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Who is Riley? The Last Of Us Ellie's Tease Explained

The first episode of The Last of Us features a huge hint of Ellie's past in both the games and the show through Marlene's reference to a character named Riley.

Who is Riley? Ellie explained another tease of us

Warning! Spoilers for both the first episode of HBO's The Last of Us and the original game.

The first episode of HBO's The Last of Us offered a major tease to Ellie's story by mentioning a character named Riley. The first episode of The Last of Us introduces Ellie as a captive of the Fireflies, a revolutionary militia group seeking to end military oppression across the post-apocalyptic United States. After a scene in which Ellie is tested for an unknown reason, later revealed to be due to her immunity to the Cordyceps virus, she is introduced to Marilyn.

Marilyn, played by Merle Dandridge, reveals herself as the leader of the Fireflies in the Boston quarantine zone and frees Ellie (Bella Ramsey). During this conversation, Marilyn - a character from The Last of Us - reveals that she knows Ellie's true identity after the latter uses the alias, Veronica. Eli then accuses The Fireflies of being terrorists, to which Marilyn replies "Was Riley a terrorist?" This mention of Riley is a major irritant to Ellie's character development, which is affected by the mention of the name.

Who is Riley? Another tease from HBO explained to us

Riley is a character from the original game The Last of Us DLC. The downloadable content, titled The Last of Us: Left Behind, focuses on Ellie's time in Boston QZ and explores how she was bitten by an infected person. Ellie, who lives at the FEDRA military school that was also mentioned in the first episode of HBO's The Last of Us, meets Riley, a former student at the school. Riley sneaks out and convinces Ellie to visit an abandoned Boston mall. There, Riley and Ellie bond, as the DLC shows a kiss between the two. However, Riley and Ellie are tragically bitten and both agree to spend the last few hours together.

Eventually, after Riley seemingly turns around, Ellie realizes the truth about her invulnerability which is eventually revealed to Marlene and the Fireflies, starting the events of The Last of Us. Riley's mention of Marilyn in the first episode of The Last of Us alludes to this story, which took place just weeks before the scene in question. Featured scenes from the Left Behind story can be seen in the trailer for HBO's The Last of Us, where Riley is played by Storm Reid. This means that future episodes of The Last of Us will no doubt delve into the Left Behind story to illustrate Ellie's time before the events of the series.

Is Riley a firefly? And How does Marilyn know about Ellie's past?

Marlin's mention of Riley seems to confirm that the latter was a Firefly after the former asks Eli if Riley is a terrorist, reasoning that Eli considers the group as such. This begs the question of how Marilyn knows about Ellie's past and her relationship with Riley. The Last of Us: Left Behind answers that question, as Ellie and Riley's reunion comes after Riley sneaks back into the FEDRA compound after leaving the organization for the Fireflies. In the DLC, Riley explains that her group of fireflies was flown in from Boston and that she came to see Ellie one last time.

If HBO's The Last of Us follows this story accurately and includes important game scenes from The Last of Us, which The Last of Us episode 1 scenes and trailer seem to confirm, Riley was indeed a Firefly under Marlene's command. This, combined with Game's knowledge that Marilyn was a close friend of Ellie's mother Anna, underlines how the head of the Fireflies knows who Ellie is. Marilyn confirms in The Last of Us episode 1 that she was the one who put Ellie in FEDRA school to keep her safe, hinting at her relationship with Anna which is also explored in the show.

The Last Of Us' Riley Tease embodies HBO's game changes

One thing Reilly brought up in The Last of Us episode 1 was how HBO would change elements of the game. The game initially told the story of Joel - played by Pedro Pascal in the HBO show - and Ellie, with a few hints about Riley. The story of Riley and Ellie is next told in the DLC after players have finished the events of the main game. However, Riley's mention in The Last of Us episode 1 proves how the TV show's format will allow him to explore his characters in ways the game can't.

From flashbacks scattered throughout the episodes and longer storylines allowing for deeper explorations of the game's characters, it's clear The Last of Us will change the game's timeline. This is evidenced by the opening sequence of the first episode taking place in 2003 rather than 2013 and focusing more on Sarah, altering the timeline of The Last of Us somewhat. However, mentioning Riley early in the story establishes that the main change HBO will make to the game is by incorporating elements from its DLC additions into the main story, rather than a spin-off or prequel series to The Last of Us.

"The Last of Us comes out every Sunday on HBO"

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