Fear the Walking Dead

Fear the Walking Dead came to an end on Sunday and quite frankly I’ve never seen a show destroy it’s own premise quite so quickly. It’s clear that this spinoff of The Walking Dead isn’t an attempt to do anything creative or fun with the Walking Dead series. Rather, it’s an attempt to make a carbon copy of the original and hope that it makes just as much money while at the same time using cheaper actors and effects. It’s the Law and Order: SVU or CSI: Miami of The Walking Dead franchise.

I’ve reviewed the first season below and [spoiler alert]: I won’t be tuning in for Zombies on a Boat next season.

Fear the Walking Dead:

A Storytelling Review

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I was genuinely excited for Fear the Walking Dead specifically because I’ve always thought the collapse of human society is the most interesting part of zombie apocalypse stories. What I was hoping for was a prolonged look at how society tried to deal with the zombie crisis before succumbing to utter anarchy. Instead what I got was…well I don’t know actually, but it sure wasn’t what I was hoping for.

The first episode was awful. It wasted ninety minutes setting up a lot of pointless relationship problems that even a soap opera would have cut from its script, the characters were bland and uninteresting, and it schizophrenically jumped from boring family drama to zombie horror with no regard for pacing. And yet… I loved it. 

Because at least it was trying to do something new and interesting with the setting. It wasn’t succeeding at it, but I appreciated the effort, and the first episode did have some redeeming moments. One of the best scenes was when the characters come to the traffic jam at the freeway off-ramp. You can’t see anything and until the gunshots ring out, you can’t even hear anything. Yet there was this palpable sense of dread, because they didn’t know what was happening, and there’s nothing we fear more than the unknown.

It did such a great job capturing that creeping uneasiness that the hairs the back of my neck were standing straight up, and I knew it was a zombie causing the ruckus. Thanks to that scene, for a few precious moments I thought that Fear the Walking Dead could turn into something truly great.

Then I saw the second episode.

And *poof*, just like that, it was gone.
And *poof*, just like that, it was gone.

To be fair, the second episode added several plot elements that I thought had the potential to really make this show great. There was a mysterious Spanish Flu-like illness sweeping across the city, and possibly the world, which would explain how so many people became zombies so quickly. Civil unrest was mounting as people interpreted police attempts to contain the outbreak as police brutality, and given the police’s record with reckless shooting I thought this was perfectly realistic response. And finally zombie footage was beginning to flood social media, probably completely drowning out any official responses from government agencies, and spurring massive panic mongering and conspiracy theories. It was a perfect stage for creating the panic, death toll and chaos that could lead to a zombie apocalypse.

This should have been the foundation for the entire season and the show should have spent the next four episodes exploring those elements, slowly building up to the zombie apocalypse. Something like a man dies of the flu in his home, comes back as a zombie, bites his family and turns them, they attack the neighbors, and soon half the neighborhood is zombies. The government and media begin disseminating information on the undead plague, while social media sabotages their efforts by claiming it’s a government conspiracy. This sparks riots and protests, the huge crowds making the flu spread faster and zombies infiltrating the crowds causing mass panic. You know, a logical progression of events.

Except we didn’t get a logical progression of events, we got the main character sitting in a barber’s shop while everything interesting about this show occurred outside and off-camera. When they emerge from the barber’s shop, society has collapsed and it’s basically game-over as far as civilization is concerned. For the record, nearly four million people live in Los Angeles (that’s a lot of people to turn into zombies all at once) and its had its fair share of violent riots. One riot should not have brought the entire city to its knees.

For any other city this is a major disaster. For L.A., it's Tuesday.
For any other city this is a major disaster. For L.A., it’s Tuesday.

Watching the slow decay of society as it struggles to deal with the zombie apocalypse was the entire point of the show. Here’s the official synopsis for the show:

What did the world look like as it was transforming into the horrifying apocalypse depicted in “The Walking Dead”? This spin-off set in Los Angeles, following new characters as they face the beginning of the end of the world, will answer that question.

Except you didn’t answer that question, AMC, you skipped over the entire premise of your show so you could make it into a carbon copy of The Walking Dead. Everything interesting about your show was happening while your main character was stuck in a barber shop, and he didn’t even get a nice haircut to show for it. The plot was literally the only thing keeping this show together and you utterly ruined it before the first commercial break in your second episode.  The only way to make the show interesting at this point was for interesting characters to carry the narrative. And that sure as hell wasn’t going to happen.

