Drawing parallels with episode three, The Last Of Us‘ seventh superb installment again diverts from the primary timeline to further mould its characters by largely focusing on flashback narrative. However, this time, it should come as a shock to no one – at least, no one who is familiar with the games – namely, 2014’s Left Behind which was released as a downloadable expansion pack to 2013’s flagship title. Like the game, it focuses on Ellie’s recall of her fated night in an abandoned mall with the disarming Riley as she scours for supplies to patch up the injured Joel.
The episode follows the game pretty much to a T, hitting most of the same key story notes while evolving the visual delivery with flourishes and emotive touches aplomb. Storm Reid is a welcome temporary addition to the cast, bringing out further layers in Bella Ramsey’s already standout performance. This episode is Ellie at her most vulnerable, and Ramsey is so beautifully genuine, that if there were any residual reservations about her casting at this point (there shouldn’t have been), this diversion more than reaffirms her as the modern encapsulation of a classic character. It is rare to see a youngster perform with such honesty and heart. Safe to say, she will be showered with awards in a year’s time, and can expect a huge future in the industry.
Given that the episode stays so close to the game in almost all regard in terms of how Ellie and Riley spend their last night together – from Riley breaking in to break her out of the FEDRA ‘barracks’ to a tender ride on the carousel and figuring out fatalities on Mortal Kombat II, to donning masks, dancing, and sharing a lone kiss – shocking and deplorable than that the basement incel crew has pitifully attempted to review-bomb this episode in the exact same and abhorrently obvious way they did ‘Long, Long Time‘ in response to shining light on LGBTQ+ storylines. Let’s get something straight here. Ellie is gay. She has always been gay, and her character has been boundary-breaking for a decade. Was the expectation of these Monster-swilling, spotty fucking homophobe nerds that Mazin and Druckmann were actually going to ‘step up’ for them, and proceed to suppress the queer focus that has always played a huge part in The Last Of Us‘ already lasting overall influence? Thankfully, the polar opposite is true and the showrunners decided to lean even further into its already sterling representation of these characters.
Coupled with a killer soundtrack featuring A-ha, Pearl Jam, Etta James and a hauntingly perfect fairground interpretation of The Cure’s Just Like Heaven, The Last Of Us continues to exceed in its world-building excellence utilising its characters as much, if not more than it’s art direction. What’s left to be seen is how much ‘game’ is packed into the last couple of hours. Those familiar with both mediums could be concerned that the conclusion could feel rushed, or omit certain playable chapters for the sake of available time, but so far, the proof is in the pudding. By now, everyone should know better than to doubt what is already an HBO classic.
The Last of Us continues Sunday nights on HBO Max.