Who is Riley in The Last of Us?

A crucial character with a tragic connection.

by J.R. Waugh
Storm-Reid-Riley
Image: Sony Pictures Television

The Last of Us introduces us to many memorable characters with tragic stories throughout its plot. While the series has yet to put some to the screen, even in episode 1 there are characters alluded to in passing or in more dramatic scenes. One particular moment was when the name Riley is name-dropped by Marlene, which quickly elicits a response from Ellie as predicted. But viewers who have either not played the “Left Behind” DLC for the original, or the games at all, might be wondering who Riley is in The Last of Us. Be warned, as this touches on source material from the game, spoilers are ahead.

Who is Riley to Ellie in The Last of Us?

Riley was a close friend of Ellie’s before the events of The Last of Us as told in the “Left Behind” DLC. She serves as Ellie’s connection to Marlene in the TV series, and was a more passionate advocate for the Fireflies’ cause, having been initiated with their group after executing an infected human. Her distrust of FEDRA’s handling of the QZ is evident, and a source of tension between the two, something that could wind up separating them. But that’s not the only source of tension between Riley and Ellie in The Last of Us.

Does Riley Die in The Last of Us? What Happens to Her?

Riley and Ellie share a romantic connection, with a mutual appreciation for music, video games, and puns; This was tragically brought to an end after Riley and Ellie were both bitten, presumably by an infected runner. They reveal this to each other, with Riley dying of the resulting infection, while Ellie remained unaffected. This was how Ellie discovered her immunity to CBI.

The-Last-of-Us-Ellie
Image: Sony Pictures Television

Her fondness for Riley and the trauma she faced when she was taken away is evident on her face after Marlene invokes her name. Regardless of how the show handles this loss, it will be a driving force for Ellie’s grief as the series progresses.

The Last of Us premiered on January 15, 2023, on HBO and HBO Max, and will air weekly every Sunday. International viewers can catch this series on Sky Atlantic and Crave.

- This article was updated on January 16th, 2023

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