Not only are the characters completely boring, but worse yet, every single one of them acts like they’re in a zombie movie. And by that I mean they act on information that they shouldn’t rightly know yet. When Madison finds her daughter taking care of her sick boyfriend, she sees he’s bitten and immediately tells her daughter to get away. Now hold up, how do you know that the disease is transmitted by bite, Madison?

Did this guy tell you how his disease is transmitted?
Did this guy tell you how his disease is transmitted?

Yes, she saw the drug dealer earlier in the first episode as a zombie, but she didn’t even fully understand what he was let alone how the disease was transmitted.

Later in the show there are several instances where characters immediately aim for the zombie’s head. Now obviously we all know, as the audience, that you aim for a zombie’s head, but how the hell do the characters know this? Do zombie stories exist in the Walking Dead universe, were all the characters playing Left 4 Dead before zombies suddenly became real?

These are important details because without them, the characters lack that sense of horror and confusion that is pretty much the entire mythos surrounding zombies, and suddenly the main threat of the series is just a minor annoyance. Which is why they felt the need to introduce a new threat to the characters, and gave us a version of the U.S. Army if it were run by Cobra Commander.

Now I’m not a jingoistic patriot who refuses to see the U.S. Army as anything but a force of heroic freedom fighters, especially given their recent bombing of a fucking hospital, but even a cynic like me was a little insulted at just how evil the soldiers were. They stopped just short of using puppies for target practice.

Also, why in the hell are you using an anti-materiel rifle for killing zombies? Overkill much?
Also, why in the hell are you using an anti-materiel rifle for killing zombies? Overkill much?

At one point one of the kids sees a light in a far off house, blinking in a pattern and probably a call for help. The kid tells Travis, Travis tells the commander, and at the end of the day Travis sees gunshots going off inside the house. The implication being the soldiers killed whoever was inside.

Why? What possible advantage would that grant the soldiers? This isn’t a foreign war zone. This is their home. If anything the army would be conscripting every person who could hold a rifle in order to combat the endless legions of the dead, not killing people out of pure spite. If Fear the Walking Dead wanted to portray the army as the bad guys, that’s the route they should have gone, coercing people into serving and using other civilians as slave labor. In a cataclysmic emergency like this, I could see the army resorting to such tactics. But just slaughtering people for kicks? Not so much.

The army’s prison system was equally baffling. Just a bunch of people sitting in cages for no apparent reason. Now I get that this was some kind of quarantine facility, but what kind of moron sets up a quarantine in the same building they’re using as a headquarters? If the illness turned out to be airborne, the entire garrison could have been infected. It would have made much more sense to confine symptomatic people to their homes, far away from where they could infect your soldiers.

Also, what's up with this show and chain link fences?
Also, what’s up with this show and chain link fences?

Inside this baffling labyrinth of chain link and bad lighting, we meet a smooth talking con artist who’s so god damn suave he should have his own theme music. And that music would be Smooth Jazz. When a guard arbitrarily decides the drug addict is really just a zombie who hasn’t hit zombie puberty yet, Smooth Jazz barters with him to keep the kid. Now first of all, why is the guard even interested in his watch and fancy cuff-links? There’s no pawn shops, no jewelers, there’s not even any currency anymore. The world just fucking ended, what is he going to use them for?

But let’s assume that the guard is just a greedy moron, okay fine. Why doesn’t he just take them? The suave con-man is a prisoner and the world is ending, who exactly would he complain to? Is this the only soldier in this army of evil that has a conscience?

Finally, and the worst part of this scene, is why does Smooth Jazz even bother with the drug addict? Nick is clearly the most messed up dude in the entire series, but Smooth Jazz says Nick has skills he can use. What skills? What possible use is he? Apparently none because he contributes exactly nothing to their eventual escape at the end of the finale.

Which is weird since everyone else had no problem turning into zombie killing badasses.
Which is weird since everyone else had no problem turning into zombie killing badasses.

