HBO’s The Last Of Us Season One, Episode Seven Review – After last week’s episode continued to show that this series stands, more than anything, on the shoulders of its performances, we enter episode seven to once again see that truth on display.
And though the same issues I had with episode six still, in part apply, I’m now coming around to the thought that perhaps for now, the expansion coming from just how much more clearly we can see these characters might just be enough.
Spoilers ahead for HBO’s The Last Of Us episode seven, and the rest of the series so far.
HBO’s The Last Of Us Season One, Episode Seven Review – Not Again
Life Before Joel And The Fireflies
The ending for episode six left many new fans of the franchise wondering as to what would become of Ellie now that Joel seems to be dying.
If you didn’t figure it out by the end of episode seven, Ellie intends to save Joel, at whatever the cost. She won’t go through losing someone like him, not again.
Especially when she knows there’s still a chance she can save him. It’s at this point where we are transported back in time only a short while, to Ellie and what her life was like before leaving the Fireflies and Joel.
We’ve not had this kind of look into Ellie’s past before, the closest we get in the Left Behind DLC is Ellie’s old room with FEDRA, when Riley sneaks in to convince her to head to the mall.
We still get that shot this time around, but we also get a lot more. We see a bit of what life is like as a kind in a FEDRA-led apocalypse, spending each day training to either whatever FEDRA deems you worthy of being.
And after Ellie gives a girl almost double her size the need for 16 new stitches, we see a bit of the underbelly of FEDRA. Officers who believe they’re “keeping everything together” and ensuring that things don’t fall apart.
Almost trying to justify the deplorable practices and actions FEDRA uses and takes each day. A propaganda lie that at least, for a time, had Ellie convinced.
It’s not until after hours, when everyone is asleep, that Riley, played by Storm Reid, stealthily enters her and Ellie’s old room, and wakes up Ellie in a way not usually recommended.
Ellie’s rude awakening from Riley is really where we start to really follow the Left Behind narrative, though it changes a few things about the situation, and other context around the night.
And all these changes are for the better. In the original Left Behind DLC, while Riley does have a plan of sorts, most of the fun moments recreated in this episode come about through what looks like chance, rather than a distinct plan.
Storm Reid’s Riley having a plan each step of the way made the whole excursion to the mall feel a lot more meaningful.
It also makes their arguments about Riley joining the Fireflies feel a lot more high-stakes, especially with the added understanding as to why Riley ran away.
After finding out FEDRA only thought Riley would be good for “standing guard while people shovel sh*t,” as she puts it, she ran, with Marlene and the Fireflies finding her, rather than the other way around in the game.
Still, Ellie pushes the issue when she finds one of Riley’s homemade pipe bombs. Which causes Riley to reveal that this night they’re having is the last one they will have, as Riley is being sent away by her new Firefly family.
Ellie storms off, but returns to find Riley in the Halloween shop meant to be Ellie’s final surprise for their date. It’s here that they talk, kiss, and confront the lone Infected they woke up in the mall, who also bites them before Ellie takes her knife to his head.
Tragic as The Left Behind DLC was to experience the first time, the show is able to execute the emotional heights of the story far better than the game does.
And a large part of that is again due to excellent performances from actors who all were somehow so well cast.
Storm Reid does an excellent job of portraying a more mature Riley, who knows she might not have everything figured out, but understands that what FEDRA wants for the world isn’t what she wants.
By contrast Bella Ramsey’s more innocent yet none-the-less tough and smart-mouthed Ellie provides even more context to the character that is arguably the most beloved in the whole franchise.
Happy To Be Wrong
I honestly think I can say I was more wrong than I was right when I wrote about concerns I had around the show’s events being too close to the game, and not showcasing a more expanded universe in the show given the opportunities that come with adapting something.
Because how the show has been expanding not just our main characters in Joel and Ellie, but Bill, Frank, Tommy, Maria, and now Riley, all makes for more meaningful expansion than I think I could’ve hoped for.
I still hold that Kathleen and the “free” people of Kansas City were more of a bore than anything else, but how much more we’re getting from the main and supporting cast of characters in this story has been truly special.
The added character development and depth we’ve seen from each episode has somehow raised the stakes higher than they ever seemed to be in the game, and we’re not even done yet.
There’s still a lot to happen with next week’s episode, another huge opportunity for more character and world-expansion for The Last Of Us.
Episode seven takes on what many fans of the franchise knew would be one of HBO’s most daunting tasks. Re-imagining this DLC and executing it well would be key to Ellie and her story.
Thankfully this series continues to impress and not let us down with performances and writing that somehow raise the stakes in a story that millions of people already know by heart.
The emotional and vulnerability levels of each performance is so high that words aren’t even necessary for most of Ellie and Joel’s time together, as they take each others hand, and both understand that they need to get out of this alive.
Ellie begins to sew Joel up as good as she can, and we see the determination in Ellie, to not go through what she went through with Riley.
She won’t lose someone she loves, not again. She’ll save who she can save. The same decision Joel will make at the end of the series, but that’s not for another two episodes.
You can check out seven out of the total nine episodes for HBO’s The Last Of Us wherever it is streaming in your region, right now.