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Saturday, March 4, 2023

[The Last of SQUAWKS: E7] Left Behind |The Last of Us

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NEVER GIVE UP; NEVER SURRENDER: we flashback just before the present-day events of the first episode to contextualize Ellie's headspace as she moves heaven and earth to save Joel. Having rededicated herself to FEDRA academy, Riley shows up to whisk Ellie away to experience "the 4 wonders of the mall", making it both the best and worst day of her life.
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David Cameo:
Rachael Burt:
Sherrandy Swift:
Bridget Mason-Gray:

  • As you may or may not know, we've gone live after almost every episode of The Last of Us airs on Sunday night to react to this episode with you. If you're interested in joining the short but sweet conversation, Subscribe to our YouTube Channel and be sure to enable all notifications!
  • Speaking of watching the episode live, if you've signed up for HBO Max through a cable/streaming provider (like YouTube TV or Amazon Prime) users have the ability to watch the actual HBO channel, live; you don't have to wait for the episode to show up in the list of on-demand episodes on the HBO Max app or desktop browser and you aren't left behind if/when the episode doesn't post exactly at 9:00PM, Eastern/US (or experience throttling issues as the world attempts to stream the episode, simultaneously).
  • But why miss the episode at all? If you're a 🀫WHISPERERS or πŸŽ–️SURVIVORS tier member on either Ko-fi or Patreon, you could watch with us! Either way, follow us on either site (for free) to receive further details!
  • And the puns begin... What do you call an alligator in a vest? And other unsolved jokes.
  • Continuing Sherrandy's observation of the presence of the color purple (and how blue and red combine to make it) in the reaction livestream, so too are FEDRA and The Fireflies both attempting to maintain what was, but in their own way. It's less about good and evil than it is about different ways of going about the same thing.
  • …and how do these two schools of thought go about restoring what once was? Employing children to their cause who have never known what once was. Smart, yet horrible: When you are born into a world surrounded by death, you adapt to it quicker than someone who knew what it was like before. Simultaneously, because these kids can't grasp the concept of what both factions are fighting for, you have to find another reason for them to join: such as making them feel important or that they belong.
  • Right after we notice how Riley Abel wears predominantly blue clothing and Ellie Williams red clothing (along with the green hued walls and Riley's headband), Thomas mentions (again) how much he disliked this episode and why others might not, as well: it appears as though it doesn't move the story forward. Oh, and Dave reads out a birthday card that Mitchell sent him!
  • But going back to Red & Blue, Sherrandy compares it to themes we often talk about on The Walking Dead and how nobody is as black and white as they seem. Dave agrees but also likes how The Last of Us doesn't pretend that warring ideologies and tribalism don't persist even after the fungal apocalypse. The question, really, is what does that have to do with these kids who live in the ruins of the old world and know really nothing of what it was like to compare?
  • Sherrandy reminds us of how, during our discussions surrounding The Commonwealth (on TWD), when things are good humans fallback or tilt towards the old ways (Meritocracy, Capitalism, etc) rather than trying something new. It's definitely what's happening here, but it only serves as the backdrop to decisions our characters ultimately make.
  • Case in point, when Ellie tells Riley not to go to her Firefly post in Atlanta QZ, Riley immediately responds, "OK," because she feels that's where (to whom) she really belongs (a new tribe/a 3rd option).
  • Bridget and Sherrandy wax on how Riley has been dropping hints to Ellie all night, though Dave reminds them that it's Ellie that ultimately makes the first move, especially in light of the fact that she is angry that Riley jcan't seem to tell her how she really feels about her, after several prime opportunities. Bridget and Sherrandy clean-up what Dave says by contextualizing it: Ellie, in her own implied way, is telling Riley that she is violating rules after trying hard to dedicate herself to FEDRA and wants something to show for it for going way out of bounds for Riley's escapade. Ellie obviously feels something for her and just wants to leave because Riley isn't reciprocating. Basically: I'm going, unless you give me a reason to stay.

