It’s “The Last of Us” Sunday, so HBO brought us the next episode in Joel and Ellie’s journey, but the situation changes from this episode onwards. So far, Joel was the one taking the lead in being the protector and savior of Ellie, but after he got injured in the previous episode, the responsibility for the duo’s safety on her teenage shoulders. The 7th episode draws directly from the “Left Behind” DLC, an add-on to the 2013 TLOU game by Naughty Dog and takes us to Ellie’s backstory and what happened on the night before she was captured by the Fireflies. We’re introduced to her best friend and romantic partner, Riley, who invites Ellie out to a mall, where the girls have an amazing night until reality catches up with them. Being based on the DLC, the episode is sure to have a lot of similarities but quite a few differences as well, along with a bunch of Easter eggs that you may not spot at first glance. So let’s dive into the episode for a breakdown of every major similarity, difference, and Easter egg we could spot in the latest episode.
On the whole, the “Left Behind” DLC and its TV adaptation have stayed true to each other for the better part of the episode, with a few changes in minor places, but the storytelling has been done with an immense love for every character that made the DLC the emotional rollercoaster we remember it as. For starters, the episode begins with Ellie trying to tend to Joel’s wounds and trying to save him from bleeding to death because if his stab wounds aren’t tended to, he’ll be dead in a day or two. However, the protector in Joel shoves the teenager away because even at death’s door, he’s unable to deal with the fact that he’s once again dragging Ellie down, so he wants her to leave him and reach Tommy. The DLC, however, didn’t show Joel to be as selfless as he’s in the show, but that’s probably because he was too injured to object. Frustrated at Joel, Ellie thinks of leaving, and reaches the door when she’s teleported to her life at FEDRA through memories. While the show decided to spend the rest of the episode focusing on Ellie and Riley (Storm Reid), the DLC showed a brief section where Ellie rummages through the cupboards and finds one of the tapes that’s a usable good in the game. She wraps Joel’s gut wound with tape and goes out to an abandoned mall to hunt for supplies that’ll help her surrogate dad. In the show, when Ellie is trying to make up her mind with Joel whimpering in pain, the song that plays is Pearl Jam’s “All Or Nothing.” The same song was playing on her Walkman when she ran circuits inside the FEDRA school.
The section about Ellie’s Walkman being snatched away by an older girl, the ensuing fight, and the subsequent lecture that Officer Kwong gives Ellie has been created for the show. It shows the bleak future prospects Ellie had ahead of herself, but it also shows the other side of FEDRA. We’ve known them as a fascist organization that invokes military rule and hangs defectors, but the episode provides a brief section where an officer is shown to be a little more than just an antagonist like we’ve known them in the game. HBO includes a fun little detail during the scene between Kwong and Ellie, where he offers her keys to signify the life of an officer – along with the choice of a cup that features grunt work. Curiously, the keychain has a Naughty Dog logo on it. This isn’t just some random addition neither, since Naughty Dog’s is an old company and found fame in the 90s with “Crash bandicoot,” well before the 2003 date of the pandemic in the show. Thus, it makes sense that they had merchandise in the world.
A shot of Ellie’s room highlights the things she loves: the first volume of the joke book by Will Livingston, pictures of dinosaurs, and lunar cycles. She has always found fascination in the ancient things, and she even asks Joel several questions throughout the show about the world that was. On the other side of the room, there’s an empty bed where her former roommate and best friend Riley used to sleep in, but for the game, they were bunk mates. There’s also a poster of “Mortal Kombat” in the background, which foreshadows the arcade game she and Riley play in the mall later. Ellie has referenced the game in a previous episode as well, when she found an out-of-order MK arcade game. TLOU game, however, made the arcade into a similar game called “The Turning.” She’s shown reading one of the editions of “Savage Starlight,” her favorite comic series. She puts the book away, next to the switchblade she trusts, and goes to sleep, moments before Riley creeps inside. In the game, however, her flashback started from the moment she was awoken by her best friend’s shenanigans. Storm Reid’s character chooses to place a hand on Ellie’s mouth to freak her out, while in the game, Riley had pretended to bite her like an infected—possibly foreshadowing the girls’ fate.