After the group is reunited, they make their way to the medical ward where the doctor tells them about a magical, reality-bending exit that leads to the parking garage they entered from. Then the group leaves the doctor behind. A fucking doctor. One of the most important people you could possibly have with you in a post-apocalyptic environment. Even without access to medications or proper tools, she’d know how to set broken bones, how to diagnose illnesses, and even perform surgery. She’s worth her weight in gold! No, even more valuable than that, because now gold is just useless chunks of heavy metal.

And they leave her. They don’t even attempt to reason with her. Okay, maybe they don’t have time to reason with her, fine. The woman couldn’t weigh more than 150 pounds, everyone grab a limb and let’s carry her out. We can sort out her emotional issues later.

And those emotional issues could have been resolved in thirty seconds, because that’s about how long it takes for everyone else to deal with their emotions. When Travis finds out his ex-wife has been bitten, he spends about twenty seconds trying to convince her to live, and then spatters her brains like it ain’t no thang. Seems like the woman could have taken a few seconds to say goodbye to her son, it wasn’t like she was going to turn right then and there, but whatever. At this point I no longer cared.

I’m glad this series was only six episodes now, because at least it didn’t waste too much of my time. It destroyed everything interesting about itself, and then ended. Good, at least now I know I won’t have to tune in for the premier of Zombies on a Boat.

And a terribly CGI'd boat at that.
And a terribly CGI’d boat at that.

If you thought the farm from season 2 of Walking Dead was boring, just wait until the most boring group in the world is stuck on a boat surrounded by endless water for an entire season…

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Tell me Another Story of The Walking Dead (Season 2 Review)

I’ll admit I was a bit wary of playing Telltale’s The Walking Dead season 2 for the same reason I was wary of The Dark Knight Rises, I was afraid that the second season wouldn’t be able to live up to the original. I’m happy to report that my fears were proven wrong and that not only does The Walking Dead: Season 2 live up to the original game, but in many ways it’s superior to the original. It manages to correct the few mistakes from the last game, and tells a story even more riveting than Lee’s… the story of Clementine.

Obviously this review is going to contain spoilers so, you know, don’t read it if you haven’t played it. Which you totally should.

The Walking Dead: Season 2

A Storyteller’s Review

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When last we left Clementine, she’d just finished blowing Lee’s brains all over the wall in one of the most emotional finales I’ve ever encountered in a video game. Season 2 begins with Clementine tagging along with Omid and Christa as they make their way north. Who are Omid and Christa? If you, like me, hadn’t played the first season of Walking Dead in a while you probably won’t remember these two. They were introduced late in Episode 4 and thus didn’t get as much screen time as the more memorable characters. Don’t worry though, they’ll be dead before you really have to worry about remembering them. Also like me, if you’re missing your savegame from Season 1, not importing a save doesn’t have any significant impact on the story as far as I can tell, so feel free to dive right in.

It’s been about a year and a half since the events of Episode 5 of Season 1, and Clementine is now bigger, more mature and, let’s face it, a bit more disturbed. After Omid is killed by some stupid teenager looking for an easy score, Christa blames Clementine for his death. Though personally I would be blaming the two adults who thought it was a good idea to leave a 9-year-old alone in a zombie infested wasteland. Anyway after one the most intense chase scenes I’ve ever played through, Clementine falls into a river and is swept away by the current, leaving behind a horde of walkers and the thugs that tried to kill her.

And leaving one of the thugs minus a thumb, because you don't fuck with my Clementine.
And leaving one of the thugs minus a thumb, because you don’t fuck with my Clementine.

This is where the story really begins, with everything before providing the inciting incident; Clementine finds herself alone, unarmed and with no supplies in the middle of a forest with winter fast approaching. Fortunately Clementine finds herself a new friend:

Man's best friend.
Man’s best friend.

Together Clementine and her new Canine companion go on many magical adventures; playing fetch, scavenging for supplies, and sharing a meal. Oh the good times I imagined me and my new friend would have together. Just me and my faithful dog against the scary, zombie-infested world. Soon we’d…we’d…

Clementine attacked by Dog
Dude, what the fuck!? I thought we were bros!

This scene shocked me on so many levels. When I was taking Creative Writing at the local college, my teacher told me a very specific fact about dogs and stories, a fact that I’ve never questioned.

