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Previously On: The Walking Dead - "Amid the Ruins"

After one of the best episodes in the series, "Amid the Ruins" kills a bit of this season's momentum with some odd character and plot choices.


Editor's Note: As always, this is a spoiler-heavy discussion of the events that take place in the latest episode of The Walking Dead. Still intend to play this yourself? Then don't read this yet!

The Walking Dead's success (and, really, the success of any of Telltale's choice-focused adventure games) falls upon how well it crafts the illusion that your choices have a meaningful impact on how the story progresses. This season has been a bit less successful at maintaining that illusion than the first, but by and large it's done a good job of establishing believable stakes for Clementine and her new group of survivors to reckon with, and provided enough seemingly important decisions for the player to make. "Amid the Ruins" is the first episode of this series that I felt failed to deliver on those elements. There are tangible dangers and some troubling choices to make, but cracks begin to form in the framework of the story almost from the beginning, and by the time the credits rolled, I found myself feeling more manipulated than intrigued by what had taken place.

Case in point: the episode's opening salvo, in which you pick up right where the last episode left off. In my playthrough, Sarita has been bitten, and I opted not to chop her arm off as the last episode wrapped up. I was regretting that decision right up until "Amid the Ruins" kicked off, expecting to suffer some terrible consequence for not having learned one of the key lessons of the last episode (I.E. the example of Reggie's missing arm). Instead, I soon discovered that the choice really didn't make much difference. Because I killed the zombie and didn't chop off her arm, Sarita escapes through the horde of walkers along with most everyone else, but ends up infected and dying by the time Clementine arrives at the planned meeting place. Upon arriving there, we find out that Kenny is steaming mad, and when Clem approaches him, he snaps, launching into a tirade about how just because she's a little girl, she doesn't get to skip out on blame when she gets people killed.


This is odd, because apart from not cutting her arm off, Clementine didn't actually do anything other than kill the walker that attacked her. In reading up on how things would have played out otherwise, it turns out that if you cut Sarita's arm off, she ends up swarmed by more walkers and eventually dies in the middle of the fracas. That scenario feels much more like the kind of situation Kenny would blow up over, but that's not what happened in my game. In my game, Sarita is infected and dying in Kenny's arms, and he's still yelling like her death is all Clem's fault. One could chalk this up to Kenny just being angry in general, but some of the dialogue still feels too specific to fit the situation I just played through, which took me right out of the scene.

If that were the only scene that felt off, I'd probably have just ignored it and been fine, but it's far from the only example. Some of that "off" feeling undoubtedly comes from the episode's drastic shift in energy from its predecessor. After spending hours dealing with Carver and his band of misfits, as well as the massive horde of walkers that attacked their home base, "Amid the Ruins" is a much more sedate episode, focused on Clementine's relationships with her few surviving friends. Most of the episode takes place in and around a single location--a Civil War memorial site and the few buildings that sit around it--and save for a single detour to rescue Luke and Sarah, there's not a lot to do until the final minutes of the episode.

Some of that downtime is at least of interest. When you go hunting for Luke and Sarah, you're paired up with Jane. Jane's had little meaningful screen time up to this point, and "Amid the Ruins" does flesh her out into something of a surrogate sister for Clem. She's every bit the loner she makes herself out to be, but you learn a lot more about why she's become that way as she teaches Clem some of her best zombie killing techniques. You learn that she's grown to not trust groups of survivors--in her mind, they all inevitably turn on each other--and that she once had a sister very much like Sarah. Her trust issues and lack of faith in other people prevent her from getting too attached, and though she tries to impart this wisdom on Clementine, I couldn't bring myself to take it entirely at face value. After all, my version of Clementine has, up to this point, still retained some basic ideas of right and wrong. So when it comes time to save Luke and a decidedly catatonic Sarah from a group of walkers, I didn't just leave Sarah there, as I had the opportunity to do. I had promised to look out for her, to be her friend, and if that meant slapping the shit out of her to get her to wake up and move, that's what I was going to do. Jane unsurprisingly admonished me for risking my own life for someone who had clearly "given up," but I couldn't just quit on her.