  • Also, they're kids and they don't know anything (some of us still don't know anything). Both Riley & Ellie just want the other to say how they feel without they, themselves, having to spill their guts. Dave asks the question: why did Ellie come back after storming off? Bridget & Sherrandy say it's not wanting to say goodbye on a bad note, under the guise of retrieving the No Pun Intended: Volume Too book by Will Livingston. Without a hint of shame, Bridget & Sherrandy both proclaim they, too, act pretty passive aggressively with their own spouses. Yikes.
  • Moving on from that awkward moment, we segue into Easter Eggs, one of them being Captain Kwong's Naughty Dog keychain, when explaining the choices Ellie has (the road to officer or grunt). Naughty Dog is the production company behind both The Last of Us video game and television show.
  • Speaking of Naughty Dog, the Macho Nacho establishment in the mall where Riley has been holing up all this time is from their Uncharted series of video games. It's worth mentioning that some theorize that both games take place in the same universe. Sherrandy also mentions that Raja's Arcade might also be a reference to an establishment in a port town in Uncharted.

  • Complete side note: the world begged for Nathan Fillion to play the role of Nathan Drake in a live action adaptation of Uncharted, rather than Tom Holland. But did you know that someone already made that happen? Check out this short film:
  • Thomas said Fear The Walking Dead did their carousel scene better, in Season 5, which leads to a conversation about why the horses on the merry-go-round didn't go up and down in this episode. Dave says that maybe they didn't choose the ones that did, but also that filmmakers will purposefully shoot from angles and perspectives to show the present power dynamic and it appears as though they wanted to maintain that Riley was still in control over the situation.
  • We mention this more in the post-watch livestream, The carousel was playing a version of The Cure's Just Like Heaven by Rockabye Baby!. We go on to mention that A Ha's Take On Me plays during their jaunt through the mall and Etta James' I Got You Babe are both played via the cassettes Riley swipes from Ellie's room, seen earlier on in the episode.
  • …which actually brings us back to Bill & Frank's codes based on the era the music comes from: Ellie & Riley's I Got You Babe signals that their love is Nothing New (the song was published in the 1960s), which gave us a chuckle, especially when Dave thought it might've been from the 1970s, which means All Clear.
  • Speaking of nothing new, Thomas expresses his displeasure with this episode again. Sherrandy sort of agrees: though she actually liked this episode, it wasn't one of her favorites because the episode didn't include enough of the drama between Ellie & Joel Miller.
    Editor's note: Whether folks have played the games or not, that seems to be the predominant criticism people generally have about both this episode and Long Long Time (the 3rd episode with Bill & Frank). When the fandom and even producers, themselves, largely couched these criticisms under the smoke of some people not liking the homosexual relationships, they (intentionally or not) obfuscated these and other very valid criticisms. I'm not claiming that there weren't people who whined about their dislike of gay romance, but it wasn't the predominant critique by a long shot (even though it became one, because of the outrage against homophobia).
  • Rachael also takes note of the fact that, of course, this episode fails to move the story along this late in the season. Bridget interjects that much of this episode was fan service for those who played the video games: it's about as faithful a recreation of the Last of Us DLC (downloadable content) Left Behind as one can get (almost shot-for-shot), which was the last thing those who played the video games received for several years until Naughty Dog finally dropped The Last of Us: Part II.
  • Though much of the episode was literally like the DLC, the difference was mostly in the arcade, where none of the arcade cabinets actually worked (they also couldn't license materials from Mortal Kombat and replaced it with the fictitious arcade game title, The Turning). The photobooth in the video game also didn't work, but they still pretended to pose anyway.
  • But going back to Left Behind, does that mean that we are through depicting the events of the first installment of The Last of Us video game? Either way, Bridget says that even though this was a flashback bottle episode, it still gave her the requisite tension she's been craving more of from the series.
  • Dave feels this episode, in its own way, moves the overall story along by way of world-building, which illustrated a lot more nuanced (rather than extreme) positions of FEDRA & The Fireflies. It also contextualizes Ellie's decisions in the present day, even though we're no further into the overall, present-day storyline than Ellie stitching up Joel after just having been shivved at the end of the last episode.
  • Going back to the arcade for a moment, we go over the characters both Ellie and Riley choose and why they're important. Ellie chooses a predominantly good character, Raiden, a lightning god who protects Earthrealm (essentially, our universe), which is fitting since she has the power to save the world. Riley chooses Mileena, who is predominantly a chaotic antagonist, but wearing the color purple which, at least in our estimation, means a blend of ideas or compromise. It makes sense because Riley was a goof-off at FEDRA Academy and encouraged Ellie to goof-off, as well, until she finally left when she felt she didn't belong.

