For the non-gaming crowd, this storybeat was actually DLC (downloadable content) that served as optional and extended content to the original game. Be that as it may, optional or not, Left Behind was my Top Game of 2014 (you can find my full review of it at the bottom of this piece).
So when I spoiled myself with the list of titles for the nine episodes this season, I couldn’t help but notice Left Behind was seventh–the episode before the penultimate one. Again, this beat was post-story DLC. Where would the show possibly put it? We got our answer last week.
“Kin” ended with Ellie helplessly sobbing as she deals with Joel lying on the ground motionless after a fresh stab and while Left Behind opens with Ellie somehow getting him to shelter, he’s in far worse shape. The man is near death, he knows it, and he tells Ellie to go back to Jackson and get Tommy. She has to press on.
That’s where Left Behind starts.
The episode is essentially Ellie’s origin story. This episode shows what it’s like to be a kid growing up in the apocalypse, and while she’s still the smart, foul-mouthed brat we fell in love with since the show’s pilot, she’s different–unsure. She’s not the same brave soul we’ve seen her become over the course of the show.
We’re then introduced to Riley (Storm Reid), Ellie’s best friend who was gone for weeks. Because she was gone for so long, Ellie thought she was dead but as it turns out, she did the unthinkable and joined the Fireflies.
Reid does a good enough job as Riley. She’s someone just above Ellie’s level as far as understanding the world around her, and it creates an amazing dynamic between the two. There are a couple lines in the episode that I felt like Reid had to power through, but the chemistry she had with Ramsey’s Ellie was exactly what the episode called for.
We won’t go into much detail about that dynamic, but central to this episode is the abandoned but working mall that Riley tours Ellie through. We’re drawn back to last week when Ellie was reading someone’s diary, criticizing the fact that women were so boy crazy and worried about the things they’d wear, and then we’re treated to some funny moments as the two walk through stores featuring items that are hardly essential.
The joy of this episode is very similar to last week’s–Ellie gets to experience pre-pandemic normalcy, and it’s great seeing the smiles and memories she had. Again, a lot of this stuff very much follows the game content moment for moment, except some small but key details. In this episode, we actually see Ellie get to enjoy Mortal Kombat II with Riley, while in the game, she had to pretend. It’s a simple changed detail that made a huge difference in seeing the overall job Reid and Ramsey do with their talent, and it was just heartwarming.
Still, this is The Last of Us. Not everything stays fun forever. That’s the only hint we’ll have for the end of the episode.
At the end of the day, as mentioned, Left Behind was optional extended content to the original story. In the HBO adaptation of the tale, however, it’s essential, and it’s definitely a breath of fresh air considering the nastiness we’ll see next week.
Can’t get enough of HBO’s The Last of Us? Check out our reviews of previous episodes:
- Episode 6: “Kin“
- Episode 5: “Endure and Survive“
- Episode 4: “Please Hold To My Hand“
- Episode 3: “Long Long Time“
- Episode 2: “Infected“
- Episode 1: “When You’re Lost In The Darkness“
Or check out our reviews of the games!
- The Last of Us Part II (2020 – PS4)
- The Last of Us Remastered (2014 – PS4)
- The Last of Us: Left Behind (2014 – PS3)
- The Last of Us (2013 – PS3)