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Unfortunately, Jane is the only character who gets much in the way of advancement in this episode. Apart from another, better scene with Kenny--where he wistfully describes what it's like to be beaten almost to death--and a couple of small moments with Rebecca, everyone in this episode essentially treads water, or ends up markedly worse off than before. A scene with Bonnie and Mike goes pretty much nowhere, and appears to only exist to add an additional Major Player Choice (do you agree to crawl through a small space to unlock a door, or not) and a cute scene with a family of raccoons. Luke, who once seemed like a more promising character, has suddenly turned into an only slightly less frazzled Nick, making lousy suggestions and actually ignoring his walker guarding duties at one point to share some brief, post-apocalyptic intercourse with Jane. It's a strange turn that doesn't fit too well with what the character has been portrayed to be thus far. Maybe this is the build to some realization that he's been putting on an act of confidence up to this point, to hide his own insecurities and character failings, but it still comes across like the writers decided he needed to be Nick now. Which is to say nothing of Nick himself, who dies rather unceremoniously early in the episode.

Unceremonious death is not a new concept in these games. If you've played both seasons, you know full well that characters you work hard to try and save probably won't survive to the season finale, let alone the next season. The difference is that in "Amid the Ruins" deaths feel less like calculated plot points and more the writers just trying to hastily remove personalities they no longer know what to do with. Nick never got much of an arc beyond his accidental shooting of Walter's partner in episode two, and losing him didn't exactly leave much of an impression on me. I felt similarly about Sarita, who has spent the last two episodes either talking about Kenny, crying over Kenny, or a combination of the two, and not doing much else. There were glimmers of more interesting personalities in both cases, but we never got to see them.

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And then there's Sarah. Whether you found her crippling anxiety pitiable or just plain annoying, there's no denying that this season seemed bent on trying to make you feel something for her. She never came across like a throwaway character, given that her actions--taking the picture of Clementine, whispering during Carver's speech, refusing to do the plant shearing--often were the catalyst for one bad situation or another. Again, I spent a lot of time trying to comfort her, while also trying to snap her out of whatever fear-induced paralysis she'd fallen into. I saved her time and time again, and the reward for doing so? Watching her die helplessly in a situation I had zero control over.

Near the end of the game, you're surrounded by walkers as Rebecca is delivering her baby in a second-floor gift shop. Outside, you and other survivors are shooting away at a swarm of walkers that are trying to crash through the gate. In the process, a wire used to hold up the wooden deck outside the shop gives way. Sarah falls, pinned underneath pieces of the deck, while Jane hangs by Luke's hand. There appears to be a choice here, where you can grab Jane's hand and help her up, or try to get her to save Sarah below. That this is not actually one of the Big Five choices of the episode says all you need to know. There is no way to save Sarah. This is how she dies. In some way, it's probably my fault for allowing myself to ever get attached to her. Between Jane's warnings and actually just about everything else that's ever happened in this series, I probably should have learned that building relationships with characters like this is only going to result in disappointment. For my part, the second she went crashing to the ground, I knew it was over. I didn't even send Jane down to try to rescue her. I just grabbed her hand, and resigned myself to Sarah's terrible fate. I'd promised I'd take care of her, that I would protect her, that I would be her friend. If the point to Sarah's arc was to harden me, to make me wary of ever promising to protect anyone ever again, then I suppose mission accomplished.

Except, I expect this won't be the last time I'm faced with making that kind of promise this season. After all, there's still Rebecca's baby to worry about.

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Yes, the baby is successfully delivered, despite the onslaught of walkers and everything else. Kenny looks happy for the first time in ages, Rebecca looks exhausted but okay, and Jane finally decides that it's time to up-out. She and Clem exchange a short, terse goodbye, wherein Jane presents her with a nail file (a very useful tool, you see). This leaves an even smaller group to try and decide what to do from here. You can choose to leave the next morning, or take Luke's suggestion to stay an extra couple of days so Rebecca can rest. It's getting colder outside, and snow appears to be on the horizon, but I opted to stay, because up to this point, it felt like every decision I made would end up with some terrible outcome regardless. Turns out, I was right!