  • This also brings us back to FEDRA & The Fireflies being two sides of the same coin - fighting to restore the world we lost - but more to ask what either of them would do if they had actually had a cure. More to the point, are people even worth saving after what we saw in both Please Hold On To My Hand and Endure and Survive?
  • Sherrandy thinks The Fireflies seem to be the only one concerned with a cure, which might be the thing that wrestles away FEDRA's monopoly on humanity's survival. Bridget interjects to say that what the series is supposed to show us is that both sides are incorrect. FEDRA might go the way of The Commonwealth and prioritize treatment according to status. Though we don't have too much to go on when it comes to The Fireflies, it's not as though we haven't seen morsels of the evils they are capable of (child soldiers, indiscriminate bombings, etc). Just like Ellie says to Riley about how she can't control whether The Fireflies bomb people like her in FEDRA Academy, so too can't Ellie control what either faction does with the cure.
  • The people who revolted against FEDRA in Kansas City's QZ (KC QZ) illustrate just how much people, on the whole, suck. Using our own pandemic as an additional indicator - both by way of individuals or government - many showed us their true colors. Sherrandy, in an attempt to cover for KC, states that had Kathleen's brother, Michael, survived, they at least wouldn't have fallen as fast as they did. Sherrandy also compares humanity's survival to an emerging business: if you have the funds and opportunities (FEDRA), you can get away with all sorts of bad business practices, but if you are just starting out and show poor leadership (The Fireflies), you will eventually fail.
  • We rattle off some of Thomas' punny jokes, one of which involves Will Smith, which turns into a tangent on our favorite Fresh Prince songs.
  • Another thing we had mentioned in the post-watch livestream is how this episode mirrored Long Long Time, in the way that it flashed back to show us a developing love story between two characters who happen to (and, for some, exploring what it means to) be gay. What was also mirrored was Joel's drama with his brother, Tommy Miller: both Riley and Tommy had disappeared for exactly 3 weeks. The longer [they] stayed away, the harder it was to come back.

  • The way that this episode also moves the story forward is by showing what Ellie has lost, too, after the series has focused predominantly on Joel's life after losing Sarah Miller. It's a microjourney of Ellie alongside a person - other than Joel - who feeds the desire to belong to another family after losing her own.

  • Speaking of Ellie never knowing the loss of her own family, do you think it's possible that Marlene already knew that baby Ellie had the cure and dropped her off at FEDRA Academy in order to keep her safe all these years? We explore this possibility from many angles, attempting to disprove or support this theory. Also, how similar is this thought to the premise to Harry Potter and Althea Scewczyk-Przygocki's SWATTY (Ellie would be as safe as "a tank, inside a tank, inside a bank vault")? Either way, this thought is prompted by Riley reminding Ellie, twice, that she doesn't know everything, while also informing her that Marlene was the one who said that she and Ellie couldn't head to Atlanta QZ together. What's more is that Marlene is the one who ultimately scoops her up after Ellie eventually has to put down an infected Riley.
  • Narratively speaking, though, Sherrandy explains that Ellie not knowing everything might just be the concept of loss, itself. Bridget chimes in to say that it just might be Riley's feelings towards her: not knowing might be best (to avoid pain).
  • Just like beating a video game doesn't yield a tangible reward, after seeing all the money on the floor of Raja's Arcade, Sherrandy wonders whether Casinos would still be considered fun if money has no actual value in the fungal apocalypse. Bridget says casinos might still be fun, especially after playing so much Katamari Damacy. This leads us to wondering whether FEDRA might use The Arcade as yet another mechanism to cow the populace into compliance. This eventually devolves into hysterical chaos after Dave reveals that, as a child of the 80s, the arcade was a place to squash beef by challenging others to games rather than resorting to violence.

