With Episode 3 of Season 2, the midway point, Telltale had some huge boots to fill. The second episode rectified the stuttering failures of the first, but could the third carry the tradition on? Simply put, the answer is no.
“But why?” I hear you cry. Well, watch out, because from past this point there’s spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 3: In Harm’s Way.
This episode carries on the motif established in episode one; the importance of family. Clementine and company are captured by cartoonish villain Carver, whom runs a well-functioning community that he likes to refer to as a ‘family’.
Why is Carver cartoonish, you might ask. Well, Carver is presented as a chaotic evil. A spur of the moment killer who enjoys the carnage he creates. Upon entering Carver’s town, it’s revealed that the members of his group believe him to be a strong, but just leader. Even Bonnie, reprising her role from 400 Days, believes Carver to be a fair figurehead, despite witnessing his massacre at the lodge.
Carver is, for all intents and purposes, The Governor. The monster that everyone inexplicably believes isn’t a sociopath. Learning more about him through the episode, his social Darwinist ideology could have been seen coming a mile away. The weak and incompetent must die to stop them putting the strong and competent at risk. That is this episode’s main question; do the ends justify the means?
It’s a topic that’s been approached by the TV series, by the comics and now by the game. Clementine, despite being an eleven year old child, is singled out by Carver, as he believes she possesses the stones to make decisions regarding the survival of the group. And so, the juxtaposition on which this season will operate is set; family or survival?
By the end of the episode you’re given the choice to follow your ‘family’ and spare yourself witnessing a horror, or expose yourself to the true extent human beings will go to for revenge and survival. Clementine is presented with dialogue options throughout this episode that are mini-versions of this climactic, final choice. Taking the blame for others’ mistakes, gladly going through with a dangerous plan without complaints and choosing to be honest to certain people will all influence your final decision.
The choices are binary, but only in retrospect. On reflection do you realise the Darwinist themes within this episode and the weakness within your fellow survivors. Adults looking to Clementine for help no longer seem forced; instead, her resilience and leadership capabilities are being fleshed out in a more believable way. Clementine’s leadership speaks in terms of her actions, the idealistic, indecisive child of Season One long gone.
Adults now appear genuinely reliant on Clementine, rather than awkwardly written to pander to her as ‘mature’. There are still instances where new characters speak to Clementine as they would an adult, despite knowing nothing about her. It would be interesting to see more characters treat Clementine like the child she is, only to be surprised by her personality upon spending time with her. This, unfortunately, is yet to happen. The people Clementine meets still treat her as an adult, the level of violence used against her is also included in this. Punishment an adult would struggle to take, Clementine shakes off with nothing more than a whimper.
The Walking Dead Season Two seems to be following a recurring formula in terms of its episode design. An episode introduces and expands on characters, these characters are presented with an obstacle and through their interactions, a climactic, cliff-hanger is reached for the episode to end on.
Episode Two was well received for the brutality on show, the fact that Telltale weren’t pulling any punches in their portrayal of this evil world. Episode Three does the exact same, only in a different setting. Instead of an evil world it’s an evil man and it’s your job to escape him.
Again, presented with an ideal opportunity, the group decides that moving on and escaping is their best option. Instead of a mutiny of Carver’s unbelievably well-polished and supplied society, they instead decide their best option is just to leave, despite being told that there’s nothing out there for them . Not once is mutiny even suggested, instead, escape is presented as the only option.
The episode climaxes with their escape and leaves you with one final decision to undertake before the cut-to-black. A slow, methodical episode that once again ends with a bang designed to wow you in to ignoring the 80 minutes of slow, plodding character interaction. Most of which, achieves nothing.
The Walking Dead: Season 2 Episode 3: In Harm’s Way is available now.
Hang on, Niall, where’s the score? Find out what’s missing and why here.