Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us episode 6 and The Last Of Us: Left Behind game!
The Last of Us episode 7, “Left Behind,” will introduce Storm Reid’s Riley, and viewers aren’t ready for her story. The Last of Us episode 6, “Kin,” sees Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) be attacked at the University of Eastern Colorado. The pair escape, but Joel is mortally wounded. The trailer for The Last of Us episode 7 promises that it will delve into Ellie’s backstory by adapting the video game’s DLC, The Last of Us: Left Behind. The expansion switches back and forth between the story of Ellie trying to find medical supplies to help Joel, and the story of her past before she even met him.
In this second story, set three weeks before the beginning of The Last of Us, Ellie spends time with her friend Riley at an abandoned mall in Boston.
These events were alluded to in The Last of Us episode 2 when Ellie tells Tess she was bitten and discovered her immunity while exploring the mall. She insists to Tess that she is alone, and in the same conversation scoffs at the idea of having a boyfriend, foreshadowing the future unraveling of Riley’s story, which will devastate unsuspecting viewers when it appears in The Last Of Us episode 7.
The Last Of Us Episode 7 Will Show Riley’s Story (& Likely Her Death)
The Last of Us episode 7, “Left Behind,” will cover Riley’s story, likely including her death. Riley is Ellie’s best friend from their FEDRA school, but she ran away and joined The Last of Us’ rebellious Fireflies. At the beginning of The Last of Us: Left Behind, Riley returns to see Ellie before transferring to a Firefly group in a different city. The two enjoy an evening in the abandoned mall, playing arcade games and riding a carousel—the same carousel seen in the Riley promotional image and episode 7 trailer released by HBO.
The two dance together to Etta James’s cover of “I Got You Babe,” before Ellie begs Riley not to leave. Riley agrees to stay with Ellie and the two share a kiss, but they’re interrupted by a horde of Infected, drawn to their location by the music. They escape, killing many Infected, but both are bitten. While this leads to Ellie discovering her immunity, Riley is overtaken by the infection.
Riley’s Story Means The Last Of Us Episode 7 Will Be Devastating
So far, HBO’s The Last of Us has focused more on Joel still dealing with Sarah’s death, with episode 6 showing him having increased panic attacks. The Last of Us episode 7 will be a chance to shift focus onto Ellie’s tragic past. She hasn’t revealed much about her life before meeting Joel, but the events of The Last of Us: Left Behind obviously had a huge impact on her. She may not have obvious panic attacks like Joel, but would still likely have some considerable trauma from her losing her best friend and first love.
The episode will be especially devastating for viewers who didn’t know about Riley beforehand. Given that Riley hasn’t appeared in The Last of Us so far, it will be relatively clear from Riley’s introduction that she doesn’t make it out of the episode alive. But this will just make her story worse, since all the happy moments between her and Ellie will be tinged with the knowledge of her impending doom.
Why Riley’s Story Will Be So Important In The Last Of Us
Riley’s appearance in The Last of Us will be important to not just the story of the series, but TV as a whole. The romance between her and Ellie, however brief, was ground-breaking for video games when The Last of Us: Left Behind was released in 2014. With this still a defining moment in the franchise almost ten years later, Ellie & Riley’s story is all the more important, especially for its portrayal of well-written LGBTQ+ characters and their romance.
Ellie and Riley’s kiss appearing on a mainstream HBO TV series will be a huge positive in terms of LGBTQ+ representation, especially for teens around the same age as Ellie and Riley. Riley’s story is also positive representation for people of color, as just like in The Last of Us: Left Behind, Riley is Black in HBO’s The Last of Us. The Last of Us episode 3 already set the stage for LGBTQ+ characters with Bill and Frank’s story, and now The Last of Us episode 7 will carry it on with Ellie and Riley.
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