top of page
  • Writer's pictureKatelyn Sosebee


On Sunday, February 26th, the HBOMax hit series The Last of Us aired its seventh episode sparking controversy amongst the fandom about main character Ellie’s love life.

This most recent episode, featuring a storyline based on a downloadable expansion (DLC) called “Left Behind” from the original Naughty Dog video game, caused fans to take to Twitter, either applauding the representation or bashing its “wokeness propaganda.” This episode, like the DLC, explores Ellie’s life about three weeks before the events of the first episode.

Out of the six previous episodes that contained slightly different plot points, character developments, and never before seen backstory, the few seconds that viewers decided to unnecessarily rage about was a kiss between Ellie and her female best friend Riley. The friends to lovers spend the night in an abandoned, aesthetically pleasing mall that Riley discovers was recently rewired into the electrical grid. They ride a carousel, play old arcade games, and dance to Etta James, all which culminate into a spur of the moment kiss initiated by Ellie.

Taking a look back at episode three titled “Long, Long Time,” the first depiction of a queer relationship in the series is a gay romance between characters Bill and Frank. In the original game, their only backstory the players get is Bill explaining how he once had a partner whom he cared about but left. Later, Bill, Joel, and Ellie stumble across a dead Frank who hanged himself after getting bitten by infecteds.

Writers Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin decided to use Bill and Frank’s story to drive home the point of the show which is the nature of love: “Two very different kinds of love and how

those two kinds of love need each other,” according to Mazin.

Emphasizing these little moments of love even in horrific circumstances provides a

breath of fresh air and hope to the viewers watching it. While this tragically beautiful episode received review bombs and homophobic responses, the haters seem content with deeming this episode as unnecessary or boring or too much of a deviation from the original game content.

Refocusing back on episode seven, “Left Behind,” the difference with this love story is that it involves two teenage females recognizing their love for one another. However, almost a one to one recreation of the DLC, groups of viewers now criticize this episode for sticking to original content. They now argue that DLCs are not part of the original story, thus rendering Ellie and Riley’s story (queer representation) still pointless television.

Scrolling through the #TheLastofUsHBO on Twitter, the overwhelming amount of support is heartwarming, but the negative remarks scatter throughout as one begins to see the bigger picture. After a while, there seems to be a pattern in verbiage, argument threads, and opinions of the vocally opposed, accusing not just this episode but the series as being woke, pushing a gay agenda, and misleading from the original game by casting people of color to play the originally white characters. Seems like the true colors of these so-called 'fans' are showing, and it looks like they are red, white, and blue.

Despite the bubbles of negativity, loyal fans take to calling out the blatant homophobia of these comments, including Storm Reid, the actress portraying Riley: "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."

Representation of all people is the building block of an evolving society. The Last of Us is supposed to be a fictional version of 2023 reality just adding in the idea of a zombie apocalypse. You can not erase or shame a community of people, their stories, or their chance to identify with something out of existence. Love and companionship is one of the most basic needs of a human being. It makes sense that two young people like Ellie and Riley, who know nothing of their world or its societal standards pre-disaster, could feel the freedom to find love in each other. The Last of Us shows that in a zombie ridden world where humanity is scarce, finding love is the only way to truly survive.


bottom of page