You can have your protagonist kill men, women, even children and still have your audience rooting for your character. But the minute your character kills a dog, say goodbye to your readers.

I’ve always found this to be true, and apparently so do many other writers, because you never see a hero killing a dog. If you see a dog die in a story, it’s almost always a result of either the villain’s actions or environmental factors. This is mostly because dogs are often always the heroes in stories, even the powerful Dire Wolves of the Song of Ice and Fire series are seen as heroic companions rather than the apex predators they are. That’s not surprising considering that canines have been our loyal companions for thousands of years. This scene with Clementine though, is probably the most realistic depiction of dogs I’ve seen in a video game.

In the right conditions any one of us would turn into a heartless, cold blooded killer. We’re all predators, but because we live in comfort with readily available sources of food, safety from the elements and disease, we’ve suppressed the instincts that have made us such efficient killers. Dogs are no different, in a loving environment with food, warmth and safety, dogs are one of the most loyal and dedicated friends you could ever ask for. Throw a dog into the cold, deprive it of food, put it in constant danger and isolate it from people, and they will quickly revert to their most basic instincts: that of the wolf.  That’s what happened to this dog. To its credit it was friendly for most of the time, but once Clementine found that food, the dog’s overwhelming instinct for survival took over.

It’s a credit to the people at Telltale that they so brilliantly lured you in with the dog’s pleasant demeanor, we trust dogs almost implicitly and they used that trust to shock us with this powerful scene. When a story needs to reinforce the stakes of a story, reiterate the harsh realities of their world, most of them will kill off a human character. That’s a fine way to do it, but Telltale’s decision to use this dog instead was simply…brilliant. We love dogs, and to see what many of us consider to be our closest friends, reduced to a wild animal willing to kill a little girl over a can of beans, that reinforced the stakes of the story in a way that shocked our sensibilities. It told us that the world we live in was truly gone. That dog dragged Clementine to the ground and dragged us into harsh, unforgiving reality of her story.

Dog dying after attacking Clementine
I’m so sorry.

I wanted to be angry at the dog, but I couldn’t. I understood why it attacked me. I chose to kill the dog, not because I was seeking revenge, but because the dog deserved mercy. I wasn’t about to let it spend hours in agony slowly bleeding to death. With a tearful goodbye I forgave the dog and ended its suffering.

That’s just the first fifteen minutes of the first episode by the way, and it does an absolutely terrific job setting the stage for the rest of the game. In fact the dog represents a microcosm of the story itself; will you become like the dog? Will you put your survival above all else, even at the expense of other people’s lives? Or will you try to hold onto your humanity?

Obviously this isn’t the first story to explore such questions, but exploring those questions through the eyes of a 11-year-old girl makes this one of the most riveting and compelling explorations of these themes. While most stories shy away from showing children in pain, The Walking Dead takes an almost perverse pleasure in not only making you watch her suffer, but making you work with her through the worst pain she’s ever experienced.

"I'm going to make you stick pins into a little girl's arm... just to watch you squirm." - The Game
“I’m going to make you stick pins into a little girl’s arm… just to watch you squirm.” – The Game

Holy shit this sequence was crazy, absolutely crazy. The game shows you, in excruciating detail, Clementine disinfecting and stitching shut her gaping wound by herself. The dickheads she meets up with are convinced the arm wound in a zombie bite, so the stupid bunch of cowards go and lock her in a storage closet to see if she turns. I was ready to see all of these idiots die horribly because they pissed me off. Who leaves a little girl to die in a utility shed? Really guys? What the fuck is wrong with you?

Once again though, Telltale never makes things simple for you, and as you get to know this new group of survivors, you’ll not only understand their decision but will in all probability forgive them for leaving you to die in a drafty old shed. And yes, once again, it’s these characters that make this game so incredible.

All of the problems I had with the previous Walking Dead season have been completely eradicated in this one. There are no more forgettable characters like Omid and Christa, each and every character you meet in this game will stick in your memory. Even the ones that die only moments after you meet them.

Sometimes especially the ones that die after you meet them...
Especially the ones that die after you meet them…

My biggest gripe from the first season came in the form of the Walkie-Talkie-Baddie, the strange villain that came out of nowhere and served no purpose than to give you an overwrought overview of your actions over the course of the game. This time there is no impossible to explain villain and no contrived kidnappings; it’s just you, your company of survivors, and the hard decisions you have to make in order to survive. Also, unlike the ending of the first season which railroaded you towards the ending, you get some time to rest and appreciate the characters you’re travelling with.

