‘The Last of Us’ Episode 7 Ending Explained: Does Riley Die in ‘The Last of Us’? (2023)

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  • ‘The Last of Us’ Episode 7 Ending Explained: Does Riley Die in ‘The Last of Us’? (1)
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Has life been feeling hopeful lately? Great. The Last of Us is here to change that. From its first episode Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin‘s HBO drama has been as addicting as it is depressing. That’s what you get when your start your big-budget HBO drama with child death. But as sad as last six episodes have been, nothing is as upsetting as the forebodingly titled “Left Behind.” Spoilers ahead, particularly if you want to know what happened to Riley in The Last of Us.

The last time we saw Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), Joel had barely survived a brutal shivving injury. Somehow, Ellie was able to drag his unconscious body to the basement of an abandoned house, and that’s where Episode 7 begins. But for once, we’re not delving into Joel, Bill (Nick Offerman), or Kathleen’s (Melanie Lynsky) past. We’re diving into Ellie’s.

“Left Behind” tells the story of how Ellie got her first bite from an Infected. Long before she met Joel, Ellie was just another kid being raised by the Boston branch of FEDRA (the Federal Disaster Response Agency). In this flashback, Ellie is just as angry and impulsive as she is during the rest of this show. A fight with a bully leads to Ellie getting a black eye and the other girl needing 15 stitches. But as volatile as Ellie is, she has a future in FEDRA. Her captain tells her that she has two paths in front of her: she can commit to FEDRA’s program and become a leader or she can keep rebelling and become a grunt.

Well, unbeknownst to Ellie, her best friend has already selected a secret third path. Riley (Storm Reid) chose Option C, betray FEDRA and join the Fireflies. After abandoning Ellie without a word, Riley breaks into her room one night and tells Ellie to come with her. Ellie initially refuses, but quickly relents — just like Riley predicted.

‘The Last of Us’ Episode 7 Ending Explained: Does Riley Die in ‘The Last of Us’? (3)

Riley’s big surprise is the dream of every teenage girl from the 2000s: a fully working mall just for them. Riley knows that her disappearing act has cost her Ellie’s loyalty, so she promises to show her best friend the Four Wonders of the Mall. Well, five if you count the escalator Ellie loves so much.

As Riley guides Ellie through consumer heaven, it’s clear that their relationship is deeper than merely friendship. When they ride the carousel (Wonder #2), Ellie can’t stop looking at Riley. A trip to the photo booth (Wonder #3) ends with Riley draping her arms around Ellie for a second too long. When Riley finally teaches Ellie how to performa a finishing move in Mortal Kombat II (Wonder #4), they beam at each other. Written by Neil Druckmann and directed by Liza Johnson, “Left Behind” beautifully captures the innocence and thrill of young, budding love as well as the original Downloadable Content (DLC) the episode is based on. That’s what makes what happens next so tragic.

At one point Ellie tries to go back to FEDRA because it’s getting late. That’s when Riley presents her with the greatest gift of all — No Pun Intended: Volume Too. Yes, that is the dumb pun book she’s been reading to Joel all season. They swap a few terrible jokes, but their joy is short-lived once Ellie finds Riley’s stash of pipe bombs. Riley promises that the Fireflies would never use them to attack Ellie, which Ellie doesn’t believe. Desperate to win back her friend, Riley tells her the truth — Riley is being reassigned to a Firefly base in Atlanta. Tonight is her last night in Boston.

Furious, Ellie storms away from her best friend. But her anger dissipates the second she hears a woman screaming. Ellie runs back only to find Riley in the Halloween store — Wonder #5. She takes the book from Riley, and the two of them make up. It takes a couple of scary masks and Etta James’ “I Got You” but they slowly become friends again. Overcome by emotion, Ellie takes off her werewolf mask and asks Riley to stay. Riley agrees, even though that may mean having to work in sewage detail.

‘The Last of Us’ Episode 7 Ending Explained: Does Riley Die in ‘The Last of Us’? (4)

Who Plays Riley In The Last of Us?

