The Last of Us (Season 1), Episode 7: In 2014, the year following the release of ‘The Last of Us’ for the PlayStation 3, the developers Naughty Dog released an additional episode for the game as downloadable content set during the time Joel was injured, using it to expand upon Ellie’s backstory. It provided gamers with a look at what Ellie meant when she said she, too, had lost people in the first game (something the show depicted in the previous episode) while allowing them to spend more time with her.
The show’s seventh episode, ‘Left Behind,’ borrows its name and content from this expansion pack. Given the show’s previous deviation from the main plot in sublime fashion in ‘Long, Long Time,’ ‘Left Behind’ feels a tad trite in showing a tragic love story, especially since the bond between Ellie and Riley is not as convincing or powerful. Yet it also provides Bella Ramsey an opportunity to shine on her own, and for that alone, this episode deserves praise since she delivers and how.
The Last of Us (Season 1), Episode 7 Recap:
Joel and Ellie have taken shelter in an empty house somewhere in Colorado. Joel is alive, but his condition rapidly deteriorates as he loses blood from the stab wound. He wants Ellie to leave him and go back to Tommy so he can take her to Salt Lake City with him. Ellie is determined not to leave him behind at any cost. At the same time, she is frustrated at her helpless state as there’s nothing she can really do to cure Joel. This is where she starts reflecting on a precious yet tragic memory.
Three weeks prior to her first meeting with Joel and Tess (at the end of episode 1, Ellie tells them that her wound is three weeks old), Ellie gets into a fight with a bully, Bethany, at FEDRA School back at the Boston QZ. At the office of Captain Kwong, who presides over the school, Ellie is asked by him to make a choice between turning into a grunt, which would mean doing menial jobs and having her life always at risk. Or, she could work hard, become an officer, and lead a life of relative luxury.
Ellie chooses the latter and is allowed to go without being punished. That night, Ellie is alone in her room as her roommate seems to be absent. Just then, an invader sneaks into the room, whom Ellie violently pushes away, only to find out that it’s her friend, Riley. She had been gone for weeks, during the course of which her absence had made Ellie impatient and especially violent with the rest of the kids in school.
Riley tells Ellie that she escaped and joined the Fireflies, showing her her handgun to prove that she isn’t lying. Ellie is shocked at Riley joining their enemy despite both having dreamed of liberating the QZ from FEDRA’s authoritarian rule. Over the course of the night, the two keep debating on the shortcomings of both the Fireflies and FEDRA, showing how lacking both organizations are in looking after the people’s interests.
Riley asks Ellie to join her on a crazy plan she has for that night which includes the two of them sneaking out. Ellie agrees, and they leave. They make their way through an abandoned building, where they come across the recently deceased corpse of a man who unknowingly mixed pills with an old bottle of whiskey, causing his death. The two take the bottle of whiskey with them. We learn that it was Marlene who recruited Riley after seeing how adept she is at being stealthy and avoiding guards when she had snuck out from school one night as she was bored because Ellie was in detention.
Riley wants to take Ellie to a nearby shopping mall she has scouted for them to have fun in. But Ellie is reluctant as it’s been sealed off for a long time and is full of Infected. She agrees nonetheless, though. When FEDRA recently connected the neighboring streetlights to the electric grid, the mall also got connected without their knowledge. Riley switches on all the lights inside the mall, and Ellie is enchanted at the sight of how beautiful it looks. She’s never been on an escalator and is fascinated at the sight of it. Riley has four surprises for Ellie over the course of the night.
The first is a carousel that still works, and the two take a ride on it while drinking whiskey. Riley explains that a reason behind her joining the Fireflies is that her first FEDRA assignment, which is to begin the following month once she turns 17, is guarding over people cleaning the sewers. She has no interest in doing something that dull and pathetic. Then, Riley takes her to an instant photo booth where the two of them take goofy photos.
Following this, Riley’s second surprise is an arcade at the mall, where the games still work, and Ellie is elated at the sight of it. Riley broke the change machine the previous night so they could use coins to play the games. The two end up playing ‘Mortal Kombat II’ over and over again against each other, thoroughly enjoying the brutal fatalities the game is infamous for. What they’re unaware of during this time is that there’s an Infected nearby who has just woken up.
Following the arcade, Riley takes Ellie to where she has been living, in a kitchen behind the food court. There, she gives Ellie her third surprise, which is a gift – No Pun Intended Volume Too. Ellie already has the first part and didn’t know there was a second, so she’s positively delighted at the gift. But when Ellie notices bombs on a shelf where Riley lives, she realizes that Riley didn’t discover the mall for the two of them. She’s been posted there by the Fireflies, and as a new recruit, her job is to guard over a weapons stash, the same one that’ll be used to kill FEDRA soldiers, including Ellie, if she becomes one someday.
Just when a disgusted Ellie is about to leave, Riley tells her that she wanted to meet her before leaving. She’s been given a posting at the Atlanta QZ by the Fireflies and is leaving soon. She asked Marlene about letting Ellie join them so they could go to Atlanta together, but Marlene refused. The prospect of being separated from her best friend is a severe shock to Ellie, especially since it has been caused by her joining the Fireflies, to begin with, so she leaves.
The Last of Us (Season 1), Episode 7 Ending, Explained:
Before she can exit the mall, Ellie hears screams coming from a distance and, thinking that Riley’s in danger, rushes to help her. It turns out it’s just a large toy at a Halloween-themed store, and it was Riley’s last surprise for Ellie. The two sit down next to each other, and Riley explains how being chosen by the Fireflies gives her a sense of belonging, something she’s always wanted after losing her family early in life.
The two reconcile after consolidating the fact that they’re best friends, like family to each other, and that being part of the Fireflies is what Riley really wants. As they start dancing to an Etta James song, Ellie makes her move and kisses Riley. The two blush and giggle at this as they come to terms with the feelings they have for each other.
Just then, they’re attacked by the Infected, who woke up a while back. The two struggle to kill it, but Ellie eventually does, not abandoning Riley despite her asking her to run away. Yet they both realize they’ve been bitten and are devastated at what it means. Riley suggests that they can either kill themselves with her gun and take the easy way out or wait and cherish their last moments with each other as they lose their minds together.
They both go for the latter option, and Riley dies while Ellie survives, and she’ll soon realizes after this that she’s immune. In the present day, Ellie frustratedly rummages around the house and, to her surprise, finds some thread and a needle. She uses it to stitch Joel’s wound, who looks on with amazement at the girl’s grit and loyalty.