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The Walking Dead - Season 2 Episode 5: No Going Back

By Bobfish16-10-2014
Bis18marck70 (editor)
BloodyFanGirl (editor)
The Walking Dead - Season 2 Episode 5: No Going Back

The Defence

Telltale Games
Telltale Games
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.3 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce GTX 460
AMD equivalent
4 GB
2 GB

The Case

The time has come, ladies and gentlemen. One of the finest examples of video game storytelling has reached its climax. An eleven year old girl, dropped into a literal apocalypse and looked to as some kind of messiah...if you were expecting everything to be all hearts and flowers and bunnies and chocolate cake, you obviously know nothing about The Walking Dead. So, shall we begin? Hold on to your butts.

The Trial

As with Telltale’s other series The Wolf Among Us, talking about anything more than the peripheral aspects of this chapter will contain massive spoilers. Truth be said, it would be even more so than with Wolf, as the previous episode, Amid the Ruins, ended with a tense showdown between Clementine, her friends and some up-to-no good Russians. Back then, we were left with only one certainty: Clementine will survive, - it’s ‘her’ game after all - but everyone else? Even mentioning names would give something away. So, because I am incredibly literarily skilled - make that pretentious - I’m going to do things a little differently for this review. This review will take place in two parts. The first page, as you are reading now (duh) will cover the basics, whilst a massive spoiler alert is raging on page two. So, for those who want only the bare bones facts, just skip the second page all together. You will find everything you need right here, on page one. You have been warned.

If you can't walk you crawl.

If you can't walk you crawl.

Episode 5, obviously, picks up immediately where the prior left off. A recap of key moments which lead up to this point give way to a title screen with an intense cacophony of gunfire and unintelligible voices. Gunfights are actually, especially when those involved are not professionals, a really messy affair. Shocking, I know.

Anyway, Clementine hits the ground, hard. As her wits return to her, she groggily casts her gaze around, assessing who is still alive after all of the craziness. Momentarily we find ourselves faced with the first decision of the game. Choosing between Rebecca’s baby, now laying at her feet wailing, and s...WHO FUCKING CARES? GET THE BABY! Seriously, it’s a baby dude, a baby. Grab the wee one and get out of there!

The intro is handled incredibly well. It has very little true action, but does have a palpable sense of tension as the survivors of the initial fracas face off against each other and desperately search for an opening to exploit. The tone is set for the entire episode whilst simultaneously perfectly encapsulating the entire series of events up until this point. There is nothing here to take comfort in, no solace to be found; there is only a grim, ugly determination to keep going, no matter the cost and, well, shoot every mother-fucker in the face if they even think about getting in your way.

There can be no shadows without light.

There can be no shadows without light.

Functionally, there is little that needs saying beyond the usual. It looks like The Walking Dead, sounds like The Walking Dead and plays like The Walking Dead. There are some new areas, mostly snowy, and an absolutely gorgeous mist effect at the opening of the third act, but little that is really new. This is by no means a bad thing. Whether you are a fan of cel shading or not, it is difficult to deny that the games are beautifully detailed.

As the prevalence of the baby in the opening moments suggests, this episode focuses very much around hope - hope for the future, the price of parenting and the sacrifices we make for our children. In a very real sense, Clementine ceases to be a child here. As much as she has already shown that she thinks, acts and, for all intents and purposes, is a fully developed adult in everything but age, we now see the culmination of all of her earlier hardships. Where the four episodes before showed her growing from the timid, inexperienced little girl she was, this final chapter shows a woman that, strong and resolute, has gone through hell and back again.

Those decisions in previous episodes, lamented by so many as lacking any significant impact on the narrative, suddenly take on a new light here. They were never about the story to begin with. The decisions we made relating to everything all the way from sharing food with the wild dog, right up to whether or not to shoot Rebecca, carefully, painstakingly constructed to bring us to where we are now with a true sense of agency in something far more powerful, far more poignant than the trivialities of changing the world. We are made to realise that we have crafted Clementine in our own image.

To cry is to show you have the strength to admit you are weak.

To cry is to show you have the strength to admit you are weak.

This episode will leave you an emotional wreck. In fact, the reason this review comes so much later than my completion of the game, which was within two hours of it being made available on Steam, was because it took so long to digest and process exactly what it was I had experienced. All bravado aside, I am not a man who is prone to tearing up just because something dramatic happens in a work of fiction. But tearing up does happen, of course it does. I did cry like a baby at ET...though I was five at the time. I wept for six hours straight after watching Clannad After Story, which was much more recent, a couple of years ago at most. But after playing this? I was left numb. I knew I was feeling something, but I simply lacked the capacity to put it into words, to even form it into abstract impressions. As well as a great many other people, even now, I struggle to fully explain how deeply affected I was. There are conversations on YouTube, hundreds and even thousands of comments long, with intense back and forth arguing over what really happened. People strike out with such passion about these fictional people, emotionally invested and in rabid defence of decisions made and actions taken as though speaking of their own flesh and blood. There is simply so much that went on here, so many choices, that it is impossible not to find yourself so thoroughly embroiled as to be indistinguishable from the real world. With more, throughout the episode, that add yet more texture, nuance, and genuine gravity to the world you will, for two too short hours, be a part of.

The final moments task you with the traumatic choice of...well, you’ll discover yourself. In any way, it’s a powerful, potentially tragic moment that can even turn into a final ‘fuck you’ to all hope and humanity.

Throw in Telltale’s telltale writing style - I really had to say it like that - and the utterly outstanding voice work we have come to know and expect and you have yourself yet another work to add to your list of all-time favourites. The complexity of the character’s, the infinite subtlety of the character’s, whose motivations are never anything more than vague at best, all come together seamlessly.

Comfort often comes when we least expect it.

Comfort often comes when we least expect it.

There is a lot there, if you really pay attention, to add context, but only if you really, really look. And only if you have at least a passing familiarity with Human psychology. This brings with it the downside that there will be some of the pseudo-intellectual keyboard jockeys out there insisting that their interpretations are correct, and that we’re all retards for not agreeing with them. But the truth is, everything has been left grey deliberately so that we don’t know and we can only posit and hypothesis. There are no good and bad people, no good and bad decisions, not even good and bad intentions. There are merely actions and consequences. Who is right and who is wrong is irrelevant. Everyone, even that lunatic Carver, is just trying to do what they think is best, all in the name of survival. When it comes down to it, what we see throughout the entire ten hours of this season is people. Not good people, not bad people, just people. They do good things, they do bad things, they do stupid things. All of them. Every one of them is as guilty and as innocent as everyone else.

What comes next is, as warned, the spoilery bit. For those who are okay with that, please proceed to page 2. Everyone else, the verdict is down there. And, spoiler alert, it’s all favourable.

Case Review

  • Atmosphere: The use of snow, slowly flurrying into a storm, serves as a beautifully apt analogy for the following chain of events.
  • Characters: In a world full of assholes, who’s the biggest asshole? The asshole who wants to kill everyone trying to hurt you, or the asshole who wants to save you?
  • Narrative: Touching on themes most games wouldn’t dare to approach, even the Grecian myths will stand up and take notice.
  • Moral Ambiguity: Everything is a murky, glorious shade of grey.
  • Take The Kids!: I have never, in my life, been so emotionally invested in a character in any medium. Even my own writing.
  • Visuals: I love cel shading, what can I say? But even if you don’t, the game is still gorgeously detailed.
  • Length: The usual complaint. About an hour and forty-five minutes this time around.
  • Decisions: None of them are satisfying. None of them! But...kind of in a good way.
Score: 5/5
So overwhelming I only started crying an entire week later
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