Storm Reid plays Riley in The Last of Us, as previously mentioned. If you’re an HBO fan, you might recognize her as Rue’s sister on Euphoria. Her breakthrough role was starring in Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, but you might also know her from her roles in When They See Us, The Invisible Man, and The Suicide Squad.

Was Ellie Gay in The Last of Us? Was Ellie in Love with Riley?

If Ellie isn’t in love with Riley, then she’s certainly on her way to falling in love with her. After Riley says that she’ll stay, Ellie kisses her. She immediately apologizes, which prompts Riley to ask “For what?” They both giggle and look at each other lovingly.

This isn’t a one-off moment. Ellie is a lesbian in both the game and the HBO show. Not only does she kiss Riley in the Left Behind DLC, but her companion in The Last of Us Part II is her eventual girlfriend, Dina. The two even share a dance that’s one of the most romantic moments brought to a video game.

Does Riley Die in The Last of Us on HBO?

You know how no one can have anything nice in this universe? That’s especially true of young love. Ellie and Riley’s mall shenanigans accidentally awaken an Infected. He attacks them while they’re in the Halloween store. At first Ellie thinks that they’ve managed to kill him without a scratch, but a teary-eyed Riley reveals that they were both bitten.

Riley outlines their two options: They can either kill themselves or wait it out and savor whatever time they have left together. “We can be all poetic and shit and lose our minds together,” Riley says on the brink of a breakdown.

The Last of Us doesn’t show what happens next, but it doesn’t really need to. In “Kin,” Ellie told Joel that everyone she ever loved has either left her or died. We can assume Riley fell into the latter category, which means that Ellie had to watch her first girlfriend turn into an Infected. Best case scenario? Ellie ran away from an infected Riley. Worst case? Ellis has previously revealed (in Episode 4) that she had to hurt somebody before. That someone is most likely Riley, and it’s a fair bet that she had to kill her first love herself.

We now also know how Marlene (Merle Dandridge) and the Fireflies found Ellie. Because the mall was a Firefly base, it makes sense that they would visit it looking for Riley. Marlene or her people likely found the still-alive Ellie and immediately captured her to see if she would change.

Does Riley Die in The Last of Us Game?

She does. For the most part, The Last of Us has been faithful to the plot of the original game. But “Left Behind” is nearly identical to the DLC. Most of the differences between the two are minor. For example, the game includes a toy gun fight between Riley and Ellie, and all of the video games in the arcade have different titles. That’s more of a licensing change than anything else. Also, the DLC shows how Ellie was able to move and care for Joel. Speaking of…

Does Joel Die in The Last of Us Episode 7?

Don’t worry, Pascal Pals. Fungus Daddy is still alive, though not exactly well. The end of Episode 7 returns to the present timeline. Ellie manages to find a needle and thread in the house and uses that to stitch up Joel’s shiv wound. He will live to see another day.


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Does Riley die in The Last of Us episode 7? ›

The flashback ends with Ellie and Riley fleeing the mall as hordes of infected chase them. Both end up bitten and decide to await their deaths together. Riley succumbs to the fungus, but Ellie's survival reveals her immunity.

Does Riley die in The Last of Us? ›

Video game fans came into Episode 7 knowing Ellie's best friend Riley dies shortly after the two revealed their feelings for one another. However, her tragic end serves Ellie's story in the future. Introduced in the video game DLC Left Behind and Episode 7, Riley is Ellie's only friend at FEDRA.

How does Riley Abel die? ›

Events of The Last of Us

In the end, Riley succumbed to the fungal infection and died. However, Ellie did not, learning that she was somehow immune and later made her way to Marlene. Ellie also took Riley's pendant to keep as an artifact to remember her by.

Does Ellie end up killing Riley? ›

She then ends by saying: "Her name was Riley and she was the first to die." That part of the scene has now confirmed the long-standing theory that fans of the game series have held for almost 10 years. Ellie did kill Riley. Riley was her first kill.

