Recap of ‘The Last of Us’ Episode 7: Mallrats
Well, you can keep your fingers locked on that cliff you’ve been hanging from. This week’s episode The last of us (“Left Behind”) does nothing to address whether or not Joel ultimately survived the stab wound he suffered at the end of The last of us Episode 6, though Ellie managed to knock him out in the cold and began to sew him up until the end. Oh, let’s be honest here, it wasn’t too crazy anyway — somehow I doubt anyone was in real suspense as to whether Pedro Pascal would make it to the end of the first season of this show or not — so it’s not a huge loss .
Instead, what we get is another extended flashback episode a la the show’s high point to date, Episode 3 (“Long Long Time”). This time, instead of focusing on supporting characters like Frank and Bill, we get what is essentially Ellie: Origins — a look at who she was, what she wanted, and how she got infected before we first meet her back in the premiere.
To her credit, I think the show undermines the most interesting thing about Elli, which is that she was born and raised entirely after the outbreak and subsequent collapse of most of society. It takes a moment to wrap your head around: When you first see her jogging around a gym and dealing with a bully or whatever, it’s easy to forget that this isn’t just your average high school. It is FEDRA’s training, which, it is implied, is the fate of all orphans in this post-apocalypse. in exchange for three hots and a cradle, you enter the dictatorship.
Which is not so bad, at least for Elli. Her boss seems like a decent enough guy: Instead of disciplining her for beating up a bully, he just points out that her current behavior puts her on a path to work For This kind of bully later down the line, instead of becoming an officer herself and reversing the dynamic. The show has already communicated the idea that some FEDRA regimes are worse than others. maybe this is one of the best.
Not that it really matters. Most of the flashback involves a big night out with Riley (Euphoria‘s Storm Reid), another FEDRA orphan turned runaway and recruited by Firefly. Once she becomes Ellie’s roommate, she comes back from MIA status to show that she’s not dead and to give Ellie a nice night on the town, or at least a nearby abandoned mall that’s still full of fun things to do, if you are 14 and have never been to a mall. They ride a carousel, take an escalator (just as fun for Ellie as the carousel), pose in a photobooth, play in an arcade, make fun of Victoria’s Secret underwear, the works.
In the process, Riley tries to communicate that the Fireflies aren’t the bloodthirsty terrorists they’ve been made out to be, though she doesn’t deny or disavow the tactics they use. More importantly, the two friends kiss, very clearly a moment when their relationship had been quietly building for quite some time.
They seem to be doing a lot more than kissing when a mushroom zombie shows up and spoils the fun by infecting them both. Ellie kills the creature and spends what she believes will be her last hours on earth awaiting the coming infection with her friend. the episode doesn’t show what happens in the end, but it’s easy enough to guess.
Once again, it’s nice to see Bella Ramsay have something to do other than cruel sarcastic humor, although her persona around Riley is (obviously) a lot more teenage than she was around the kid deaf kid from a few episodes earlier ? You have to be tough on other teenagers, of course. It’s the sudden glimmer of romance, or at least sex, that appears towards the end of the flashback that really sets Ellie’s material apart here, since as a queer teenager she’s been given exactly zero opportunities to show that side of herself anywhere else. .
I guess that’s a weakness of your basic post-apocalyptic road movie structure: You’re only going to meet so many people, most of whom are adults, most of whom are holding guns who may or may not shoot at you. There aren’t many opportunities to explore the rich armor of human emotions, you know? This lack of variety is reflected in the essentially one-note performances of both Ramsay and Pedro Pascal, and significantly handicaps the show. More interesting or innovative writing could have worked around it, but, well, you get what you get.
Even the exceptions, like this flashback, aren’t really much to write home about. You can see Ellie’s surprise at the mall coming the moment its lights come on, and the show doesn’t do anything unexpected with the sequence. Even if it did, Gustavo Santaolalla and David Fleming’s steady, hyperactive, nuanced score tells you exactly how to feel about everything at every moment. I’ve seen it before The Sopranos recently — I know, I know, it’s hardly a fair comparison for this or any other show — and it’s amazing how the lack of ratings makes it feel so much more open and interesting than it is. A little more faith in the audience’s ability to think for themselves would go a long way.
Where is his story The last of us, I think so. Every week it airs, every week it’s basically serviceable entertainment, and with a few exceptions (the highs of Episode 3, the lows of Episode 5) every week I’m out of my mind within minutes of the end credits starting. You really don’t need think for yourself, as there simply isn’t much to think about.
Sean T. Collins (@theseantcollins) writes about television for Rolling rock, Vulture, The New York Timesand wherever he will have him, Really. He and his family live on Long Island.