Last week, Joel and Ellie found Tommy in Jackson and set off to find the Fireflies at a university in eastern Colorado. When they arrive, the Fireflies are gone, and raiders are walking around in their place, one of them stabbing Joel in the abdomen and leaving Ellie to tend to his severe wound. This week, we’re heading back in time to explore Ellie’s life weeks before she met Joel based on the DLC Left Behind.
Go to Tommy
Ellie has found a safe place for Joel in an abandoned neighborhood, who’s insisting that Ellie leave him behind and go back to Tommy’s. He doesn’t leave it up for argument, shoving her away and resigning to his fate of dying from this stab wound in an old basement.
FEDRA Military School
It’s time to fill in Ellie’s backstory, taking us back to her time at the FEDRA Military School she so affectionately referred to as an orphanage. She gets into a fight while the girls are running laps, ending up in Captain Kwong’s office to discuss her worse-than-normal behavior over the last few weeks. He tells her if she keeps down this path, she’ll be a grunt doing shit work until she dies, or she can shape up and become an officer, giving her a much better quality of life. He knows there’s a leader in her.
In the middle of the night, Ellie’s friend Riley returns after an unexplained three-week absence and tells Ellie she’s joined the Fireflies. Riley makes Ellie agree to come out with her for a few hours in the wee hours of the morning for the best night ever, and Ellie begrudgingly agrees.
The Big Surprise
As they’re making their way through an abandoned apartment building on the way to Riley’s big surprise, they stumble across a dead body that hadn’t been there when Riley scoped out the place the day before. They steal his booze and give it a try, and Ellie asks to hold Riley’s gun. Riley tells Ellie how she became a Firefly, and it was surprisingly easy — a simple verbal agreement — and Ellie is disappointed there wasn’t a crazy ritual that would at least give a good story.
The pair runs along the roofs of Boston until they reach the mall that Ellie warns was sealed off because it’s full of infected. Except it’s not really sealed off, so they venture inside. Riley sends Ellie through a few doors to wait, and Riley boots up power to the mall, a sight Ellie could have only ever dreamed of seeing illuminating before her.
The Four (Five) Wonders of the Mall
Ellie gets her first taste of an escalator and thinks it’s one of the wonders, which makes Riley have to change it to five because this wasn’t something she considered a wonder.
Wonder number two: A merry-go-round. The duo takes a ride with their stolen liquor before the ride shuts down. Ellie asks if Riley really thinks she can fix things as a Firefly, they can do it as the new generation of FEDRA, but Riley already got her assignment from Kwong, sewage detail.
Wonder number three: A photo booth. They take photos in what’s probably the most normal moment these two have ever had in their lives. They get their photo strip and head on to wonder number four.
Wonder number four: The arcade. Ellie and Riley run around the functional arcade, where Ellie finally gets to play Mortal Kombat II. She loses, badly.
In bad news, turns out they are not alone in this mall. Infected are indeed lurking about. Before Riley finishes her surprise, Ellie tells her she has to get back, but Riley convinces her to stay a little longer because she’s got a gift. Ellie hopes it’s a dinosaur (which is a great little Easter Egg for season 2).
The gift, Volume 2 of No Pun Intended. They rattle off a few jokes before Ellie finds bombs Riley has been crafting to take out FEDRA soldiers. This mall is where she’s been posted, and Ellie tells her these bombs are going to kill her one day. As Ellie leaves, Riley tells her this is her last night before she goes to her new posting. Riley asked if Ellie could come with her and join the Fireflies, but Marlene refused.
Riley brought her here to say goodbye, and before Riley can say what she actually wants to say, Ellie storms off. Regretting her decision, she turns back to find Riley and hears her screaming in the distance.
Turns out it was just a Halloween decoration, the Halloween store being the fifth wonder of the mall. Ellie finds Riley there, where she details how she hopes the Fireflies can replicate the family that she lost, which is something Ellie would never understand. She never had a real family. She wants to matter.
In their last hurrah, they don Halloween masks and dance to the music on Ellie’s Walkman before Ellie begs Riley not to go. Riley agrees, and the two share a kiss. The moment is interrupted when a runner emerges, Riley taking it down with her handgun. Riley is knocked out as they run, leaving Ellie with just her switchblade. The two manage to get out of the situation, Ellie sinking her knife right into its head, but it’s too late; they’ve both been bitten.
A Parallel of Trauma
Ellie searches the house she’s got Joel in for medical supplies, a stark reminder of her time in the mall breaking through the glass cases in pure rage after her and Riley’s unfortunate mistake. She remembers her and Riley agreeing to wait it out and turn together. It means they get some more time together this way.
She finds a spool of thread, and Joel accepts she’s not leaving. She stitches him up as she basks in the chance to finally make something right, unlike how she couldn’t with Riley.
The penultimate episode of The Last of Us season 1 premieres next Sunday, March 5 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.