Some notes and observations:
- This entire episode is a retelling of a chapter that wasn’t in the original release; it was released later, as downloadable content. It’s an important one as it confirms Ellie as gay, and lays out her foundational trauma, much like the show did with the death of Joel’s daughter. This is probably also the episode that most mimics the video game version, as the “Left Behind” gameplay consisted mostly of walking and talking. It’s a style of gameplay sometimes referred to as a “prestige tour,” popularized by developer Naughty Dog in their efforts to tell video game stories beyond violence.
- The arcade game sequence underscores a huge difference in how effective video game storytelling can be. In the show, the machine just works and the two girls actually play the game. In the video game, the arcade machines are busted, and instead Riley asks Ellie to imagine the video game in her head. The game tries to re-create this experience for the player with button prompts while the camera is zoomed in on Ellie’s face, as she reacts to her electronic dreams. This was a lovely, heartwarming sequence that lifted up Ellie’s head space as the center of this universe. Sadly, it could not be re-created for the show.