Cut to the survivors crossing over a snow-covered field, Kenny righteous with indignation over how right he was about wanting to leave right away. Rebecca looks even sicker, Kenny and Luke won't stop arguing, and suddenly, a lone figure appears. This is Arvo, a character you briefly encounter earlier in the episode with Jane. He happens upon you while you're searching buildings, and you end up surprising him. Jane easily disarms him, and discovers that he's carrying a bag full of drugs. He claims it's for his sick sister, and you can't tell if his nervousness is due to his less-than-firm grasp of the English language, or if he's just a liar. This Big Choice forces you to decide if you'll steal his drugs or not. I chose not to. Why? Because of what took place in the first season, where the man whose supplies we inadvertently stole came back to haunt us. As much as my group might have needed those drugs, I just felt wrong stealing them from him outright. I thought maybe my act of kindness would come back to benefit me in a dire situation later on. Not so much, sadly.

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As Arvo approaches, we quickly discover that he's just a scout for a group of (Russian? Eastern European?) thugs. Arvo is the only one who speaks English, and somewhere in there he drops the tidbit that he recognizes you as the girl who robbed him. I protest. I did not steal from him. The only thing either Jane or myself took was his gun, and she's long gone. No matter. Whether it's because Arvo is a liar who took the drugs for himself, or because the story itself couldn't find a way to make this final scene go without Arvo accusing you of stealing, it does not matter. With guns drawn on all sides, Rebecca slinks to the ground. She has died, and within seconds she begins to resurrect while still holding the baby. Here you can just shoot her, or you can cry out for help. I cried out, which led to an instantaneous shot by Kenny straight to Rebecca's skull. Another unceremonious death of a character we only got to know a little bit about. And if the numerous gunshots that rang out as the screen cut to black are any indication, I expect the season finale will feature at least a few more of those right out of the gate.

If I'm down on "Amid the Ruins," it's probably at least in part because it has the unfortunate distinction of following one of the very best episodes in this series. It's a come-down that also regrettably features some of the least-engaging storytelling of either season. With a suddenly huge void left by the death of Carver, the writers struggle to come up with conflicts that carry similar weight, and end up with a story that feels like a lot of wild stabs in the dark toward dramatic tension, with only a few that actually connect. The ones that do connect are genuinely terrific, mind you. Jane's presence throughout the episode is wonderful, and as off as that first Kenny encounter came across, his intensity throughout the episode is equally gripping and terrifying. Elsewhere, the remaining characters feel lost in the shuffle, both figuratively and literally, and the plot sputters as it tries to build tension toward what should be one of the biggest moments of the season. Suddenly, The Walking Dead feels like it's backing into its finale, a far cry from the flawed, but incredibly tense penultimate episode of last season. Given that this season has largely been very good, I'm hopeful that this is just a bump in the road, and that the finale will recapture the intensity that "Amid the Ruins" mostly lacks.


Random Notes:

  • I don't have a whole lot left to add on this episode, but I will make one VERY EXCITING FINALE PREDICTION. Though I don't know how it'll get there, my theory is that the season ends with everyone but Clementine and the baby dead. Season three (assuming there is one) is a several-years-older Clementine trying to raise a child in a doomed world, effectively making her the new Lee to a new Clementine. Please to be putting your own theories in the comments below. I would love to see what everyone else thinks this is all building to.
Alex Navarro on Google+
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Avatar image for starvinggamer
Edited by StarvingGamer

I find it interesting that we had completely opposite reactions to this and to ep.5 of The Wolf Among Us.

EDIT: And yeah, older Clem with the baby is definitely where my brain went to first for season 3. I even started thinking about who they would get to do the voice and how much they would try to match Melissa Hutchison's delivery.

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Posted by papercut

I for one didn't really like episode 3 and thought 4 was better. I recognize I am in the minority on this.

I didn't think there was a lack of development in this episode. For one I chopped of Sarita's arm and that drastically changes the interactions with Kenny I bet since she dies in about 10 seconds if you chose to do that. Everything else I felt like the story was progressing or Clementine was developing and learning to rely more on herself than those around her.

With the exception of the museum. That portion seemed like they were just stretching for time.

Great job as alway @alex! Can't wait for episode 5.

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Edited by Crono11

I agree with you that this episode was not very good.

