Title: The Last of Us S1.E07 “Left Behind”
Released: 2023
Series:  The Last of Us

Previously: Joel and Ellie reach Wyoming and find Tommy living blissfully unaware on a commune with his pregnant wife and amazing things like electricity and movie nights. Concerned about his growing attachment to Ellie, Joel’s dammed-up emotions break loose, leading to a blow-out between the two, but thankfully he comes to his senses, hitches a horse to Colorado, and goes all-in on this dad-thing. Unfortunately, the Fireflies are no longer camping in CO, but, whoops, raiders are, so Joel gets a baseball bat shard to the stomach for his troubles and collapses, leaving Ellie in a state of panic.

Last week, Mandy W. asked me what I would do to contribute if I lived in Jackson, which is an excellent question to ponder. I’d like to hope I’d get a bit more “outdoorsy” if I HAD to, but I wouldn’t LIKE it, and thus I hope I’d avoid those kinds of tasks. I’ve typed out and erased a few different things like teaching (which I still think could be a possibility) but, honestly, I think I’d end up in some kind of organizational, city manager/planner kind of role. Like I’d want to be Maria’s right-hand lady, making the schedules for all the different city roles/jobs and making sure the right stuff is getting done when it needs to. I love scheduling and event-planning and making things work behind the scenes, so if I showed up and things weren’t running efficiently it’d really annoy me, haha.

On to the show!

From Friends To Lovers

For those kept in suspense all week: Joel (Pedro Pascal) didn’t die! But he’s not doing well, so he tells Ellie (Bella Ramsey) to go back to Tommy and leave him to die. Ellie is angry he’s giving up, and as she contemplates whether to stay or go, we fall into a flashback about the night she got bit.

That night, her BFF and roommate, Riley (Storm Reid), sneaks back into their military school bedroom after disappearing for three weeks, and brings Ellie to an abandoned mall that, incidentally, has power and neon lights that still work. The girls play on escalators, ride on their first carousel, take silly photos in a somehow still-working photobooth, duke it out in Mortal Kombat II (I was always partial to Scorpion’s “Get over here!” move), and dance in a Halloween store (gals after my own heart).

But this all isn’t just for “fun”: Riley wants to give Ellie a wonderful night AND a goodbye, because she’s being transferred from Boston for good now that she’s, gasp!, joined the Fireflies. Ellie clearly has more-than-friends feelings for Riley, so she’s heartbroken, and storms off in anger before coming back and making one last plea for Riley to stay with her. Riley also has more-than-friends feelings, so she eventually agrees, prompting Ellie to spontaneously kiss her in a fit of joy and, mortified, immediately apologizes. But Riley coyly asks, “What for?” and Ellie breaks into the biggest smile, and we all collectively sdalkjsdlkfjf in our brains because they’re so stinkin’ cute.

But because we can’t have nice things, a stray infected—attracted by the sounds they’ve been making all night—appears to attack them, biting Ellie on the arm (where we know it’s healed), and biting Riley on the hand, noooo! The two contemplate suicide by gun, but Riley doesn’t want to take the easy way out, suggesting they “go all poetic and lose their minds together” because you fight for every last moment to be with the ones you love.

Present-day Ellie remembers these words of wisdom, and, because Joel is the person she now loves most, she searches the house frantically for supplies before going back to help tend to his wound, silently letting him know she isn’t going anywhere.

Best Joel/Ellie Moment

Obvs there wasn’t much to pick from since this was a flashback episode, but Joel and Ellie holding hands after she refuses to leave him, and instead stitches up his wound, made me d’awwwww.

Survivor of the Week

Ellie’s scream of rage and heartbreak when she realizes she is bit gave me shivers, and then the devastation when she sees Riley is also infected…killed me. Bella is doing the fucking most with their reactions and I am HERE FOR IT. I loved the juxtaposition of Riley’s quiet acceptance of their fate vs Ellie’s smashing and raging, because Riley has experienced this kind of loss before with her family, whereas this is Ellie’s first visceral interaction with losing someone she loves.

Pour One Out For

Riley. I loved every little instance of them bickering and joking with each other, and it morphing into their beautifully happy moment of requited crushing. Like in the game, we don’t see Riley’s end, which is okay, because that isn’t the point. I’m glad that while this, a zombie show, has so much inherent violence, it never goes for the “shock” value of depicting the truly traumatic moments for our characters in vivid and explicit detail. The comfort Riley and Ellie give each other as they wait for their end is what actually matters.

Best Time To Cover Your Eyes

During that fight for their lives between Ellie, Riley, and the infected, because it was BRUTAL and that’s all I have to say about that.

We Must Adapt To Survive

  • I didn’t think at the start of these recaps I’d be such a broken record in this section, but damn, ALL the kudos to the set designers once again. This looked so spot-on, from the carousel to the Halloween store to Ellie’s awkward dance moves and those wolf/clown masks. A dilapidated mall is also just an amazingly fun setting (who doesn’t want to be stuck in a mall alone and get to do whatever you want?). But even the little street Ellie drags Joel to for safety looks the same!

  • I lol’d at the flashlight crapping out and Ellie having to shake and smack it (in the game you have to periodically shake the controller to recharge the light), as well as when she’s searching through the kitchen cabinets and finding nothing. The gamers know that pain.

  • This entire “Left Behind” section is the DLC for the first game, and the flashbacks are interspersed with Ellie and Joel hiding in a mall right after he’s hurt, and her having to hunt for supplies before the same raiders show up looking for them. They pulled that infected in the doll store straight from that section, and I loved it and hated it because that room was SO freaking creepy.

  • In the game the arcade games don’t work, so Riley has Ellie close her eyes as she narrates the imaginary gameplay, which becomes “real” on screen as Ellie imagines it. It’s very cute in the game, but having the games actually work is obviously a bit easier to do on a TV screen, and gave them some extra cute bonding time.

  • The way my breath got short knowing that infected was coming around the corner any moment. Gaah! In the game, they unfortunately attract a huge horde of infected, not just one, and it’s stressful AF. I know some people are complaining about the lack of infected in the show, but if you want more tense situations where people are wildly shooting at the scary things running at them, just go play the game again! I’m fine with there being more emotional beats here. Obviously one infected was more than enough of an issue for these two, and we needed more time for the characters to be together.

Graffiti On The Wall

  • FEDRA isn’t amazing, but Captain Kwong seemed like a decent cog in a messed-up machine, and I liked how Ellie had to contend with his version of FEDRA vs Riley’s take from the Fireflies, and struggle to figure out what she personally believes. (It’s all propaganda, babes.) What kind of life would Ellie have had if she stayed in her room that night? Would she have stayed on the “keys” path or would her smart-ass mouth always lead her towards the “coffee cup”?

  • Ah-ha’s “Take On Me” comes up in a specific moment in the second game, and I like how they incorporated it here almost like Ellie’s romance “theme”. (You can also hear The Cure’s Just Like Heaven” in the tinkly carousel music!)

  • I loved Ellie casually trying to fix her appearance in front of the VS window display after Riley teases her about the lingerie.

  • By a show of hands: who would’ve gone to watch Dawn of the Wolf in theaters back in 2003? (In the game Joel mentions Sarah dragged him to see it 😭 while Ellie thinks it sounds stupid.)

  • Mandy W., what mall store would you miss the most post-apocalypse?

How did this mostly flashback episode work out for you?


Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.