Warning! Spoilers ahead for The Last Of Us Episode 6.
The Last of Us showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann explain Joel’s panic attack moments and how the big development differs from the approach in the Naughty Dog games. HBO’s The Last of Us follows Joel (Pedro Pascal) as he attempts to transport Ellie (Bella Ramsey), an immune young girl, across a post-apocalyptic version of the United States. In episode 6, “Kin,” after barely surviving various human and infected attacks in previous episodes, Joel clutches his chest and becomes briefly incapacitated by panic attacks.
On the most recent episode of HBO’s The Last of Us Podcast, Mazin and Druckman address why Joel is suffering from this new condition and how this choice for the character differs from the way he was depicted in the video games.
Mazin digs into why Joel is feeling particularly vulnerable in The Last of Us episode 6, which all comes down to his fears over not being able to adequately protect Ellie. Druckmann offers further insight into how the show is able to capture this anxiety and fear more effectively than in the games, with intimate camera close-ups taking the place of dialogue. Check out Mazin and Druckmann’s full comments below:
Mazin: “What’s happening is Joel is having a panic attack and he doesn’t know why. It’s your body telling you that you’re in terrible danger, but you don’t understand why. So much of what this episode is about is Joel coming to terms with how terrified he is that she’s going to die and it’s going to be his fault. If you’ve been paying attention, what you will see is for as many times Joel has helped her, he’s failed her. And those are the things he dwells on. Like a lot of us, if you have core trauma the way Joel does, the things you do well are discounted but you will magnify your failures and tragedies until they threaten to subsume you.”
Druckmann: “He is convinced what’s best for Ellie is to let her go but it’s to protect himself. In the game, the camera is quite far back. You swing it around the character, there’s no way to see what’s going on in the faces so a lot of it has to be conveyed with dialogue. We just made Joel distant, like their relationship has gone backwards. Here, we can have intimate moments with the camera right up there in your face, we can show this in subtle ways. Ellie’s reaction is when you look at your parents who have protected you forever, you don’t want to accept they have any sort of weakness.”
What Joel’s Panic Attacks Mean For His Dynamic With Ellie
As is seen in The Last of Us episode 6, Joel’s panic attacks briefly make his relationship with Ellie very contentious, with Pascal’s character essentially wanting to hand her off to his brother, Tommy (Gabriel Luna), instead of caring for her himself. He ultimately accepts just how much he cares for her in the end and the two set off to find the Firefly facility, bonding further along the way. With Pascal’s Joel sustaining a serious injury during their trip, however, his fear about not being a strong enough protector could once again rear its head.
Considering there are still several episodes left in season 1 and The Last of Us season 2 has already gotten the green light, it’s likely that Joel will survive his injuries. In his weakened state, it’s not clear if he will further latch onto Ellie as a source of newfound comfort in his life or if he will push her away once more. As he confesses to Tommy in a quiet episode 6 moment, the fight in the laundromat in episode 4, when Ellie saves his life, only served to further deteriorate his belief in himself and his abilities – this latest injury could do the same.
Although his latest injury in The Last of Us could have a serious impact on his mental well-being in addition to his physical well-being (compounded by the guilt he still feels for not being able to protect his daughter), it’s also possible that the bond between him and Ellie is now strong enough that he won’t try to abandon her again. At least for the next episode of The Last of Us, though, it’s looking like Ellie will have to step into Joel’s shoes, protecting him as they attempt to return to Jackson or find safety elsewhere.
More: The Old Couple In Last Of Us Episode 6 Secretly Set Up A Big Joel Scene
Source: HBO’s The Last Of Us Podcast