But I also didn't the last one was very good either, so maybe I'm just done with Telltales Walking Dead games.

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Posted by Fallen189

I think the last big decision will be whether or not you take the baby with you once everyone dies, or leave it to die

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Posted by SeanFoster

You put into words what I haven't been able to the last couple of days, Alex! So much in this episode felt really off and a little disjointed. I was particularly disappointed with the Sarah storyline.

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Posted by Giefcookie

My biggest problem with the episode, and to a larger extent the entire season is that I just don't care about anyone but Clem. I'm perfectly fine with sacrificing anyone in the group if it increases the chances of Clementines survival, made really apparent by the scene with Sarah in the trailer.

As soon as I got in and saw the situation with Sarah freaking out sitting by the wall, I just kept repeating "leave her and get out, leave her and get out" because I was sure helping her would end up hurting Clem or getting Jane killed.

I also think the whole season has a problem (for me) with what my role is. In season one I felt like I WAS Lee, making choices to try and keep the group together while still sheltering Clem from some of the horrors of the new world.

In season two I'm not Clem, but a disembodied ghost looking out for her, whispering in her ear and trying to get her through unscathed. And so far most of the time I find myself saying "Fuck all these people, just take care of yourself!"

Avatar image for l1ghtn1n
Edited by L1GHTN1N

The most disappointing thing to me this episode was how they handled both Nick's and Sarah's death. They spent quite a bit of time talking about Nick's and Luke's relationship and how they know each other, were business partners and seemed somewhat close. Then when you tell Luke he died he basically says "Oh well!" and it's never mentioned again. Same thing with Sarah, Clem and Jane seemed bummed out by it but no one else seemed to even notice she died or at least didn't say anything. It's the first time in Walking Dead that I really felt the choices don't matter at all (Sarita immediately dying after chopping her hand off didn't help either and neither did Arvo accusing me of theft and being terrible after I refused to rob him), and in a game that's entirely about the choices it isn't a good sign. Also choosing to go into the window counts as one of the big choices? It has no effect on the story from what I can tell and felt completely throw away even as I was doing it, making it one of the big 5 just feels like they didn't know what else to put there and grabbed a random one.

Also yeah, it seems like Clem and the baby is going to be the thing by the end of this episode and where I imagine it'll start if they do Season 3.

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Posted by LaserJesus

I thought this episode was pretty good, but that probably has to do with the fact that I seemed to have picked all the choices the writers were writing based off of (cutting off the arm, taking the medicine, etc.) As I was playing I did find myself wondering how they would justify certain scenes, especially the ending. It sounds as if they really didn't.

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Posted by MjHealy

I very much enjoyed the final decision but I still felt this was a decent episode. Considering how much I've enjoyed Season Two so far, that probably makes it the worst episode. I sympathised with Sarah but even if you didn't, the scene in which dies is pretty grizzly especially considering she is a young girl.

This episode stumbled into the problem I foresaw at the end of the (terrific) third episode: this season doesn't appear to be aiming toward a particular finale or end goal.

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Posted by cannonballBAM

@alex: I initially thought this episode was going to be Jane and Clementine separated from the group and that they would reunite at the end of the episode. I feel like Telltale cashed in too early with killing off Carver in episode 3.

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Posted by metalhammer

Opinions, huh? I have a completely opposite opinion on Episode 4 but can see where Alex is coming from with forming his own.

Can't wait until Episode 5.

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Edited by Ravelle

Lovely write-up Alex, agree about everything and captured my thoughts exactly.

I am fine with everyone dying as long it isn't Kenny, whether he had been a dick a couple of times, we've been through hell together and stuck around the most. He's a bit extreme but he knows what to do. Or if Kenny Dies die, I hope they give him a good send off.

Sarah, I lost my patience but helped up the skylight, then she fell down and considered it was meant to be this way, faith has decided. I also kept the means to surviving in mind and Jane is a sure bet.

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Edited by Robsamuel

I wasn't outright disappointed with this episode like I was with some of Wolf Among Us, but it was the low point of an otherwise fantastic season.

I'm guessing Arvo accusing you as having robbed him either way has some hidden context. Why was he trying to put the drugs in the bin? Probably hiding them from his "friends".

