Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 2: A House Divided review

    Note: Due to the nature of serialized storytelling, this will contain spoilers for the episodes prior to the one I'm reviewing.

    The episodic nature of the Telltale video games is both a blessing as well as a curse. It's a blessing because it's rare you get serialized storytelling this good. For a fraction of the cost of a full-priced video game, you get an hour and a half of re-playable storytelling for less than the price of a movie ticket.

    The curse element is, like your favorite television show, there's expansive waits between. Waiting for the end of Season 2 of The Walking Dead video game is something I know a lot of Season 1 fans are doing because they don't want to have to wait for the resolution to the plots within. I liken it to waiting for a television show to come out on DVD. Thankfully, I still have a couple of episodes before that becomes an issue.

Poor Clementine is always taking point.
    The premise of A House Divided is Clementine has been separated from her guardian, Crista. Forced to survive on her own, she's managed to find herself with a new group of survivors. Unfortunately, these survivors are considerably more hostile to her than her previous group and the only one who was unconditionally accepting is either bitten or dead by the beginning of this episode.

    A House Divided, as might be inferred by the title of the game, is about how distrustful humans have become since the apocalypse. The simple act of celebrating Christmas, something which brought about ceasefires during World War 1, has become something riff with lies and secrets. There are still good people out there but the episode examines whether or not they're smart for being so. Several times during this game, "doing the right thing" has disastrous consequences.

    Of course, so does doing the wrong thing. Clever, Telltale.

    While the first episode showed how Clementine is entirely capable of taking care of herself, this episode takes the time to develop the characters she is traveling with. We find out why they're so distrustful of strangers, even ones in the shape of an eleven-year-old girl. We also meet someone who has the potential to be the most memorable bad guy of not just this season but the entire Walking Dead video game franchise.

At least the new survivors can shoot.
    It was spoiled by the "trailer" at the end of Episode 1 that Clementine was going to be meeting up with someone she thought dead and I'm of mixed feelings about this character's survival. Still, in retrospect, I think it was necessary to bring back someone from the original group for Clementine to deal with. While already one of the darkest video games of all time, Season 2 is shaping up to make the original season look like "the good old days."

    The new villain, Carver, is a character I find quite appealing and I'm glad Telltale decided to create a "Governor-like" figure for Season 2. I felt the absence of any survivors in the "micro-nation" of Crawford was a missed opportunity. The fact Carver seems more intelligent, capable, and better suited to surviving the apocalypse than the current band Clementine is traveling with makes the developing storyline all the more intriguing to me.

    I also approve of the morality subtext to this episode. Whether or not one is religious, it's interesting to have a holiday traditionally associated with family and togetherness be a night when you might endeavor to conceal something horrible from an innocent man for your own protection. Given the way the Walking Dead video games have shown "the best intentions" to go horribly arry, it was really a struggle for me to decide what was the right thing to do.

    I was pleased by the tie-ins to 400 Days, too.

Carver and Clementine's talk is pure genius.
     Of all the new survivors, I think I'm the most fond of Nick. My Clementine and he bonded over the tragedy of the previous game and their conversation after said event was really touching. The later events flow from what happened to his uncle Pete and watching him come to terms with them as well as his later mistakes really moved me. By comparison, I can't say I've bonded with any of the other characters.

    Unfortunately, the new group of survivors isn't quite as awesome as the "original recipe" group. I instantly bonded with all of them and think of them as some of my favorite characters in video games. The only duds for me were Crista and Omid. None of the new characters here are bad, per se, but I can't say I care whether they live or die. The one I like the most is Nick and events make me wonder if he'll have much of a role at all in future episodes. Sadly, the character I'm most interested in the fate of is the Season 1 survivor.


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