The Last of Us: Left Behind – Case Study
BH the Uncivilised | Copyright © 2014
The aim of this case study is to examine the relationship between Ellie and Riley using Left Behind and American Dreams and look at how it affects Ellie’s character during The Last of Us. So to clarify before continuing, this will contain multiple spoilers for The Last of Us, American Dreams and Left Behind.
The relationship between Ellie and Riley is a complicated one. One I believe to be more complicated than it appears. Not so much complicated in terms of how either Ellie or Riley feel about it (although that too may have its share of complexity) but more so in the sense of how to describe it.
From The Last of Us, we get the impression that they were friends and even close friends. But when we go back to American dreams, we find out they weren’t really friends, at least not in the traditional sense. They meet by Riley saving Ellie from some bullies, but then stealing her walkman. Now in a world where people don’t have much stealing isn’t surprising. But what’s interesting is that when Ellie realised the walkman was stolen and confronts Riley, Ellie is angry while Riley is smiling and really doesn’t protest much before giving it back. So what does this tell us? Perhaps Riley wasn’t stealing out of need, but out of a sense of enjoyment. From the earlier conversation Ellie has with the soldier, we know that the quiet reclusive Ellie is no stranger to trouble herself. So this could be what the initial attraction was, Ellie seeing Riley as the cool older kid that isn’t afraid to break the rules, perhaps even seeing her as something to aspire to.
By the end of American Dreams, I’d still be reluctant to say they are traditional friends. It is clear that Riley is impressed with Ellie’s persistence, and I think it fair to say she sees her as a kind of student, someone to show the ropes to. But there was a definite bonding moment when they had just been attacked by infected.
Although not documented, the time between American Dreams and Left Behind seems to be when they were at the their happiest in terms of their relationship until Riley left to join the Fireflies, as Ellie remarks, they were better than good.
So this now leads us to Left Behind, where it’s almost as if they’re meeting for the first time again. They have the awkward moments as Riley acts is if nothing has happened while Ellie wants to talk about it. It plays out similar to America Dreams in that it’s Ellie following Riley on an adventure. Through out that there are various points where it seems that they’re holding something back.
And then we come to the kiss. A lot of what is currently going around on the internet is stating that Ellie and Riley are lesbians or Bi-Sexual. I don’t think that’s the case, or rather, they may very well be, but I wouldn’t draw that conclusion based on this. I think there is definitely an attraction and they definitely care for each other deeply, even deeper than they may like to admit at times. But none of that really means they see each as lovers. I could be wrong, but the real truth is, it doesn’t matter.
As I said in the beginning, their relationship is complex; it’s also a very interesting one and certainly leaves a lot to think about.