I had a weird experience with this episode as I restarted it early on (after making a choice I didn't mean to), and it erased the final choice from the previous episode.

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Posted by JHJOliver

I've been waiting for the moment that Sarah turned around and saved Clem's life or sacrificed herself or gave us some sort of satisfying story arc. However, when I thought about it a little more I realised that maybe it's just a very accurate portrayal of someone with severe anxiety. If The Walking Dead was less bombastic and lent into forced dramatics a little less I'd think it was incredibly artistic. As it is, it's just plain disappointing.

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Edited by Winsord

"Maybe this is the build to some realization that he's been putting on an act of confidence up to this point, to hide his own insecurities and character failings, but it still comes across like the writers decided he needed to be Nick now."

I didn't quite feel the same way about this. For me, it just seemed like Luke was such the selfless bastion of the group up to this point, but he finally broke and did something for his own benefit. I do agree with the idea that his confidence has been somewhat of an act, a brave face put on to reassure the rest of the group, but I still don't think he's anything like Nick.

In the last episode I had cut off Sarita's arm, so the dialogue with Kenny made sense. I felt the same frustration right near the end of the episode when Arvo says you stole from him. I also opted to not steal from him, as in the first season I didn't have Lee steal from the station wagon. Technically the two of you still take his weapon in that scene, even if you do give the guns back, but it definitely felt like I got the 'wrong dialogue' for that section. It didn't seem like anyone else in his group understood English, so who did it benefit for him to lie about me stealing from him? It didn't really seem to serve any purpose, and rather just seemed like a lazy way of getting out of having to write separate dialogue for that final situation. The opposing group still could have reaction the same way when Rebecca was shot, but Arvo's dialogue and reasoning really took me out of that last scene.

The other thing that took me out of the experience for a bit was when you're first trying to save Sarah from the trailer. When they give you the option to leave Sarah or stay down there to help her, I didn't see any reason to leave without trying. They won't kill the main protagonist off in your storyline, so even though I realistically should have, I had no concerns about trying to help her.

They also really needed to spend more time on Nick and Sarah's deaths. You tell Luke that Nick was dead, and even though he was probably pretty sure by that point that Nick was as good as dead when he left the trailer, he hardly seemed phased by the news. Compound that with him being so upset about Jane leaving, someone he hardly knew but had had a fling with, and the writing for him just seemed off this episode. Sarah also dies, and no one even seems to bat an eye. I get that they're wrapped up with the baby at this point, but it still seemed a little odd.

Jane's character development also wasn't that great. In a lot of ways, she's just a carbon copy of Molly from the first season, the lone wolf who's lost a sister and now fronts that she only cares about herself. Before she told us more about her sister's personality, I half expected her to drop that her sister's name was actually Molly.

Even with my qualms, I still really liked this episode, and I definitely don't think I found it to be as weak as you did. I thought having a slower paced episode was a good idea for its slot in the season, but they could have better used the time and expanded more on some other characters instead of just Jane; I would have liked to have learned more about Mike and Bonnie when we were at the museum. I wish I felt like my actions actually impacted the story more than they do, but I'm still enjoying the series regardless. So far this episode had some of the most difficult decisions for me, normally I'm able to pick my answers/actions right away, but I found myself right at the end of the timer on a few occasions, even if they didn't end up mattering that much. All of the criticisms I have steam from me being really into this series, and how they're able to pull off so much good with it. It's going to be a long wait for the next episode.

Also, I have to wonder if we'll see the return Christa next episode, human or zombie. I guess the group's probably too far away for it to make sense at this point, but who knows.

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Posted by Pete0r

I don't know what it is about Sarah that wound me up the wrong way. When Luke tells you there is a problem with her as you enter the trailer I thought she was going to be injured and I was all to ready to put her down, so I was sort of relieved in a way that the walkers could do it for me. It was still a bit of a shock just how little everyone seemed to care once we were on the roof though, nobody in shock or anything.

If the baby is going to be a character heading out of this season we'll need to hook up with some suitable woman and be on fantastic terms within one episode so my guess is *surprise* Christa just happens to have fallen in with this same gang. Although that seems a bit too like a repeat of Carver's gang if you then have to escape and whatnot.

