We waited for quite a while to get our hands on the third episode, but that hasn’t been the case where episode four ‘Thicker Than Water’ is concerned, arriving less than a month later. The finale is approaching thick and fast, with this penultimate instalment looking to continue the momentum built up so far. Does it get me all excited for the impending conclusion of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier?
In short, not entirely.
Just when you thought that having Javi Garcia’s brother David in a leadership role would be a lucky break for the gang, everything blows up in your face and it turned out David had been betrayed by his own people in Richmond. It led to a few questionable decisions and a whole load of disapproval from Jesus, but ultimately it ended in a showdown between David and the other leaders. The episode cuts to black and gunshots are heard… and that’s where ‘Thicker Than Water’ begins.
Well, sort of, because it just skips ahead a little to both David and Javi being thrown in the holding cell. You’ll be told what happened, but it would’ve been better to see it play out as it becomes a very slow opening chapter. Sure, it tries to build upon the rocky relationship between the brothers via a flashback, however, as a player I think I already get the picture – one’s a screw-up and the other needs anger management. Eventually, after a free-roam section inside the cell which drags on a bit, you manage to help Javi escape, alone.
One of the main problems this fourth episode suffers with is that not a lot exciting goes on for the most part. Most of the time, you are wandering from place to place, simply trying to avoid being discovered by Joan and her cronies, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if every one of these situations was intense. Instead, there’s a real lack of urgency.
For example, Javi got himself into a spot of bother and needs medical attention as he’s losing blood, but for some reason Clem wants to discuss ‘women’s problems’ and you just so happen to find a pack of Maxi pads nearby. Before that, Tripp wants relationship advice and I’m honestly astonished, thinking to myself – ‘there are people after us and a massive herd of walkers outside, wrong bloody time dude!’
Clementine is in short supply, almost like she’s just making a cameo appearance; although she does get some flashback time. In fairness, not everything has to be stabby stabby and all out war, and in these segments the player is provided with even more of an insight into how damaged, mentally, Clem probably is. The poor girl has been through hell, so it’s no wonder she doesn’t like sticking around.
The pacing of over half of the episode is very slow, to the point where I was begging for a walker to take a bite and put me out of my misery. Fortunately, it does pick up later on, culminating in a scene which ignites the fire and invokes emotional responses – surely bringing out both anger and sadness in equal amounts. Joan is involved, and the action that follows is full on; throwing major decisions your way and quick time events whilst it all unfolds. Deciding what to do is a little agonising and that’s a positive sign, because that means Telltale has given you a choice which matters. I took every second it allowed me to when making a choice… if only it didn’t take almost the entire episode to reach anything mildly exciting.
In terms of characters, it’s good to see Joan finally becoming the villain she needs to be, embracing it to the point of no return. David’s actually likeable, which is odd given the fact he’s mostly been portrayed as a no-good thug. Some of the characters need a reality check, with them seemingly not able to grasp the dog eat dog world and the importance of trust, especially Gabe who just throws you under the bus every time he has a tantrum. He might be Javi’s family, but I’m relishing the day he meets his demise.
Overall, ‘Thicker Than Water’ didn’t just hit a speed bump, it went for a Sunday drive in quicksand. Almost everything is done without urgency, or intensity, and the writers picked wildly inappropriate times for characters to discuss things which are the least of anyone’s worries when there’s a hunt going on. What could’ve been a bad episode, received a lifeline in the form of an enthralling and engaging final chapter of episode four. The action is on point, the villain has risen and the group is shattered…
The scene has been set, just about, for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier finale, where I reckon very few will survive and gallons of blood will be spilt. Bring it on.