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Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Episode 7 of The Last of Us.When we last saw Joel and Ellie in Episode 6, “Kin,” the pair had made it to the college where Tommy (Gabriel Luna) said they could find the Fireflies. But instead, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) ran into a group of men who ended up stabbing Joel, leaving them on the run with Joel severely injured. As the episode ended, Joel had fallen off the horse, with a terrified Ellie begging him to get up as the credits rolled. Instead of focusing primarily on Joel and Ellie after this event, “Left Behind” is primarily told through a flashback, as we see the last time Ellie truly cared for someone. “Left Behind” might be the closest the show comes to directly retelling a piece of the game, but when the writing and story is this good, there’s very little reason to change what worked before.
Two Paths Ahead
We find Joel and Ellie camping out in the garage of an abandoned house in the suburbs. Ellie does her best to stop Joel’s bleeding, and while doing so, Joel tells her to leave him, then grabs her, and says she needs to go north to Tommy. Ellie puts Joel’s jacket on him, and leaves the house, as a tear falls from Joel’s eye.
But then, we cut to a flashback of Ellie in the Boston quarantine zone, running laps in gym, as she listens to Pearl Jam’s “All or None” on her Walkman cassette player. Bethany, a girl in class rips off Ellie’s headphones, telling her to pick up the pace, but Ellie responds that she doesn’t want to fight about it. But the girl states that Ellie doesn’t fight, her friend does, and the friend isn’t here anymore. Yet Ellie proves the girl wrong, punching her right in the face. This lands Ellie—now with a black eye—in the office of Captain Kwong, who says that while Ellie isn’t usually well-behaved, these last few weeks have been worse. Kwong says that Bethany is in the infirmary with fifteen stitches, and when Ellie replies “good,” she asks Kwong to just throw her in the hole. But Kwong says the hole doesn’t work, so he’s going to try something new: he’s going to tell her the truth.
Kwong says Ellie is smart, but she has two paths ahead of her. On the first path, she keeps acting like a grunt, and she’ll live the life of a grunt. She’ll do shit jobs, eat shit food, and take shit orders—probably from Bethany—for the rest of her life. But on the other path, Ellie could swallow her pride, follow the rules, and become an officer. There are benefits to this path: good food, your own room, and you get to tell the Bethany’s of the world to shove it. Ellie asks why he cares, and Kwong replies that no matter what anyone thinks if they go down, the whole QZ goes down. Kwong says there could be a leader in Ellie, and asks her which path, to which Ellie responds the latter path. Ellie asks for her Walkman back, and Kwong obliges.
The Best Night of Ellie’s Life
Later that night, Ellie is in her room reading her Savage Starlight comics as it rains, and looks over to the other side of the room to see an empty bed. Hours after lights out, someone crawls into Ellie’s room while she sleeps. The person puts her hand over Ellie’s mouth, and Ellie kicks the person off, pulling her switchblade on her. Ellie discovers it’s Riley (Storm Reid)—her former roommate, the friend who fights—and Ellie asks where she’s been. Ellie says she thought Riley was dead, as she’s been gone for three weeks. Riley says she’s fine, that she just ran away for a bit, to which Ellie replies that Riley should’ve told her best friend about it.
Riley admits that she joined the Fireflies, and when Ellie doesn’t believe her, Riley shows off her gun. Riley says she’ll tell Ellie everything, but first Ellie has to promise that she’ll come with Riley for a few hours and have the best night of her life. Even though Ellie says no at first, they both know she’ll eventually say yes. Ellie tells Riley to turn around while she changes, with Riley commenting that Ellie is always “so weird about that,” and as Ellie changes, Riley eyes Ellie’s cassettes, which includes one from a-ha—a small reference to The Last of Us Part II. Riley says where they’re going to is secret, and that Ellie should trust her with her life. The two crawl out the window and make their way for their 2 am adventure.
The pair climbs down to the streets, ignoring patrols, and Riley tells Ellie that after the Bethany bout, she should pick and choose her fights. They climb through a window and up seven floors, and they find a dead body. Riley says the body wasn’t there yesterday, and it looks like the man mixed pills with booze from before the outbreak. Ellie grabs the bottle right before the man falls through the rotten floor, scaring the two before making them laugh. They both share drinks from the bottle (remember in Episode 4 when Ellie tried Joel’s flask and said it was still gross?), and Ellie asks if that was the first time Riley had seen a dead body. Riley says no…her parents. Ellie asks if she can hold Riley’s gun, and after Ellie mocks her and her reciting of the Firefly rules, she hands it over, as Ellie notes how surprisingly heavy it is.
Ellie asks what happened, did she start dating some Firefly dude and decided to become a terrorist? Riley jokingly says yup, but then says that one night, Ellie was in the hole and so Riley snuck out. While Riley was sneaking around, a woman in her 40s or 50s (whatever, she was old) came up to her and said she was impressed with her sneaking around, and after Riley told the woman her negative opinion of FEDRA, the woman said if she wanted in, she’s in. She said yes, and now, she’s a Firefly. Ellie says she doesn’t know if Riley’s dislike of FEDRA is so simple, and begins reciting Kwong’s line about how FEDRA holds everything together. Riley says as much as she loves arguing, they’re on a mission, as they jump from rooftop to rooftop in the QZ heading to their destination.
