The Last of Us, TV Shows

HBO’s The Last of Us Episode 6 Takes us Down a River of Death

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Episode 6 of HBO’s The Last of Us brings Ellie and Joel further toward their goals but throws up a devastating roadblock. 

This is a recap and review of episode six.  Spoilers to follow!


Credit: HBO

The Last of Us Episode 6 Review

Three months after Kansas City, Joel enters a cabin in Wyoming looking for Tommy, finding only a hilarious prepper couple who seem unperturbed by the home invasion.

These two have lived off-grid well before the infection. Despite Joel initially holding a gun on them, they give the pair good advice about where to go (and where not to go, specifically a river they claim raiders frequent).

On the way, Joel suffers a bit of a health issue, either heart trouble or a panic attack, but shakes it off as nothing. Similarly to those in The Road, Joel fixes his shoes with duct tape as they camp by the river the couple warned them about. 

Ellie asks what happens after their mission is complete. Joel isn’t sure and says he dreams of owning a sheep ranch. Of course, Ellie makes a quip. Then she explains that she wants to be an astronaut and that her hero is Sally Ride. Along with those high hopes, she’s also not hopeful that her blood will make a cure.

Joel falls asleep during his watch, to which Ellie takes over, trying to either make him proud or show she’s capable. It appears to do both. 


At the river of death, as Ellie calls it, they find nothing but scenic vistas. Finally, they arrive at a dam, and riders on horseback appear when they reach the base of the river.

They have a dog trained to sniff out infected (who is now my favourite character in the entire show). Both Joel and Ellie are deemed clear, and they explain their situation. A woman rides up to Joel, and in the next scene, the pair are on horseback, being brought to a walled city called Jackson. 

Joel sees Tommy working on a scaffold, calls to him, and they rush together and hug.

The Last of Us Episode 6
Credit: HBO

Afterward, they head to a restaurant where Elle and Joel scarf down a meal. Ellie, jealous of Tommy breaking into her dad-daughter relationship with Joel, becomes snarky (or, at least, more than usual). We learn that Tommy and the woman who brought them in, Maria (Rutina Wesley), are married. 

Next comes a tour of the town. It has almost everything, from electricity to agriculture. Maria explains that they’re communists, which shocks Tommy despite them having lived there for several years. Joel leaves Ellie with Maria. 

Joel and Tommy chat awkwardly, with Joel lying about Ellie and Tommy refusing to leave the commune. Tommy explains why he stopped messaging on the radio. They argue about past decisions they made, and Tommy explains that the real reason he can’t leave is that Maria is pregnant. Joel is rocked by this, clearly thinking about his own daughter. As such, he makes a half-congratulations, and Tommy calls him out. They part in anger, and Joel has another attack. 

Ellie has a shower. When she emerges, she is gifted a menstrual cup, which she contemplates in the way most of us who use them did when we first saw the instructions. No more foraging for tampons for Ellie!

In the next scene, Maria gives Ellie a haircut. We learn that she used to be a district attorney and that she has a deceased child. In commenting on the shared memorial, Ellie finally learns about Sarah. Realizing Joel kept such a major secret from her makes her snarky again, and Maria warns her about trusting Joel. Maria then takes Ellie to the movies. 

Meanwhile, Joel is trying to fix his boot when Tommy enters with a new pair for him. Joel explains Ellie’s immunity to Tommy, then finally unburdens himself. Joel admits his fears to Tommy and how lately he’s been freezing up in tense situations. He explains that the pains he gets are panic attacks brought on by these fears. He’s still traumatized by Sarah’s death. He begs Tommy to take Ellie instead because he fears failing her and watching her die too. Tommy reluctantly agrees. 

the last of us episode 6
Credit: HBO

Joel arrives at the house where they’re staying to find Ellie reading someone’s diary. Ellie explains that she knows his plans, and he tries to explain his reasonings. Ellie says she’s not Sarah, which infuriates Joel, despite Ellie then admitting she’s scared, has lost everyone, and  Joel is the only one she wants to take her.

The next morning, Ellie is waiting in her new eggplant-purple coat when Tommy arrives. They head to the stables, where they find Joel saddling a horse. Joel decides to give Ellie the choice to choose her guardian, to which she simply says, “let’s go” to him.

Tommy wishes them well and gives Joel his gun. They part ways, having reconciled.

In a cute moment that shows they’ve forgiven one another, Ellie practices shooting with the rifle, claiming the gun doesn’t work, to which Joel responds with the perfect shot. They travel through more gorgeous scenery, but unlike the first few episodes of travel, this time they chat. Joel explains a lot of what life was like before the Cordyceps, like income inequality, construction, and football. 

They arrive in a deserted college town. Joel admits he wanted to be a singer when he was growing up, and Ellie makes him promise to sing for her when she “saves the world.” I really, really hope this is some foreshadowing. After spotting some wild monkeys, they notice a firefly symbol on a signpost. Joel tells Ellie to get out her gun as they dismount at a marked building. Inside, they find abandoned equipment and a packing list. Noises from upstairs ring out, and they go investigate. 

Upstairs, they find the monkeys have broken into another lab. They also find a map suggesting the fireflies went to Salt Lake City, Utah. Another odd noise takes them to the window, where they see four thugs approaching the entrance. They go out the back, attempting to get to the horse. A man attacks with a bat, but Joel dodges, grabs him, and breaks his neck. Joel, unfortunately, has been stabbed with a piece of the bat. Nevertheless, he gets on the horse just in time for them to escape. 

They wander on the horse until Joel falls off, unconscious from blood loss. Ellie begs Joel to live, but we’ll have to wait until next time to see if he makes it or not!  

the last of us episode 6

Overall Thoughts

One thing I love about the show is how it doesn’t spend too much time on specific plot points. Sometimes The Walking Dead, for example, milked a new character or storyline for what felt like forever to me, but in this series, it’s clear every stopover is just one more step in the journey. It keeps the show dynamic, as we have a revolving door of antagonists and threats, but also space for bonding moments and Ellie’s great quips and jokes. I also love how the show is almost an homage to different types of wasteland settings. We’ve had the dystopian city (twice, in different forms), the overgrown town, a lone survivor encampment, and now Western! It only makes me wonder which one we’ll get next. What is your favourite type of post-apocalyptic world? Let us know on our socials!

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The next episode airs on Feb 26, 2023.


    T. S. Beier is obsessed with science fiction, the ruins of industry, and Fallout. She is the author of What Branches Grow, a post-apocalyptic novel (which was a Top 5 Finalist in the 2020 Kindle Book Awards and a semi-finalist in the 2021 Self-Published Science Fiction Competition) and the Burnt Ship Trilogy (space opera). She is a book reviewer, editor, and freelance writer. She currently lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, two feral children, and a Shepherd-Mastiff.

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