Episode 7 of HBO’s The Last of Us takes Ellie on a journey from childhood to adulthood.
This is a recap and review of The Last of Us episode 7. Spoilers to follow!
The Last of Us Episode 7 Recap and Review
The episode begins by leading us via a blood trail to an abandoned house. Ellie has dragged Joel inside and is trying to keep him alive. He tells her to return to Tommy, but it’s unclear if he means for her to save himself or get help for him.
When Ellie reaches the door, we cut to a flashback of her gym class back in the FEDRA school. In typical Ellie fashion, she punches a bully for taking her Walkman.
Next, she meets with Captain Kwong, who outlines her options for life: either fall in line and become a leader or end up a grunt reporting to bullies. It’s interesting how we see a FEDRA person who isn’t entirely vilified in this scene, as it’s clear Kwong isn’t a tyrant and is looking out for Ellie in the only way he can. It makes it easier to understand Ellie’s opinions later in the episode.
Next, we find Ellie in her dorm room, staring at the vacant bed across from hers.
As Ellie sleeps, the window opens, and someone moves to wake her. Ellie defends herself, then realizes it’s her roommate and best friend, Riley (Storm Reid). The other girl had been gone for three weeks, and she explains that she has joined the Fireflies. Riley was a character from the games – you can learn more about her here.
Riley convinces Ellie to join her on a secret excursion. On the way, they argue about Ellie’s penchant for solving things with violence. They enter an apartment building, and on the seventh floor, they find the corpse of a man. While they examine his body (and find a bottle of alcohol), his corpse crashes through the floor. They head to the roof.
As they share the bottle, Ellie asks to hold Riley’s gun, which she agrees to, which leads to Ellie asking why Riley joined the Fireflies. Riley explains that she was approached on the street by a recruiter. Ellie doesn’t agree with her choice, as while she doesn’t love FEDRA, she doesn’t like the Fireflies either.
They jump over some rooftops until they reach the mall. Given Ellie mentioned back in episode one that the mall was where she was bitten, the trajectory of the episode begins to take more shape. Riley tells Ellie she has planned five “wonders” and turns on the lights. The classic 80s song “Take on Me” by A-Ha plays as the girls venture down the escalator and into the concourse.
As they walk through the mall, they comment on what goods were taken and what were not, stopping at a lingerie store. Riley then takes Ellie to a Merry-Go-Round, something they likely never got to experience as kids. While kind of a silly thing to do as a teenager, it serves to highlight how neither girl really got a childhood and, despite their drinking and swearing, how young they still are.
When the ride stops, they discuss their future. Riley explains that Captain Kwong assigned Riley to sewage duty upon her graduation the next month, which made her panic and run.
Next, they enter the photo booth. Riley pays, and they enter the typical panic of figuring out how to pose.
They next go to a place which takes Ellie’s breath away: an arcade. They break into the change machine and load up. Of course, they play Mortal Kombat II.
As they play, the shot pans out and travels into a toy store to show what we all were expecting: a Cordyceps awakening.
Despite the fun they’re having, Ellie tries to end the night early upon feeling the pangs of unrequited love. Riley explains she has a gift for Ellie, leading her to a restaurant and showing her the pun book Ellie inflicted upon Joel in an earlier episode.
Ellie also finds a stash of bombs Riley made for the Fireflies and storms out. Riley chases after her, explaining that she’s being sent to a post in the Atlantic QZ, and it’s her last night in Boston. Ellie approaches, clearly angling for Riley to admit deeper feelings, but she only says she wants to say goodbye.
Ellie stomps away, then regrets her actions and returns to the mall upon hearing screams. It turns out it’s only a Halloween decoration. Ellie sits next to Riley, and they hash out their differences.
Riley passes her a werewolf mask, then slides on a clown mask and convinces Ellie to dance with her on top of the checkout counter. I loved this scene – it grew funnier the longer they danced.
Overcome with emotion, Ellie removes her mask and begs Riley not to leave with the Fireflies. Riley agrees, and Ellie kisses her.
Unfortunately, due to TV show rules, this now places Riley on the chopping block. As expected, the Cordyceps attacks. Riley shoots it, but it chases them. Riley gets knocked down, and Ellie fights it off admirably with her switchblade at first, then Riely comes to the rescue with a pipe. Ellie stabs it in the head, killing it, but the girls realize they’ve both been bitten.
Then we’re back to Joel, dying of blood loss. Ellie rummages through the house in a fury, which leads back to the flashback, where Ellie is smashing the mall in equal fury. When she settles down, she and Riley discuss their options, deciding not to give up their last moments together.
Back in the present, Ellie finds a needle and thread in the house, then proceeds to Joel’s side to stitch his wound. She’s not going to lose him too.
At first, I was skeptical of how well-lit the mall was (given the transformer was covered in water and plants had likely grown through the walls) and that FEDRA wouldn’t have noticed the lights and gone to investigate, but then I considered that the almost idyllic state of the mall might be such because we’re being shown Ellie’s memory of the place. Despite the result of the evening, this was likely the best night of her life, so it would make sense if everything looked perfect in her memory.
The entire episode has a bit of a dream-like quality, as it’s both symbolic and literal in that it takes Ellie through the various stages of life. The carousel represents childhood, the photo booth is suggestive of being a pre-teen, the arcade is obviously teenage years, and the dancing and subsequent kiss represent reaching adulthood. Unfortunately, adulthood also comes with less positive experiences, namely, death and regret. The episode serves not only to show Ellie’s backstory but remind us, the viewer, that life can sometimes go by so fast and that one night can change everything. Despite the sombre tone, it was a lovely episode that sparked not only emotion but, at least in me, nostalgia.
The next episode airs March 5, 2023, on HBO Max.