Last of Us Episode Seven: Nothing but Flashbacks

Bottle episodes are one of the most tedious and cliché tropes in media. They consist of the main cast stuck in an enclosed environment while they reminisce on old memories or flashbacks. Few master the format, and I think “The Last of Us” nailed it.
Initially, the episode began with Ellie frantically patching up Joel after his extremely symbolic bullet wound. Joel wants nothing more than to protect and shield Ellie from the world, but his condition prevents Ellie from moving forward in the journey. Altogether, Joel feels like a burden preventing her from growing and helping others. After the nail biting opening, Ellie recalls her experiences with FEDRA and her friend, Riley.
Seeing a character’s previous circumstances adds force and context to their actions and feelings, especially with an adolescent character still growing throughout her life. Her past experiences added a frame of reference to her actions and depth to her storyline. Also, introducing new characters to the mix is always fun, and Storm Reid did a stunning job portraying Riley.
The sets and environment were gorgeous: an abandoned mall overflowing with lush organic shrubs and vines in a stagnant nostalgic plaza filled with decade-old shops. Seeing common everyday phenomena like escalators, carousels and several other mall attractions permeated with ferns and stained neon lights added to the mood of the episode. One of my favorite aspects of the show and the game is the setting, where nature gains control and overpowers desolate cities.
All of the dialogue seemed natural, and their whole dynamic felt real. I adored the little details and beats between scenes that added emotion and tension to the story. Letting the audience breathe helps them immerse themselves in the story and catch on to subtle movements that imply something more.
Being a teenager is awkward, terrifying and whimsical; this episode encapsulates the teenage experience. Ellie struggling with her self-esteem and her changing body is an experience that all young girls go through. Both girls joking around while feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders, showed that they are both still just girls that were forced to grow up. The loss of adolescence and childhood is a heavy reality check, and the fact that we, the audience, see these girls go through it at such a young age was heartbreaking.
My single complaint with episode seven is purely the pacing; I was bored with the quietness. Despite that single gripe, it was an extremely entertaining and satisfying dive into Ellie’s character. Due to the cliffhanger ending, I am on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what Joel and Ellie decide to do next.