Where a Kid Can Be a Kid: Recap Episode 7 of HBO’s The Last of Us

Extend / Even the apocalypse can’t stop the standard teen wall full of posters…

New episodes of The last of us are premiering on HBO every Sunday night, and Ars’ Kyle Orland (who played the games) and Andrew Cunningham (who didn’t) will talk about them here every Monday morning. While these recaps don’t delve into every plot point in the episode, there’s obviously heavy spoilers contained within, so watch the episode first if you want to go again.

Andre: We are back! FLASH-back, that’s it!

This isn’t as big a departure from the action as Bill’s episode was a few weeks ago, but it does mean last week’s cliffhanger hasn’t been resolved. Ellie tries to fix Joel, though it seems to me that sticking a decades-old, unsanitary needle into an open wound is just as likely to kill him as to save him…

Kyle: If the flashback here seems a little out of place, it’s probably because this storyline was originally part of the game’s “Left Behind” DLC, which was written and released well after the first game was released. I’m not totally against putting it here in the show’s narrative – it’s important background that should go somewhere – but it does step into one of the game’s most dramatic moments (although perhaps that’s yet to come in the future?)

Given how we know Ellie as a prisoner on the show, I definitely appreciate giving a little more time to show what she was like trying to grow up as a normal kid under the FEDRA version of society.

Bored teenagers look the same, even under FEDRA's control.
Extend / Bored teenagers look the same, even under FEDRA’s control.


Andre: Yeah, I don’t have a problem with the episode, and people watching this in the future when the entire season is available probably won’t be as bothered by the delayed cliffhanger.

It flirts with something I can find frustrating in fiction – this impulse to show/explain every little thing about a character rather than letting things get implied or a little mysterious. I’m not too bothered about it here, but if TLOU extends into a second or third season, I could see them leaning into the flashback as filler in a way that might otherwise be less interesting.

Have you ever wondered, viewers, how Ellie got her knife? How did Bill get his truck?! Tune in next week!

Kyle: As long as they don’t use 50 years of Star Wars, I think it’ll be fine…

Andre: Anyway, those things aside, this episode allows us to spend some quality time with Ellie sans Joel for the first time, which I appreciate. Is it a flashback to a few days? Weeks? months? Before the beginning of the series, when Ellie is just a teenager with a bad attitude at FEDRA high school, instead of a possible savior of humanity.

Kyle: In the game, I believe it’s a couple of weeks before Ellie meets Joel, so let’s go with that.

I was happy to see a well-acted version of Riley here, acting as a foil to push and pull Ellie in interesting directions. Even if I didn’t know what was going to happen, I think it would be very difficult to get too attached to her. The “meet a new character; see them connect with characters we love; Oops, they’re dead in an episode or two” pattern is already getting a little out of the ordinary. It is possible to go to this well many times…

Don't get too attached, Ellie...
Extend / Don’t get too attached, Ellie…


Andre: Two is company, three is a lot The last of us universe, and if you spend any time with Ellie and Joel, you better have an exit strategy planned. I appreciate the commitment to keeping the focus narrow, but what if more characters, like Tommy, could just leave and go on with their own lives instead of dying horribly? I guess we’ll never know.

Kyle: I think it looks a little different in-game because these characters tend to stick with you a little longer – even if that time is artificially prolonged by gunfire and whatnot. So the pattern is still there in the game, but it doesn’t feel as predictably timed to the end-of-episode breaks.

Andre: let’s give some props to the set designers, though, who seem excited to be working in something that isn’t another run-down residential area. The design of the dilapidated, abandoned mall – the episode’s big set – has lots of fun details. I didn’t go frame by frame to check to make sure that all actual stores mentioned/depicted were portrayed exactly as they would have been in September 2003, but the presence of an abandoned mall with all anchor stores intact is very true to the early 2000’s .

Another “society collapsed in September 2003!” Things I liked: Of course there would be a Halloween pop-up shop in this mall, and Ellie is listening to a rendition of 2002’s Riot Act, the last album in the Pearl Jam universe. (Unless Eddie Vedder survived the apocalypse; of all the alt-rock stalwarts, he’s the only one I’d bet on, honestly.)

Leave a Comment