It will be interesting.

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Posted by ToTheNines

I thought this episode was great and had the perfect length and pacing. I am usually on board with Alex, but I don't get his dislike on the game slowing down the pacing a bit, since it was a bit stressful last episode, which was great in its own right. I am disappointed that Nick got such a meaningless farewell, but I guess that's realistic. While Sara's had a big impact on me. Many of these characters I didn't care at all about in the beginning have grown on me, hopefully Telltale does not kill them all, but I suspect they will or at least tear them from the story in some other way. I think this episode even tops episode 2, but I guess that comes down to taste. I loved some of the downtime in this game, searching for locations and etc and it had genuinely hard choices.

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Posted by moregrammarplz

I feel like they got rid of Carver too early. He was a great villain.

I also feel like the character of Sarah was a huge missed opportunity. I was looking forward to helping her get over her anxiety and the death of her father. With her gone, I feel like the only characters worth caring about are Clementine and Kenny, which is disappointing because that means that the new characters introduced in Season 2 have been a failed experiment.

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Posted by officer_falcon

"This Big Choice forces you to decide if you'll steal his drugs or not. I chose not to. Why? Because of what took place in the first season, where the man whose supplies we inadvertently stole came back to haunt us."

That's the exact reason why I stole the drugs. I figured that things would go wrong either way but at least if I stole the drugs that would be one more usable resource for the group. At least until it comes around to bite us in the ass.

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Posted by Moztacular

Great write up for this episode, shared most of the same feelings as you Alex, though I'm still struggling to figure out why you thought episode 3 was so good I thought it was pretty bad except the ending with Carver. I think this episode was so-so, killing off too many characters without good build-up.

Luke is such a weird character; as I reflected the other night, I concluded that he is and has been literally useless the ENTIRE way. Except for vouching for you in your initial meeting in episode 1, Luke has just had the facade of seeming to be useful. At the end of episode 2 he "disappears" and is not around for the major confrontation at the lodge. He does NOTHING in episode 3 except be exhausted, get caught, and lead to the confrontation that gets Kenny's eye knocked out. Here in episode 4 he runs off at the start, complains about his ribs while sending Nick out with a gunshot wound to die. He later has an epic fail by not scouting zombies which might not immediately get someone killed, but could be argued that if he had spotted them sooner more preparation would have allowed Sarah to live. I was honestly trying to be on Luke's side and wasn't sure about Kenny until this episode I felt like Kenny just totally won me over.

Alex I agree that your Sarita situation sounded like garbage and out of place but having chopped her arm off in the last episode it felt appropriate...You actually can bury your hatchet in Sarita's head right in front of Kenny while he's holding her....sound familiar? Kenny dropped that salt slab right on that one guy's head while his daughter held him in episode 2 of season 1, oh the irony! So his anger in the next scene was justified and I felt like the whole episode validated Kenny once more as a survivor willing to do what is necessary to keep everyone alive, unlike Jane who is out for herself and Luke who has a good heart but it clearly a weak man on the inside.

I don't see the finale ending with Clem and the baby being the only ones's certainly a possibility though with season 3 being a few years further along and Clem being a big sister/mother character. However, I suspect it will come down to a big choice between giving the baby to either Kenny or a surprise Christa return. We know Christa lost her baby but was ready to be a mother, and meanwhile we see Kenny rejuvenated by the birth of the baby. Kenny already "died" in the finale of season 1, so for him to die again in the finale of this season would frustrate me. Personally I'll give the baby to Kenny if my prediction comes true, I want it to work out for him :) The final big choice of the season might involve Clem choosing between staying with whatever is left of the group or going out on her own like Jane.

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Posted by drabnon

I'm kind of disappointed with season 2 in general. It feels like it relies way too much on characters being REALLY stupid to create tension. I especially noticed this when in the first episode, Clem knocked over a water bottle so that she could get held up by a random girl. And then Clem dropped a bandage so that a zombie could attack her. And then Nick shot some random dude for no reason. You get the idea.

I'm also kind of disappointed at how the 400 days DLC connected to this game. The characters from that DLC are just barely in this story, except for Bonnie, and she hasn't really been developed at all.

