How Did Tommy’s New Life Affect Joel In ‘The Last of Us’ Episode 6? Do They Mend Their Relationship?


In the sixth episode of the series, “The Last of Us,” Joel finally reaches Tommy’s camp in Jackson, and what he witnesses there is beyond his imagination. We had seen how Joel was still stuck in his past, and he needed the confrontation with Tommy to move ahead in life and leave behind the denial. So, let’s see how meeting with his brother made him realize certain things about himself and gave him the courage to stop hiding behind his fears.

Spoilers Ahead

Joel Felt Responsible For Tommy

Though motherhood and fatherhood have some fundamental differences, Joel had a bit of both in him, probably because he had been a single parent who not only looked after his daughter, Sarah but also felt responsible for his brother, Tommy. Joel didn’t express his feelings ever, and that is why someone who met him for the first time often saw him as an impassive individual who didn’t care about others. But Joel was more nostalgic, emotional, and vulnerable than people perceived him to be. 

Joel was like those quintessential parents from the Indian subcontinent who send their kids abroad to study and see them changing with time, but they themselves never become a part of that change. Joel was a preserver, and once an individual became a part of his life, he didn’t give up on them. It might have been because resources were scarce, but the way he mended his shoes and tried to keep them intact said a lot about him. Had Joel been living in the normal world, he would have still found it very difficult to cope with the changing times. He would have found solace in something like Kintsugi because that is how he preferred to live his life. The world moves at a fast pace, and people grieve for a day or two, but then they forget about it and carry on with their lives. What’s broken is eventually lost in oblivion, and people forget that it ever existed. But there are few in whom a loss leaves a permanent indentation, and no matter how much they try to repair it, they are often unable to.

Not that he was obsessed over the past, but “moving on” as a concept didn’t make a lot of sense to him. “Being stuck” is always perceived as a weakness, but the distinction of not being obsessed yet not being able to move on made the flaw look beautiful. Family, relationships, promises, and other things that hold no value for today’s generation were given a lot of importance by him. He never wanted to accompany Ellie in the first place, but he knew that it was the dying wish of Tess, and that is why he had made it his mission in life to take Ellie to the Firefly basecamp. 

Joel Realizes That Tommy Has Changed

Joel traveled across the country just to find his brother, and he felt that it was his duty to save him in case he was in any trouble. Joel and Tommy were not very close to each other. They had very different ideologies, but even after that, the thought of abandoning his brother never entered Joel’s mind. Joel still looked at Tommy as his little brother who needed to be protected from the brutal world. For him, Tommy was still that guy who did stupid things and landed himself in all sorts of trouble. It is ironic in a lot of ways, but parenthood came naturally to Joel. His instincts were always like that of a parent, even if he was dealing with an adult like Tommy. Now, Tommy might have had a soft corner for his brother, but he was more pragmatic, and he did things if they had to be done, irrespective of whether it would hurt the other person or not. 

It was not like Joel was irrational all the time, but pragmatism ceased to exist when it came to his family. Joel started thinking from his heart, and the safety of his loved one became his priority, even if it meant putting his own life at risk. Apart from not being able to move on from his past, Joel was also very inclusive in his approach. Had his approach been like Tommy’s, he could have easily taken the excuse and not gone out to look for him. Joel had enough reasons to stay in Boston, but his conscience didn’t allow him to do so after he lost contact with his brother. 

Now it could be said that going out to search for Tommy gave his life a purpose, and he convinced himself that Tommy needed his protection, but he still took risks and almost got killed more than once. In the 6th episode of the series, “The Last of Us,” the way Joel broke down, probably for the first time after he lost Sarah, said a thousand words about what he felt for his brother. Tommy was his little brother, and Joel felt that he still had the same say in his affairs as he had before. Ellie witnessed Joel laughing and shedding his cold and impervious demeanor, and she realized what finding Tommy meant for him.

But things had changed for Tommy. He was genuine; he did exude warmth, but he prioritized himself and his life, of which Joel wasn’t a part of anymore. Joel was not comfortable talking in front of Maria, as he was very particular about who was family and who was not. We had seen in the earlier episodes of the series, “The Last of Us,” how Joel communicated to Ellie that she was not family and Tommy was. But Tommy made it very clear that she was his wife, and she had every right to be a part of their private conversations. After seeing that Joel was not opening up, Maria herself decided to give them some space, and that’s when Joel spoke his mind. He had certain expectations from his brother, and his world shattered when he got to know that Tommy had drifted apart from him and had a completely different set of priorities. 

More than breaking the attachments from his past and moving on in life, what hurt Joel even more about Tommy was that he never even cared about his brother’s feelings before stopping the communication. It didn’t cross Tommy’s mind that his brother, who had always felt that he was obliged to save him, would cross mountains for him and get restless unless he found him. There was a difference in the way both brothers looked at their relationship. Joel accepted their differences, but Tommy probably believed that having separate lives was probably the best way to manage them. Joel might not have said it but seeing Tommy give more preference to Maria pinched him. He realized where he stood in his brother’s life. Joel loved it when Tommy poured him a drink, just like in old times, but that happiness was short-lived, and he realized that not everybody is stuck in the past like him. People change, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it gets difficult for the ones who decide to stay. Tommy was actually surprised that his brother still thought about him, and that pointed out the difference in their thinking that also had a deep impact on their approach.

Tommy made it clear that he and Maria were expecting a kid, and he wouldn’t risk his life and take Ellie to the Firefly base camp in Colorado. Tommy acted like a distant cousin or neighbor who had achieved everything expected of him according to societal standards and hence, did not feel any obligation towards the man who had traveled across the world for him. Tommy had become used to the comfort, and he acted selfishly, which would have upset any person on the other end. Tommy was giving him all sorts of excuses for not coming with him, but it didn’t make sense to Joel because family superseded everything for him. 

For Joel, Tommy was his reckless younger brother, for whom he bought pancakes, but Tommy had traversed so far, physically and mentally, that he didn’t feel for Joel with a similar intensity. Joel still referred to them as one team, but he soon realized that Tommy probably considered him an outsider. At the end of the conversation that Joel and Tommy had at the bar, the latter made it very clear that just because life had stopped for Joel didn’t mean it had to necessarily stop for him. Joel realized that though they shared their childhood and were brought up in a similar manner, the two had grown up to be very different individuals. It was a cathartic moment for Joel, who, for once, let his emotions soak in.

The Brothers Finally Mend Their Relationship

Even though Tommy offered, in the end, to take Ellie with him, the sixth episode of the series, “The Last of Us,” made Joel realize a lot of things about the people around him and about himself too. He had lived in denial for a good chunk of his life, but now he understood himself better and accepted his fragilities and vulnerabilities with grace. He realized, just like a parent, that Tommy had moved on, and it was not wrong on his part to do so. Joel was mature enough not to blame his younger brother for starting a family. He might have felt the pinch for a moment, but he understood his point of view too. Tommy had shown that he could be magnanimous in his approach by agreeing to take Ellie with him to Eastern Colorado. Probably all they needed from each other was to agree to disagree at times and accept the fact that their sensibilities and ways of life could differ. Tommy had every right to seek happiness, and Joel was happy that at least one of them saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Both the brothers knew that they would always be there for each other, and they accepted each other’s new lives. Joel recognized the demon that haunted him; he became more hopeful after his visit to Jackson, and he was ready to come out and face his fears head-on.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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