Vulnerability & Family: HBO’s ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 6 vs. The Game!

Episode 6 of HBO’s The Last Of Us shows us a softer side of Joel and Ellie’s burgeoning father-daughter relationship. Here are several differences and similarities between the game and the show at this pivotal emotional moment.

HBO’s The Last Of Us continues to rock our emotions as Season 1 enters its latter half. Episode 6 is a turning point in our story; we learn a lot about Joel and his relationship with Ellie, much more explicitly than in past episodes. Here are some differences and quintessential similarities between the game and the show at this point.

It’s Winter in Wyoming

In the game, our transition between seasons comes after Joel’s life-threatening injury that bookends this episode; it puts us into immediate suspense as for the first time because the player controls Ellie instead of Joel.

In the show, we follow a Native American man coming home from hunting, only to find Joel in his house demanding information. The brief appearance of this man and his wife is lauded as a great representation of the Native community, from their manner of speaking to their knowledge of the land to their hospitality.


The couple sends Joel and Ellie on their way, and they continue on to wherever Tommy is. They’re stopped by an armed group on horses who lead them back to their community called Jackson. It’s here that Joel sees his brother for the first time in years, and the love is palpable. Tommy’s wife, Marie (played by Rutina Wesley), tells us that Jackson is a sprawling town with 300 residents, a location we only see fleshed out in The Last Of Us Part II. In the original game, Tommy’s town is sparse and small. It’s beautiful to see how society is beginning to rebuild, this time under collective ownership.

@howlingbuchanan #greenscreen and we love that! #thelastofus #lastofus #thelastofushbo #tlou #joelmiller #tommymiller #mariamiller ♬ original sound – Mr.Linguini

Joels Vulnerability

Our tour through Jackson leads to a rare moment of emotional vulnerability from our gruff, angry dad protagonist. Joel bares his soul to Tommy, sharing his anxieties about not being able to protect his loved ones; we’ve witnessed his slow breakdown through what appear to be panic attacks or PTSD freeze responses throughout the last few episodes. Pedro Pascal better get his Emmy; that’s all I have to say.

Joel asks Tommy to take Ellie to the Fireflies in his stead, and Tommy originally refuses, telling his brother that he has a baby on the way (a motivation absent in the game). Joel’s emotional monologue seems to work on him, though, and he prepares to take Ellie the next day. In the game, Tommy’s mind is changed in a different way. Jackson is raided by infected and bandits, but after the chaos settles, he witnesses how much Joel cares for Ellie as if she was his daughter.

@shannnyyyyy I just know tommy could see how attached they were getting 😭 #fypシ #foryou #gaming #gamingtok #girlgamer #ps5gamer #ps5gamergirl #tlouremake #tlouremakeps5 #tloujoel #tlouellie #tloutommy #tloumaria #viraltiktok ♬ snowfall – Øneheart & reidenshi

Now comes the most impactful scene of the game and show. Ellie confronts Joel about abandoning her, and Joel retorts to her vulnerability with harsh words. As much as I love the liberties, the show has taken with the source material; I’m glad this scene was essentially identical aside from the setting (in the game, Ellie overhears Tommy and Joel and runs away). I teared up just like I did playing it, and Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey killed it.

@swinoua this scene breaks my heart in every universe 💔😕 / sp. 411scenes | #tlou #tlouhbo #joelmilleredits #tlouedits #thelastofusedits #omgpage #fypage #viral #aftereffects #edit #elliewilliams #elliewilliamsedit #gameedits #thelastofusshow #tloushowedit #sadderdaze #bellaramsey #pedropascal #bellaramseyedit #pedropascaledit #joelmiller ♬ som original – agata 🌀

The bitterness is luckily short-lived. Joel decides to give Ellie a choice in the end, surprising both her and Tommy. Without skipping a beat, she chooses Joel, and they ride off to the University of Colorado to find the Fireflies.

Joels Injury

The university section is also almost identical to the game, down to the test monkeys and the sudden raiders. Joel brutally chokes and snaps the neck of one of the raiders, a common mechanic in the game, only to find a knife in his gut. In the game, he falls two stories onto a metal pole that completely impales him; however badass that might be, it makes sense that the writers used a less definitely-fatal injury in the show.

He and Ellie escape on horseback, but after a while, Joel can’t keep himself conscious. Ellie begs for him to get up as the camera pans out, and the episode ends. This show has a knack for introducing characters, making us fall in love with them, and killing them off in tragic ways. Is Joel next?

@h6rbinger my mental health evaporated after this episode, i am not okay #tlou #thelastofus #thelastofusedit #thelastofusepisode6 #elliewilliams #joelmiller #edit ♬ original sound – genna

It looks like the next episode will explore Ellie’s backstory from the DLC The Last Of Us Left Behind. Grab your tissues; we’re in for a ride (and not just a fun one on a carousel).

You can catch new episodes of The Last Of Us on HBO and HBO Max on Sundays at 9 pm ET.

About the Author

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Christopher Ikonomou

Christopher Ikonomou is a 4th year at the University of California, Los Angeles pursuing Communication and Disability Studies. He has a particular interest in the entertainment industry and representation of marginalized people in film and TV. On campus, he is the Editor-in-Chief at OutWrite Newsmagazine, the oldest queer college publication in the United States, and an activist with the Disabled Student Union. He’s a horror superfan and has been featured by Buzzfeed, UCLA College, Bored Panda, and Teen Vogue for his vocal involvement in the fight for better representation of the disabled community on screen and in the genre, particularly those with Marfan syndrome like himself.