Created by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann and based on the 2013 namesake video game by Naughty Dog, HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ tells a story where a fungi pandemic has ravaged the world and 60% of humanity is either dead or has turned into zombie-like creatures referred to as the Infected. While the plot centers on Joel (Pedro Pascal), a hardened man guiding an immune girl named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) through the American landscape, it often meanders toward other characters and into flashbacks, fleshing out the world around the main characters.
In episode 7, titled ‘Left Behind,’ Joel is stabbed and tells Ellie to leave and go back to Tommy. As she ponders what to do, the narrative shifts back to the past when she was still in the FEDRA military school and focuses on her relationship with Riley Abel (Storm Reid), her best friend turned romantic interest. If the events toward the end of the episode have made you wonder whether Riley is dead and Reid has left ‘The Last of Us,’ we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Is Riley Abel Dead?
Yes, Riley Abel is most likely dead in ‘The Last of Us.’ As mentioned above, most of the episode is set when Ellie was still part of the FEDRA military school and hadn’t yet discovered that she is immune to the fungus. Late one night, she wakes up to find her best friend, Riley, in her room. Riley had disappeared three weeks earlier, and Ellie thought she had died. However, as Riley reveals, she has joined the Fireflies.
After Ellie gets over her initial shock, she accompanies Riley to an abandoned mall, which FEDRA shut down because of the supposed presence of the Infected. Riley dismisses the notion and demonstrates to Ellie that some parts of the mall can still be activated. She shows Ellie what she calls the “Wonders,” taking her to a carousel, a photo booth, and an arcade. Riley reveals that the Fireflies have assigned her to a post in the quarantine zone in Atlanta, and this might be their last day together unless Ellie wants to come with her. Riley explains she even spoke about Ellie to her Firefly recruiter, who turned out to be Marlene.
Ellie realizes that Riley finding the mall was no accident; she was posted there by the Fireflies. Ellie storms off angrily but later returns. The two girls dance together and even share a kiss. This is when an Infected, awakened due to the commotion, attacks them. Although Ellie kills the creature, she and Riley both get bitten. As they come to terms with what just happened and its implications, Riley says they now have two options: they can take their own lives or live normally until the infection takes hold of them.
This is when the narrative shifts back to the present, where Ellie becomes freshly inspired to save Joel when she recalls her interaction with Riley. This episode adapts parts of ‘The Last of Us: Left Behind,’ an extension pack for the original Naughty Dog game. There, Ellie asks whether there is a third option, but Riley doesn’t answer and stands up. In the main game, it is implied that Riley died of the infection, but Ellie didn’t because of her immunity and decided to find Marlene.
Did Storm Reid Leave The Last of Us?
Although HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ doesn’t explicitly show Riley’s death, the implication is there, and it’s pretty clear. By portraying Riley, Reid joins a stellar list of guest stars that have appeared in the popular show. The ‘Euphoria’ actress did not know much about the game before her casting and spoke to her family and friends about their thoughts.
Asked about the pressure she might have felt about portraying a character from beginning to end in one episode, Reid told Variety, “Bella and Craig and the entire team just made me feel so welcomed as soon as I got there that there wasn’t any space for nervousness, really. I was just met with so much love and support. And then getting on set and having to develop and build Riley was a little interesting, but I don’t think it was hard. It was just finding the nuances, finding her quirks, finding her optimism and how she moves through the world and takes up space. But I really enjoyed myself. I had the best time, and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
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