They take a break and Ellie notices that there are more lights. Riley says there are more people, which means more apartments. Ellie says that means FEDRA isn’t entirely bad. Riley talks about how FEDRA are fascist dickbags, and Ellie replies by asking if the Fireflies still use bombs. Riley says not when civilians are around, which Ellie calls propaganda bullshit. Riley states, one, it’s OK to not know everything (Ellie says agree to disagree), and two, they’re here. Riley has brought Ellie to an abandoned mall, and Ellie says Riley is out of her mind, and that they sealed off the mall because it was full of infected. Riley slyly replies that if it’s supposedly sealed off, why isn’t it sealed off?
Take On Me
Ellie and Riley crawl down a hole, and Riley explains that when FEDRA hooked up the new apartments with electricity, the mall was connected too. Riley tells Ellie to go out a door, go right, head out another door, and to let her know when she’s there. When she arrives, Riley hits the light, and Ellie gets to watch the entire abandoned mall come to light. For once, Ellie is silent, in awe of the beginning of the best night of her life. Riley assures Ellie that no one else can see the lights outside, it’s just the two of them. But Ellie hasn’t seen anything yet, and tonight, Riley will show Ellie the Four Wonders of the Mall.
As “Take on Me” plays on the soundtrack, first Riley shows Ellie an escalator for the first time. Ellie is shocked by the “electric stairs,” as she goofs around, climbing up and down with joy. Ellie asks if this is one of the wonders, and Riley says, sure, there can be five. While they walk the mall, Riley points out that it isn’t exactly packed with infected. Ellie asks why some of the stores are still full and others aren’t. Riley says her mom told her that when the outbreak happened, some stores were looted and others weren’t, that people took what they needed or wanted. Ellie notes that the Foot Locker is emptied out, but The Body Shop still remains packed with supplies. They then look at a nearby Victoria’s Secret shop, where Riley can’t believe people ever wanted things like that. Riley then laughs, saying she was trying to imagine Ellie wearing something like that. As Riley walks off, Ellie takes a closer look at herself in the reflection.
Further down, Riley says Ellie has to close her eyes and asks Ellie if she trusts her. Ellie gives Riley her hand, and a slight smile appears on Ellie’s face as she’s guided through the mall. Riley tells Ellie to open her eyes, presenting her with a working carousel. Riley turns it on, and the two get on, as a simple instrumental version of “Take on Me” plays through the carousel. They both get on horses, and Riley catches Ellie looking at her. The two laugh and pass the bottle of alcohol between each other again. It’s a beautiful moment between the two of them, both able to be kids again for just a minute.
And then, the carousel unexpectedly stops. Ellie then asks if Riley really left because she thought they could liberate this place, and Riley gets frustrated by Ellie’s lack of optimism that that could possibly happen and mentions that it’s been done at other QZs (didn’t go so well in Kansas City though). But Ellie says Riley could come back, and they could be the future, they could make things better and run things. Riley says that Ellie could be running things, and Riley says she turns 17 soon, which is when workers get their assignments in the QZ. Riley says Kwong gave her sewage detail, and that she’d be standing guard while people shovel shit. That’s what the QZ thinks of her. Riley says she doesn’t know why she didn’t tell Eliie, that she just panicked and ran. The longer she was away, the harder it was to come back. Ellie says she understands, and Riley says Ellie is the only thing she misses from that place. That reveal seems to make Ellie feel a little better. Riley then says it’s time to go, that there are more wonders to behold.
Riley then takes Ellie to a working photo booth, and Riley supplies the $5 for their photos. Ellie asks if she’s done this before, and Riley says she was waiting to do it with Ellie—another reveal that, by the look on Ellie’s face, is almost as good as the wonders. The duo makes goofy poses together, and while doing a scary pose, Riley stays cheek-to-cheek with Ellie for just a second too long. They look at the photos, and Riley gives Ellie the photos to keep.
Before they get to the next wonder, Riley tells Ellie to listen. The revelation of what the next one is makes Ellie start running to Raja’s Arcade. With all the games going, the lights, and the sounds, Ellie stands outside and says it’s the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen. Ellie looks in awe at all the possibilities, but Ellie is upset that they won’t be able to play any of them without coins. But Riley had already figured that out, opening a change machine that dumps out tokens. Riley says she spent an hour yesterday breaking it open for this moment. With coins in hand, Riley brings Ellie to the pièce de résistance: Mortal Kombat II (which Ellie pointed out in the gas station in “Long, Long Time”). Unlike in the Left Behind, where Ellie and Riley had to imagine playing The Turning, a Mortal Kombat-like game, in the show, this pair can actually compete against each other in mortal kombat. Ellie selects Raiden, Riley chooses Mileena. They smash buttons, but Riley wins and shows off Mileena’s fatality, in which she sucks up Raiden, and spits out his bones. Riley replies that she’s been here a few times, and Ellie jokes that Riley doesn’t do everything without her. As they continue playing, we pan out of the arcade to find a lone infected in a nearby doll shop, and it’s just woken up by the sounds of Riley and Ellie.
