The Last of Us

The Last of Us Episode 7 Finally Focuses on its Most Interesting Character

It’s Ellie’s show now, and we’re all watching.


The Last of Us is the story of Joel and Ellie, two incredibly brave people who have lost loved ones since the world ended on Outbreak Day. But it’s mostly the story of Joel — he’s the one who we follow in the prologue, he’s the one we see work his horrible job in the QZ, and he’s the one who gets saddled with Ellie as “cargo.”

Joel is clearly the “viewpoint character” of the series, he’s the one audiences are supposed to sympathize with; when he’s skeptical of Marlene and Ellie, audiences are skeptical with him too. This echoes the game, where the player is forced to sympathize with Joel — they control him, so they are literally put in his shoes.

That’s why so much of The Last of Us is so Joel-centric. Even the “sidequest episode,” the tragically beautiful love story of Bill and Frank in Episode 3, featured a younger version of Joel and culminated in Bill’s poignant letter to him. Joel’s prominence is an artifact from the game, but that changes with Episode 7. And it’s a clever narrative device that replicates something much more obvious from the game.

So far, the focus has really rested on Joel.


After Joel is brutally injured in the game, there’s a long time skip and then, suddenly, the player is playing as Ellie, who has a much more stealth-focused gameplay style. The series adopted this trick completely, following Ellie from the beginning to the end of Episode 7.

But as Ellie panics in present-day over a possibly dying Joel, we see an extended flashback of the last time she lost someone she cared for deeply and saw as a protector — her best friend Riley. In an adaptation of the game’s bonus downloadable content Left Behind, we follow Ellie and Riley on an epic adventure in a mall culminating in each getting bitten, a bite that would prove Ellie is immune, and one that doomed Riley to death.

This focus is incredibly needed in the series. At this point, we’ve seen Ellie go from timid kid who wondered how hotels and airplanes work to someone on a mission. The story needed to give her agency, and Episode 7 did just that.

Ellie really proves herself as a protagonist in Episode 7.


We’ve only really seen Ellie from Joel’s perspective. There are a few exceptions, like her interactions with the Infected in the convenience-store basement or her conversation with an Infected Sam, but mainly her image has been reflected through Joel’s slowly warming opinion of her. Now, we’re getting the opposite — we’re seeing Joel through Ellie’s eyes as the only hope of her surviving the winter and making it to where she needs to go.

We’ve seen many examples of a perspective shift in this series, but none has been quite as effective as this one. Ellie is growing up, not only as a survivor and a person, but as a character. She’s no longer a wise-cracking sidekick or an annoying piece of cargo. Now, it’s her show, and she more than proves she can hold her own.

It’s definitely not the same without the back-and-forth chemistry she has with Joel, but it’s the Ellie show, and we’re all watching.

The Last of Us Episode 7 is now streaming on HBO Max.

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