How did Marlene find Ellie in HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’?

Marlene in 'The Last of Us'
Image via HBO

Warning: This article contains spoilers for HBO’s The Last of Us, the 2013 Naughty Dog game, and The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC.

The second episode of HBO’s newest hit show The Last of Us is here and for viewers who haven’t played the 2013 game, some scenes might be confusing. As important as it is to follow the source material when adapting a series like The Last of Us, it’s just as important for the show to stand alone. So far showrunner Craig Mazan is doing a great job working with Neil Druckmann to bring Druckmann’s critically acclaimed game to the small screen, but while the show is hitting familiar story beats for fans of the source material, not everything can (or should) be explained immediately.

One thing that hasn’t been adequately explained yet is how Ellie ended up chained in an underground room belonging to the Fireflies in the Boston QZ. At the end of episode one, it’s revealed Ellie has somehow escaped Cordyceps infection despite being bitten by an Infected before the events of the show. Watchers of The Last of Us can infer Marlene, the leader of the Boston QZ Fireflies, captured Ellie due to her possible immunity but how did she find her in the first place?

How Marlene found Ellie

Image via HBO Max

While it hasn’t been explained in The Last of Us show, those who played the games know Marlene and Ellie have a history. The show will inevitably explore this in some way but if you’re curious and not afraid of spoilers, let’s get into it.

Before the initial outbreak in 2003, Marlene was close with Ellie’s mother and promised to keep Ellie safe. Marlene fully intended to keep this promise and enrolled Ellie in the FEDRA Institution in order to give Ellie the best chance at surviving. While attenting this school, Ellie meets a close friend (and eventual love interest) Riley who completes the initiation to become a full-fledged Firefly and Ellie becomes curious about the organization. Marlene shuts down any talk of Ellie possibly joining the Fireflies and, as her superior, forbids Riley from seeing Ellie, believing the new friend to be a bad influence.

In the Last of Us: Left Behind DLC, Ellie and Riley sneak off together to have fun in an abandoned mall where Riley reveals she has been reassigned to another Fireflies base. Ellie is upset and convinces Riley to give up on being a Firefly so that they can stay together. The sweet moment is cut short when a horde of infected runners encounter the girls and while the two defeat the many infected, they both walk away with bite marks. They decide to spend their last moments together before eventually turning, but Ellie learns she is immune to the infection when she remains in her right mind.

After these events, Ellie actually seeks out Marlene for help. Marlene takes Ellie in but almost shoots her when she learns of Ellie’s bite mark. When Marlene learns Ellie’s possibly immune, she decides Ellie is too important to be allowed to roam free as her immunity could lead to a cure for the Cordyceps infection.