The Last of Us HBO Episode 7 – Left Behind

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| March 2, 2023

Where did we leave things?

Joel (Pedro Pascal) was in a bad way, and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) was distraught, trying to save his life.

Can we have one good day for our heroes? Trauma after trauma after trauma in every episode! Give them a break! We’re not done yet, and it will get worse.

We pick up where we left off. Ellie has managed to drag Joel into an abandoned house and is attempting to tend to his wounds. Joel looks and feels awful. He doesn’t think he’s going to make it. He’s all, “leave me; I’m a goner. Go back to Tommy. Get safe.” Pfft. Drama queen. It was only a little shank to the stomach.

Ellie goes to leave. She did say that she’d follow Joel’s instructions at all times, didn’t she?


The next fifty minutes or so is a faithful retelling of the video game’s DLC, also named Left Behind. Well… half of it. What follows is 100% in flashback instead of a story split between that and the present day, where Ellie tries to find medicine for Joel while contending with infected and raiders. We’ll get to my feelings on that a bit later on.

In the Boston QZ, Ellie listens to her Walkman while running laps in the FEDRA training academy. Another student (let’s call her bitchface) steals her tunes and starts a fight. Bitchface tells Ellie that her only friend has gone, so there’s nobody left to protect her. So, Ellie punches her right in her bitch face.

Last chance saloon. Her commanding officer sees her potential, but if she’s not careful, she’ll end up with terrible assignments and being bossed around by the bitchfaces of this world. Ellie takes his point and says that she’ll toe the line. A likely story!

Ellie sitting on her bed in the FEDRA Training academy
Looks like my old uni room!

In her room, we see a bunch of easter eggs. It’s lined with space imagery (she wants to be an astronaut), a Mortal Kombat 2 poster (as in the stash house in episode 3) and she’s reading a Savage Starlight comic.

To find out about more easter eggs, listen to the Watching Now: The Last of Us podcast, The Rest of Us. Lily, Erika, and Nick will be with you weekly to give you breakdowns, insights, and great theories wherever you get your podcasts on Tuesdays and on Youtube on Wednesdays.

Ellie has the room to herself because the bed opposite is empty. 

Lights out; it’s time to sleep.


Let this be a lesson to everyone: lock your windows and doors!

An interloper sneaks through the unlocked window and surprises Ellie. Understandably, Ellie reacts aggressively, but when she sees who it is, she stops. It’s Riley (Storm Reid), her old roommate. Her best friend. She’s been gone for weeks. And she’s become a FIREFLY? What the hell?!

Riley convinces Ellie to sneak out for a special night. So much for toeing the line, eh Ellie?

They take the stairs up a nearby building, heading towards the roof. On the seventh floor, they find a dead body. The man has committed suicide, mixing pills (just like the ones Joel used to sell) and alcohol, but the sombre moment is interrupted by the body falling through the crumbling floor. Eesh! Riley and Ellie don’t let the premium alcohol go to waste.

They get to the roof and take a swig of the bottle. Ellie thinks it tastes awful. But it’s Dutch courage. They proceed to jump from roof to roof in a weird parkour sequence interrupted a few times by Firefly versus FEDRA political debate. “You guys are fascists!” “Well, you guys are terrorists!”. That type of stuff. Is there really a good side to be on?

They’ve arrived at their destination: the mall. Ellie has been told that it’s infested with infected, but Riley says otherwise. And she knows a way in.

The Mall

A fully functioning arcade as Ellie and Riley play on a cabinet in the background
I swear this is the most functional arcade I’ve seen in years

The two friends sneak into the mall, and Riley directs Ellie where to go while she sets up her surprise. Ellie is remarkably trusting because two seconds ago, she thought the place was packed with infected but meh. Riley pulls the circuit breaker, and the mall returns to life, neon effusing along the strip. It looks so… normal.

Showing her age, Ellie plays on the escalator, something she’s never seen before. They see a poster for Dawn of the Wolf part 2, another easter egg from the games (an optional conversation reveals that Sarah was a big fan), and they gawk at the looted stores. Riley makes Ellie feel self-conscious when they look through the Victoria’s Secret shop window.

Oooo, a working carousel! It looks magical in the lighting on the mall, perhaps even romantic. They take a ride and share a suggestive look before the ride breaks down. Are they more than friends?

Riley explains why she left. She was told that she would be put on sewage duty when she graduates from the academy. Upset, she snuck out and was recruited by Marlene. She’s found a purpose that doesn’t involve poop.

Infected sitting amongst dried fungus

The photo booth is next on Riley’s agenda for her awesome night of fun. They make their way over and pull the curtain. Funny poses and cringe faces abound in the photos, but it’s also a sweet moment.

