The last episode of “The Last Of Us” saw Joel fall off his horse and lose consciousness after being stabbed in the gut by a sharp piece of wood, and Ellie hunching over him and pleading with her shepherd to get up. With Joel out of commission and in need of nursing, Ellie has to become the grown-up and take care of the man who’s come to be like a father to her over the course of 6-7 episodes. With HBO dropping the trailer for the next episode come Sunday, it’s clear that Ellie is the center of this week’s story, and we’re taken back to the events of the “Left Behind” DLC, an add-on to TLOU game by Naughty Dogs. We also meet a new character here named Riley—and it’s the same person Marlene had mentioned all the way back in Episode 1. The trailer shows Ellie enjoying happiness for a brief period before she ever knew Joel, Tess, or any of the people beyond the wall, while she was still a student in the FEDRA military school. So, let’s try breaking down the preview before the episode arrives and makes us cry all over again.
The preview kicks off with Ellie hesitating to open a door as some fear creeps into her mind. She can be seen wearing the same purple jacket that Maria gave her in Episode 6, which means the latest episode will be the portion of the game where Ellie takes the wheel and does all the work to keep Joel and herself alive. We’re then presented with a scene where Ellie is seen running circuits in a big indoor court with several other girls—everyone in the same greyish uniform—while listening to her Walkman before a bigger girl snatches it away from her. In voiceover, we hear the said bully square up to the smaller in stature Ellie saying she can’t fight and it’s her friend who fought her battles. Ellie proceeds to throw a punch but wakes up later with a black eye. Thus, the show goes back to the “Left Behind” DLC, where Ellie’s backstory is finally revealed. A student of the FEDRA military school, Ellie was picked on after her best friend Riley left, but she wasn’t the kind to quietly accept being roughed up. In the military school, Ellie met Riley, who was the stronger of the two, although Ellie made up for that by being the one who never backed down from a fight.
Back to the preview: Ellie finds herself in a military officer’s room, where he advises her to adhere to the rules, which is the only way to become an officer because they’re the ones maintaining order in this world where there is none. Ellie, however, isn’t clearly interested and looks outside—probably wondering what lies beyond the massive FEDRA Gates. At night, while sleeping, Ellie is jolted awake by Riley, and she immediately pulls a knife on her. We can briefly see a figure crawling into Ellie’s room, and in the game, she had pretended to bite her friend as a joke to give her an extra scare. Ellie didn’t take kindly to this stranger in the night and was ready to stab them with her faithful switchblade when she found Riley instead. Riley promises to explain everything and invites her someplace for a while. We then see a montage of the two girls jumping over roofs, which is taken directly from the game, where they hopped through roofs under the night sky. The former FEDRA student asks Ellie if she trusts her friend and then asks her to open her eyes. They’re at a shopping mall, and as the lights turn on in the abandoned and dilapidated shopping facility, so does Ellie’s whole face. She had stated earlier that it was her first time seeing what a shopping mall looks like, so her joy was unadulterated in the scene.
The two girls get on a merry-go-round in an amusement park, and they’re seen holding hands. In the game, this served as an important piece of the story because it was the first time that Ellie was experiencing the joys that the autocratic FEDRA had been keeping away from children like her. It’s in here that Riley gifts Ellie the joke book by Will Livingston, and she reads a few puns from the book in the DLC. We now know the reason why the book of puns was such a precious collectible for the teenager: it was the last thing Riley gave her before the unforeseen happened. We see the two girls running hand-in-hand, foreshadowing them as potential lovers, as it happens in the game. Ellie even tells Riley to come back to the school so that the two of them can run the system, as Riley looks on with a concerned face. Her frown is explained the next second when Ellie discovers some pipe bombs on some shelves and realizes that Riley is a member of the Fireflies. Riley pleads with her to put the bomb down and to listen to her. The reason the girl had sneaked into Ellie’s room was that she wanted to get her to join the rebellion because she knew what Ellie could achieve. However, the HBO show differs from the DLC in the way Ellie makes the discovery. Riley had shown the Firefly dog tag to her friend in the game before they went to the mall, and Ellie was a lot more accepting of her friend’s decision in the Naughty Dog production.
Ellie is seen huffing away in anger after making the discovery and is visibly hurt upon discovering the reality about her friend. A stalker with fungus growing through the former human and spreading to the wall behind him wakes up as Ellie starts smashing the glass boxes inside the mall. This is the beginning of the end of the girls’ plans to be together—in life and romantically—because of what comes next. Riley and Ellie stand on alert as the former pulls out a gun and warns her friend to start running. In a flash of scenes, the two friends are seen sprinting through the corridors as the infected chase them, and Ellie is seen attacking a zombie before the screen cuts to black. In the game, Riley and Ellie are surrounded by the infected as well as a few hunters, and they try escaping. The show chooses to leave the rest a mystery, but if you’ve played the game, you’d know how the night closes out.