This scene around the campfire is yet another great example of juxtaposition, I was smiling and laughing right alongside my companions, especially when Luke began talking about his sexual escapades with Jane.

I just wanted to forget about everything for ten minutes. – Luke

Ten minutes? Hell I wouldn’t last that long at this point. – Mike

Well, okay, maybe not ten minutes. – Luke

That’s gross. – Clementine

It’s a puerile sex joke, and in any other context wouldn’t be that funny, but after the stress of surviving zombies, crazy Russians, and a mentally unravelling Kenny, it was the funniest thing I’d heard all day. For a few moments, while huddling around the fire and listening to people laughing, I thought maybe this group would be okay. That maybe we’d all survive. Maybe everything would be alright.

Of course then we tried to cross the river and everything went to hell.
Of course then we tried to cross the river and everything went to hell.

Luke falling through the ice and drowning proves to the final straw for this group of survivors. Kenny, who has been becoming increasingly unhinged since the death of Sarita, is ready to kill Arvo and leave the rest of the group behind if necessary. Alvin Jr. (AJ), the newborn of Rebecca, has become an obsession with Kenny. His entire reason for living becomes wrapped up in the survival of the child and he begins seeing anyone who doesn’t agree with him as a threat to the kid’s survival. Mike, Bonnie and Arvo are completely terrified of Kenny, and I can’t say I blamed them. What I can blame them for is shooting Clementine before running off into the forest. Though perhaps she should thank them, because after being shot, Clementine wakes up in the arms of a familiar friend.

2014-08-26_00011It was good to see Lee again, I didn’t realize how much I’d missed his character until this scene. Clementine’s mind, reeling from the shock of a bullet tearing through her shoulder, retreats to the last moment when Clementine felt safe. This scene gives us not only a much needed break from the constant stress of survival, but a valuable glimpse into Clementine’s subconscious. As much as she’s grown, as much as she’s proven that she can care for herself, inside she’s still a little girl. Inside she wants what we all want, to feel safe and loved. It’s a nice scene that reminds us that, even though Clementine has killed more than her share of Walkers, and even a few human beings, she’s still a child. A child who just wants someone to tell her it will be alright.

Clementine's flashback to Lee
It will be alright.

When Clementine regains consciousness she finds herself in the truck that Kenny managed to get started, with Kenny and Jane arguing over their next course of action. Kenny wants to continue searching for Wellington, an almost mythical sanctuary at this point that might be more rumor than fact, while Jane wants to head back south to Carver’s old base where they know supplies are being kept. It’s clear a choice has to be made, Kenny and Jane are both too stubborn and shortsighted to put aside their differences, leaving Clementine to make the decision.

After getting separated in a Blizzard they regroup at a rest stop, but when Jane arrives without AJ Kenny finally loses his tenuous grip on reality and goes completely crazy. Like any good narrative, this scene hearkens back to the scene with our dog friend. I trusted Kenny, he’d been a good friend, but a person can only take so much before he’s irrevocably broken. Sarita’s death was Kenny’s breaking point. I tried to reach him, to pull him back from the edge. Like the dog who attacked Clementine though, Kenny was beyond reasoning when he attacked Jane. Finally… he left me choice.

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To my surprise, the bullet lodged in Kenny’s hip seemed to make him a bit more lucid, and he forgave me for shooting him. The man who only a few minutes ago was prepared to stick a knife in a girl’s heart…finally seemed at peace.

I’ve asked for this for so long… and now that it’s here… I’m scared. – Kenny

You’re going to see Duck and Katjaa… – Clementine

You always were good for a smile… – Kenny’s last words.

Kenny dies after being shot by Clementine
Goodbye my old friend…

Saying goodbye to Kenny was just as emotional as saying goodbye to Lee in the previous episode, and this time it wasn’t tainted by an inexplicable villain. The finale of episode 5 ranks as one of the finest endings in any video game ever, and Telltale once again shows us what a powerful storytelling device video games can be. The Walking Dead may not always be good for a smile, but it’s always good for an incredible journey. And it’s a journey I urge you to undertake because it’s one of the finest, most emotional journeys you’ll ever take inside a video game. It may be filled with tragedy, loss and darkness…

But that just makes the moments of hope all the brighter.
But that just makes the moments of hope all the brighter.

