Friday, July 18, 2014

The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 3: In Harm's Way review

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

    In Harm’s Way is the third installment of Season Two of The Walking Dead video game franchise. I have to admit, I’m genuinely surprised as much happened in this episode as it did. I would have thought a few of the events would have been saved for the climax. Then again, Season One threw everything but the kitchen sink at players in Episode Three so I shouldn’t be surprised.

    The premise is Clementine, Kenny, Sarita, and the Cabin Survivors have all been captured by the mysterious Carver. Carver is, apparently, the father of Rebecca’s unborn child and has captured the group in order to return them to his settlement. Telltale Games chooses a hilarious location to place Carver’s erstwhile kingdom and I can think of no better place to build an empire.

    The role of Walkers is reduced in this episode and they assume a different sort of threat to the lone stalkers from previous episodes. Instead, the Walkers take on the role of a coming natural disaster like a storm or earthquake which humans may or may not be prepared to deal with. The focus, instead, is on humans and how they react when penned in together like animals. Carver claims all of his harsh draconian methods are necessary for the greater good but are they?

The threat this time is from your fellow humans and it's a much more severe one than the St. John brothers.
    It’s interesting how roleplaying was such a major concern of mine during my playthrough. Despite this episode lacking choices to support Carver, my Clementine was torn between her burgeoning loyalty to the Cabin Survivors (who had treated her like garbage until realizing she was useful) and the desire to be part of a kingdom which is seemingly safe against Walker attacks.

Like the Governor in the television series, we get a sense as to why people would want to follow Carver while also understanding why he’s not the man they think he is. He’s an extremely well-realized character and if he’s not as terrifying or memorable as the Governor then he’s at least the best villain they’ve created for this franchise.

    The addition of Kenny to the group livens up things considerably and I found the Cabin survivors much more likable this time around than in previous episodes. It’s really a shame so many defining events happen this episode because I would have liked to have seen more of the dynamic they start to show before the climax. Unfortunately, the character of Nick is marginalized given he could die in Episode Two. I fully expect him to not play much role in future episodes or die. This is a shame since I like Nick significantly more than the character of Luke.

Carver remains the best villain of he video games thus far.
    The new survivors added to the group are interesting and offer some intriguing reflections into Clementine’s own developing character. The character of June, in particular, may represent the hardened survivor Clementine may become in the future—at the cost of nearly the entirety of her humanity. Is this the Clementine that chooses not to be a part of a group? The character of Sarah, however, shows the dangers of relying too much on others as she is almost completely helpless without her adults to look after her.

     This episode is a tight mix of action, puzzle-solving, role-playing, and everything else which makes a good Telltale episode. Clementine's character developed more in this episode than any other one save, perhaps, Episode Five of Season One. That's pretty high praise and watching poor Clem try to claim her independence from a group determined to protect her (but unable to protect themselves) is a story arc which reaches its climax here.

    The explosion action-filled final part of this chapter is something I give Telltale a lot of credit for too. Just when you think the emotional beats of this episode have reached their conclusion, the Episode throws three or four more at you. If the Cabin Survivors had been as likable and interesting as they were during this chapter, tI wouldn’t have been nearly so critical of the first two chapters. In any case, I consider this to be the best of the Season Two episodes thus far and am anxiously looking forward to Episode Four.


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