Joel and Ellie might be the most famous faces in Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us franchise, but there are plenty of other characters who influence their decisions, challenge their beliefs, shape their personalities, and leave a mark on their lives. For Joel, it would be the loss of his daughter, Sarah, that drives him to deliver Ellie to the Fireflies. As for Ellie, she has a more complicated relationship with the grown-ups in her life, so she naturally latches on to like-minded peoples — meaning other teenagers.
In the trailer for HBO’s The Last of Us series, we see a snippet of Storm Reid‘s live-action portrayal of Riley, a character whom Ellie interacts with in Naughty Dog’s DLC Left Behind. Born and raised in Boston, 16-year-old Riley Abel speaks ill of the military and praises the Fireflies. While seeking refuge from the outbreak in Boston, Riley befriends Ellie and the pair become inseparable. Like Ellie, Riley is an orphan. When she was young, her father became infected with the parasitic brain infection known as Cordyceps, which has plagued the United States for decades. He attacked her mother, whom he tore to shreds, forcing Riley to kill him in order to save herself.
Riley and Ellie meet in-game during the American Dreams DLC, wherein Riley defends Ellie — the newcomer to the Boston quarantine zone — from a group of bullies. While fleeing the zone’s authority officer, Riley pickpockets Ellie’s Walkman, which she reluctantly returns later on after insulting Ellie’s taste in music. It became apparent after meeting Marlene, the leader of the Fireflies, that Riley wanted to become one herself. She would dress in the Fireflies’ likeness, acting as if she were Marlene. Once Marlene confronted her about this foolishness, Riley appeared to concede, but Marlene made it clear that she had been testing Riley all along and sought to test her worthiness. Riley becomes an honorary Firefly, but Marlene forbids her from seeing Ellie again — with whom Riley had a heated argument.
During the events of Left Behind, Ellie and Riley are forced to fend for themselves after being abandoned in a shopping mall. There, they rekindle their friendship, which Ellie mistakes for something more. There’s a moment of intimacy between the pair, who share a kiss and rekindle their ‘friendship.’ There’s a mass of runners that target Ellie and Riley, who flee the complex immediately. That’s the last time that Ellie and Riley see one another.
We won’t spoil anything, but if HBO’s The Last of Us stays true to Ellie and Riley’s story, it won’t be the fairytale ending we’re hoping for.