This dialogue and assessment accommodates spoilers for The Final of Us episode 7, “Left Behind.”

The Final of Us is undoubtedly a two-hander. It’s the story of Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey). Pascal and Ramsey are the present’s solely two credited leads, and the sequence charts the evolution of the connection between the pair.

However, there’s a sturdy sense that The Final of Us is extra Joel’s story than Ellie’s. In spite of everything, the majority of “When You’re Misplaced within the Darkness” was given over to exploring Joel’s backstory and historical past. In reality, Ellie wasn’t supposed to seem within the authentic model of the sequence premiere. In line with Neil Druckmann, the unique plan was for the primary episode to comply with Joel by way of the apocalypse after which “finish on the 20 years later the place you see Joel throw the child within the hearth.”

Whereas Ellie is a well-developed character, because of each Craig Mazin’s scripting and Bella Ramsey’s efficiency, the present nonetheless unfolds largely from the angle of Joel. In “Kin,” the present explores Ellie’s nervousness at the opportunity of being deserted by Joel, however the character arc of the episode follows Joel as he makes the lively resolution to stick with Ellie. The Final of Us is essentially a narrative about parenthood, and so it’s informed by way of the angle of the parental determine.

That is true of the supply materials. The sport attracted some criticism for being informed primarily from Joel’s perspective. Whereas rejecting criticisms of the sport’s gender politics, Danielle Riendeau acknowledged that the sport was “nearly completely Joel’s story.” The manufacturing workforce was conscious of this notion. Druckmann acknowledged that the flexibility to play as Ellie could be one of many issues the artistic workforce would “lie about in interviews” earlier than launch, which foregrounded Joel.

One of many attention-grabbing issues about The Final of Us as a tv adaptation is that it has the luxurious of drawing from extra than simply the unique recreation. Ellie’s backstory doesn’t essentially play an enormous half within the recreation itself, however the artistic workforce nonetheless workshopped. Druckmann has talked about the way it was “one of many issues (he) needed to determine (out)” when working with actor Ashley Johnson on the online game character. These concepts had been then spun out into the Darkish Horse tie-in comedian, American Goals.

The Last of Us Episode 7 review Left Behind HBO Ellie Riley Abel mall Storm Reid

When the choice was made to develop an enlargement pack for The Final of Us, the artistic workforce determined to develop Left Behind as an exploration of the backstory launched in American Goals. As Druckmann has acknowledged, they “wouldn’t have accomplished the DLC with out the comedian guide” as a foundation. Though Left Behind was launched the 12 months after The Final of Us hit cabinets, the story is a flashback with a framing sequence set in the course of the occasions of the unique recreation.

The character of the discharge of each American Goals and Left Behind meant that Ellie’s character improvement felt considerably supplemental and even retroactive to the unique recreation. Most often, gamers would have completed The Final of Us earlier than enjoying Left Behind. It was an addendum, an appendix to the bigger story. In distinction, the tv present has the luxurious of taking a extra holistic view of the bigger franchise. It might fold these chapters into the story as it’s in progress.

As such, Left Behind isn’t just an addendum; it’s a very important a part of the bigger story being informed over the course of the season. It isn’t inviting the viewers to retroactively reassess Ellie within the wake of an already concluded narrative, however as a substitute demonstrating her development inside the narrative itself. In reality, “Left Behind” arrives on the excellent level within the season thematically, as a improvement of the present’s bigger preoccupation with parenthood. It’s, in brief, a coming-of-age story.

The primary season of The Final of the Us is nearer to the top than to the start. Joel has arguably accomplished most of his character arc, making the selection to just accept duty for Ellie. Ellie has embraced him as a father determine, one thing that she has by no means had. The subsequent logical step on their shared journey is to take that security internet away from Ellie, to place Ellie able the place she can not depend on Joel to guard her, and the place she has to imagine duty for herself — and for him.

The episode’s framing system picks up from the ending of “Kin.” Joel has been wounded. He’s severely injured. Ellie is pressured to look after him, inverting the present’s central dynamic. In its personal very heightened and accelerated method, it dramatizes certainly one of life’s nice ironies — the inevitability that many youngsters will in some unspecified time in the future discover themselves performing as caretakers for the individuals who raised them. In that second, Ellie has to develop into an grownup, begging the query: Was she ever actually a toddler?

“Left Behind” clearly owes so much to George A. Romero’s Daybreak of the Useless, with its post-apocalyptic mall setting. Nevertheless, the flashbacks additionally pay homage to extra archetypal teenage motion pictures. As Ellie and Riley (Storm Reid) share an exquisite night in an deserted mall, the present is providing its personal riff on the mall tradition of the ’90s, the fantasy of teenage life recommended by motion pictures like Mallrats or Clueless. It’s the tradition Ellie and Riley by no means bought to take pleasure in earlier than the world resulted in 2003.

