[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 7.]
Every week when the credits roll on The Last of Us, we’re left with a new reason to say “poor Ellie.” This week, naturally, was no different.
Through flashbacks, we saw how poor Ellie (Bella Ramsey) sustained the bite that would eventually prove she’s immune to the Cordyceps virus. As if that wasn’t sad enough, we also saw her friend Riley Abel (Storm Reid, who you might’ve recognized from Euphoria) get bitten also. Here’s how Riley — and the tragedy surrounding her — was the same in the game and how it differed.
First off, Riley didn’t actually appear in The Last of Us. The bulk of her story, and the story from which this episode was adapted, arrived in the expansion pack Left Behind. Left Behind explicitly focused on Ellie’s past and the events that led to her realizing that the virus didn’t affect her. In Left Behind, Riley is still Ellie’s best friend, and they still went to FEDRA military school together. In both, Riley — who’d seen both her parents die — had left mysteriously months earlier, and Ellie learns that her friend joined the Fireflies.
Overall, most of Riley and Ellie’s stories are translated almost precisely from the game. While the episode isn’t intercut with real-world sequences like it is in the game (in the game, she’s looking for medical supplies for Joel), the best friendship between the two main characters is the same. The ill-fated excursion to the mall took place in the source material, too. In both, the friends had fun with a carousel, an arcade, a photo booth, and in a Halloween store. The music even stayed the same: the game featured Etta James’ “I Got You, Babe,” too.
There are slight differences — in the game, the photo booth never actually prints Riley and Ellie’s photos; in the show, the game they play is Mortal Kombat II, but Mortal Kombat wasn’t featured in the source material; in the game, Riley and Ellie have to run around inside and outside the mall to attempt escape from quite a few Runners rather than the singular monster that tracks them down in the Halloween store on the show. (That thing waking up in the American Girl store on the show? Creeeeepy.)
Ellie and Riley’s relationship is kept the same, too, including the kiss in the Halloween store — which was groundbreaking when the game debuted in 2014 — and Riley’s choice to leave the Fireflies in order to remain with Ellie. Perhaps most movingly, her speech to Ellie at the end of the episode about their “two options” and staying with each other whether they have another “two minutes, or two days” is kept extremely close to the game’s dialogue.
[WARNING: POTENTIAL FUTURE SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH.] You might wonder what happened to Riley if you haven’t played the games. After all, Ellie was immune; who’s to say her friend wasn’t, too? Unfortunately, The Last of Us just isn’t that kind of a franchise… and Riley wasn’t immune. Her death isn’t shown in the games, but she succumbed to the virus. Ellie then went to Marlene and the Fireflies—which explains how she ended up there on the show. As to whether Ellie eventually tells Joel (Pedro Pascal) about Riley in the series, we’ll have to wait and see.
The Last of Us Season 1, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO
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