When The Last of Us finally dropped in 2013, gamers were blown away by a masterpiece of a game. So imagine the news that the game would be getting a DLC, Left Behind, based on Ellie’s adventures before she met Joel. It turned out to be one of the best DLCs of all time thanks to its incredible storytelling and acting from Ashley Johnson and Yaani King. Episode 7 perfectly captures the feeling and essence of the first time I played Left Behind. By the end, it left me and messed with chills coursing through my body.
The Last of Us Episode 7 is now available on HBOMax. If you missed last week’s episode then read our review to catch up.
This review will contain full spoilers for the entire episode.
Story: Ellie’s Night Off
After Joel gets stabbed in the last episode, Ellie is desperately trying to fix him up. The bulk of the story is flashbacks of Ellie’s life at the FEDEA academy. Her old friend, Riley, returns and decides to give her the night of her life at an abandoned mall. It’s fascinating to see what the daily life of a kid is under these extreme circumstances. We always say that kids are the future, but regarding this generation, there’s a chance that they could be the final one.
So to have Ellie and Riley have a (semi) normal night is refreshing to see. It’s fun to see them interact with common things that we’re so used to like stores and arcades. There’s also an underline of sadness in all this story because of the outside world and how they have to navigate it. They can’t just be normal kids, but either soldiers or have horrible jobs that both result in death.
Liberate or Not?
Another fascinating aspect from this story is the talk about whether FEDRA is doing the right thing or not. A smart thing that this adaptation is doing is showing that not everything is that black and white. We get Ellie talking about FEDRA holding down the city and she’s tight, even though it’s by no means the community we saw from Jackson. On the other hand, Riley is a part of the Fireflies and wants to overthrow FEDRA. That makes it complicated because all the reasons to liberate the city she lists are true. However, look at Kansas City from episodes 4 and 5 and you’ll know that it can be violent. The back and forth on their views was a fascinating analog throughout the episode.
Characters & Performances: Young Love
The main reason why this episode worked was from the performances of Bella Ramsey and Storm Reid. They went through the gambit of emotions and I felt every second of it. What really is at the center of these two is young love. The stolen glances they gave, the nervousness and tripping over their words, and the look in their eyes show their feelings. Granted it could have just been the bottle of booze they were drinking, but it felt like any barriers they used to have were down. Because of their love, it made the tragedy when Ellie and RIley got bit hurt that much more.
Cinematography & Sound: The Five Wonders of the Mall
The main setpiece is the abandoned mall which was perfectly brought to life by the crew. It’s huge and has so much detailed through as our duo explores the ruined location. It’s a strong contrast as with the lighting, they made a great choose on keeping the colors murky until we got to the mall. From there, it’s bright lights that are neon and stunningly beautiful as atmosphere is pulled out of the 80s. It represents the sole shining bright spot in their life at the moment. The glow of the arcade on their faces is a great sight to see, but reality has a nasty habit of reappearing. Whenever the real world treads onward, the lights get a little dimmer and less of a focus. Then some shots will go back to the murky lighting of the city.
Editing & Pacing: No Filler
Some might look at episodes 3 and 7 as “filler” that does nothing to advance the story which isn’t true. While not moving the plot, they underline themes and messages that get outlined later in the episode. To top it off, they’re some of the best stories from the show so far. It’s a big compliment for Left Behind how we could watch only two characters and be really satisfied.