It’s unusually affecting to observe Ellie and Riley mess around in an deserted and overgrown mall, successfully developing a cargo cult round a way of life that they’ll by no means know. Ellie is wowed by one thing so simple as “electrical stairs,” confused by a pun that features the phrase “screenshot,” and confuses a photograph sales space with “a time machine.” Riley ponders the purpose of lingerie, even past its apparent aesthetic attraction. There’s an innocence to all of this.

After all, the mall setting reinforces the present’s recurring fascination with the zombie-esque horror of late capitalism. “When You’re Misplaced within the Darkness” revealed that unlawful drug dealing and graft survived the top of the world; residents may dwell in some nightmarish state run by “fascist dickbags,” however there are nonetheless factories in Atlanta mass-producing opioids that may be offered on the black market. Naturally, even within the apocalypse, the mall is one way or the other nonetheless the middle of American life.

The Last of Us Episode 7 review Left Behind HBO Ellie Riley Abel mall Storm Reid

Greater than that, “Left Behind” reinforces the sense that Ellie by no means bought the chance to be a child. She was born right into a world that had already collapsed and has by no means recognized a day with out existential battle. Even in “Left Behind,” she is attacked by an contaminated host the second that she lets her emotional guard down with Riley. She is theoretically within the most secure attainable setting with the most secure attainable particular person, and it nonetheless turns into a life-and-death disaster.

The intro to “When You’re Misplaced within the Darkness” recommended the present might be learn as a metaphor for local weather change. The Final of Us hasn’t dwelled too closely on this, foregrounding its character dynamics and its exploration of parenthood. Nonetheless, constructing an episode round two teenage ladies who can’t be teenage ladies due to that menace ties again into that theme. In spite of everything, youngsters like Greta Thunberg have talked about having their childhood taken from them by the local weather disaster.

Then once more, that is the guts of a coming-of-age story. Many of those tales about youngsters maturing contain confronting mortality. Probably the most direct instance may be Stand by Me, a narrative a few bunch of children setting out particularly to see a lifeless physique. “Left Behind” attracts consideration to this with the lifeless physique that Riley and Ellie discover within the outdated residence constructing. “Is that the primary lifeless physique you ever noticed?” Ellie asks Riley. It isn’t the primary lifeless physique Riley noticed, however it might be the primary for Ellie.

After all, it received’t be the final. Whereas Stand by Me is ostensibly a narrative about younger Gordie Lachance (Wil Wheaton) embarking on a quest to see a lifeless physique, the flashback can also be a method for a a lot older Gordie (Richard Dreyfuss) to work by way of the latest loss of life of his childhood finest good friend Chris (River Phoenix). The lifeless physique close to the beginning of “Left Behind” serves an identical goal. Finally, the story ends with Ellie confronting the loss of life of Riley, her finest good friend and possibly the love of her life.

The Last of Us Episode 7 review Left Behind HBO Ellie Riley Abel mall Storm Reid

“Left Behind” circles again to that concept of belonging and household. Whereas Joel clearly had a household earlier than the apocalypse, Riley makes it clear that Ellie by no means knew that type of love. “I believe you don’t know every little thing,” Riley tells her former roommate. “You don’t know what it was prefer to have a household, to belong. I imply, I didn’t have them for lengthy, however I had them. I belonged to them. And I need that once more. Possibly the Fireflies aren’t who I believe they’re, however they selected me. I matter to them.”

That must “belong” or to “matter” is maybe the central theme of The Final of Us, in that it’s the central drive for the characters. Ellie is satisfied that her life may “matter” if she can assist present a treatment or a vaccine for the an infection, that she may matter or belong to everyone. Joel seeks redemption for his failure to guard his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker). Finally, this appears to transcend any ideology or perception, any set of worth methods.

Riley may speak concerning the morality of preventing the “fascist dickbags ravenous their very own inhabitants,” however actually she simply needs those who she will name her personal. Equally, Ellie appears drawn to FEDRA for a similar purpose. When she arrives in Captain Kwong’s (TBD) workplace, Ellie research the image of his household. Later, attempting to justify herself to Riley, Ellie repeats Kwong’s argument that FEDRA is the civic glue that binds mankind to one another, “In a method, FEDRA kinda holds every little thing collectively.”

The Final of Us is a present that’s in some ways about codependency — about what folks want from each other, and the way typically that want is solely to be wanted. It’s telling that Riley’s monologue about needing to “matter” to the Fireflies is met with a easy response from Ellie, “You mattered to me first.”