As the only actor from the 2013 game reprising their original role, Merle Dandridge plays Marlene, leader of the anti-FEDRA rebel group, the Fireflies. In the first episode, we see her organize mini-confrontations against FEDRA throughout the Boston Quarantine Zone (QZ), angling them to spread all their power on one part of the city so that a key group of Fireflies can make it out with their important cargo: a 14-year-old girl named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) who might be the key to humanity’s future.
Though both introductions to Marlene in the game and in the show are similar, there is one crucial difference that might surprise the more hardcore fans of “The Last of Us” and all of its little nuances. In the game, Ellie and Marlene have a pre-existing relationship that is even further elaborated in small details, DLC, and comics. There’s a significant amount of trust between these characters by the time Joel and the player meets them in the narrative.
However, in HBO’s take on the material, Ellie has no idea who Marlene is. She’s instead taken into the Fireflies’ custody due to the bite on her arm, kept chained from a distance, and is tested frequently for signs of further infection. By the time Marlene gets to finally talk to her and explain her motivations, Ellie, feisty by nature, had nearly lost all of her patience. This is a far mark from the amount of trust Ellie has in Marlene when we first see her in the game.