‘The Last of Us’ episode 7 recap: Riley, 80s Tunes and Mortal Kombat
‘The Last of Us’ episode 7 recap: Riley, 80s Tunes and Mortal Kombat
The last of us reached episode 7 on HBO and HBO Max on Sundaybringing us back to Ellie and Joel (Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal) after a bad encounter with a marauder left him stabbed and near death.
This interrupted their quest to bring Ellie to the rebel group known as the Fireflies. They hope to potentially restore society by breeding its immunity to the fungal infection that has turned most of the world into deadly monsters.
Before that, Ellie must stop Joel from bleeding to death. The situation reminds him of a dark moment in his past, which closely matches a memorable part of the game. Let’s jump into SPOILERS for HBO’s adaptation of Sony Playstation Game.
Much of the episode takes place before Ellie and Joel met, when she was living (and not getting along) with other children in the care of FEDRA, the Federal Response Agency. disaster, which operates quarantine zones with the remnants of the United States. military.
After arguing with one of her peers, a FEDRA officer presents her with alternate visions of her future in the Zone: keep messing around, end up gruntling with shitty chores, and likely die in a random accident. Or… show some discipline, become an officer and live a fairly comfortable life. She opts for the latter, but she doesn’t seem crazy about it.
After staying up late reading an issue of Savage Starlight (a fictional comic book series you can collect in-game), his sleep is interrupted by runaway best friend Riley (Storm Reid). It turns out Riley dropped FEDRA’s care for the opposing Fireflies, but she doesn’t visit to recruit Ellie.
“Come with me for a few hours and have the best night of your life,” she orders her boyfriend.
Yes of course.
80s style fun
After brief stops to check on a dead man, knock off some of the pre-apocalypse booze he left behind, and admire Riley’s handgun (highlighting Ellie’s fascination with adventure and dead), the couple are heading to – where else? — the shopping center.
It turns out that FEDRA has unknowingly restored power to the mall, giving Ellie a chance to taste old-fashioned consumerism. And race down an escalator to the beat of Norwegian synth-pop band A-ha’s ’80s classic, Take On Me. (Ellie has a copy of the band’s greatest hits in her quarters.) This song makes a memorable appearance in THE second game. Its iconic music video also shows a woman taking a comic book character’s hand and embarking on an adventure – Ellie has an equally transcendent experience after metaphorically taking Riley’s hand in this episode.
Bella Ramsey is so good here, with Ellie’s awkwardness about Victoria’s Secret lingerie and the stolen looks at Riley hinting at her feelings. Those looks get longer as the alcohol takes effect.
Turns out the escalator was just a harbinger of real fun. The pair jump on a carousel that plays a version of The Cure’s Just Like Heaven (specifically, one that sounds a lot like Rockabye Baby’s Lullaby Rendition). Songwriter Robert Smith said this song was inspired by the romance of a trip he took with his girlfriend Mary Poole, who would later become his wife.
“The idea is that a night like this is worth a thousand hours of drudgery,” he told Blender magazine in 2003, which is likely how the show’s characters would experience this adventure.
Ellie and Riley’s night out continues with a trip to the photo booth, where they strike a few poses and get really comfortable up close.
Their next destination turns out to be “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen” – an arcade bathed in neon lights. Miraculously, many cabs are still running and jumping on the iconic fighter from 1993 Mortal Kombat 2 (a poster of that game can also be seen above Ellie’s bed, hinting at her fascination).
In their first battle, the more experienced Riley goes for the purple-clad cannibal Mileena and Ellie goes for the thunder god Raiden – it ends in Mileena’s excellent bone-spitting fatality.
Ellie’s revenge comes in a later round, when she deals with Baraka’s wicked impale finisher. They then experience that classic Mortal Kombat ultraviolence euphoria and the sparks of romance get a little stronger. (Be warned though: watching too many cartoon deaths can have a strange effect on your brain.)
More classic word games
Riley’s next surprise reminds us Ellie’s penchant for bad jokesas she presents her boyfriend with a copy of No Pun Intended: Volume Too.
- What did the frustrated cannibal do? He raised his hands.
- What did the triangle say to the circle? You are so useless.
- How does a computer get drunk? He takes screenshots.
- What do you call an alligator in a vest? They’re cut off before Riley can read the response, but he’s “an investigator.”
Ellie is briefly brought back to reality of their situation when she discovers explosives prepared by Riley. Riley admits that the Fireflies are sending her to the Atlanta Quarantine Zone, and she wanted to spend that last night hanging out with Ellie before leaving. Ellie is not at all happy with this but ultimately decides to continue on the final wonder.
After sharing their feelings at a super cool costume shop – since the outbreak happened in late September 2003, it’s always been set up for spooky season – the couple don masks and dance to Etta’s revival James from the 60s song I Got You Babe (you might know the original Sonny and Cher from the 1993 movie Groundhog Day). The lyrics allude to young people challenging their elders to pursue love – much like those teenagers.
That’s when the romantic tension peaks and Ellie decides to shake it up, giving Riley a brief but passionate kiss. With their emotional and sexual cards finally on the table, Riley agrees to stay and it looks like things are going to be fine.
Until a horrible infected attack. Ellie manages to sting him, but they both discover that they have been bitten. This will eventually lead to Ellie discovering her mysterious immunity, but Riley is not so lucky. They both believe it’s a death sentence, but Riley wants to live as long as possible.
“We can all just be poetic and shitty and lose our minds together,” she tearfully says before they kiss.
We don’t see what happens after that, but it’s safe to assume that Ellie was forced to kill Riley once the infection took hold. It is likely that Marlene found her later.
Returning to 2023, Ellie maintains the spirit of refusing to give up hope – she is determined to heal Joel’s wounds rather than abandon him. She finds a needle and thread, so she goes to work sewing it up.
The section covered in this episode was not in the 2013 game at launch, it was added the following year in the Left Behind DLC pack and was included with remasters on PS4 and PS5.
The show sticks closely to the events of the game, but the current section is much larger – it sees Ellie searching for drugs in a mall while an injured Joel is unconscious. Avoiding infected and human marauders along the way, she discovers the drugs in a military helicopter that has crashed on the roof of the mall.
During the flashback scenes with Riley, you’re playing the fictional game The Turning (which is basically Mortal Kombat) in the arcade…sort of. The cabinet doesn’t work, so Riley asks Ellie to close her eyes and place her hands on the controls, then Riley describes the action. Theater of the mind, indeed.
They also fight with water guns (a line in the show alludes to this) and share a brief in-game kiss. The flashback ends with Ellie and Riley fleeing the mall as hordes of infected pursue them. . Both end up being bitten and decide to wait out their death together. Riley succumbs to the fungus, but Ellie’s survival reveals her immunity.
The love of a mother
You can also read a note from Ellie’s invisible mother in this chapter (the one given to her by Firefly leader Marlene):
I’m going to share a secret with you, I’m not a big fan of kids and I hate babies. And yet… I look at you and I’m simply amazed.
You don’t even have a day and holding you is the most amazing thing I’ve done in my life – a life that’s about to be cut a little short.
Marlene will take care of you. There is no one in the world I trust more than her. When the time comes, she will tell you all about me. Don’t give him too much trouble. Try not to be as stubborn as me.
I’m not going to lie, it’s a pretty messed up world. It won’t be easy. The thing you should always remember is that life is worth living! Find your purpose and fight for it.
I see so much strength in you. I know you will become the woman you were meant to be.
Forever…your loving mother
Make me proud, Ellie!
Episode 8 of The Last of Us is coming to HBO Max next Sunday March 5.
The best TV and streaming shows of 2023 you can’t miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and more
View all photos