How did Riley come back to life? ›

Riley is brought back to life hours later after being given The Angel's blood, which has healing qualities and gives its drinkers eternal life in exchange for not being able to walk in the sun and being driven by a relentless blood-thirst.

Does Riley die left behind? ›

But we do get confirmation of her death later on in the video game, during one of the climactic scenes where Ellie reveals how she and Riley were bitten to Joel and that Riley had since died from the infection.

Was Riley in love with Ellie? ›

A Star-Crossed First Love

They're full of ideas and ideologies but too young and too powerless to truly do anything with them. What they do have is each other. Despite not having families and living like military recruits Ellie and Riley had each other and that love eventually bloomed into romantic feelings.

What is the age gap between Ellie and Riley? ›

How Old Is Riley In The Last of Us? In The Last of Us: Left Behind Riley Abel is 16 years old — just two years older than Ellie. At the start of the Cordyceps outbreak, Riley's father turns into an Infected.

Why is Ellie immune? ›

"Our doctor, he thinks that the cordyceps in Ellie has grown with her since birth," Marlene explains. "It produces a kind of chemical messenger. It makes normal cordyceps think that she's cordyceps; it's why she's immune.

Who kills Riley The Last of Us? ›

While we don't see Riley die, it's presumed she was killed by Ellie after turning infected. The pair were bitten in the mall by a runner, but they decided to carry on and “lose their minds together.”

Who kills Riley the 100? ›

Riley was a recurring character in the fourth season. He was portrayed by actor Ben Sullivan and debuted in Heavy Lies the Crown. He was originally from Farm Station. He died in The Other Side when he overdosed on drugs at Jasper Jordan's end of the world party.

How does Sadness save Riley? ›

At a poignant moment at the end of the movie, Joy finally realizes that only Sadness has the power to restart Riley's frozen control center, and gently pushes her to activate headquarters. Once Riley is finally able to cry and truly acknowledge her losses, she races into the arms of her parents.

Is Riley immune? ›

You might wonder what happened to Riley if you haven't played the games. After all, Ellie was immune; who's to say her friend wasn't, too? Unfortunately, The Last of Us just isn't that kind of a franchise… and Riley wasn't immune. Her death isn't shown in the games, but she succumbed to the virus.

Who gets Ellie pregnant? ›

Noelle lures Ellie into her house, drugs her, and keeps her captive in the basement. Noelle then impregnates Ellie using sperm from a donor, and Ellie gives birth to a little girl, Poppy. However, Noelle's plan does not help her win Floyd back the way she had hoped.

Is Joel alive in episode 7? ›

Yes, he is still alive, but barely. We discover that Ellie (Bella Ramsey) was able to get him to safety in the basement of an abandoned home, but she is struggling to figure out how to help heal him. Joel encourages her to just leave him, the idea of which sparks a painful and recent memory for Ellie.

What happens in episode 7 in The Last of Us? ›

But instead, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) ran into a group of men who ended up stabbing Joel, leaving them on the run with Joel severely injured. As the episode ended, Joel had fallen off the horse, with a terrified Ellie begging him to get up as the credits rolled.

Is episode 7 of The Last of Us a flashback? ›

About 95 percent of this week's episode consists of an extended flashback to Ellie's life in the QZ, while in the present day she scrambles to keep the wounded Joel alive. Most of what we see in the flashback confirms what we already knew.

Do Ellie and Riley kiss in episode 7? ›

Ellie and Riley's kiss in The Last of Us episode 7 was censored for viewers in the Middle East and North Africa. HBO's The Last of Us delivered another heartbreaking episode titled 'Left Behind', which explored a bit of Ellie's (Bella Ramsey) backstory.

Why did Ellie kiss Riley? ›

For most of you reading, Episode 7 included one of the original game's most important moments - Ellie's kiss with Riley. Not only does it establish Ellie's sexuality, but also sets up Riley as a defining character in Ellie's life.

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