First Love and First Loss: HBO’s ‘The Last Of Us’ vs. Game!

Episode 7 of HBO’s The Last Of Us explores the game’s DLC Left Behind in a beautiful homage to queer adolescence and young tragedy. Here are some notable differences and similarities between the DLC and the on-screen adaptation.

Can you imagine a world where kids don’t know about screenshots or shopping malls? Episode 7 of HBO’s The Last Of Us takes us through the wonders of the old world 20 years into the apocalypse.

This episode is a tour through the game’s DLC, The Last Of Us Left Behind, released in 2014. It explores part of Ellie’s backstory in her relationship with fellow military school runaway Riley, who we heard referenced way back in Episode 1. Riley and Ellie sneak away over the rooftops to an abandoned shopping mall for their last night out (unbeknownst to them).

@hsfallie Ellie and Riley 🤍🥹 #pedropascal #ellieandrileyedit #thelastofus #hbomax #fyp ♬ Love You So – The King Khan & BBQ Show

The show and game follow the same beats, from the carousel to dancing on the counter in Halloween masks. The most important addition to this story is the subtleties. For all intents and purposes, “Left Behind” is a first date. We see a softer side of Ellie, one that fixes her hair in the mirror because she wants to impress her crush.

@roastedtitan he’s so evil for saying this #thelastofus #roastedtitan #fyp ♬ original sound – 𝖃𝕬𝕮𝕰𝕽𝕸𝕬𝕹𝕰

Even so, Ellie is still Ellie, a bold and strong young woman unafraid to speak her mind. We see her anger wane to softness in beautiful acting by Bella Ramsey as the pair finally admit their feelings through a kiss; Riley’s commanding nature bends, and in that moment, they decide that they have to stay together, no matter what military school or the Fireflies say.

@lilyxanxeen like war flashbacks to being 16. #tlou #lesbian ♬ Make Your Own Kind Of Music – Mama Cass

Of course, in typical The Last Of Us fashion, their realization is interrupted. The two are attacked by a Stalker from the creepy abandoned American Girl Doll store, and both girls are bitten in the struggle.

In the game, Riley and Ellie are ambushed by a horde of Runners (the terrifying first stage of Infected seen in Episode 1) while “I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher ironically continues to play (which we hear during the clown and wolf dance scene in the show).

They race through the mall for a way out, dodging Infected around every corner. They’re almost out when Ellie falls nearly two stories and is attacked and bitten; Riley faces a similar fate when she goes to save Ellie’s life.

Their realization of their fate in the game and show are nearly identical; Ellie was thrown into an enraged frenzy while Riley retreats into herself.

@spectrexgaming Thoughts? #gamingontiktok #thelastofus ♬ original sound – SpectreX Gaming

They swear to spend their last moments together in an embrace, but there lies an even more heartbreaking implication. Unlike with Bill and Frank’s extended story, the show doesn’t show us more than the game. In both worlds, we understand that at some point, Ellie realized she was going to make it, and Riley was not. Ellie’s first kill was her first love.

The explicit parallel the show draws between Ellie and Riley and Ellie and Joel’s relationship is a beautiful capstone to a devastating episode. As Craig Mazin puts it in the “Inside The Episode” segment, Joel is who Ellie has grown to love the most in this world, and she will not leave him behind.

@bauzafilms every episode has been a 9 or 10 outta 10 #thelastofus #thelastofushbo ♬ original sound – jonahpedro

The penultimate episode of Season 1 is the infamous winter arc. New fans, be warned: it doesn’t let up.

You can watch new episodes of The Last Of Us on HBO and HBO Max on Sundays at 9 pm ET!

About the Author

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Christopher Ikonomou

Christopher Ikonomou is a 4th year at the University of California, Los Angeles pursuing Communication and Disability Studies. He has a particular interest in the entertainment industry and representation of marginalized people in film and TV. On campus, he is the Editor-in-Chief at OutWrite Newsmagazine, the oldest queer college publication in the United States, and an activist with the Disabled Student Union. He’s a horror superfan and has been featured by Buzzfeed, UCLA College, Bored Panda, and Teen Vogue for his vocal involvement in the fight for better representation of the disabled community on screen and in the genre, particularly those with Marfan syndrome like himself.