Seven years. That’s how long it’s been since Lee Everett first rocked up onto the scene in the back of a cop car in Telltale’s The Walking Dead, before taking innocent young Clementine under his wing amidst a zombie apocalypse. In something of a role reversal, she’s now got her own protégé to keep watch over, AJ, but everything’s about to come to an end. Thanks to Skybound Games, we’re hopefully going to get the closure we desire after a lengthy, often dangerous, journey. It all culminates in The Walking Dead: The Final Season Episode 4 ‘Take Us Back’, so let’s find out if it’s a worthy finale.
Get your handkerchiefs at the ready, for it’s going to be an emotional ride as we say goodbye to it all.
Previously on The Walking Dead: The Final Season, Clementine and her newfound Whisperer buddy James had a rather deep dialogue about walkers, essentially debating whether or not there’s anything left of the person once they’ve turned. That’s before a herd is guided by James to distract the Raiders and help pull off a rescue mission to recover a handful of students from Ericson’s Boarding School that are being held captive. The operation went belly up, there was action galore – most of which unfortunately became tedious – and a single naive decision chosen by the player could’ve cost a life unnecessarily. I made the wrong call and now I’ve got to live with that, but unfortunately, little AJ has to deal with it too.
It is immediately after this ‘incident’ that Episode 4 resumes, throwing you straight into a myriad of quick-time events that barely give you time to breathe. After all, this is a life-threatening situation for Clem, AJ and whoever else has scrambled safely out of the Raiders boat amidst the explosions and walker-filled carnage. It works well and emphasises the deadly nature of the goings on, but in the moments that you’re given more control over proceedings the mechanics still aren’t up to scratch. Whether you’re aiming the bow and arrow or having to target something specific, moving the reticle is simply laborious and that’s a reoccurring theme throughout such instances. As a result, when it’s a matter of life and death, there’ll be plenty of deaths and subsequent reloads from the nearest checkpoint. It ruins the flow completely.
That being said, the fighting and general chaos is great to watch as a spectator, especially witnessing a really beast-like effort from one character in particular trying to slay anything in sight. Most of the first chapter is fast and furious, but there’s also a reality check once things calm down, allowing you to process what’s happened. During the downtime, AJ reflects on the journey so far, putting Clem’s previous decisions under scrutiny. This does however bring about a bugbear of mine: the character development for AJ is very confusing.
One minute you’re seeing him behave like a brat, lashing out at the girl who’s kept him safe most of his life, while the next minute you’re expected to feel sorry for him given that he’s a kid that’s grown up in such a harrowing world, without his parents. As a player, it’s hard to forget the bad stuff he’s done and so when the writers try to tug on the heartstrings – which happens on a few occasions throughout – it just doesn’t work.
On the contrary, the use of Clementine to draw out an emotional reaction, for better or worse, always seems to do the trick. And there’s a potentially tear-inducing section in the latter stages of Episode 4 that truly shows off the pure, unconditional love she has for AJ. The parallels between the relationship those two have is similar in so many ways to the strong bond built between Clem and Lee in Season One of The Walking Dead. The other relationships within the group as a whole get pushed into the shadows, but that’s exactly how it should be with the focus on the two main characters given that this is the last ever episode of the series.
There’s usually a lull in the middle of these episodes, however that’s not the case here; every calm bit is filled with interesting dialogue or has a sense of looming danger, while everything else is action-packed. Even though most players will have seen a ton of shocking moments since The Walking Dead video game series began, the shock factor is still present in Episode 4 and your choices can lead to something pretty darn brutal.
Right near the end, after a point in which the story could naturally finish, there’s a flashback section that fills you in on how Clem managed to reconnect with AJ a few years ago. Whilst the sentiment is lovely, the placement is utterly terrible and I wonder why this part of the narrative has been held back. The emotional momentum of the episode suffers a tad, before then skipping ahead in time and giving us a taste of what the near future is like for various characters to cap it off with some closure.
It’s easy to say that Episode 4 of The Walking Dead: The Final Season brings the Clementine journey full circle, which it does, but what’s more impressive is how the storytelling throughout this season has allowed us to see all of her best traits. As a finale it never lets up and not once will it deliver a dull moment; there’s always a form of intensity to proceedings. I’ve enjoyed watching the action play out too as there are some great sequences, just not the ones in which you’re required to offer too much input. You see, the gameplay mechanics are lacking and it’ll mean an untimely death is on the cards more often than not. And sadly, the lack of connection to AJ does detract from the overall experience as well.
If you’ve played the series until this point, you must check out The Walking Dead: The Final Season Episode 4 because it sews up the long-running story of Clementine really well.