Much like Episode 3, this week’s episode of The Last of Us feels like it comes with some semblance of anticipation. While the episode (for the most part) does not strictly adhere to the game, it comes from something that’s become so ingrained with the original experience that’s become the equivalent of rewatching the Lord of the Rings (in their extended forms). With that in mind, have you seen Episode 7 of The Last of Us? Let me know in the comments below.
Despite being downloadable content (DLC), Left Behind was a remarkably moving experience that juxtaposed the coming-of-age antics of its two female characters with the impending doom of the post-apocalyptic setting. It comes as something of a relief that Episode 7 is a weighty and poignant experience that captures the tragic nature of its DLC source material.
In the present day, Ellie is frantically trying to find some things around an abandoned house to stop the bleeding from Joel’s severe wound. However, most of the episode is dedicated to Ellie’s last night with her friend, Riley, who is due to leave the city to be with the insurgent group known as the Fireflies.
Left Behind expands the scope of the DLC by showing us some of Ellie’s school life. By making this choice, we’re shown how Ellie attaches herself to people as opposed to causes. This is shown by how a superior officer pitches to her the importance of his role and how it keeps a community from descending into chaos. This aspect is juxtaposed with Riley, who chooses to attach herself to a cause (aka the Fireflies) that she sees as a surrogate family.
With this in mind, the change from many zombies to a singular one that causes Riley’s death and Ellie’s awakening as someone immune is quite tragic. It’s pitched as something random akin to an act of nature that awakens the dead creature from his long-gestating sleep. In fact, this was my favourite moment of the episode, as it’s a horrifying reminder of the omnipresence of the disease and how it can linger even in the most innocent of places.
Bela Ramsey is remarkable in the moments where the character is silent, whether it’s the trusting physicality she displays towards Riley or the knowing glances of adoration as she’s riding a merry-go-round. Storm Reid provides a low-key cool performance that’s commanding and emotionally authentic in equal measures.
My issues with the episode are twofold. Firstly is the juxtaposition between Ellie showing frustration over her and Riley’s terminal predicament in the past and Joel’s worsening condition in the present. Rather than being an elegant parallel, I instead found it jarring due to its suddenness and lack of set-up. Finally, I wish we got more of Ellie’s backstory. While I appreciate, this episode being a sound emotional context to some of the declarations Ellie made last week, I think her backstory could have contrasted well with Riley’s notion of chosen family.
But those issues aside, Left Behind is still a powerful adaptation of its DLC source material, perhaps made even more tragic as a contrast to Episode 3. While love flourished and lingered with Bill and Frank, it was mealy a passing shadow with Ellie and Riley.