The Last of Us Episode 7: Who is Riley? Left Behind explained

riley the last of usNaughty Dog Games/HBO Max

Who is Riley in The Last of Us? Episode 7 focuses on the Left Behind storyline between Ellie and Riley – but who is she, and what happens to her?

Seven episodes into The Last of Us, HBO’s genre-defining adaptation of the acclaimed game, it’s clear it’s set to be one of the best TV shows of 2023.

Just like the game, the show follows Joel and Ellie on a life-or-death, cross-country trip across an America ravaged by a brutal virus. However, they aren’t the only characters, as the world, and both characters’ pasts, are filled with tragic faces – one of which is the character Riley Abel, who we meet in Episode 7.

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While Riley never appears in The Last of Us Part 1 and 2 games, she is a prominent character in the franchises’ DLC, titled Left Behind, as well as the prequel comics, titled The Last of Us: American Dreams. But who is she? We’ll explain, but first, a warning: major spoilers for The Last of Us franchise…

Who is Riley in The Last of Us show?

Riley is Ellie’s best friend in FEDRA school. She’s played by Euphoria and Missing star Storm Reid.

We meet Riley after she climbs through Ellie’s bedroom window. She reveals she’s joined the Fireflies and wants to take Ellie on one final adventure to see the “four wonders of the mall.”

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As the episode progresses, it becomes obvious there’s a deeper connection between the two, and as they dance around while wearing fancy-dress masks, Ellie bucks up the courage to kiss her.

What happens to Riley?

Riley dies after she’s bitten by a runner in the mall. All of their running around woke it up from its slumber, and despite both of them managing to fight it off, they both emerge from the scuffle with bite marks.

Ellie breaks down, smashing anything that’ll break with the help of a bat, before they slump down to the ground together. “We don’t give up,” Riley tells her. “My vote: let’s just wait it out. You know, we can be all poetic and just lose our minds together.”

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We don’t see Riley die, but given Ellie’s comments about having to kill someone in her past, it’s presumed she killed her after she turned.

Who is Riley in The Last of Us game?

Riley was Ellie’s best friend in the Boston Military boarding school they both resided in. Riley had been sent there after her father had become infected with the Cordyceps brain infection, killing her mother and forcing Riley to kill him.

Like many teenagers in the post-apocalypse world, Riley was known for her toughness, but this was both a pro and a con. She was able to stand up for those who needed it, including Ellie, as the former saved the latter from a group of bullies during their first meeting. However, Riley also wasn’t afraid to steal from others or get into trouble, as she stole Ellie’s Walkman shortly afterwards.

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Ellie confronted Riley about this stealing, during which Riley denied what she had done and insulted Ellie’s taste in music. However, Riley eventually gave the Walkman back, and later that night, Ellie caught Riley sneaking out and followed her, which led to the two discussing their futures, and ultimately becoming friends.

last of us comicDark Horse Comics

The pair survived the harsh world of their quarantine zone, all while sneaking out to explore, thanks to certain connections Riley had. One time a skirmish began between Smugglers, infected, and the insurrectionist group the Fireflies, during which Ellie dove on Riley to shield her, showing how much they both cared for one another.

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Riley was far more ambitious than Ellie, however; while Ellie saw their lives leading to very little, Riley wanted more. She didn’t want to take orders as a soldier, nor did she want to be an oppressed member of the general population. She aimed to be a Firefly, and her dreams became even stronger after the violent events she had witnessed.

When she turned 16, Riley made that dream into a reality, joining the Fireflies, but in order to do so she had to cut off all contact with Ellie, which she did for around six weeks.

What is Left Behind in The Last of Us?

Left Behind is a DLC of the first Last of Us game, which depicts how Ellie got bitten and subsequently discovered that she was immune to the Cordyceps infection, leading to the main events of the franchise.

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During the game, Riley returns from the Fireflies to visit Ellie, and the two once again sneak out. They explore a giant abandoned shopping mall, all while the tension between the two grows deeper, as Ellie feels abandoned by Riley’s sudden disappearance.

As many expected, the game ends in tragedy. The pair are able to sort out their issues, Riley agreeing to leave the Fireflies in order to stay with Ellie, and Ellie even kissing her. But a sudden horde of infected interrupts and chases them, which leads to both girls getting bit.

Sadly, while Ellie doesn’t turn, Riley does, and thus she never appears in the actual Last of Us game, she is only mentioned by Ellie near the game’s end.

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The Last of Us Episode 8 will be available to stream on March 5 in the US and March 6 in the UK. Check out the rest of our coverage here and the trailer for the weeks ahead here.