I tried to teach Clementine well in Season One, but I had no idea I had taught her that well. The Walking Dead‘s second season does not have much from the first to go on. Without being too specific for anyone who might happen to be reading this before finishing the first season, there are not a lot of people still standing at the end.
Season Two begins with a flashback reminiscent of prior episodes, going over some of the major choices and events of Season One without spending much time lingering on any specific moment. So far, so familiar. This time around instead of protecting and mentoring little Clementine, you are directly controlling her. As one might expect from this particular franchise, it does not take long for things to get unfortunate, leaving Clem at least temporarily on her own.
While the game plays up the suspense of a lone girl wandering the forest, it is not until something seemingly benign proves dangerous that the tension really hits, making it exactly clear how dangerous life in the zombie apocalypse has become. It is a great introduction to such for those who might be new to the idea (in case there’s someone who hasn’t seen a zombie apocalypse yet) but was also eye-opening for me as a veteran of the genre and series.
It is when Clementine encounters people again that the episode hits both its highest and lowest points.
On the positive side, Clementine gets to really show how much she has grown after watching Lee time and again. The group she finds is largely unimpressed by her age when it comes to sincerity, actually considering how young she is more suspicious than reassuring. Despite such, she still manages to show both her age and the baggage she carries from the events of the first game through her dialogue.
It would be a little distracting how most of the people she meets talk to her as if she were an adult if she was not clearly so capable. Put into a tough situation, Clementine actually manages to accomplish two absurdly difficult tasks. The first I would not have attempted in the same situation, the second I do not believe I could have done at all. She even has a pulse-pounding moment where she has to fight off a walker all alone and unarmed. It is the single moment most reminiscent of the first game, and an obvious reference to the times she watched Lee improvise with what he had available to protect them both.
It is also awesome seeing the comparison between Clementine and an older girl who has clearly been sheltered from the worst of the horrors of the world. Clementine’s almost confused reactions to her naivete and childishness are both believable and refreshing.
Unfortunately, for all that Clementine herself is amazing, the other characters fall a bit flat. Not because they are uninteresting, because they clearly have character. Most of them are given at least some semblance of complexity, and some of them a lot of it very quickly. It is even implied that one of the characters even suffers a mental illness in conversation both with them and with her father, and it seems to be something Telltale is taking seriously so far.
The problem is partially the unknown.
These characters are unknown. Their history is unknown, though hinted several times at being dangerous. There are conflicts within the group that are obvious, but not fully understood yet. There is plenty of room for drama, especially considering that so far as I can tell after two play-throughs using different save files and choices there are at least two characters in the group who think Clementine is trouble.
The real problem, however, is that much of it feels like a checklist of a dysfunctional group. We’ve got the nice guy, the older stern mentor, the bitch, the father looking after his daughter and no one else. There is even an overheard, secret, admission of infidelity from someone we had not even heard for certain was in a relationship to cheat on.
Part of what made the characters in the first game from Telltale so easy to relate to was how real they all felt. Their motivations were all believable and they were all generally good people trying to survive in a bad world. This new group lacks that feeling, seeming more like a list of things that can go wrong.
These are definitely issues that can be resolved in future episodes, but after the first episode of Season One, I was actually invested in a few of the characters. Here, in Season Two, I am only really concerned about Clem. Here’s hoping Telltale skips the easy way out and fleshes the characters out with more than the obvious drama this group is almost certain to have.
Episode one also felt a bit shorter than I expected, but not by a huge amount. Overall it delivers a good experience, if a less complete one than we got from the first episode of Season One.
I look forward to the next episode eagerly.
The Walking Dead Season Two, Episode One: Clem Is One Tough Kid
The first episode of Telltale's second season of The Walking Dead brings back everything... but the feels have not quite hit yet.What Our Ratings Mean