The Last of Us’ Ellie Williams is known for her quick wit and tough skin. Her sass steals scenes and her determination is admirable. This week, Bella Ramsey once again proves their capability to portray such a character in the newest episode of HBO’s video game adaptation, which dives deeper into Ellie’s past and further explores her journey before we met her in the pilot. Emotions depicted by Bella and Storm Reid in this installment leave viewers heartbroken, feeling their initial joy and eventual pain.
*Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Last of Us episode seven*
Picking up where we left off
We are left worrying about Joel after the cliffhanger of episode six. His injuries and state seem critical after the incident at the University. Ellie is clearly determined to fix the situation, and she somehow carries him to safety in what looks to be the basement of an empty house. With snow on the ground and an abandoned neighbourhood, it seems we are officially entering the game’s winter chapter storyline.
Even in Joel’s worst state, all he wants to do is protect Ellie. He tells her to leave.
“You go find Tommy,” he mutters and pushes her away.
Ellie’s desperation is evident. The combination of panic and care coursing through her adds to the already existing tension of the moment. A single tear falls down Joel’s cheek; a simple detail that makes your heart ache.
The Last Of Us gives a glimpse of Ellie’s past
An abrupt transition sends us back a few months to Ellie’s time at FEDRA school. Her time there seems troublesome; involved with bullies and clearly on the wrong side of authority. A confrontation with a girl bigger, older, and probably stronger than her sparks our little pocket-rocket into violence, and she lands herself in the Captain’s office, presumably for a telling-off. The conversation is slightly different, however, and takes a turn Ellie doesn’t seem to expect.
Ellie presents a strong front, despite clearly being bothered by what happens. Another character trait portrayed incredibly well by Ramsey; bottling everything up and showing no emotion to avoid appearing weak. She keeps a straight face and shows no empathy. The Captain’s explanation of how Ellie could become a leader, rather than a follower, sits well with her, and with a slight smirk she accepts the challenge of taking a new path to become an officer. We know she is strong-headed, and here is perhaps the first time she pictures a brighter future for herself.
But it doesn’t last long.
Riley, the show’s newest supporting character, is briefly brought up earlier in the episode.
“You don’t fight. Your friend fights. And she’s not here anymore…” the bully says to Ellie during their confrontation.
Riley is known by fans for her involvement in the game expansion The Last of Us: Left Behind. She is Ellie’s best friend. Straight away, we can tell she is very protective of Ellie and genuinely feels guilty for leaving her behind. She runs away to join the Fireflies, we learn, a group Ellie has been brought up to villainize. Bella and Storm’s chemistry is exceptional throughout the entire episode, and it is genuinely delightful to explore their relationship.
The pair set off on a late-night adventure to an abandoned and cornered-off mall in the old QZ. Along the way, Ellie pokes fun at Riley’s new attitude after joining the Fireflies. Despite her protest and attempt to humanise the organisation, Ellie still rolls her eyes. It doesn’t matter to her, however, she is just happy to have her best friend back. The subtle smirks and lingering looks of admiration from Ellie continue during their time together, and perhaps hint at some concealed feelings that are explored later in the episode.
The Last of Us set design continues to shine
Entering the mall itself is pure nostalgia for players of the game. The accuracy of the source material continues to astonish in the show. From the lighting and exact layout of the mall, to the song choice and overall vibe, the resemblance is uncanny. Ellie’s wonder struck expression plays perfectly during the initial shot of the lights flickering on, revealing inside. Trapped in a Quarantine Zone her entire life, knowing nothing but drills and patrols, her excitement is contagious in this new setting.
Joy never lasts long in The Last of Us
The time spent by Ellie and Riley in the mall is joyous. Despite their disagreements over the Fireflies and FEDRA, the two eventually realise their friendship is more important. The girls share a kiss.
At first, Ellie is scared she made a mistake and backtracks, but Riley’s smile grows, and they indulge in a moment perhaps they have both longed for. Everything is perfect. Riley agrees to not leave Ellie, and they are happy. They are content.
That dreaded click-clacking screech breaks the atmosphere and comes sprawling towards them. Riley’s first instinct is to protect Ellie. She shoots at the Stalker, but her attempts fail. They are ambushed and cornered by the figure. Eventually, after their best efforts, they take it down and Ellie sighs with relief. She laughs with adrenaline and turns to celebrate with her best friend. Her smile soon fades, though, when she realises that they both receive bites during the confrontation.
In a gut-punching moment, Ellie is simultaneously angry, confused, and upset. She screams and tries to scrub away the bite, but gives in and accepts her fate. Bella Ramsey once again steals the show and confirms their perfection in this role. Both Ramsey and Reid’s underlying guilt for each other’s characters is painful. Riley takes Ellie here, and subsequently blames herself for what happens. She apologises endlessly to Ellie. The last time we see the characters together is in one another’s arms, crying; anxiously awaiting their fates.
Filling in the gaps
Obviously, this isn’t the end for Ellie. Knowing this, though, we can only assume she has to watch Riley die, or even kill her herself. This is what happens in the “Left Behind” DLC. At this point, Ellie has no idea she is immune.
“We could wait it out, be all poetic and sh*t and lose our minds together,” Riley says, implying they will become infected together and live their lives as Clickers. But at least they would have each other. She says the same line in the show, another perfect, yet heartbreaking callback to the game. Ellie survives, but Riley isn’t so lucky.
The Last of Us callbacks keep on giving
Ellie reveals to Tess how she obtains her bite and finds out she is immune in episode two. She explains she breaks into a mall in the old QZ, and Infected spring on her out of nowhere. The only difference, however, is that she states she was alone. Remembering this detail and noticing her slight reluctance during the confession, some eagle-eyed viewers may have already assumed the outcome of this episode.
During Joel and Ellie’s journey to Bill and Frank’s house in episode three, the pair stop at an old store where Joel stores supplies. Inside the store is an old Mortal Kombat II arcade game in which Ellie takes an interest. She states that she had a friend who knew everything about the game and gushed over a certain character. We witness Riley’s Mortal Kombat II ability, and her affinity for that character (Mileena) in episode seven.
We snap back to present day and see Ellie rushing around the house where she and Joel have taken refuge. She takes his hand in hers as if to say, “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.” We see her reluctantly stitching up a barely conscious Joel in a desperate attempt to save him. The look in her eyes masterfully carries the hopelessness she is feeling.
Bella Ramsey’s praises cannot be sung enough, especially after this episode. They have been killing it all season, but their performance here in particular proves the capability we’ve seen since Game of Thrones. I hope the people who were doubting this casting are eating their words.
How to keep up to date with The Last of Us
This is yet another incredible episode in HBO’s The Last of Us adaptation. The winter chapter of the game (which we are now encountering) is bound to have fans heavily anticipating the final two episodes. If you want to talk more about the show, the Fandom Academy Podcast contains our in-depth thoughts on each episode of The Last of Us, and you can hit me up on Twitter to chat more!