The Last of Us “Left Behind” Photo-Recap: Mallrats

I know. 

It’s my fault for getting attached. 

I knew Ellie was bitten at the mall, I knew she wasn’t accompanied by a spunky teen girlfriend while chained up in an attic in episode one, and I knew the mandate of this show is to rip my very soul out of my body and use it to wash cars. AND YET, my foolish heart hoped we may be spared Riley’s death (which I guess we technically were). 

At this point, it would be subversive to let someone live. It’s hard not to notice the pattern: introduce character + make us love them + immediately kill them, repeat. The deaths are becoming less and less meaningful, simply because we know they’re coming. I know the show has source material to follow, but I can’t help what I notice, guys!

Ah well, I take comfort in the knowledge that in an alternate universe somewhere, Riley wasn’t bit. She stayed with Ellie ‘until she turned’, but that moment never came. She brought Ellie to Marlene who sent Riley to her new position in Atlanta for her own protection in case Ellie got bitey. Before she left they smooched and gave each other gimp bracelets and traveling pants or whatever.

Now look, I *know* what you’re thinking. Oh Toni, you mush-hearted fool, everyone in Ellie’s life either left her or died. Yeah, my mush-heart says to that, left her

The show took away a spunky teen girlfriend, but it did give us a little apology gift: Joel’s not dead! AND he has fully leaned into his role. 

These two are determined to burrow themselves into our hearts forevermore, and they are SUCCEEDING. Joel was pretty bummed that his fears of failing her were based in so much reality, so he told her to scram back to Tommy where she’ll be safe(r). 

This gave our girl some time for introspection, and you know what that means!

Gather round, kids, it’s time for a backstory. We saw Ellie suffering in the FEDRA orphanage with a time-honoured method of teen torture: gym class. It was complete with laps, unflattering uniforms, a smelly court that was likely dripping in teen hormones, and of course, bullying that leads to a kerfuffle.

This Mr. T loving FEDRA officer (Terry Chen! 😍) gave Ellie a pep-talk that basically boiled down to “get your shit together or be magically turned into a mug,” or something. He wanted her to go to leadership camp where she’ll be a Girl Boss and learn how to make spreadsheets and everything will be great.

Nice to meet you, Riley! As we learned from the helpfully informative bully, Riley is Ellie’s scrappy friend who disappeared weeks ago. She is now a firefly and wanted one last night of bad decision-making before she hit the illuminated trail (get it, because… fireflies? heh)

If you haven’t started an adorable puppy-love first date by examining a dead body and stealing his booze, then you have not LIVED. I love Ellie’s fascination with the macabre. Remember when she gazed into the soul of that Infected fellow before dispatching him? Girl is creepy as hell and I support it. 

 The young ladies got into it about Fedra vs. Fireflies, but they didn’t let it kill the vibe, and date night resumed. 

I love when post-apocalyptic shows make us all feel like spoiled brats who enjoy privileges beyond the imagination of someone living in squalor, because FAIR ENOUGH. There are people living in the world today who would marvel at an escalator. Privilege checked, show! Thanks for the reminder!

The second wonder of the mall was a Carousel of Longing, where Ellie morphed into the heart-eye emoji, and Riley revealed her reasons for leaving (her life was about to become 100000% more stinky). Next was a photo shoot that was so adorable it caused me physical pain, then it was time for the arcade where they perfected the technique of smashing all the buttons with no idea of what it would produce (yet another time-honoured tradition). 

Will Livingston, celebrated author of No Pun Intended: Volume Too, is the unsung hero of this entire operation, with an important assist from Riley! She found the anticipated sequel and gifted it to her bestie-crush as a going away/pining present. We all thank you, Riley. We all thank you.

This was deliciously horrifying (and now I can’t stop thinking about a Last of Us / Toy Story crossover – would the toys recognize the Infected as people, or would they just go about their lives?). This doll store would have been the stuff of nightmares BEFORE mushrooms took over the world and an uninvited guest started growing on the walls. Gotta love it when the symbolism of the destruction of childhood is CREEPY AS SHIT. I actually let out a guttural, “I don’t like that at all.” 

Anyway the takeaway was that there was an infected fellow very willing to get the premise of the show rolling. 

Once Ellie figured out that Riley was guarding a Firefly clubhouse, she stormed off in a broken-hearted huff, but came back almost immediately to yell at / confess her love to / save / gaze upon / paint a watercolour of Riley. What she actually said upon her return was, “Give me the book,” because girl has her priorities in ORDER. 

The last stop on their adorable tour of puppy love was a Halloween store, because these ladies are odd as hell and I love them so much. They put on some scary masks and danced around, then Ellie mustered up her courage and kissed the girl.

I refuse to put one of my dumb jokes over this joyous moment, LOOK AT HER FACE, our sweet lil’ psycho experiencing her first love was beautiful. 

This fellow rudely interrupted our girls’ cute lil’ moment with his bloodthirsty nonsense. Ellie shut it down, but unfortunately he’d already killed the mood.

😦 I’m mad and sad. 

Riley wasn’t keen on the traditional exit strategy, so the ladies vowed to spend whatever time they had left together, which is FINE, my heart is FINE, don’t even worry about it! And the fact that Ellie was doing the exact same thing with Joel? FIIIIIIIIIIINE!

My heart is in DANGER you guys. Ellie frantically searched the house for something to help Joel, found some dusty ass old thread and started to sew him up like he was Humpty Dumpty. While I admire her pluck, I also think she probably should have disinfected the needle, or his wound, or her hands, or really anything during this entire process. 

I’m sure it’s fine.

So what did you guys think?? Did you love Riley? Do you love Ellie even more now that you know her backstory? Do you grow weary of the love-death-repeat pattern emerging, or are you a bloodthirsty masochist? 


  • The horse in the garage, lol.
  • When Ellie “left” Joel shed a single f%&king tear, which my heart and loins simply could not handle. 
  • So many amazing details in the mall, but I think my favourite was the ‘back in 5 minutes’ sign at the ticket stand for the movies. No you most certainly were NOT, sir. 
  • The callback to the bone-barfing was cute. (In what other world would that sentence make sense??? I love this show)
  • Terry Chen is now my most recapped actor. In The 100 he was a peanut-butter loving guard, in The Expanse he was in love with Amos (no one will ever convince me otherwise) and now he’s a FEDRA officer obsessed with Mr. T (we don’t know that’s not cannon, he hasn’t explicitly said he DOESN’T love Mr. T).
  • Speaking of: “If we go down the people in this zone will starve or murder each other.” Proven by Kansas City (miss you, Melanie Lynskey!) but disproven by Jackson (communism 4eva!). 
  • Ellie fixing her hair in the window of the underwear store was SO CUTE it made me  happy-sad!
  • Apparently this recap was sponsored by Pixar. 
  • What do you guys think Marlon and Florence are up to? Do you think they’ve already whittled statues of Joel and Ellie? 



5 thoughts on “The Last of Us “Left Behind” Photo-Recap: Mallrats

  1. Another phenomenal recap! Can’t believe Terry Chen showed up again! I do think TLOU missed a trick not doing a needle drop to Robert Hazard’s “Escalator of Life.”

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s