The Last Of Us’ Storm Reid Warns Fans About Being ‘Heartbroken’ When They Finally Watch Riley And Ellie’s Episode

Mild spoilers below for anyone who isn’t caught up on HBO’s The Last of Us, so be warned!

With its fourth live-action outing, HBO’s The Last of Us took viewers into the video game’s harrowing Hunters arc, by way of a new location and a new antagonist in Melanie Lynskey’s vengeful Kathleen, while also delivering our first glimpse of young survivor Sam. It looks like Episode 5 will revolve around his shared introduction with brother Henry, with the TV series shaking up their source material origins. Which likely means viewers will be waiting another week before the flashback-based arrival of Storm Reid’s Riley, another important teen who plays squarely into Ellie’s backstory. But it sounds like it’ll be worth the wait, as seen in the video above.

CinemaBlend spoke with Storm Reid ahead of her Last of Us guest star appearance to promote the largely acclaimed thriller sequel Missing, and shared how pumped she is to bring Riley into the world of live-action. When asked for her thoughts, the Euphoria star shared a foreboding tease that sounds right in line with what one would expect from Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann’s adaptation. In her words:

It means the world. I am so fortunate and so grateful to be a part of The Last of Us universe now, to be able to embody Riley, a character that people love, especially the union of Ellie and Riley. I think people are going to be heartbroken when they watch our episode. But it’s so beautiful, and Bella is wildly talented. To be able to just work with that whole team, with Neil, with Craig, everybody is just amazing. So I’m so grateful to be a part of The Last of Us.

Obviously, when discussing a show that has shied away from confirming its episode titles until after the initial airings, Storm Reid didn’t dig too deeply into any details, lest she potentially face some Clicker-esque wrath from the horror drama’s powers that be. But it definitely sounds like the TV show took the time to give Riley and Ellie’s shared past the right amount of attention, or else the Missing star’s notion about it being a heartbreaking episode might seem a bit hyperbolic.

As franchise fans are aware, Riley’s story was explored not in the standalone game release, but in the first DLC released, Left Behind, and in the tie-in comic book miniseries The Last of Us: American Dreams. She and Ellie first bonded within their boarding school, and a key trip to an abandoned mall offers up some of the game’s biggest moments of pure joy and fun. But considering Riley isn’t still kicking it with Ellie when viewers meet her, it’s at least a vague indication that something went awry. Something heartbreaking? Very likely.

Episode 104, “Please Hold to My Hand,” may have offered up a key game-changing detail when it comes to Riley’s arrival. (Game-changing in the most literal sense here.) After the onset of the ambush that unfairly wrecked Bill's truck — not that he would notice at this point — Ellie saved Joel from a crushed windpipe by shooting one of the Hunters, though she wasn't so eager to finish the deed. Later, though, she revealed that it wouldn't have been her first kill, but opted not to follow up with an explanation, only implying that it was a rough situation. So it would stand to reason that Mazin and Druckmann chose to shift that character-defining moment over to Riley's story to give it more weight. I dare not hope for the most heartbreaking spin that could happen, though. 

To counter such thoughts, could the TV show go against all odds by giving Storm Reid’s Riley a story that allows her to return for the now-confirmed Season 2? Or, as it went with the sob-worthy flashback for Nico Parker’s Sarah, will audiences be experiencing the entirety of the aforementioned heartbreak in only a single episode’s timeframe? The second one is far more likely, of course, but one can dream. 

Check out the trailer for the next episode of The Last of Us, featuring more from Melanie Lynskey’s new threat.  

You can watch The Last of Us when new new episodes hit HBO on Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET, when they also become available to stream with an HBO Max subscription. While waiting to see when Riley will arrive in full, head to our upcoming video game adaptations guide and our 2023 TV premiere schedule to see what else will be worth obsessing over as the year goes on. 

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.