HBO's TLOU Fanart Shows Storm Reid and Bella Ramsey in Emotional Snapshot

January 17, 2022

Artist Lwandile Maphongwane exhibits the sweet relationship between Ellie and Riley in their beautiful fanart of HBO’s TLOU.

After a few days of speculation, HBO recently confirmed that Euphoria actress Storm Reid will indeed play Riley Abel in The Last of Us. Though any official trailer has yet to release, fans are excited to get more looks at the upcoming live-action series.

It seems that HBO will be encompassing both the original The Last of Us game and its prequel, Left Behind. We’ve already seen images of the abandoned mall, and with Reid playing Riley, there’s sure to be more of their story in the show. Riley plays a pretty significant role in Ellie’s story, but HBO has to unveil their plans for the character.


To commemorate Reid’s casting, artist Lwandile Maphongwane recreated Riley and Ellie;s sweet snapshot from Left Behind‘s promos.


Riley Abel was originally a character from The Last of Us‘s prequel, Left Behind. A sixteen-year-old survivor living in Boston, Riley met and bonded with a young Ellie, and the two quickly became close. In a heartbreaking moment, Riley and Ellie are both bitten by Infected – but only Ellie survives. It was Riley’s tragic death that leads Ellie to discover her immunity to the infection, setting the stage for the rest of The Last of Us.

Maphongwane used a beautiful painterly style to draw Bella Ramsey (Ellie) and Storm Reid (Riley) smiling together. The bits of moss creeping their way over the photo hints at the abandoned setting, and makes an otherwise cute photo feel just that much more heartbreaking.

Lwandile Maphongwane’s HBO TLOU Fan Art

What makes Maphongwane’s work especially beautiful is their use of lighting. Casting an almost golden glow over the faces in the photo, there’s a real sense of nostalgia and warmth. Their soft expressions are lovely, and the framing of the darkness and moss seemingly foreshadows their friendship’s untimely end. Maphongwane’s work harkens back to a happier time for the two girls, one where they weren’t so burdened by tragedy and loss.

Riley and Ellie’s story also plays a pivotal role in Ellie’s personal character arc. The kiss the two share was a “breakthrough moment” for both The Last of Us and for video games as a whole. Their kiss was sweet, deliberate, and meaningful. At its heart, it was representation that LGBTQ+ gamers have deeply desired for a while.

Additionally, their representation of Reid and Ramsey makes them look right at home in the TLOU universe. It’s easy to see how perfectly both actresses fit into their characters, and only makes me more excited for the HBO show. Reid herself had shared Maphongwane’s powerfully emotive portrait of Riley to announce her role!

To see more of Lwandile Maphongwane’s fantastic work, check out their ArtStation page, their Twitter, or their Instagram.

Natalie Schmidt

Natalie (She/Her) is a writer and game design enthusiast hailing from way-too-sunny Los Angeles. She loves to dissect game narrative and analyze mechanics, but she doesn’t even want to think about how many hours she’s spent playing D&D or The Witcher 3. Aside from triple-A adventures, she’s passionate about RPGs of all kinds and meaningful representation in games

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