Now, to the arcade! Who knows who has been maintaining this useless place for the apocalypse because all the units are somehow still working. Barely a rat-chewed wire in sight! There are more working here than in my local arcade today.

After a brief look around, Ellie zeroes in on the Mortal Kombat cabinet. Ready? FIGHT! Riley wins easily. She has obviously played it before because she knows the button combination for Mileena’s fatality. It’s just as Ellie described it in episode 3.

But guys, you’re making a lot of noise. Enough noise to wake the dead… or an infected. The camera pans to one waking from its crusty slumber.

Meanwhile, Riley and Ellie retreat to the food court, where Riley has stashed a gift. It’s No Pun Intended Vol. 2! More puns are always welcome; thank you. But when Ellie is out of jokes, she finds bombs on a nearby shelf. Be careful!

Ellie admonishes Riley, telling her again that the Fireflies are terrorists. Riley insists that they wouldn’t be used against innocents, especially not her. As Ellie is about to leave, her friend tells her that it’s her last night in Boston. She’s being relocated and she just wanted to say goodbye properly.

Ellie dances wearing a werewolf mask, Riley in a Killer Clown mask
Howling at how bad Ellie is at dancing

Bye, then! Ellie storms off in anger.

Halloween Store

A high-pitched ARRRRRRRRRGH rings out, and Ellie rushes back, scared for Riley’s safety. She enters a Halloween store and calls out her name. It’s fine. It’s a Halloween store, so all manner of scary sounds are playing on the stereo system.

Riley is inside. She tells Ellie that she just wanted one last amazing night with her before she had to leave. She explains that Ellie wouldn’t understand because she never had a family (harsh), but she feels like she has a new one with the Fireflies. She wants to belong somewhere.

Ellie tells her that she matters to her, that she’s her best friend and that she’ll miss her. The feeling is reciprocated.

So, one last thing for Riley’s amazing night of fun. Dancing and Halloween masks. Ellie takes the Werewolf, and Riley takes the Killer Clown, which can both be found in the Halloween store in the game. They dance to I Got You Babe, sung by Etta James. After a while, they remove their masks, and Ellie asks Riley not to go.

They kiss. WooooooooOOooooooo (pretend it’s a Blind Date audience). Ellie apologises, but it’s for nothing. Of course, Riley is into it. What do you think this whole night was for, Ellie? Riley says that she won’t leave and will stay with Ellie.

Eeek! A noise from the back room! You party-pooper infected sonofabitch! Almost forgot about him, didn’t you? He shambles out of the back area and attacks.

In their drunken state, they fail miserably at fending the infected off, each of them coming close to biting the dust until Ellie stabs it through the head with her flick-knife. I mean, sort of…

They both were bitten. Noooooooooooooo! Ellie starts smashing display cases in rage.

Riley and Ellie, devastated that they’ve just been bitten
So I guess someone told them about Marley and Me

Riley and Ellie sit down, resolving to turn together, whether it takes two minutes or two days. Irony. We are not shown how that turns out, but we know that Ellie emerges, bitten but immune.

In the present day, Ellie changes her mind about leaving Joel. She finds a needle and thread and (without disinfecting) starts sewing him up. She won’t leave him.


It’s an excellent retelling of the backstory of Ellie and Riley and shows how Ellie was originally bitten. The story beats are bang on and it contains enough easter eggs for a kindergarten class on Good Friday. Ellie and Riley’s romance was sweet yet tragic, having the right amount of Romeo and Juliet undertones.

But where is my action? I feel starved of good old-fashioned violence! It was established early in the season that Ellie loves violence and is intrigued by it. We’ve hardly encountered anything! One infected halfway toward clicker status was not enough when you compare it to the swarm that chased them down in the game. You can do deep character moments and still have action in your show!

A carousel
Ooooo, pretty!

I would expect that this is also the reason for the omission of the present-day storyline from the Left Behind DLC. It’s too much violence and too many infected for a grounded story. But they’ve got to do something soon, surely. There needs to be something to suggest that Ellie can take care of herself and is capable of unadulterated violence. Because that’s where the story is going. You can’t go from maiming one person in Kansas to massacring a whole camp full of people with nothing in between. That’s not believable!

Also, I think that the game did the romantic build better than the episode. Specifically, the scene in the arcade where they play Mortal Kombat. In the game, the cabinets are all destroyed, and instead of actually playing a game, Ellie closes her eyes; Riley describes the action as Ellie pretends to play. The way Riley makes Ellie feel at that moment is wondrous.

Don’t get me wrong, the show is excellent. It’s succeeded at everything that it’s tried to do with big character moments. And Riley and Ellie’s story is beautiful and necessary to understand what Ellie has gone through. I just want some action. As Dave Bautista would say, “Give me what I want!”

My score reflects the frustration build-up of non-action in the season so far. Alone, I would score this higher.

Soup Rank: 7/10

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