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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Telltale Games' The Walking Dead S2E5: No Going Back.

Telltale Games' The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 5
No Going Back.

So, we've reached the dramatic finale of this season of Telltale Games' zombie survival series The Walking Dead. A third season is confirmed, I think, because it's Telltales' golden goose, and they'd hardly kill it when it has so much life in it.

The first season's finale had Lee, dying from a zombie bite, struggle his way through a walker-infested city to rescue Clementine, losing several people along the way and discovering the secret behind his sort-of-nemesis (spoiler, he was miffed that we stole from him). It was a very dramatic episode, but also a very long one, outstaying its welcome a little. 

This episode is somewhat less dramatic. Struggling up North after a shootout and the death of Rebecca, cracks start to appear in Clem's group, as Kenny goes outright villain on them all, a change which surprises approximately nobody, given everything that's happened to him. After Luke perishes, Clem is caught between the opposing forces of Kenny and Jane.

This is a pretty low-key finale - low key enough that until the very end, it could arguably pass as just any other episode in a season. As a villain (and he is undeniably the villain of this piece), Kenny has a history with Clem and a degree of sympathy on his side, but when contrasted with Carver he falls a bit flat. He is, as the game reminds us once or twice, a Carver-in-training, and that's not the most effective villain when just two episodes ago you had an actual Carver, carvering about, shattering people's orbital bones, running tinpot dictatorships.

Don't get all murdery, Kenny.

Luke's death also fell a little flat for me. For someone who was kind of the Lee of this series (or, at least, sharing that role with Jane), and who was also somewhat important to another major character (yeah, Jane, I didn't miss your staring at him or your remarks on how you kinda sorta cared about him, you cad), his demise was remarkably free of fanfare. He slips. Ice cracks. He dies. Nobody really gets a chance to dwell on it much afterwards, because the 'Kenny-as-wrong'un' plot is not in full swing and kind of drowns anything else out.

It's a shame, because I really liked Luke. I was somewhat resigned for him dying, but I had hoped it would be a slightly more powerful moment. Instead, I just found myself shrugging it off.

There are some really good parts of this episode. The 'calm before the storm' sequence where the group are all taking shelter at an electrical plant and chatting around the fire was a great section, full of character development, comedic moments, and some character development for Luke, Jane, Kenny, and even Bonnie (still remember how you skewered an old lady's face on a rebar, Bonnie. Still remember how you betrayed us all). 

Similarly, a flashback sequence for Clem where she talks with Lee during the early parts of season one's third episode was also really strong. It was great to see Lee again, and the entire section is very emotional, as a younger Clem relates that she doesn't want to have to hurt anybody and she just wants everything to be okay, which really just hammers in how little we see Clem show weakness in this season. I may have been tearing up a little during that sections, as I do whenever Lee is mentioned in season two. 

Here's Clem with a baby.

(I did get a bit annoyed at Kenny rhapsodising about how great Lee was, though. You hated him for multiple episodes, Kenny. Remember that? You smashed someone's face in with a block of concrete and then decided it was Lee's fault? Do you remember that happening, Kenny?) 

Kenny's death - which happened in my playthrough but is by no means a fixed point - was also really tragic for me. It was pretty powerful seeing a character who has been there since the very first episode, who has been in nine out of ten episodes, die, especially as he realises the error of his ways and is finally at peace as he passes away. That was an incredibly striking moment, and I do wonder if the alternative, Jane's death, would have been as effective. 

In general, it's the softer parts of this episode where it shines, and the more dramatic parts where it starts to wear a little thin. It was a good finale, though, capping off Clementine's character arc (forming groups and trusting people vs isolating herself for survival) well, as at the end (at least if you shoot Kenny and leave with Jane) you're given the choice to either form a group with three more people who may or may not be trustworthy, or to turn them away. 

I'm looking forward to the third season, and to seeing more of Telltale Games' growing stable of adaptations - Tales from the Borderlands Episode 1 came out last month, and Game of Thrones Episode 1 comes out this month, in addition to The Wolf Among Us Season 2 being a likely possibility looming on the horizon - but I do wonder if we'll be seeing Clem return for the third series, or if we'll have an entirely new protagonist. Her storyline ended in not just one but two pretty dramatic split storylines, after all, so it would be difficult to work her into a third series, especially a protagonist. It may not even be wise to do so even if they could: Clem's character arc seems pretty much done, and it might be nice to just let her have her sort-of-happy ending now. 

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