy to show another side of that decision, when they are greeted with Jackson’s attention. Ellie’s funny but terrible table manners aren’t just the result of a hardscrabble survival, they’re a way for Ellie to assert her self-confidence and independence. We can laugh at the contrast between Jackson’s relative toilet decency and Ellie’s profanity-laced dinner table conversation, while also recognizing the ways she uses to hide her fear and uneasiness. But Ellie also knows when to call it quits: she nudges a quiet Joel to “say congratulations” to Tommy (Gabriel Luna) and Mary (Routine Wesley) was one of the biggest laughs of the episode.

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Laughter deepens the developing relationship

Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us Episode 6
Image via HBO

“Kin” is not all about laughing, of course; The loss in Kansas City has brought Joel and Ellie closer in their own way, and ready to be more vulnerable. Or perhaps the trauma has made them less able to hide these vulnerabilities; they are finally able to tell someone with honesty and heartbreaking clarity about their deepest fears and shortcomings. But after these moments of catharsis, the show turns again to comedy rather than pathos to show the emotional breakdown; On the trip to Colorado, Joel’s spirit is lifted, as is his emotional burden. He teaches Ellie how to shoot a rifle, smiling and happy, pointing it at a target he names “ASTHOLE”. He tells himself a very good private joke, and assures Ellie that he was, in fact, very cool back in the day and that “everybody loved contractors.” He confesses the truth to Ellie about what he would do if they helped remake the world, delighting her and us with the revelation that he would like to be a singer. Through these laughs, we get to see the very different Joel we first met on Outbreak Day, reminding us that the warm, funny father Sarah loved is inside him.

Comedy is also an effective storytelling tool to chart Joel and Ellie’s developing relationship. These two have never been great conversationalists; to make them strict heart-bearers now would be a lie. Instead, they communicate their strengthened bond through laughter together, and that laughter brings them closer to the truths worth living between a mischievous couple in a cabin, or a 300-member commune or fort in the Wyoming desert. house 10 miles west of Boston. Life doesn’t have to be a motto, even in these situations. It doesn’t always have to be hard. Laughter is part of what makes the pain worth it. Letting go of joy and community with other people, even if you’re not sure if you deserve it, is the only way.

But this is not, after all, a happy show, even one that believes in the possibility of happiness. During the week and outside The last of us he has made choices that serve to keep the inherent misery of this life surprising rather than inevitable; even at its darkest, the show never lets the darkness cloud our emotional response. There’s always a deep humanity on display, which helps us understand why these characters carry on and grieve when they can’t. So after losing Henry and Sam, it’s a skillful storyteller to deliver an episode full of laughs and catharsis, both to remind them and why we keep going, and to emphasize the terror when it all slips away at the end. By using comedy to expand Joel and Ellie’s relationship, we are even more moved by the danger involved, the possibility of Joel’s loss as he draws blood in the snow. The warmth and laughter of the episode remind us and its characters of the goodness worth living and the light that goes out when darkness descends.

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