The Last of Us TV series episode 7 recap (2023) – what’s left behind

The Last of Us TV series adapts the story of Ellie and Riley, to create a stirring episode that's another highlight of the season thus far

The Last of Us TV series episode 7 recap

Our Verdict

We learn about Ellie's past in a stirring adaptation of a beloved chapter in The LAst of Us history.

Players of The Last of Us have likely been bracing themselves for this episode of the TV series. ‘Left Behind’ involves a flashback to Ellie‘s life before meeting Joel, introducing her best friend, The Last of Us character Riley.

Initially, ‘Left Behind’ arrived as DLC under the same name in 2014, serving as a de facto epilogue for Naughty Dog’s survival game. The drama series places it in the main narrative, during a point at which Joel’s life hangs in the balance, and Ellie is haunted by what she’s lost before.

Even without playing the PS5 game, you can surmise how Ellie’s recollection ends as she tears apart an abandoned house to treat an injured Joel. Loss is perhaps what binds Cordyceps survivors the most, everyone arriving to their current moment shouldering some amount of grief. Our young protagonist has mentioned to Joel that he’s not the only one who suffered before their partnership, and now we’re learning what she means.

We jump back first to Ellie’s time at school in Boston. She’s not getting along with some fellow students, and though she’s capable enough to move into a higher position, her demeanour could mean less fun duties. It’s a military facility, run by FEDRA, whose reliance on rank and file is less than inspirational.

Ellie doesn’t find any of it particularly aspirational, either. That night, Riley into her room after a prolonged absence. Riley’s now joined the Fireflies, and she wants to show Ellie something. They disappear off into the darkness together, a warm reminder that the desire to sneak out is not easily quelled.

The Last of Us episode 7 recap

They climb around buildings discussing their life, and where Riley’s been. She’s now fully converted to the cause of the Fireflies, who’re preparing for an armed uprising against FEDRA. It’s enticing, but also dangerous, and Ellie pushes back based on how dangerous it is and the amount of bloodshed.

Their argument is sidelined by Riley’s gift – a mall that still has power, complete with a functioning arcade and amusements. Ellie’s elated, and the episode becomes a romance movie during their spin on the carousel.

Director Liza Johnson has recently handled episodes of comedy series Physical and The Sex Lives of College Girls, and she zeroes right into the will-they-won’t-they energy. By the time Ellie and Riley are throwing coins into fighting games, you’re practically screaming at the telly for one to confess their true feelings.

The Last of Us episode 7 recap

But awkwardness is part of the charm, and The Last of Us cast-members Bella Ramsey and Storm Reid make every little stare count. They have an undeniable chemistry, something pivotal to this entire segue.

‘Left Behind’ was unfortunately tacked on to the base game back when it first came out, making it seem optional, even if excellent storytelling. Showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann are now righting that wrong, all the while giving it some good reframing.

There’s next to no violence, whereas the videogame version is full of raiders and infected against Ellie. Those portions always felt perfunctory compared to the engrossing change of pace in Ellie’s memories. The thriller series delivers on that promise by putting away all the knives and bullets.

 

They get to just be kids, robbed of a future, enjoying a day where they can be just be present together. ‘Left Behind’ exists as if to prove just how rare the older couple in episode 6 are, showing that for most people, to open their heart is to simply invite the suffering.

All the while, Ellie’s rummaging around for a way to tidying up Joel’s wounds in the present. She’s panicked, because it could all be happening again, and this time, she’s further from refuge than ever before.

Only one fungal revenant shows up, to harsh on Riley and Ellie’s buzz. Riley tries to sell Ellie on the Fireflies, but to no avail. They decide to enjoy this day rather than be divided by their outlooks. ‘I Got You Babe’ is pumped through PA system, and they dance on shop counters.

The Last of Us episode 7 recap

They eventually kill the infected that attacks, but both get scratched. Neither have enough for a suicide pact, they decide to rest and convert together, not unlike Bill and Frank. As we know, Ellie is burdened with seeing what Riley becomes.

She manages to sew up Joel’s cut, as he passes out from the pain. This is the most frenzied and chilling episode yet – a crushingly bleak comparison between the past and present. Endure and survive, but for what? Every which way there’s agony. And still, we persist. Ellie does, anyway, because in that moment, Joel needs her. The Last of Us seems about survival, but really it’s about finding what makes you necessary, and holding onto it for dear life.