 

Tell me a Tale of the Walking Dead

So I’ve given you a comparison of the key differences between The Walking Dead Telltale Adventure game and The Walking Dead AMC TV Series. Now it’s time to take the game and examine it under the fine microscope of objectivity. Okay not really, no one can really objectively examine something as subjective as an entertainment and artistic medium, but let’s just look at the game on its own merits. Let’s pretend there is no comic series or TV show and see how the Walking Dead works as its own story. Like the zombies in the game, it’s time to tear our way into the juicy, wriggling guts of The Walking Dead’s body and feast upon its delicious storytelling elements.

Telltale’s The Walking Dead:

A Storyteller’s Review

Like most good stories, the characters are what really hold this game together and makes it such a compelling drama. Lee, Clementine, Kenny and his family, Carley, Lily; they all have their own personalities and history. They’re all incredibly well rounded, and just when you think you can put them into a specific character trope, they do something to surprise you. The characters feel real because they act real, their actions speak louder than their words.

And shotguns speak louder than actions.
And shotguns speak louder than actions.

Take Lee for instance, when we meet him he’s on his way to jail for an unknown crime and we barely get a chance to figure out who this person is before they go crashing into a zombie. Now here’s where the character’s reactions become key to my sympathizing with him; when Lee has to take the keys to his handcuffs off the now half-eaten sheriff, he is completely freaked out. In most zombie games and movies, it takes the main character a grand total of one minute to freak out before turning into a zombie-killing machine. Even in Exit Humanity, which I really enjoyed, the protagonist goes from mourning widower to an unstoppable harbinger of zombie-doom in a rather short amount of time. Lee getting panicky and short of breath while trying to take the keys off a dead man is exactly how I would react in that situation, okay maybe in my case there would be more crying and wet pants, but the fact that I can relate with Lee’s reaction makes me care about his character a lot more than someone who kills zombies for relaxation. Of course the real star of the game is Clementine, and her actions are ultimately what make us love her.

Her dialogue suggests that she’s much like any other girl her age; a bit shy around strangers, loves her parents, and doesn’t like it when people are fighting with each other. Yet it’s through her actions that she reveals her true character; an incredibly brave, resourceful and downright cunning girl that has more survival instincts than most of the group. When you first meet Clementine you don’t end up saving her from her zombified babysitter, she saves you.

I have never been so happy to see a hammer!
I have never been so happy to see a hammer!

Yeah, without that hammer Lee would be zombie food. Now look at Clementine, she’s clearly still afraid but she also sees someone else in danger and does her best to try and save him. Someone she doesn’t even know, she risks her life for some guy that just wandered into her house. We can add selfless to her list of character traits. Her actions throughout the game continue to demonstrate her abilities and her character. Whether through her sneaking through an air vent to unlock a door, saving a woman’s life by shooting a zombie right through the head, or simply finding an effective hiding place when shit hits the fan, every action reveals and reinforces facets of her personality.

Which isn’t to say that her dialogue doesn’t have a profound effect on our relationship with her. She speaks like a child, there’s no Cosby-kid dialogue here, and yet she never annoys us with her dialogue. I have got to take my hat off to the writers, because keeping her dialogue authentic while managing to keep her bearable (let’s face it, little kids are usually annoying) was an incredible balancing act they managed to pull off flawlessly. One of my favorite parts is when Lee joins Clementine in a barn where a pregnant cow is about to give birth.

If you didn’t laugh, or at least crack a smile at that, then I’m sorry but something has sucked all the joy out of your body and you have my sympathy. It’s a sweet, hilarious reminder that even amidst the carnage and destruction of a zombie apocalypse, kids will be kids. Clementine will still do stupid stuff because hell, that’s what kids are supposed to do! I fell in love with Clementine’s character, and that’s why I shared such a bond with Lee’s character, because we were both prepared to do anything to protect her.

