‘The Last Of Us’ Timeline, Explained: How Did Ellie Met Marlene After Riley’s Death In Episode 7

Coming right after the cliffhanger ending of the sixth episode, where we saw a fatally wounded Joel leaving Ellie in a precarious situation in the midst of nowhere, the seventh episode of HBO’s “The Last of Us” sheds some light on Ellie’s past by linking it to the present scenario. As Joel writhes in pain, his worst fear dawns upon him: not being able to protect the people close to him. In his last attempt to ensure her safety, he pleads with Ellie to return to his brother, Tommy. As Ellie faces a moral dilemma, a doorway to her past, symbolized by the door in the attic room, opens, and her well-guarded memories with Riley flash in front of her. It is through the flashback of the memory we can establish Ellie’s connection with Boston QZ Firefly leader Marlene and appreciate the events of the first episode better.


Spoilers Ahead

Marlene’s History With Ellie

The seventh episode, “Left Behind,” departs from the main game storyline and adapts both the prequel comic “The Last of Us: American Dreams” and the DLC (downloadable content) of the first game, both titled similar to the episode “The Last of Us: Left Behind.” The first episode of the series hints Marlene had knowledge about Ellie’s life before she was enrolled in FEDRA military school, as she caught Ellie’s ruse of using a fake name instantaneously and addressed her by using her real name. This suggested a faithful adaptation of the comics, where Marlene had revealed to Ellie that she knew Ellie’s mother, Anna, and also the fact that Anna had sacrificed everything to save an infant Ellie. In the remaining two episodes, we will learn more about Ellie’s parentage as voice actor Ashley Johnson, who portrayed Ellie’s character in the two “The Last of Us” games, will reprise the role of Anna, which will also reveal Marlene’s relationship with her. In the comics, Marlene also gives Anna’s knife to Ellie, the one object she’s possessively attached to, as we see in the first episode. As Marlene confessed in the pilot episode, it was she who entrusted Ellie to the FEDRA to allow her a safe upbringing, and additionally, it was revealed in the comics that Marlene always watched over Ellie during her years at the military school, ensuring her safety.


Riley Is The Connection Between Ellie And Marlene

“Left Behind” gives viewers a much-awaited glimpse into Ellie’s past life, which has been hinted at since the last few episodes. Riley Abel, Ellie’s only and best friend, was introduced in the DLC chapter, and the series makes the events of the expansion canon. Before Joel came into Ellie’s life, Riley was the one who looked out for her. As events in the comics and the series show, Ellie was targeted by bullies in the military school, and Riley stood guard to protect her. Significantly, she acted as a mediator between Ellie and Marlene, and the first time we see her in the series; she lets Ellie know that she had joined the Fireflies during the three weeks she had been missing. Ellie has been brought up in military school, and its dictates are everything that has guided her so far, as shown by the way the school supervisor Captain Kwong manages to convince her about the promise of a better life if she complies with the FEDRA regulation. Naturally, this comes at odds with Riley’s ideology, who sees FEDRA for what it is, additionally motivated by the Fireflies’, particularly Marlene’s, ideology. Throughout the episode, time and again, the conflict rises up between Ellie and Riley regarding this. The young mind of Riley gets captivated by the idealism of revolutionaries rather quickly, which also begs the question of whether Riley being recruited into the ranks of the Fireflies was purely coincidental or if Marlene actually wanted someone close to her to be the mediator.

Joel’s QZ Days Revisited

As Riley takes Ellie outside to spend the night frolicking at the mall, the duo comes across a corpse with a bottle of liquor and a pack of narcotics laying at his side. We are at once reminded about Joel trading the drugs with the FEDRA guard in exchange for a car, and Joel’s career as a smuggler managed to leave its mark in Ellie’s memory, unbeknownst to either of them.


Riley’s Tragic End Leads To Ellie’s Reunion With Marlene And Her Eventual Journey With Joel

As the magical moments of Ellie and Riley’s date in the mall draw to a close, Ellie discovers Riley was assigned to guard the Fireflies’ stash of pipe bombs. To add to the misery, Riley lets her know that she will be leaving for her first mission for the revolutionaries. Initially, an infuriated Ellie decides to walk off but eventually returns to Riley and makes amends. As one last happy memory to lessen the hurt of separation, the duo dances and frolics, and Ellie decides to convey her feelings by kissing Riley. Riley’s reaction is a reciprocation of Ellie’s feelings too, but as fate would have it, the most precious memory shared by them proves to be the last as an infected interrupts them and proceeds to bite them both before finally going down. Faced with the tragic recognition of their fates, Riley sees only two options laid out in front of them: accepting a painless death or waiting for the inevitable together. They agree to go with the second option. At that point in time, neither of them had knowledge about Ellie’s immunity, and even though Riley’s death has not been shown, the events can be predicted by connecting a few dots. In the fourth episode, Ellie confessed to Joel that she had taken human life before, and it’s implied that as Ellie was immune, when Riley eventually turned into an infected, Ellie had had to end her life. It must also be around the same time that Marlene led the Fireflies into the mall, where they found Ellie. Despite being bitten, Ellie is spared thanks to Marlene’s intervention, and after spending a few days in the Boston Fireflies camp, Ellie’s immunity is confirmed by Marlene. This discovery rekindles their effort to synthesize a cure, and Marlene decides to mobilize all the resources of the revolutionary group to ensure Ellie’s safe escort through the country. In the series, whether or not she tells Ellie about her mother remains unknown, which will probably be addressed in future episodes.

As seen in the first episode, Marlene’s manpower decimated drastically after engaging in a shootout with smuggler Robert’s crew. Seeing Joel and Tess arrive at her base and knowing their reputation, she at once makes up her mind to entrust Ellie with them to take her to the Boston state house. Joel and Tess begrudgingly accept her proposal, and the cross-country journey begins. Marlene will make another appearance in the ninth episode of the series, and her connection with Ellie will come full circle.            


See more: ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 7: ‘Left Behind’ DLC Differences, Similarities And Easter Eggs, Explained

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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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