Bella Ramsey as Ellie in the mall in The Last of Us episode 7, "Left Behind."

Even ‘The Last of Us’ Episode 7’s Lighting Got the Point

The Last of Us episode 7, “Left Behind,” premiered on February 26, 2023, and beautifully captured Ellie’s (Bella Ramsey) backstory. In the episode, Ellie struggles with caring for a badly wounded Joel (Pedro Pascal) and is tempted to leave him to find his brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) for help. However, she rallies the strength to do what’s necessary by diving into a tragic part of her past. In the flashback, we’re introduced to her best friend and love interest, Riley (Storm Reid).

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Fans who are familiar with PS4’s The Last of Us game already know that Riley and Ellie are an item. However, for those who weren’t aware, the episode was even sweeter as it showed the love slowly unfolding. In the flashback, Ellie is stuck in FEDRA military school for her protection. Her friend, Riley, ditches FEDRA school to join the Fireflies, a choice that Ellie is conflicted about, especially because Riley disappeared on her to join the rebel group. Still, Ellie can’t deny she’s excited by Riley’s return and, thus, agrees to go with her on a secret outing.

The outing turns out to be an old abandoned mall where Riley has managed to turn the electricity on. A night of games, photos, carousel rides, and arguments culminates in a kiss, confirming the nature of Ellie’s and Riley’s relationship. Sadly, claims quickly arose that the kiss was censored in some regions. Additionally, the usual outcry from bigots arose over the show being too “woke.” As well as those who seemed to miss the memo and continued to claim Ellie and Riley were just friends. However, everything about the episode supported the relationship between Riley and Ellie, even down to the show’s lighting.

The Last of Us episode 7 even had lesbian/bisexual lighting

TikTok user @mayyoursurvivalblong brought the lighting and framing of The Last of Us episode 7, “Left Behind,” into question with an intriguing theory. The user shows the scene where Ellie is standing on a balcony overlooking the abandoned mall. As she’s looking, Riley turns on the electricity, fully lighting up the mall. A clear orangy-red color scheme can be seen, that transitions to a purplish-hue at times. @mayyoursurvivalblong posited that the scene was an actual visual representation of the Lesbian flag, which features a white stripe in the center with six stripes of varying shades of pink and red.

In addition to potentially visually representing the Lesbian flag, The Last of Us episode 7 also seems to have bisexual lighting. Some are skeptical about the existence of bisexual lighting as a true phenomenon in cinematography. However, viewers have noticed a trend in lighting showcasing bisexual relationships in TV shows/films having blue, purple, and pink tones. This seems to correspond to the colors of the bisexual flag, which are magenta, lavender, and blue. The occurrence has happened frequently enough for some to accept bisexual lighting as an intentional technique in filmmaking.

Related: The Last of Us Evolves Video Game Adaptation on The Escapist

Ellie and Riley don’t explicitly confirm their sexualities as either bisexual or lesbian, so the bisexual lighting makes sense, as does the lesbian lighting. While not everyone believes in bisexual/lesbian lighting, for some it was the icing on the cake for episode 7’s storyline. Additionally, it makes The Last of Us‘ Twitter page’s fumble even more embarrassing. Like, even the lighting gets it, why don’t you?

On a more serious note, though, the idea of symbolizing sexuality with lighting is a very intriguing concept. It is a much safer way to express sexuality than clothing or personality, which can easily lead to stereotypes, and it is an aspect of the film that can’t be easily edited out. Even censorship and bigotry can’t dim the lesbian/bisexual lighting of The Last of Us episode seven.

(featured image: HBO)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.