In the seventh episode of The Last of Us, titled Left behind, we delve into Ellie’s past and her memories of her close friend, Riley. The story is initially told in The Last of Us DLC called Left Behind, where Ellie and Riley visit an abandoned shopping center, which is not free of infection.
During this clandestine visit, Riley reveals that she has joined the Fireflies, the underground group fighting against the paramilitary institution that controls the quarantine zones. Ellie, who has a secret and perhaps unconscious passion for Riley, desperately declares her affection with a stolen kiss, which is reciprocated. Unfortunately, they are both attacked by infected, and both are bitten, leaving them with two choices: take their own lives or go crazy together and let the Cordyceps infection take its course.
The Story of Ellie and Riley Compared to Video Game
In The Last of Us video game, the narrative transitions abruptly from Joel’s fall from the horse to his and Ellie taking shelter in a deserted house, with only a few woodland scenes featuring Ellie in between. However, the Left Behind extension fills in the gaps by introducing a second location before they reach the house.
In this extension, Ellie has flashbacks about her last night with Riley while seeking refuge with Joel in a mall at the story’s beginning. This additional location impacts the following chapter of the game, as it explains how Ellie acquires other weapons and spends more time dealing with the raiders who injured Joel.
The series cuts out several gameplay moments made for pure entertainment, such as a challenge with throwing stones at a car and a battle with rifles to water. However, other elements, such as the dance to the tune of I Got You by Etta James and the tender kiss between the two girls, are kept verbatim. The conflict between the Fireflies and the paramilitary institution is explored more in the series, and it reflects the ideological battle that sees the two friends lined up on opposite sides yet affectionate with each other.
The series shows us what happened as a flashback while Ellie finds herself in a crisis having to look after Joel, who is seriously injured. Joel tells her to leave and save herself, but Ellie cannot do it due to what happened with Riley. In some way, Ellie tries to save Joel, which she couldn’t do with Riley. Ellie’s growth in a ruthless world is significant, and it marks her forced growth in a world where events make it clear that she can no longer afford to be a child. She must try to conquer her survival and hold on to every shred of happiness fleetingly snatched from harsh reality.