When Lily went on a paranoid witchhunt to find a traitor in the group, shooting Carley through the head without any evidence or even a proper questioning performed, I ditched that woman on the road. She was a danger to the group, and more importantly, a danger to Clementine. Later when the group is trapped at the top of a bell tower by a horde of zombies and one of the group is dangling from the staircase, I chose to let him go, because the delay needed to rescue him was too great a risk. And when Lee gets bitten by a zombie, I chose for him to chop his own arm off to try and stem the infection, because damn it, Clementine needs us! That’s what made this game such an incredible experience, the attachment with Clementine was a powerful one.

Of course The Walking Dead, as incredible as it is, still has its problems. Episode 4 and 5 I felt suffered from a few problems that did detract from the overall greatness of the game. For episodes 1-3 I felt like all the situations were authentic, natural extensions of the story and the experiences of the group. Finding shelter at the motel, trying to find food at the farm, moving the camp and hopping on a train were all scenarios that were believable in the context of the story. Unfortunately at the end of episode 3 it’s revealed that someone has been secretly talking to Clementine through her walkie-talkie, and see this just brings up uncomfortable questions. How did he get the frequency? Where did he get his walkie? Why the hell is he following the group around? Better yet, how? Our group has been chased by several large herds at this point, how is this guy not zombie food already?

I’ll go into the suspension of disbelief in a different post, but here’s the gist of it; this works like a magic trick, to get us to suspend our disbelief, all you have to do is give us something else to look at and not call our attention to logical inconsistencies. The great characters and story are what made it so easy to suspend my disbelief, but having this sudden walkie-talkie villain appear calls my attention to the absolutely absurdity of his existence. It’s like watching a great action scene in a movie, only to have a scientist cut into the shot midway through and explain why every happening on screen could never occur in real life. His original appearance was bad enough, but when we see his parked car outside a hotel in zombie-infested Savannah we’re forced to question everything. How did he keep up with a moving train that’s being trailed by a horde of zombies? Why didn’t the zombies swarm the car when it arrived? How did he get from the car into the building without being eaten?

I’m willing to let a lot of ridiculous stuff slide for the sake of a good story, but the Walkie villain was just dangled in front of me and begged me to try and explain his existence. Still, in the grand scheme of things, this sudden appearance doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the game. It’s more of a mild hiccup, and the fourth and fifth episodes are filled with great moments and touching scenes.

Including running into a small boy and his dog. I'm not gonna cry, I'm not gonna cry!
Including running into a small boy and his dog. I’m not gonna cry, I’m not gonna cry!

In the end only one thing matters: Clementine, and her story concludes in a way that will reach into your tear ducts and rip the tears from your eyes. After escaping our inexplicable villain, Lee, now succumbing to the zombie bite’s infection is dragged into a jewelry store by Clementine. The main door is now jammed and the only way out is through a locked door, but Lee is out of time. He knows he could turn into one of the Walking Dead at any moment, he can’t help Clementine anymore. And that’s when you realize that the journey was never about Lee, it was never about saving Clementine.

It was about teaching Clementine to save herself, to give her the knowledge and wisdom to survive in a hostile new world.

With some help from Lee, who kicks her a weapon when the zombie is about ready to chew her legs open, Clementine completes her journey.

I never thought I could be so proud at a girl bashing a man's brains in.
I never thought I could be so proud watching a girl bash a man’s brains in.

Then it’s time for Clementine to do something for us; she has to let us go. Lee is on his way out and in a few minutes he’ll be a clawing, undead monstrosity just like the ones outside. Lee is chained to a radiator by his remaining hand so he can’t do it himself.

I was given a choice, I could have let Clementine walk away and leave Lee to turn into a zombie. I could have spared her the pain of shooting the man who has become her surrogate father. I couldn’t. Lee deserved better, and in the end, so did Clementine. They both needed to say goodbye, and keep Clementine’s last image of Lee from being him as a walker.

It's okay Clementine. You can let me go now.
It’s okay Clementine. You can let me go now.
Of all the gunshots I've heard in video games, this was the most powerful.
Of all the gunshots I’ve heard in video games, this was the most powerful.

Telltale’s The Walking Dead is an incredible experience and a prime example of how video games can not only craft incredible stories, but get the audience involved in those stories to an extent that no other medium can. I high recommend everyone pick this game up, because it’s a journey that you’ll never regret taking.