Is Ellie immune from the infection in The Last of Us?

Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Tess (Anna Torv) sit together on a mossy mound in The Last Of Us
Ellie and Tess in The Last of Us. (Image credit: HBO)

Spoiler warning: the following article will contain major spoilers for The Last of Us video game, as well as the first two episodes of The Last of Us TV adaptation, and possibly also further episodes if they're accurate to the game.

Now that we're several episodes into The Last of Us, the new video game adaptation starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, people have lots of questions about the character of Ellie.

Ellie, played by British actor Ramsey (meet The Last of Us cast here), is a young woman who Joel is tasked with escorting to safety across a post-apocalyptic America. She's an excitable and chatty character who serves as a counterpoint to the gruff Joel.

But, two episodes into the TV show, fans are starting to ask lots of questions about the character, as different facts and pieces of information about her promise to be important in the episodes to come. With that in mind, we're going to answer some of your questions about her.

This article contains spoilers for the first two episodes of The Last of Us. We'll also be referencing the video game quite a lot, and since the show is based on the game, we could well be spoiling future episodes too (unless the creators decided to change aspects of the story). So be warned.

By the way, if you haven't already started The Last of Us, you can watch it on HBO Max in the US and Sky TV or Now TV in the UK.

Is Ellie immune from the infection and all your other questions answered...

How old is Ellie in The Last of Us?

In The Last of Us, Ellie is 14. That means she was born after the cordyceps apocalypse happened, as the show takes place 20 years after that event.

Ellie is played by British actor Bella Ramsey, who was 19 when the show stared airing, though of course was younger than that when the show was filmed.

Where are Ellie's parents?

In the first two episodes of The Last of Us, we don't find out about Ellie's parents — they also don't feature in the game, beyond mentions, though game creator Neil Druckmann reportedly was very keen to include more information about Ellie's mother.

In the first episode, though, we learn that rebel leader Marlene put Ellie in military college when she was much younger, suggesting that Marlene has been acting as her surrogate mother. It seems, then, that Ellie's parents aren't on the scene any more.

Joel and Ellie startled and up against a wall in The Last Of Us episode 2

Joel and Ellie in The Last Of Us. (Image credit: HBO)

Is Ellie infected?

At the end of episode one, as elaborated on at the beginning of episode two, we find out that Ellie has been bitten by an infected. However, while most people take at most two days to turn into a clicker (more on The Last of Us' clickers here), Ellie has bitten weeks ago.

From the nature of Ellie's wound, with its cordyceps tendrils going up her arm, we can see that Ellie very clearly is infected. However because she hasn't turned into a zombie-like creature, Ellie is clearly immune to the negative effects of the infection.

We should really clarify our word choices here: 'infected' doesn't necessarily mean 'brainless zombie', just that the cordyceps fungus has made its way into the body. We see a few characters in this situation, mainly ones who have been bitten but haven't yet turned into monsters, though Ellie is the only one who stays in this limbo.

At the end of episode 2, Tess tasks Joel with ensuring Ellie gets to the fireflies, showing that the young woman's infection is an important plot point.

Why is Ellie immune?

Well, that's the million-dollar question, isn't it — why is Ellie immune to the infection that she received from her bite?

That's not shown in the TV show, at least as of episode 2, but there's a real reason to suggest that we won't find out at all. In the video game, no explanation is ever provided.

Perhaps we'll find out later on in the TV show why Ellie is immune, but it doesn't really matter — that piece of information isn't really important to the story as a whole.

How did Ellie get infected?

In The Last of Us TV show, Ellie is already infected before the show began, and it's not shown how she was bitten.

However in the video game, we see her get bitten, via the downloadable expansion story Left Behind. In this, she gets bitten by a clicker while sneaking around in a shopping mall with her friend Riley, while she's at the military school.

This segment acts as a small prequel to the main story of The Last of Us.

Given that actress Storm Reid is credited as playing a character called Riley in future episodes of the show, it sounds like we could see this event.

Who is Riley?

Riley is mentioned in the first episode of The Last of Us, but as we've just said, we'll likely see a lot more of the character in the future.

In the game, Riley is Ellie's best friend from military school, however Riley snuck out to join rebel faction The Fireflies. 

One night, Riley sneaks back to see Ellie, and takes her out to see an abandoned shopping mall where they used to spend time. While there the two have an emotional discussion which ends with the two young girls kissing — and then promptly getting bitten by a clicker. Oops. 

While Ellie survives the bite, as we well know, Riley does not.

The Last Of Us is an HBO original series, meaning you can watch the series as it airs in the US on HBO or stream it on-demand on HBO Max. In the UK you can watch exclusively on Sky TV and their streaming service, NOW. 

Tom Bedford
Streaming and Ecommerce Writer

Tom is the streaming and ecommerce writer at What to Watch, covering streaming services in the US and UK. His goal is to help you navigate the busy and confusing online video market, to help you find the TV, movies and sports that you're looking for without having to spend too much money.