The Last of Us: A Tale of Love and Survival
Published on February 27th, 2023 | Updated on February 27th, 2023 | By FanFest
An unstirring vista of decrepit ranch homes. A crimson-soaked path in the snow. Shimmer, tethered to a garage with shattered windows. Desperately wounded, Joel (Pedro Pascal) rests on an unclean mattress in the basement; his life force slipping away from him as he implores Ellie (Bella Ramsey) to abandon him and flee for safety. She contemplates this but resolves instead to ascend the stairs into the house above–her decision made: fight or flight? As she takes her first step towards saving Joel’s life, darkness cloaks us all.
Following, we observe Ellie running to the melodic sounds of Pearl Jam’s “All Or None” in attire that reveals this scene taking place within the walls of Boston FEDRA facility where she dwelled prior to encountering Marlene, Joel and Tess.
After an older girl, Bethany, knocks off her headphones, Ellie makes like she wants to fight. “You don’t fight. Your friend fights,” Bethany taunts. “She’s not here anymore, is she?”
Ellie refused to back down, and the altercation led her straight into Captain Kwong’s office – a familiar location for her given that she has been rebelling against the FEDRA officers in charge of the facility since last month. “Put me in the hole!” Ellie exclaimed with a black eye while Bethany was being stitched up in the infirmary with 15 stitches.
Kwong has already sent her to “the hole” once, and he’s not going to do it again. He encourages her instead to make the most of herself and follow a better path in life. As a high-ranking FEDRA officer like him, she could have access to comfortable living conditions that include hot meals, an actual bed – all without having to carry out any of the messy labor necessary for maintaining order in QZ. But if she keeps misbehaving, then Kwong warns that she’ll be stuck as nothing more than a grunt forever: disposing bodies and cleaning up messes.
“We’re the only thing holding all this together,” Kwong says of FEDRA. “If we go down, the people in the zone will starve or murder each other, that much I know.”
That night, she finds solace in her room beneath posters of Mortal Kombat II and Innerspace. The empty bed opposite hers brings to mind Bethany’s remark about a friend missing in action. As Ellie dozes off into slumber, the window slides open revealing Riley (Storm Reid), her long-gone old roommate and “best friend.” She had left for three weeks to join the Fireflies – an event that still lingers on Ellie’s conscience till this day.
Ellie, who had been raised with the belief that Fireflies were terrorists, was both curious and wary when Riley told her she had a surprise in store. Undetected by anyone else, they left their location and stumbled across an adjacent building where there lay a deceased body beside some capsules and alcohol. They revel in the stolen alcohol, passing it around with carefree giggles. When Ellie catches a glimpse of Riley’s gun, she excitedly requests to hold it – and despite being warned against doing so by the Fireflies, her friend gladly hands over the weapon. At their tender age, friendship and curiosity prevail above all else; none of this holds any reality for them yet.
Riley recounts how she attained the title of a Firefly: After sneaking out one evening, an elderly woman praised her skill in avoiding FEDRA. She then inquired as to Riley’s opinion about them, and when Riley replied with “fascist dickbags” who deserved to be hanged for their wrongdoings, the lady welcomed her into their organization. Ellie queried this response by using Kwong’s words that FEDRA were supposedly keeping everything together. However, Riley was quick to dismiss this claim as simply being “propaganda bullshit” due to a storage depot which had been recently bombed by Fireflies themselves.
With an agility that could be compared to characters in a video game, they reach an abandoned mall that Ellie thought had been closed off. Riley not only knows how to enter it but also brings the lights back on! As their eyes adjust to the neon glow of this spectacular consumerist wonderland, they take in its chaotic beauty – a glimpse into a world before either of them were born and yet untouched by time. Even though most stores are looted and trashed, nothing can diminish its allure. (So does the now-working escalator, which has a giddy Ellie sprinting up and down the steps with childish abandon.)
Giddy with intoxication, they traverse the ruins while A-Ha’s “Take On Me” reverberates around them. Ellie is particularly drawn to Victoria’s Secret and its lingerie – and photography. Riley then shows her one of the mall’s hidden gems: a functioning carousel. As it moves in circles, Ellie proposes that Riley could go back to the QZ and become someone important; however, she sadly reveals that she has been informed by others of an entirely different future for herself – “sewage detail”. Disheartenedly, she remarks “That’s what they think of me.”
As Riley and Ellie explore the next wonder of their journey, they stumble upon a photo booth that captures five memories within seconds. The strip of photos is carefully tucked away in Ellie’s bag, as both are entranced by an arcade full of flashing cabinets – a sight never seen before to either one. After deciding on Mortal Kombat II as their game choice, laughter fills the air while little do they know that something sinister lurks just down the hall.
Ellie’s heart nearly skips a beat as she starts to consider what could be romantic feelings for her former roommate. However, feeling overwhelmed by this sudden wave of emotions, Ellie quickly reminds herself that she must return back to the facility before getting caught. Riley senses Ellie’s uneasiness and distracts her with the promise of an unexpected surprise gift.
As Ellie and Joel reached the backroom of a taco restaurant, Riley’s gift was revealed to be a book full of puns. Even though they had some good laughs over it, their joy quickly faded when Ellie stumbled upon multiple pipe bombs that Riley has been building. She felt betrayed by how her friend joined forces with the Fireflies and questioned if their reunion was about friendship or just recruitment purposes.
Riley reveals that she’s been ordered to leave Boston for the Atlanta QZ by the Fireflies, which devastates Ellie. Riley had wanted her to come along but Marlene (whom we know will soon meet Ellie) opposed it. Baffled and overwhelmed with emotions, an agitated Ellie darts away from them only to get lost in the mall shortly after. The screams of horror coming from a store grab her attention – where a startled Riley stands surrounded by Halloween decorations; this was going be their last memory together at these very walls.
“So you leave me. I think you’re dead. All of a sudden you’re alive,” Ellie says. “And you give me this night, this amazing f—ing night, and now you’re leaving me again forever to join some cause I don’t even think you understand.”
Riley concedes that maybe the Fireflies “aren’t what I think they are,” but she wants to be with them anyway because “they chose me, I matter to them.”
“But you mattered to me first,” Ellie says, softening enough for Riley to rope her into her last event of the evening. She pulls out a pair of Halloween masks and puts on Etta James’ “I Got You Babe.” Twirling around the counter until they’re winded and without breath, Ellie takes off her mask. “Please don’t leave,” she pleads to Riley. Unveiling her own face, Riley reassures that she won’t go anywhere so soon. In an intimate display of affection, their lips meet in a heartfelt kiss.
Amidst the dizzying feeling of unease, fear soon creeps in as the monster they had seen before crashes through the aisles of the Halloween store. With immense strength and determination, Ellie plunges her blade into it multiple times until finally delivering a fatal blow to its head. But elation quickly turns to dread when she notices that two puncture wounds have been left on her arm – Riley has one too, though much smaller on her hand.
Ellie is livid, crushing glass and screaming. Riley appears broken-hearted; she insists they have only two alternatives – to die or keep fighting. “It’s this way for every person sooner or later,” she states sadly. “Some of us merely arrive there earlier than others. But we never give up, be it two minutes or days.” She’d prefer to go down a more poetic route and face the crisis together as one unit. That is all that can currently be said about how their story concludes.
Ellie diligently searches the drawers of the neglected house and eventually locates a needle, as well as some thread. As she gazes at Joel’s injury, Ellie holds his hand tightly and begins to stitch it up. Just like Riley who never gave in even when faced with certain demise, Ellie perseveres for Joel too.
Covering superheroes, anything dark, horror, and more! Lead writer for Fan Fest