What Does Ellie’s Space Dream Mean? Does Joel Get Over His Emotional Block In ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 6?

Dreams are most often considered the reflection of the subconscious; hence, their use as a literary device to sneak a peek inside a character’s mind has been a recurrent choice by creators. As HBO’s adaptation of the popular video game title “The Last of Us” takes the fated pair, Joel and Ellie, through their cross-country journey in a post-apocalyptic world, initial inhibitions fade away with the growing trust and dependency between them.


Quite appropriately titled “Kin,” the sixth episode of “The Last Of Us” shows the protagonist duo silently acknowledging each other as part of their new family as they finally get honest with each other. The conversation they have about their dreams and aspirations and the dreamlike settings in Jackson act as signifiers of their strengthening bond and also rekindle the hope for a better tomorrow.

Spoilers Ahead


Ellie’s Dreams Of Space Adventures

As Joel and Ellie reach Wyoming, they are faced with the daunting task of finding Joel’s brother Tommy in the vast open country. They set up camp in the night, and Ellie gazes at the resplendent northern lights in wonder. Ellie is the one to strike up a conversation, and she asks Joel about what he contemplates doing with his life if their mission to obtain a cure from Ellie’s blood turns out to be a success. Joel, who is still trying his best to mask his emotions in front of Ellie, isn’t willing to share his personal bits just yet. He states his wish to be a shepherd, herding a ranch full of sheep, and as much as Joel’s wish to have an idyllic life unrestored by Ellie’s curiosities seems to fit his guarded demeanor, it simply isn’t true. Upon asking Ellie the same question, she shares her dreams of being an astronaut, like her favorite space explorer Sally Ride, the first American woman to venture into space.

Ellie’s wish to become a space explorer stays in conjunction with her fawning over the fictional superheroine Savage Starlight; as seen in the last episode, where Ellie and Sam bond over their mutual interest in the comic titles of the character. As a kid born after the world was devastated by Cordyceps infection, Ellie is always fascinated by knowledge about the pre-pandemic world. She marvels at the sight of a dilapidated airplane earlier in the series, and the concept of flying away from the unforgiving life she has been thrust into since birth comes as the most obvious form of escapism for the kid. But most importantly, talking about space exploration inadvertently reminds Ellie of her sharing a mutual interest in the “Savage Starlight” titles with Sam, and at once, she starts questioning the possibilities of creating a vaccine.


As seen in the last episode, Ellie learns about Sam’s infection and makes a futile attempt to cure him by applying her blood to his wound, which doesn’t work and results in Henry having to shoot Sam, his younger brother, to death and killing himself afterward. The very thing that was supposed to make her feel free brings her right back into the agonizing reality. Another notable aspect of this conversation was that, without even knowing, Joel was able to guess correctly that, among other existing space explorers, Ellie’s favorite one was Sally Ride. Even though he isn’t willing to admit it yet, there are sincere parental instincts at work in his relationship with Ellie, something which is apparent when he advises Ellie to dream of a sheep ranch on the moon, a supposedly shared dream between the two.

Joel’s Emotional Blockage Mars His Dreams

Unlike Ellie, who is able to express herself despite having a similar traumatic past, Joel gets crushed under his pent-up emotional baggage. As he and Ellie are escorted by Maria’s people, he meets with his brother Tommy and witnesses the picturesque settlement of Jackson, an almost dreamland setting with people cooperating and living a happy life—a utopia of sorts when we compare it to the hellish nightscape of Kansas City of the previous episode. After a heated first exchange between the brothers, their second interaction sees Joel coming clean about everything as he opens his heart to someone after a long time. A broken-down Joel admits that he has dreams every night but is unable to remember them. He only knows after waking up; he feels something of him is missing. 


The reason why Joel struggles to comprehend or remember his dreams is explained by Joel himself in his conversation with Tommy. By now, viewers have an idea about the troubled psyche of Joel. Losing Sarah was an extremely traumatic experience from which he never recovered, and in his quest to escort Ellie to the Fireflies, he goes through even more emotional turbulence, which exacts a heavy toll on him, as exhibited by his unwillingness to open up. He is too afraid to even admit that he has started to see Ellie in Sarah’s image. However, he confesses to Tommy that he wishes to protect her, and we know that is the purpose that motivated him in the first place to honor Tess’ dying wish. But with growing physical and emotional stresses, he feels less invincible than he once did. His worst fear, to which he had so far turned a blind eye, has manifested once again as he thinks about failing Ellie too.

Joel thinks Sarah’s death was the result of his failure to protect her; his brother Tommy had moved away from him after being influenced by Marlene, which clicked with him as a failure; and the repeated instances of him struggling to protect Ellie due to his age catching up to him simply add to his miseries. His dreams and aspirations have been drained out by his cloistered existence. Later in the episode, we see Joel at his most vulnerable as Ellie confronts him about Sarah’s death. Something that could have torn him apart, however, works like a charm as the brutal honesty of the situation helps him face his fears head-on.


In a dreamlike sequence, we see Joel reminiscing about hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree with Sarah. The next day, as Joel and Ellie move towards the Firefly base, in a surprise turn of events, a visibly happy Joel initiates the conversation, as he lets Ellie know that during his younger days, he wished to be a singer. This confession corroborates the guitar in Joel’s room that we see in the first episode of the series. The confessional episode with Tommy helps the real Joel come out for the first time since Sarah’s death, one who entrusts Ellie with his dreams and aspirations.

See more: ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 6: Video Game Differences And Similarities, Explained

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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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