Who knew that such a good opening episode of The Walking Dead: The Final Season would be overshadowed by the dramatic events at Telltale Games? It’s a shame for all those who were let go, no doubt, but also for everyone who’s invested in the latest series to see how Clementine’s harrowing journey concludes. Nevertheless, the second episode is out now and, at the time of writing, it appears as though Skybound have given the team behind it a lifeline. Despite the troubles surrounding it, can Episode 2 ensure the series comes out swinging?
Of course it can, and that’s why it’s pleasing that it may indeed reach an official end.
Episode 2 “Suffer the Children” begins with the immediate aftermath of an incident that could threaten AJ and Clementine’s position at the safe-haven that is the boarding school. Spoiler alert, the guy in charge, Marlon, had previously given away a couple of his own people to a nasty group known as the Raiders and then lied to cover up the act. It’s a lie that got a girl killed and Clementine was next in order to keep the secret under wraps… but everyone found out and chaos ensued. Fortunately, Clem figured out a peaceful resolution, only for AJ to shoot Marlon in the head from behind. Our main characters can’t stay here now, can they?
The short answer is no and after taking their leave, it all kicks off again, with the Raiders, the boarding school kids and another interested party getting mixed up in a woodland scuffle. But before that, the writers do a great job of letting the player and Clem/AJ have a few moments to reflect on what’s happened. This kid just shot someone who was no longer a threat, without hesitation, and now he’s subjected to cries of murder. For once, you feel really bad for AJ; after all, he’s so young and has such a black and white outlook on who deserves to die, not understanding the way of the world before the walkers.
Whilst the shocking ending of the first episode has basically curtailed the building of relationships for the majority of this one, Clem still finds a way to mend a few bridges and figure out more about these troubled former boarders. It’s interesting to see how they react so differently to the death of their leader, even knowing what he did. There’s one guy, Louis, who’s usually the joker of the pack, but he’s fuming and that side of his personality makes the situation extra tense and depressing – as it should be.
There’s also a fair bit of nostalgia, with references to happenings from the previous series of The Walking Dead as well as the return of a vaguely familiar character. It’s been ages since we’ve seen this person, but they’re on a different side now and that makes things complicated. In fact, this leads to two major confrontations and both scuffles are decent enough, aside from the parts where it lets you roam free to kill walkers. That’s because the gritty, comic book style artwork tends to ensure it’s even more difficult to see them coming from all angles and at one point you’re in possession of a crossbow, which is tricky to fire under pressure – the bow shooting mechanics are too basic.
Whilst long-time players could live off the nostalgia for a good while, the most pleasing thing is the introduction of yet another interesting new character that used to belong to a very special group of people. He’s one of the Whisperers, the folk in the comics who literally wear the skin of walkers to blend in and follow a rather unusual set of ideals. If nothing else, I’d love to find out more about this guy and the troubles he’s faced up until this point.
Choices are supposed to play a role in these Telltale experiences, but the truly worthwhile decisions have been sparse so far. There’s one that could be considered as such, however the consequences won’t be felt yet and to witness them, we’ll need another episode. Of course, there are a number of little decisions to make, seeing the characters around you behaving ever so slightly differently in the short-term.
Moving onto the visuals and despite the visual confusion between walkers and darkened environments, the scenery is really lovely at times. One section in particular plays out under the night sky and when the camera pans out with the moon in the background, it’s possibly the most peaceful and aesthetically pleasing moment of all the TWD series’. For a few seconds, the deathly world is forgotten and all of the troubles don’t matter.
But then Episode 2 hits you with a frenetic finish and you’re left to wonder how the rest of the season will play out, if it gets the chance. Here’s hoping that Skybound swooping in to try and save the day means it’s plain sailing for the narrative from here on out because the hard-hitting storytelling is strong in this second episode, adding extra dimensions to a few characters and leaving you wanting more. Sure, the fight scenes aren’t the best this time, but the action outside of the free-roam parts is good and the nostalgia is a constant reminder of why closure is needed for Clementine’s journey.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season isn’t over just yet though!