The Walking Dead Season Two Episode 4: Amid The Ruins Review: 'When Will It End?', Rightfully Asks Telltale
"Oh! When will it end, this cruel, cruel war?"
"Fallen but never forsaken."
So state plaques scattered amid the ruins of the Civil War memorial where Clem's group ends up in this episode. Neither the statements nor the location is subtle, but nothing much in this second season of The Walking Dead has been. It's still compelling, still thrilling, but something is missing. Will Clem ever find it?
Spoilers to follow.
Poor Clem. Poor, poor Clem.
In this episode she realizes she has a choice. She can choose to keep trying to join up with other people, keep relying on others for safety and comfort and the tiny connection to humanity that’s left to feel- or she can strike out on her own, and rely on no one but herself. Never be let down, never experience loss.
It’s pretty explicitly stated by her new friend Jane, the short-haired rebel who helped the group escape from Carver's clutches in the last episode. She has some deep-rooted sister issues and doesn’t hesitate to constantly remind you of said issues. She’s a tough woman and loves that she sees that same spark in Clem, but Jane takes it upon herself to teach the little girl that you can’t trust anyone and the only way to survive in this world is to worry about yourself. Besides, why put yourself through the hardship of watching everyone you love die? What do you gain from that when there's no other outcome for everyone in this new world?
She may have a point, but this is the main issue with this season so far. After seeing so much death and experiencing so much loss- well, people still drop off one by one but that’s just life in the zombie apocalypse. Even the most meaningful deaths have started to become route, no matter how grisly they try to make them feel - the developer clearly adding in more brutality and gore to each finish to try and break through the desensitization you're likely feeling from having experienced so much of it. (This method is also known as "Game of Thrones style")
Kenny continues to be the most interesting character of the group, although that's likely due to you knowing much more about his history than anyone else. Clem is being taken more seriously as a senior member now; other characters frequently look to her for advice and decisions, which gets you more involved as a player but seems absolutely bizarre when you step back to think of it. Why are these grown adults asking a ten year-old for advice on anything?
The game is still incredibly well scripted and wonderfully acted, but this season has been a mere shadow of the first. It doesn’t help that this, the fourth episode of the five-episode season, is probably the strangest penultimate episode that you could get.
Usually in these Telltale seasons they set things up for a dramatic, action-packed, emotional finish. Just think about fourth episode of The Walking Dead Season 1! Poor lunkheaded Ben can be dropped to his death, Clem is kidnapped, and Lee was bitten- it’s almost more than you can wrap your head around and sets things up for a tremendous, world-shattering finale. Here things are an even slower pace than the previous episodes, as the group tries to find shelter for Rebecca and her incoming child. There’s no overreaching goal to strive for, no concern over one character’s safety, no concern save daily survival.
The episode ends on a cliffhanger, but one that feels cheap, and similar to past events. It all comes down to this - in the future Clem will either keep joining groups and watch them wither and die or grow strong and become a cold-blooded murderer. That seems to be the only two paths that she has to look forward to and we can understand her decision either way, but the Telltale needs to figure out if the game merely wants to survive as well, and what it will give up if it does so.
The fifth and last episode of The Walking Dead Season Two is on the way in the months to come, and is titled 'No Going Back'. Let's hope Clem brings us some closure before she moves on.