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Tommy is living his best apocalypse life??
[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Episode 6 of The Last of Us. Read at your own risk!]
After the absolute devastation of The Last of Us Episode 5, Sunday's episode rewarded us with a nice family reunion. Okay, so as with any family reunion, there were also harsh words and some tears, but overall Episode 6 was as much of a "feel-good" episode as The Last of Us is capable of.
After a three-month time jump and a trek over "the river of death," Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) finally made it to Jackson, Wyoming, to find Tommy (Gabriel Luna)... doing really well for himself. He made residence in a commune that has a pretty sweet cafeteria and a movie theater. He's married to one of the town leaders, Maria (Rutina Wesley), staying warm, and expecting a baby in a few months. To see Tommy living it up after all the foreshadowing about him being potentially held hostage or turned half-clicker by this point was shocking not only for us, but for Joel, too.
Our surly tour guide through this Cordycep apocalypse was not that thrilled to hear that his baby brother was about to become a father. Tommy rightfully pointed out that just because Joel was emotionally stuck on the night Sarah (Nico Parker) died doesn't mean that everyone else has to be and it would really cool if Joel could figure out some way to be happy for Tommy. We found out later that Joel is happy for Tommy, but he also needs Tommy to help take Ellie the rest of the way because Joel doesn't know if he has it in him to finish the job. When Ellie found out about this arrangement, she blew a gasket and put Joel back in his place.
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In the end, Joel did continue the journey but it turned out he was right about his reflexes and instincts being rusty. The pair were attacked by raiders once they made it to the abandoned university (and found out the Fireflies had already fled for Utah) and Joel was stabbed in the stomach with a rusty bottle. Like a complete noob, he pulled out the bottle and collapsed once Ellie was able to get him away from the campus. In Episode 7, we find out whether Ellie has what it takes to be the one to take care of Joel.
Before we get there though, TV Guide spoke with Gabriel Luna about the mature Tommy we found in Episode 6 and the complicated status of his relationship with Joel.
Can you break down who the Tommy we meet in Episode 6 is compared to the Tommy we saw on outbreak day in the pilot?
Gabriel Luna: When we see Tommy again, in Episode 6, he's got roots. [He's] kind of settled down in Jackson. He reveals to his brother that he's married. Then of course, he reveals even further that they're expecting [a baby]. So he's in the process of rebuilding, reconstructing his spirit, reconstructing his heart, and building a family of his own. ... In my mind, it was much like in the game in terms of the context clues we get playing the game. Tommy knows the horrors of war. He has trauma that he was already in the process of healing when the outbreak happens.
So I think that once he and Joel, and especially now his brother being in such a dark place, and [Joel]'s spirit kind of being extinguished by what happened to his daughter, Sarah, I think that they probably are kind of trudging through the world, committing a lot of kind of unspeakable acts, in the name of survival. I think Tommy is just the type of person – he is that empathetic person. He breaks. He can no longer do that. And I think if he is going to use his affinity for violence, or at least his skills in combat if he's going to use those, I think he diverts his efforts and his energy towards being a revolutionary, being a Firefly. And I think that, but I think that even that grew tiresome, and started to weigh on him. It doesn't matter what side of the fight you're on, you're just still fighting endlessly. I think that he at some point completely breaks and just leaves the Boston QZ and he roams the wilderness trying to find out who he is without having to be a soldier. As we find out in Episode 6, an angel in the form of Maria comes in and swoops down and saves him.
What is it about Maria that drew Tommy to her?
Luna: It's her mercy and her strength. Tommy is a pretty easy-going guy, I think, in terms of his nature. She is like, the tentpole, the central strength that the community needs to draw on. I think when he meets her and sees this beautiful woman in the forest and she is the one that is willing to invite him into her community, into her already established family. I think all of that triggers some sparks. The [love] and [trust], all of those beautiful connective tissues that we have with others – I think those start to reform [when Tommy meets Maria]. He's very thankful and tries to offer and contribute everything he can to not only the community of Jackson but to this woman that he grows to love.
Can we talk about the bar scene, when Tommy and Joel finally get some time alone and things go terribly?