In the show, when Riley tells Ellie that she has joined the Fireflies, the teenager is furious because her best friend has shown up after weeks of being missing, having joined the organization that Ellie opposes. In the game, however, Ellie is happy that her friend has followed her heart and become who she wanted, and she even congratulates Riley. While making their way to the mall, the girls spot a dead body with a bag of pills and a fancy bottle of alcohol next to him, and the girls take swigs off the bottle. The game didn’t have this scene because the developers didn’t want to glorify drinking alcohol for kids. Interestingly, in the episode, Ellie pretends to like the alcohol she drinks in an attempt to impress Riley, although she had immediately gagged at the hooch Joel had offered her in the previous episode.
Having finally made it to the mall, Ellie is introduced to the magical world of a shopping mall ahead of her, and her eyes light up immediately. While the mall section begins with Riley switching the lights on at the very beginning, she flips the lights later on in the game. Inside the mall, there’s a poster of “Dawn of the Wolf,” which serves as an Easter egg for the game, because there was one at Sarah’s room, and Joel and Ellie come across another in their journey. Moreover, later on when Riley invites Sarah to the place she’s using as her bedroom they cross over into the kitchen of Macho Nacho, and it’s the same Mexican restaurant that we spotted in the “Left Behind” DLC before hearing it in a conversation between Elena and Nate in “Uncharted 4” A Thief’s End.” The scenes of the elevator and the carousel are adapted almost exactly from the game, although in the DLC, the carousel stops moments after the girls climb onto the ride, while HBO allows them a brief moment’s peace while riding the “magical horses,” as Ellie calls them. The song we hear in today’s episode while the girls enjoy the carousel ride is “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure. The teenagers then head to a photo booth, where they click several pictures while striking ridiculous poses—just kids being kids in an apocalyptic world. The show names the booth “Star Shot,” while the game calls it “Snap Share.” The simple reason behind this is that the TLOU game’s DLC offered a feature where people could share their clicked photos to Facebook, but since neither Ellie nor Riley knew what Facebook was, they chose to skip it. The TLOU game came out in 2013, when Facebook was very much a thing, but the cordyceps fungus broke out in 2003, when Mark Zucekrberg hadn’t invented the social platform yet. So, the photo booth is simply called “Star Shot.”
Upon reaching the arcade, Ellie and Riley enjoy the several arcade games, but the one they have the most fun with is the Mortal Kombat game. However, in the DLC, the girls couldn’t play the game, probably because Naughty Dog wasn’t equipped to create the mini-game within the DLC, which is why Riley explained “The Turning” to Ellie and she pictured it in her mind’s eye. While the girls while away the night at the arcade, a little far off, an Infected wakes up from the noise, and it’s the same Stalker that’d attack them later. The “Left Behind” DLC, however, chose to jump straight to the zombies rushing into the mall at the very end, bursting the girls’ bubble of happiness. Ellie soon learns the real reason Riley is in the mall and how it’s a Firefly fortress, and the argument they’ve had is almost lifted from the game. She’s heading out of the mall, angry at her best friend, when she stops mid-way and goes back because she can’t abandon the people she loves, much like how Ellie returns for Joel later in the episode.
The Halloween masks that the girls wear as they dance are the same as the ones they wore in the game, and the song that plays is Etta James’s “I Got You Babe,” since we learned earlier that Ellie had James’s tapes in her room. The kiss the two share after removing their masks is adapted directly from the game. This is where the Stalker from earlier bursts into the idyllic world of Ellie and Riley and brings their bliss to an end. The two girls struggle with the zombie and although Riley tries defending Ellie, it’s her who ends up saving Riley by stabbing the zombie in the head. In the game, however, there’s a horde of infected that the girls need to run from. The show skips the entire section where action takes the front wheel and instead chooses to focus on the human connections. After both girls are bitten, Ellie and Riley have to discuss what lies ahead, and Riley offers her best friend the options they can choose from: suicide or turning together. The entire dialogue between the two weighing their options is almost identical to the game, and this scene is intercut with Ellie ransacking the house where Joel and she have holed up, looking for supplies. Ellie finally finds a needle and a roll of string in the house that she uses to sew Joel’s wound, unlike the game where she brought the kit from outside. The episode ends with Ellie patching Joel up as hope returns to her life, while in-game Ellie prepares a makeshift sledge to carry Joel behind the horse she’ll be riding. Staying true to the previous episodes, the show chooses to keep the significant areas identical to the source material while tweaking things here and there to make the storyline even more endearing.