The Final Wonders
After a few more games, Ellie has finally won, playing as Baraka, and she pulls off her own fatality. As they celebrate the brutal move, they once again get a little too close and break off the moment. Ellie points out that it’s getting late, but Riley says they’ve still got a few hours. Ellie says she doesn’t want to get in trouble again, but Ellie will still be around tomorrow. Riley replies that she got Ellie a gift. That seems to be enough to get Ellie to keep going through the mall. They make their way to the food court, and they jump the counter at a taco restaurant. In the back, Ellie sees Riley’s stuff there, and Riley says this is where she’s mostly been staying. Then Riley pulls out the gift: No Pun Intended Volume Too—the pun book Ellie will later read to Joel on their journey. Ellie is once again shocked and the two read off the terrible jokes, giggling to each other. As Riley takes her turn, Ellie looks around and sees that Riley is keeping a whole stash of grenades. Riley admits she makes them, and Ellie asks if she uses them to blow up soldiers. Then Ellie puts it together: Riley didn’t find this mall, she was posted here by the Fireflies.
Ellie leaves, saying none of this was about her, saying “fuck you” to her best friend. Riley runs after her and tells Ellie she’s leaving. They’re sending her to a post at the Atlanta QZ. Riley asked if Ellie could join, so they could go together, but Marlene—the lady that recruited Riley—says Ellie couldn’t go. Riley reveals that tonight is her last night in Boston. Ellie takes it all in, walks closer to Riley, and asks why she brought her here. Riley says it’s because she wanted to see her. Ellie replies “And?” to which Riley says she wanted to say goodbye. Riley says it isn’t easy, but Ellie states that it is, she just did it. Ellie says goodbye and walks off, heading through the mall by herself.
Ellie almost gets to the way they came back, but she stops herself and heads back. She hears screaming, and Ellie starts running toward it. But she finds out that the screams were coming from a Halloween store. Inside, she also finds Riley, who says “surprise…the fifth wonder.” Riley says she thought Ellie would like this best, so she saved it for last. Ellie still upset, asks Riley for the book back and sits next to her friend. Ellie explains her feelings: she thought Riley was dead, but then she comes back, gives her this amazing fucking night, and now she’s leaving again, forever, to join a cause that Ellie doesn’t even think Riley understands. Riley says Ellie doesn’t know everything, that she doesn’t know what it was like to have a family and to belong, and Riley wants that again. The Fireflies might not be what she thinks, but they chose Riley, and she matters to them. But Ellie says Riley mattered to her first, saying she wants to punch Riley so bad. Riley says she’s sure about leaving, and Ellie accepts it. Ellie says Riley is her best friend, and she’ll miss her.
Riley says the night isn’t over yet, and that Riley has one more thing. Riley throws a wolf mask to Ellie, and reveals that she stole Ellie’s Walkman, which she says she was probably going to give back. Riley hooks the Walkman up to a speaker, as Etta James’ cover of “I Got You Babe” plays. Riley puts on a clown mask, and Ellie wears the wolf mask, as they both get on the store’s counter and start dancing together. But Ellie starts to slow down and takes off her mask. Riley also takes her mask off, and Ellie begs Riley not to go, and Riley agrees. Ellie kisses Riley, and then Ellie immediately says, “I’m sorry,” but Riley says, “For what?” The two smile and laugh, happy that they’ll still have each other. Ellie asks what they do now, and Riley says they’ll figure it out.
All Poetic and Lose Our Minds Together
But then, they hear a noise, and Riley pulls out her gun, as an infected comes after them. They both run through the Halloween store, but the infected knocks them both down. With Riley out, Ellie stabs the infected in the side as she tries to fight him off. The infected gets on top of her, but Riley hits it with a baseball bat. As it fights with Riley, Ellie grabs her switchblade and stabs it in the head, taking it out for good. Ellie is overtaken by the excitement the moment caused, but Ellie doesn’t realize she’s been bitten. Ellie almost tries to rub off the bite mark as she screams, “No!” But even worse, Riley reveals that she’s been bitten on the hand. They’re both doomed.
We cut back to Joel, shivering in the basement, back to the moment when Ellie seemingly left. But it turns out she went upstairs, desperate to find something to help Joel. Back at the mall, Ellie destroys the Halloween store out of anger and frustration. Ellie settles down and sits next to Riley, who says the way that she sees it, they have two options: they take the easy way out and shoot themselves—but Riley doesn’t like option one—and option two is they keep going. They don’t quit, they keep going. Whether it’s two minutes or two days, they can spend that time together. Riley doesn’t want to give that up. They can just be “all poetic and shit and lose our minds together.” Ellie asks what’s option three. Riley apologizes, as the two sit together and cry.
Back in the present day, Ellie looks through the house and finds a needle and some thread in a drawer. She runs back down to Joel and holds his hand. She couldn’t save Riley, she couldn’t save Sam, but she can save Joel. She looks at the wound and begins to sew it shut, as Joel looks away in pain. She’s found the family that Riley was talking about, and now, she’ll fight to save him.
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