I just don't care about any of the group members except for maybe Kenny. It seemed like Luke was heading in an interesting direction but at the end of this episode they made him a whiny bitch.

Avatar image for starvinggamer
Edited by StarvingGamer

Reading a bit further, I can see how your choices about Sarita and Arvo could make the episode feel a bit off. I chopped her arm and stole the drug so those followup scenes played out in a more natural way.

That being said, I couldn't disagree with you more about Luke. Early on the game made it very clear to me that he was put in a leadership position out of necessity, not because of any actual merit. In my eyes he's always been a liability, not an asset. It was only a matter of time until he fucked things up for everyone in a big way.

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Posted by ElocL

I have literally never disagreed with any of these write-ups, wolf among us episodes included. Always a pleasure to read!

Avatar image for grimpopo
Posted by Grimpopo

Somewhere around episode two, I realized that the vast majority of the choices this season seem to be who would you prefer to have frown at you after you made it.

I do think the Carver storyline definitely had more focus and made sense why Clem bothered to even still be with this group, but at the same time it felt like a huge post-apocalyptic trope that made any potential story there feel too familiar.

Avatar image for threeoct
Posted by threeOCT

For the hitches that this episodes has, it was successful in making me forget that the decisions I make are generally going to move to the same point. Despite that, I didn't like ANY of the big options I was given. Choice 1 sounds bad, so I take choice 2. Choice 2 still seems bad, but only a little less bad than choice 1.

I know how this works, as I've played the seasons to this point, but god DAMN it if I was somehow convinced of otherwise. I really like this episode for that, among other things.

I like @alex's prediction, as it's a little more bleak compared to what I think, which is that Clementine is shot and you play the episode with her laboring through it with a gunshot somewhere that wouldn't kill her near immediately. As for everyone else, I'm not so sure.

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Edited by blackno99

by the time the credits rolled, I found myself feeling more manipulated than intrigued by what had taken place.

Exactly. I immediately replayed this episode to see the other side of my choices and guess what? Sarita dies, Nick dies, Sarah dies, Jane leaves, Rebecca dies, Arvo accuses you of theft. NONE of the choices allow you change any of that. My prediction for the finale? Fuck it, Clem's dead. Mike, you're up.

EDIT: Just wanted to add to this. I'm feeling very pessimistic (obviously) but I feel that Telltale is conditioning me to feel that way. I thought Jane was also very pessimistic, and I tried to keep Clem optimistic but it seems Jane was right. Bad shit is gonna happen and you can't change that. Just like real life! I'm gonna play the finale but...goddammit.

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Edited by Gildermershina

I enjoyed parts of this episode, and I actually kind of like it when they subvert the whole player-choice thing. To me, that's about the idea that whatever choice you end up with doesn't matter, it's how the choices you've made up till that point inform that choice. This is one of the reasons I was totally okay with the ending of Mass Effect 3.

I spent the whole episode desperately scared that if I fucked up even slightly, Sarah would get killed. Turns out it doesn't matter, and that moment was actually one of the most powerful I've had with the series this far. I guess mechanically I knew that they couldn't realistically write two versions of the game where she had died or lived because of her particular relationship with Clem, but with this series I just go with my heart at this point - and man did it break my heart to see Sarah being torn apart. But also, it kind of had to happen, because she was not cut out to survive and she never would be. I knew that, but I just couldn't accept it because she's a kid. I'm hardwired that way.

I kind of wish if they were going to do it anyway, they would have had you make a choice where you have to choose to sacrifice a character to save Sarah, only to have Sarah die anyway, to really teach you a lesson. Or maybe have you save Sarah, and then have her make a mistake that inadvertently causes both her death and somebody else's. Although not Sarita obviously because I'm real fucking tired of Kenny shouting about how so-and-so is to blame for so-and-so's death.

On a similar note, the TV show went from being repeatedly disappointing to legitimately excellent over the course of its most recent season (although I bet the second half must have been a slog for those watching it week to week rather than in a marathon), and there's an episode toward the end of season 4 that's actually a far more effective version of this. They telegraph it pretty early on in the season, but you kind of don't want to believe it because there's children involved. You kind of feel like it's your fault, and at the same time, you know you couldn't have stopped it anyway. I think the game needs more gut punches like that.