  • Before that, though, Sherrandy rattles of a list of product placements, both real and imagined, that were in the mall: Footlocker (which, fun fact, was an offshoot of Woolworth's), Bath & Body Shop (a play on Bath & Body Works), Victoria's Secret, Best Buy, The Gap, Gamestop, Hallmark (with the 'H' dropped off), Esprit, the Target logo, Panda Express, TCBY, Subway, A&W, and CVS. Additionally, the movie promoted in front of the movie theater, Dawn of the Wolf 2, was brought over from the video games, but is obviously a fictional take on the Twilight saga.
  • Dave goes back to the arcade to squash some beef regarding Mortal Kombat II, once more: he forgot to mention that Ellie actually switches characters from Raiden to Baraka, who is often shipped with Mileena since their characters are both similar in both appearance and behavior. This really plays well with the developing love story between both Ellie and Riley.
  • With all the talk of streaming services, malls, and movies being another means to cow the populace, it made us think of the movie Mallrats, who also had a kid that was enamored with the escalator, much to the frustration of Jason Lee's character, Brodie. Fun fact, Mallrats also featured Michael Rooker, a decade and a half before he went on to play Merle Dixon on The Walking Dead.
  • Somehow, reminiscing about Dave being a nerd and getting his cousin's hand-me-downs as a kid devolves into a torrent of taunts and punny short-jokes. Bullying can sometimes be funny, guys, as evidenced by Rachael almost soaking her computer and Sherrandy's internet connection cutting out.
  • Continuing the theme of Dave being a nerd, he struggles to describe (resisting his funny tormentors) the meaning of the upcoming title of the Savage Starlight comic being promoted on the back of the issue Ellie is reading back in her room. Negentropy, commonly called Syntropy, is the rate at which systems, having gone through the process of entropy, return to their prior/normal state. This also might describe the rate at which humanity is restored should Ellie's immunity be developed into a cure. It also stacks against the inability of both FEDRA & The Fireflies to return the world to a state prior to the fungal apocalypse.
  • On the note of two diametrically opposed ideas, it's fascinating that Ellie manages to show both her love of dinosaurs and astronomy - with all her books on paleontology and posters illustrating both dinosaurs, the solar system, and phases of the moon - along with the desire to some day become an astronaut, should the world return to a normal state where dreams like that might be a possibility, again.
  • This somehow devolves into Dave dance-battling it out in an 80's roller rink to Randy Newman's Short People
  • Bridget, in an attempt to roll it back, asks whether the infected man savaging Ellie & Riley was, initially, laying dormant in an American Girl doll shop. It's funny that this was the case because an infected person seems to resemble a human doll being puppeteered by the cordyceps fungus. This also begs the question of what he was doing in the American Girl shop to begin with.
  • This leads into a bigger conversation about what happens when an infected leaves a fungal patch (what happens to the stringy bits?); more specifically, whether the patch is a node in a mycelial cluster. It's very possible that some infected are preserved for as long as they are because the hosts' nutrients are being distributed across the various clusters in the mycelial network via the gourdecyps patch.
  • We nearly close the show with more punny short jokes by Thomas, but also Eric defending Dave by way of saying Marvel vs Capcom squashed many a beef, growing up.
  • Dave, adding one last thing, says that what helps to move the story forward is showing the way in which Ellie has also experienced loss, sandwiched between both Riley's and Joel's illustrations of loss. It's the very means by which she seeks out that 3rd option, outside the binary, by forming her own tribe with Joel and deciding to stay and do everything in her power to keep him alive until he's saved or nothing else can be done.
  • Also, take better care of your horse because there may be infected in the neighborhood, by the sound of things.

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