THE OSCAR PROJECT
Episode 6 of The Last of Us continues the journey of Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) as they attempt to find Joel's brother, Tommy (Gabriel Luna). The episode is set three months after the last which works great for the narrative. I appreciate when a show cuts unnecessary fat with time jumps. The characters need to get to a place but the journey there isn't exactly thrilling or full of character development and the writers shouldn't feel the need to fill in those blanks. Sometimes the destination truly is more important than the journey.
After the time jump we find our protagonists well on their way to finding Tommy. What I love so much about this is how much of the source material they cut. In a video game it isn't weird to spend hours exploring the world which works well in that format. However, too much of this in a screen adaptation can actively harm your version of the story. This show rarely has that problem and nowhere in this series is it more evident than here.
They cut large portions of the source material that originally took hours to get through into short 10 minute segments. It's extremely effective and shows the power of the narrative because everything that gets highlighted moves a character forward, whether it be literal movement or part of their story arc.
In a previous review I mentioned that this show is hellbent on making the audience cry. Every episode feels like a ploy to poke at the audience's emotional sensibilities like a 2010s Pixar movie. While still true, the show has never forced the emotional moments. This episode actually avoids this trend. There is a true emotional heartbeat throughout this episode that largely has to do with Joel and the fear he must overcome when filling the role of Ellie's protector. Through the loss of his daughter, Joel is naturally quite guarded and only shows small bits of emotion but the writers allow him to let go in this episode. He bears his soul in a way we haven't seen him do before. He has bottled his emotions for over two decades and the only thing that has drawn them to blow the cap off is Ellie. Ellie's parallel to Sarah grows more apparent as time moves forward and it's to the point where Joel himself can't separate his duties to them both, both in memory and present.
This links to something integral. Though this episode does little to progress their arcs, it ties up several loose ends in the story which have been hanging in the balance for a few episodes, even from the first episode. Not only does Joel finally come into contact with his brother but Ellie discovers that Joel had a daughter and that she passed. This bit of knowledge has been preventing Joel from letting go of the stand-offish persona he keeps around Ellie.
This is told very well through Joel experiencing moments of fear induced paralysis that the audience is initially left to wonder why. We're later told that Joel, feeling his age, worries that he will let Ellie down, or worse, put her in harm's way. He's in a position where he does not want to lose another child and yet what's most interesting about this is that Ellie does not feel safe around anybody else but Joel. Ellie has absolute faith in him as a guardian, a father figure, and a friend. But it isn't until Joel is able to see this that the characters can branch and move forward. It’s not exactly character building, but rather clearing new ground so we can continue to build elsewhere. It's beautiful and written so flawlessly by the writers.
Ramsey’s performance continues to impress and despite the love for Pascal, I think she is the best part of the cast. Pascal brings a lot of the emotional depth, not surprising as he is a seasoned actor, but Ramsey brings the echoes of emotion for Pascal to play against and bring it home which can be a vastly more difficult task. I do not understand the hate targeted towards her casting and this may be a case of an audience needing to maintain their expectations. Ramsey's interpretation of this character may vary slightly but she handles the adaptation as well as the show does overall. She may change some staples but she carries the overall spirit and soul of who Ellie is, which is more important than a one for one translation.
It astounds me the quality this show has been able to keep up this entire time. It's been a very long time since I've seen a show where every episode adds a new element, a new arc, a new adventure, and every one is on par with the last. In last episode's review I mentioned that the show seems to be going back on that uphill trajectory and I think this episode all but confirms that. So I'm going to give The Last of Us episode 6 a...
9 out of 10