‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 6: Characters: Joel And Tommy, Explained: How Do They Reconcile Their Relationship?

HBO’s frontrunner “The Last of Us” has brought us several kinds of relationships—each better portrayed than the last—and it has been a varied bunch, to say the least. Be it the relationship of the two brothers Henry and Sam or the romantic one that Bill and Frank cherished, each bond shows a side of human sentiments, and the kinds of boundaries people can cross to protect their loved ones. One such relationship was that of Joel and Tommy, and the last time we saw them together was at the start of Episode 1. The two are reunited years later under much different circumstances, but there’s a palpable air of tension between the two. What brought about this massive cavern between them, and were they able to bridge the gap? Read on to find out more about the two brothers and the bond they shared.

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It started with two brothers who shared breakfast, dropped the kid off at school, and headed to their construction site. The younger brother, Tommy, was a “joiner,” according to elder brother Joel, who’d care for his kid brother as he fell in and out of activities, going where his whims took him. Tommy would fight, get arrested, and need Joel to bail him out, and though he may not claim to like it, Joel never really complained that it was his responsibility to take care of Tommy. In fact, it’s something he’s known all his life—family and the need to protect loved ones. The world went to hell as the apocalypse hit, and the person closest to Joel’s heart—his teenage daughter Sarah—was shot dead by a soldier. The event broke Joel, but that didn’t change his take on responsibility. For the years that followed, Joel did horrible things, things he’ll never be able to admit with pride, but he excused everything, saying it was for the family to keep Tommy alive. However, the younger brother couldn’t see things the same way, and in “The Last of Us” Part 1, Tommy ended things with Joel saying he’d never want to see his elder brother’s face again—such was the rift between the two.

Although the show treated the relationship between Joel and Tommy with a little more kindness, the sole purpose for which Joel agreed to carry a human cargo named Ellie halfway across the country was to find his brother, who hadn’t been heard from in weeks. While shepherding the girl to the Fireflies’ location, Joel’s primary goal was searching for his brother and making sure he was okay. This is partly due to his love for the man he has grown up trying to keep from harm and also a result of his complex personality, where the only way Joel can show love is through protection. We met a man of similar traits in Episode 3, and it was the gruff named Bill who spent his life protecting Frank – the love of his life – from harm. Joel was much like the insular man when it came to being protective of those who depended on him. After months of hardships and near-misses with certain death, Joel finally met Tommy and is now comfortably settled in an isolated and self-sufficient community. The older brother’s emotions poured down upon finally meeting the younger brother, whom he had last seen ages ago and last contacted months ago. However, after the initial feelings of warmth had died down, what followed was resentment—from the older brother toward the younger.

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Joel learned very quickly that Tommy was happily married to a beautiful woman named Maria, and they were important people in the community of Jackson. The man he spent months searching for—not sure if he was dead or alive—had found a happy nest in the middle of nowhere and made something for himself, while Joel had nothing except the traumatizing memories of his daughter’s death and the wretched need to protect the ones he loves.

Sure, Joel loves Tommy, but he has been hurt to learn that Tommy abandoned what is sacred to Joel—his family. The younger brother is unable to see eye-to-eye with him in this matter, however, because Joel wasn’t exactly a saint in the early days, notwithstanding his current afflictions as a semi-deaf aging man. He saw no harm in choosing the community of Jackson, where he found the embrace of a loving wife and the homily feeling of people who pitched in to work together, kids went to school, and everyone watched movies on free nights. Tommy had always been the kind of person who’d dedicate his life to some cause in the hopes of making it better—the same reason he joined the army and the Fireflies. However, those lines of work quickly disillusioned him, and he kept searching for a place to settle down until he arrived at Jackson. Meanwhile, Joel has a valid reason to be upset because, in a world where zombies feed on humans and people turn into cutthroat mercenaries or autocratic thugs in army uniforms, morale usually doesn’t have much room to grow. After doing everything in his power to keep Tommy alive, Joel is doubly hurt to have all his efforts thrown in his face.

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Inside the Tipsy Bison bar, Tommy delivers yet another blow to the already smarting Joel when he announces to his elder brother that he’s about to be a dad. This news is too much for Joel, who can’t believe that the brother he took pride in protecting all along has gone and made something for himself and has everything Joel can’t even dream of. The question that races through Joel’s mind is simple: Why should Tommy have it all while I should be the one suffering day in and day out? He lets his resentment and the obvious signs of jealousy show, which leads to Tommy bringing down the killing blow by saying that Joel’s life stopped moving for him when Sarah died, just like the watch she had gifted him, but Tommy’s life never stopped. Heartbroken, Joel stumbles outside and has yet another panic attack when he finds a girl who looks exactly like Sarah from behind. After months of suffering, the ailing man finally comes to terms with his situation and breaks down in front of his younger brother, whom he has always treated as the one needing his protection—never the other way around. Joel finally admits to Tommy that he’s no longer the tough nut that his brother remembers him as, and he begs the kid brother to escort Ellie instead. Only after Joel bares his heart to Tommy and shows that he’s not the heartless killer that Tommy chose to distance himself from does Tommy realize that his older brother is not the person he thought he knew.

Joel was always a reserved person who preferred to bottle up his emotions and let his actions talk, but with a greying head of hair and weakness bogging him down, he has an emotional catharsis by breaking down in front of Tommy. The two brothers were people of two different mindsets, but at the end of the day, they embraced and prioritized the single most important thing there is—family. As Ellie and Joel left for the University of Eastern Colorado in search of the Fireflies, Tommy assured the older brother that he and his surrogate daughter would always have a place at Jackson and that it was to be their home too. After years of discontent and distance, the relationship between the brothers was mended for good.

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


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Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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