The Last of Us’ greatest story hits more durable a decade later in episode 7

Another principally self-contained episode of The Last of Us, one other one which has audiences raving. It’s grow to be a little bit of a factor for the HBO present, however episode 7, “Left Behind,” is somewhat completely different: Fans have been anticipating this explicit one for the reason that adaptation was introduced. Left Behind was a further story launched as a downloadable enlargement for The Last of Us and was rapidly considered the perfect a part of the sport. A decade on, it actually feels just like the story’s most heartbreaking second.

On display screen, it’s mainly a beat-for-beat retelling of the enlargement’s story (although the present’s timeline means the gags about Facebook and the ephemeral nature of social media are lacking), with Ellie instantly chargeable for a wounded Joel and flashing again to occasions earlier than the 2 ever met. Here prior to now we’re launched to Riley, her greatest good friend who may simply be greater than that, as the 2 sneak out at night time to go to an deserted mall. There, Riley intends to present Ellie the perfect night time of her life with a tour of assorted sights these two post-apocalyptic children have by no means seen, together with a working merry-go-round and a photograph sales space.

Like within the sport, the underlying stress — or not less than the non-pandemic-related stress — comes from whether or not both of the 2 actually acknowledges that this can be a date. It’s a real portrayal of burgeoning need as they wrestle to establish whether or not the opposite is , and it rings all of the more true for its queerness. Same-sex attraction is usually tough to navigate in adolescence (and, admittedly, loads troublesome as an grownup too), particularly in a world that neither encourages nor educates about homosexuality. It’s the battle to exist in that circumstance that has “Left Behind” hitting me more durable than it did the primary time round.

Seven episodes into the present, it’d be fairly cheap to be suspicious of this blissful time the 2 share, at the same time as they playfully argue about their respective positions within the two combating factions of their metropolis. Sure sufficient, on the finish they find yourself bitten by contaminated, primarily handing them each a dying sentence. Even although we all know Ellie survives, it’s a crushing scene. Because if nothing else, it’s clear Riley doesn’t. We see them each come to phrases with impending dying, Ellie raging and livid whereas Riley, the extra mature of the 2, falls into quiet acceptance. Bella Ramsey and Storm Reid give performances as devastating as these of Ashley Johnson and Yaani King within the sport, conveying the horrible unfairness of those kids bumping up towards an unjustly merciless world (not not like one other present from final 12 months).

Photo: Liane Hentscher/HBO

Photo: Liane Hentscher/HBO

Ellie’s rush to motion and anger is established nearly from her first scene within the present. Now we all know the place not less than a few of that comes from. There’s no method to reconcile the trauma of anticipating to die alongside the lady you like, solely to lose her whereas you need to reside on. The weight of this has clearly been on Ellie’s shoulders for the complete present, and it fuels her turbulent relationship with Joel. In one another, to completely different levels, they each see the folks they’ve misplaced. And even the smallest tweaks within the adaptation make a distinction in how that friction comes throughout. HBO’s Joel isn’t solely extra likable however extra emotionally sincere. His heart-to-heart with Tommy within the earlier episode was a far cry from the poisonous encounter within the supply materials, the place he outright threatens Tommy into taking Ellie off his fingers. Then, his argument with Ellie in a while nonetheless has him admitting how a lot he cares for her. Without that imply, egocentric streak from the sport, the present appears much less inclined to be vital of Joel as a personality, an enormous a part of what drove Ellie’s transformation as a personality over the 2 video games. That leaves Ellie’s character trying a bit extra infantile round him.

That makes the timing of “Left Behind” all of the extra necessary: The sport notably advised the Left Behind story after Joel and Ellie’s story was completed. The enlargement was extra about providing a counterpoint to Joel’s extra egocentric interpretation of affection than it was filling in backstory. Ellie had already recounted the occasions of Left Behind in the principle sport, in any case, so gamers went in understanding precisely the way it was all going to finish. For the present, “Left Behind” appears like a revelation. It not presents Riley as a transparent distinction to Joel, but it surely makes clear why dropping Joel is so scary for Ellie. While the present usually comes throughout to me as schmaltzier than the supply materials, this episode stays tragic, and very important for contextualizing Ellie’s previous and future struggles.

For a online game in 2013, it was a daring factor to have an entire story focus on what it’s, primarily, a date. To put an specific queer love story on the coronary heart of it was exceptional in mainstream video games on the time. It’s not as novel now, a decade later and on tv, but it surely stays a poignant, transferring little arc. Back then, I latched onto their resolve within the ending, with Riley dedicating no matter time she had left to spending it with Ellie.

Photo: Liane Hentscher/HBO

It’s a stark distinction to Bill and Frank’s arguably saccharine utopia in episode 3. Where they have been capable of carve out an ideal area for themselves regardless of the world round them, Riley and Ellie can’t escape it. Gone is the idyllic and scenic sunlit residence; here’s a decaying mall at the hours of darkness, the one refuge accessible to the 2 ladies. Bill was capable of carve out an entire city for years, however they’ll barely get a number of hours. Whether you’re feeling Bill and Frank’s story was an necessary counter to media the place queer tales usually finish in tragedy or pure fantasy, Left Behind is actually extra beholden to the tropes that outline these tales (particularly, dying). Riley does certainly die. Yet regardless of the implicit tragedy, Left Behind avoids the plain beats therein. We don’t see Riley’s dying or a mourning Ellie. The episode and the sport pointedly give attention to their moments of pleasure and survival. But a decade on, it’s the tough actuality of their circumstances that separates it from Bill and Frank’s story.

By the top of the episode, Ellie has chosen to not abandon Joel however battle to maintain him alive. Hope wins out. At least for now. But with its new place within the story, “Left Behind” turns into its most pressing half. Seeing these two ladies torn aside by their respective political machines (even when the Fireflies actually sound extra interesting) and their dire circumstances, it was unattainable for me not to think about the determined battles being fought every day by queer folks for freedom and dignity of their lives. Ellie’s battle all through the present is now reframed as a traumatized queer lady’s battle for some sort of peace. It makes the actual fact she by no means met Bill and Frank, by no means even bought a glimpse of that potential utopia, really feel like a missed alternative. But it’s a telling one: This is The Last of Us, and sadly too many roads result in tragedy. Ellie’s journey, as those that have performed the sport know, isn’t any exception. Ahead is the darkest chapter in her story as far as she encounters David and his group of survivors, catching her alone with out Joel’s help as she’s compelled to do no matter it takes to outlive. Beyond this primary season awaits the occasions of the sport’s sequel, the place Ellie nonetheless doesn’t discover any peace.

And sadly, that’s not an unfair reflection of the world proper now. There isn’t any scarcity of scared children looking for help from somebody who might need some solutions. As a queer girl in my 30s, I’m so frightened for them, and it’s that very same sort of worry I felt watching the most recent episode of The Last of Us. The story is broadly the identical, however in 10 years its themes have solely grow to be extra prescient. Where I as soon as latched onto the love expressed by Riley, now it’s the tragedy of it I can’t let go of. It was at all times a heartbreaking story; it’s simply all of the extra so for a decade passing with out us with the ability to safe a greater future for youthful generations. “We fight for every second we get to spend with each other,” Riley tells Ellie in each variations. “Whether it’s two seconds or two days, we don’t give that up.” Hearing it a decade later for a second time, understanding the whole lot that’s to come back within the story, I simply discovered myself so unhappy that Ellie, and the younger folks like her, need to battle in any respect.

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