The Last Of Us' Bella Ramsey Drops Big Reveal About Ellie's Past, And I Don't Know How I Feel About It

Spoilers below for The Last of Us’ most recent episode, so be warned if you’re not yet all caught up!

Ahead of its Season 1 finale, HBO’s The Last of Us unleashed a pair of heart-catching episodes for Bella Ramsey’s Ellie, whose immunity to the Cordyceps infection definitely hasn’t made her impervious to trauma. (Seems to invite it, actually.) The penultimate episode put Ellie in the crosshairs of David’s group of non-purple people-eaters, so soon after she’d mentally relived her final joyous-until-it-wasn’t night with Riley. Episode 7 followed the live-action adaptation’s pattern of making smart change-ups to the video game’s story, but mirrored the Left Behind DLC in that viewers didn’t specifically see what happened to the would-be couple after they were bitten during the Halloween store scuffle. According to Bella Ramsey, an official version of that time span doesn’t exist, and that kinda bums me out. 

The latest episode of The Last of Pods podcast featured star Bella Ramsey as its esteemed guest, with part of the conversation understandably focused on Ellie and Riley’s tragic (if educational) mall trip. When the subject of Riley’s doomed fate came up, Ramsey acknowledged that Ellie would have been weighed down by that experience, but that outside of general conversations that were had behind the scenes, the details of that experience wholly exist within viewers’ minds. In their words:

I did think about that quite a lot. Because it also was going to inform how Ellie is going forwards. I don't know, depending on the level of trauma, it's going to be different. But there [were] conversations that happened around that actually, and I think we agreed on... I don't know whether to say because, it's like, I think it's up to people's imaginations, really. But from our point of view, I think Ellie probably had to make a really hard decision, and do something she really didn't want to do, and experience great loss.

That reveal shook me a bit harder than I would have expected, admittedly, even with the knowledge that those moments weren’t fully laid out in the source material. Part of my brain fully expected the TV show to spell things out more clearly, especially after having planted the seeds for Riley’s existence in earlier episodes. And to be sure, the show could technically return to that time in Ellie’s life during a Season 2 flashback pertaining to one traumatic event or another. But for it to currently go unresolved doesn’t quite sit right with me.

In large part, that feeling of discontent stems from Ellie’s reveal in an earlier episode that she’d killed someone before meeting Joel and Tess. At that point, I convinced myself that she was talking about having killed Riley, and thought it was inevitable that fans would see that painful act happen, even if it was only in flashes and not completely laid out as a full scene. Instead, The Last of Us left viewers with more of an open-ended story for Riley that harkened back to the brilliant third episode ending without explicitly showing Frank and Bill’s corpses. 

Bella Ramsey spoke to that idea, too, and once again said the idea was for it to be a detail for audiences to chew on. According to Ramsey:

I don't know if we ever did explicitly agree, and I think it's more powerful that it's kept unspoken, and kept to people's imaginations. Because I think the imagination can often be darker than reality.

Now, when they put it like that, Ramsey makes it sound like anyone who’s thinking Ellie had to kill Riley may be skewing things a bit too pessimistically. That is, unless the Last of Us star thinks fans are imagining Ellie keeping Riley’s head as a souvenir or something wild like that. 

In case it sounds like I’m wholly obsessed with the idea of best friends going all moider-moider on each other, I don’t necessarily want that to be confirmed as how things turned out. I’m also perfectly happy knowing that they played video games for another few hours before Riley locked herself in a store and allowed the Cordyceps to take over without Ellie putting her down. Is it too dark to hope to see Riley in Clicker form down the road? Is this what Ramsey meant about dark imaginations?

The Last of Us is wrapping up with its Season 1 finale on Sunday, March 12, but there are tons of other shows hitting the 2023 TV season that'll keep viewers entertained until Season 2 arrives.

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.