REVIEW: ‘The Last of Us,’ Episode 7 – “Left Behind”

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The Last of Us Episode 7 — But Why Tho

The Last of Us Episode 7, titled “Left Behind”, turns its focus to Ellie (Bella Ramsey) while peeling back the pages of her past. Taking place immediately after the shocking ending of “Kin“, Ellie is struggling to keep Joel (Pedro Pascal) alive after he suffered a grievous wound. But the bulk of the episode flashes back to the early years of the Cordyceps infection, where Ellie was working in a military camp. She reconnects with her friend Riley (Storm Reid), who ran away from the camp – but Riley soon reveals that she joined the Fireflies. In an attempt to recapture some semblance of a normal life, Riley takes Ellie to an abandoned mall.

This isn’t the first time that The Last of Us has had an episode that takes place mostly in the past, but “Left Behind” is special in that it works to show how Ellie became the person she is in the modern day. Ramsey displays a simmering rage that is eating away at Ellie; not only has she lost her family, but she’s also clearly missing Riley. So when another kid attempts to take her Walkman, she responds rather violently. But as her commanding officer and Riley point out, she has so much more to offer the world than rage. Like Pascal, Ramsey shows a range of emotions with her face, especially in the episode’s quieter moments. Behind her sullen pout is a deep, deep hurt and she doesn’t know what to do with it other than hit things.

Ramsey also has yet another excellent scene partner in Reid. It takes real talent to give a character a deep interior life, especially in a single episode of television, but Reid rises to the challenge. Her interactions with Ramsey feels like they’ve been friends for years, especially when it comes to discussing the differences in their lives. Co-showrunner Neil Druckmann delivers a nuanced take in his script, showcasing the ups and downs of Ellie and Riley’s positions. The Fireflies are not the evil anarchists everyone believes they are, and there’s a price for the stability that FEDRA offers. And like his partner Craig Mazin, Druckmann knows how to lure the audience into a false sense of security before hitting them with an emotional gut punch. Trust me when I say that the last fifteen to twenty minutes are a roller coaster of emotions.

Director Liza Johnson also plays on the tension underlying this world, particularly in the opening sequence. She starts with a shot of the pristine white snow, then moves to patches stained with blood – a grim reminder of the wound Joel suffered and the urgency of Ellie’s quest to keep him alive. Johnson later repeats this trick during a sequence in the mall. As Ellie and Riley goof around, the camera slowly pans to one of the abandoned stores and reveals that there’s an infected coming to life. Once again, it’s a cruel reminder that they live in a world that didn’t give them the chance to be normal kids.

But before the terror unfolds, The Last of Us Episode 7 delivers a great montage of Ellie and Riley visiting the mall. They question the purpose of lingerie when stumbling upon an abandoned Victoria’s Secret. They find an old photo booth; Ellie even mistakes it for a time machine, which isn’t that far off. And in perhaps my favorite scene, Riley takes Ellie to an arcade where they start playing Mortal Kombat II. “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Ellie says, awe lining her face. It’s not hard to see why – growing up in a strict military camp and in a world overrun by monsters, the sight of neon lights and video games would be enthralling. And Johnson frames it as such, positioning Ellie in the middle of the brightly lit arcade. It’s an island of light in the darkness.

The Last of Us Episode 7 turns back the clock once again for a tragic teenage tale and shows that Bella Ramsey is truly a talent to watch out for. It also continues to expand upon the game in new and surprising ways. When the show debuts its second season, I hope that it can keep up this momentum.

The Last of Us airs new episodes on HBO and HBO Max every Sunday.


The Last of Us Episode 7 — "Left Behind"
  • 9.5/10
    TL;DR - 9.5/10
9.5/10

TL;DR

The Last of Us Episode 7 turns back the clock once again for a tragic teenage tale and shows that Bella Ramsey is truly a talent to watch out for. It also continues to expand upon the game in new and surprising ways.

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