Luna: It's [a scene] where I can't believe I'm seeing him sitting in front of me. That's already a bit off-putting. It leads me off balance and in a way to have this person who of course is my brother but also represents this type of paternal figure that's always kind of looked out for me. [He] has always given me advice and in some ways tried to shape how I live my life, as big brothers do. I'm a big brother and I kind of can empathize with Joel in that way.
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What is Tommy trying to get out of Joel in that moment?
Luna: Tommy's kind of a big deal in Jackson, then once Joel arrives, he's immediately kind of reset into a little brother mode. Even though it's been months, a year, however long it's been since I've seen him, immediately [Tommy] just kind of snaps back into that dynamic. So I think at first it's just a little bit of unease and a bit of... imbalance, a kind of shock that my brother is even sitting there at that bar in front of me. I, of course, have a lot to tell him. There's so much time that has gone by and there's so much I want to share with him, but we also don't really recognize each other. ... And then we have the discussion we have. He has so much he wants to tell me and there's a big secret that he has, and I have a big secret as well. We're just kind of dancing around those secrets until I let the cat out of the bag that he is going to be an uncle. He's going to be Uncle Joel and all I want from him is a hug, a pat on the back, and excitement, just the thrill of new additions to the family. But Joel isn't capable of that at that time and it breaks my heart.
Tommy has some pretty harsh words about Joel being hung up on Sarah's death, but he's not wrong.
Luna: Obviously he has his own history, but Sarah meant a lot to me as well. For me to move forward, and for him to witness me moving forward instills in me a sense of guilt, some guilt, I think. He doesn't understand the feelings that I have about losing Sarah and what that meant to me. It's not that I've taken it lightly and forgotten. I mean, I still keep a vigil for her in our house. Above the fireplace, there's Maria's [child] and Sarah. So yeah, it's just a very complicated reunion. They love each other, and they've relied on each other for a long time. Now that we spent so much time apart, it was just trying to recognize the person sitting in front of us again.
He says he doesn't judge Joel for the things they've done in the past, but has Tommy been able to forgive himself for them?
Luna: Every person that he's put down in his entire life weighs heavily on his heart and his mind. I don't think he forgets any of that, whether it was in Desert Storm or whether it was during the outbreak or as part of the Fireflies. I don't think that he comes to peace with that as easily as some other people in the world may. I don't blame [Joel]. I don't blame my brother because he endured the ultimate loss and the ultimate tragedy and the ultimate pain and sometimes we react. We lash out in response to being hurt. [Tommy] doesn't fault Joel for that, but I don't think he's as forgiving of himself just because of once again, who he is inside.
Joel eventually asks Tommy to take Ellie, which is risky as hell. Why does he agree, considering how much he has to lose?
Luna: It's Tommy's duty to a greater calling. On the other end, he's looking at his brother who is just crumbling in front of him. His body is breaking down. His mental strength for this mission is waning. [Tommy] is younger. He's been nurtured in Jackson for a while and has renewed strength. He is somebody who can finish the job... I ultimately make that decision because of Tommy's concern for the world at large, or his belief in a life worth living, and what this would mean for the world, not just Jackson, and everyone within the walls of Jackson. This is an opportunity for the world to start to rebuild in the way that he, Maria, and the town of Jackson have been rebuilding. I think it's equal parts. My brother can't do it anymore and I have to take it from here and take care of him. The other side is, this is an opportunity to save the world, and within that world is my wife and my yet-to-be-born child. So saving the world is pretty important.
Does Tommy actually want part of Joel at the commune with him, or is he worried about reverting back to his old self if Joel is around long-term?
Luna: I think I want him to stay. I definitely want him to stay. There's room for him. There's a whole house for him down at the end of the block. There's a place for Ellie. I think he'd be foolish not to fear reverting back to some of the ways they used to live. I would be foolish not to accept my brother and what he's capable of, the elements of strength that he does possess. There would, of course, be a concern. But you have this community that's working so effortlessly with all the gears, or all the teeth and all the gears are locking up in the way they should. Once you introduce Joel, what would he bring? Some people are radiant. Some people are just black holes when there's a vacuum and emptiness in their hearts. Is that the Joel that I am witnessing now? Is that the Joel that I am being presented with in that moment? [Tommy] is a bit hesitant, probably in his heart, but family over everything. Joel would always be welcome with Tommy.
The Last of Us continues Sundays at 9/8c on HBO and streams simultaneously on HBO Max.