Storm Reid Has A Message For The Last Of Us Fans Mad About The Show’s LGBTQ+ Love Stories

Riley and Ellie looking at Victoria's Secret mannequin in The Last of Us
(Image credit: HBO)

Spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t yet watched the latest episode of The Last of Us, so be warned!

HBO’s The Last of Us continues to absolutely crush it, giving viewers equally exciting and heartbreaking ways to cap off each weekend, and Episode 7 did not stray from expectations while delivering Ellie’s highly emotional final night (presumably) with her late BFF Riley. The nearly full-length flashback delivers much of what fans learned about the two teens in the Left Behind DLC and the American Dreams comic tie-in, pulling directly from the source material. (Even if Mortal Kombat II wasn’t canonical to the Naughty Dog game.) The installment also featured the first on-screen kiss for Bella Ramsey’s Ellie and Storm Reid’s Riley, and the two co-stars addressed the section of the fanbase that’s been vocally negative about the horror drama’s LGBTQ+ storylines. 

The episode, fittingly titled “Left Behind,” hinged largely on Riley’s attempt to give Ellie the greatest night of her life by way of a mall visit, which included a carousel ride, arcade games, and some photo booth silliness straight out of the video game. And before all the tragedy and woefulness entered into things, The Last of Us delivered one of its sweetest moments yet, with Ellie impulsively kissing her bestie after the latter promised to stick around rather than leaving for Atlanta with the Fireflies. Of course, that led to another heartbreaking stunner, which Reid promised would be the case.

Speaking with EW, Storm Reid was asked about the negative and homophobic reactions that the episode would likely spark, and the Euphoria star championed The Last of Us’ narrative while echoing Bella Ramsey’s thoughts following the debut of Bill and Frank’s episode. In her words: 

Like Bella said when Episode 3 came out: If you don’t like it, don’t watch. We are telling important stories. We’re telling stories of people’s experiences, and that’s what I live for. That’s what makes good storytelling, because we are telling stories of people who are taking up space in the world.

Indeed, with all the series available on linear TV and streaming at the moment, it takes more of an effort than ever for audiences to stick with shows that they aren’t fully invested in. That kind of viewer dropoff is wholly behind why a lot of Netflix shows get canceled, as well as those on other platforms. When it comes to those who are wholly engaged with everything that co-creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann are delivering except for the story beats tied to characters’ sexualities, I can’t imagine Storm Reid is dying to hear from them.

The fact that Ellie and Riley’s kiss is taken directly from the video game’s universe should make it less of a target for complaints, as opposed to Bill and Frank’s expanded TV arc, but the game series has sadly faced similar criticisms and gripes for much of its existence. And Reid doesn’t understand why anyone would be so invested in the private lives of people they have no connection with, fictional or otherwise. As she put it:

It’s 2023. If you’re concerned about who I love, then I need you to get your priorities straight. There’s so many other things to worry about in life. Why are you concerned that these young people — or anybody — love each other? Love is beautiful, and the fact that people have things to say about it, it’s just nonsense.

Throughout “Left Behind,” Ramsey did a fantastic job of bringing Ellie’s playfulness out as things went along, and even though she and Riley had less than an hour to convince audiences of their friendship and potential for romance, it worked from top to bottom. To the point where it was beyond heartbreaking to think of Ellie keeping that memory as her driving force to keep the near-death Joel alive. 

Even though viewers didn’t get to see how the pair spent their final time together before Riley turned, and before Ellie realized she was immune, it was enough to get her to sew his knife wound shut without any medical training or pain meds. I’m kinda surprised Joel didn’t instinctively shove her the hell away again as soon as she started.

Beyond social media swipes at the show’s LGBTQ+ characters, The Last of Us has also been a target of sexism by way of co-star Melanie Lynskey and her character Kathleen. The actress faced various levels of unjust judgment from viewers regarding her looks and her physical figure and, like Storm Reid, wasn’t hesitant about clapping back at the negativity

With two episodes left, The Last of Us will no doubt have even more shocking moments to cap off its first season. Be sure to stream on Sunday nights with an HBO Max subscription.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.