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Edited by spilledmilkfactory

I actually thought this was a great episode, but that's most likely down to the choices I made and the way I was trying to role-play Clem's character. I can definitely see her turning into more of a loner down the road, and I find that flawed character arc far more interesting than the standard goody-two-shoes always-stick-by-your-friends alternative that the game presents you with, so everything more or less lined up right for me. This was actually my favorite episode of the season so far.

As for the choices you make and their consequences across the season, I feel like people are being more critical of Season 2 and The Wolf Among Us because TWD Season 1 managed to preserve this sense that your choices would matter right up until the end, at which point the whole thing came crashing down when everyone got more or less the same ending. Now we know to look a little harder, and it's easier to see the cogs turning behind the scenes.

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Posted by Onemanarmyy

Totally agree with you Alex. I made the 'correct' decisions for the story (chopping off arm, stealing meds) so the responses i got from Kenny and Arvo made sense. But i figured it would be totally different if i chose the other option. Sad to hear they didn't flesh out that side too much.

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Edited by Schlorgan

I agree about Clementine and the baby, but I can see episode 5 starting with everyone dead but those two. I'm not sure if they'll do a season three.

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Posted by Bez__o

Love your previously on articles Alex.

After finishing this episode I was a little bored. At times you could see tension building with conflicting character beliefs, I cringe every time Kenny and Luke start arguing. These tensions fall flat quickly because of the lackluster "choices" we can pick. I often feel manipulated into what I'm suppose to feel, this is story telling and that is fine, but this season has been so blatant with it's manipulation that it really takes away authenticity from the characters and creates a shit show of forced conflicts. I know some of the Idle Thumb guys no longer write for tell tale anymore, maybe that coupled with the commercial success of the first season is bringing a more dumbed down sentiment of "hey you should feel this way now" from the current writers on season 2.

While playing this season it isn't innately bad, upon reflection is where it begins to feel less intriguing and evocative. Season 1 was filled with paradoxical decisions that left myself feeling like there really is no right answer. These are the moments I miss. Season 2 has lacked much weight to decisions and the conflicts are not as intriguing. This is is why I feel shamelessly manipulated with this season compared to last. This is a bad bump in a season already less than its predecessor, I hope the finale brings the energy up.

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Edited by Alorithin

Too much work has gone into Bonnie's character for her to die.

Mike is too generous to live. Luke is fast becoming the new Ben.

Kenny has always been a plot through-line for telltale (Mobile home, boat, Ep2 diffuse, Carvers death, Rebecca's aid). I half expect for him to be the player avatar in S3.

Either way, between the snow and the russians, I think clementine loses something. Her group, her last vestiges of altruism, or her life.

I also bet we're going to see a lot of 400 days territory again and then probably leave Atlanta.

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Edited by tumblinghippo

I... kind of don't want another season of TT's TWD. I'm having a good time with each season, of course, but after the latest episode, I just feel that I'm sort of used to this storytelling now. And I know it's not my storytelling, it's their's, and they'll tell the story they want. There's nothing wrong with that, but I feel less and less engaged as a player and more engaged as a watcher.

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Posted by Honkalot

I feel there's not much of a connection to any of the side characters this season, or maybe it's that I don't find any of them likeable. I also think the entire season could have used any kind of overarching goal, like in the first season your destination is pretty much set - it's inevitable that you'll go seek Clem's parents. I guess the heading north part could be that objective for this season, but then neither that nor the lost Christa has been mentioned since episode two to my knowledge. Kind of feels like it's all been flailing around and about handling temporary hindrances this season.

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Posted by cthomer5000

You have stated, quite eloquently, my overall thoughts on this episode.

I feel this season is a significant step down from last season, and I feel my prediction that bringing any characters back was a mistake has unfortunately been proven true. Last season ended so perfectly that they should have just left it alone and started with a clean slate and told a different story in the Walking Dead universe.

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Posted by ThunderSlash

I'm calling it now: Arvo's "sister" is Christa!

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Posted by Ronald

Lone Clem and Cub. I like that idea. Of course, this is Walking Dead. Episode 5 will open with everyone dead and you playing as the baby until one of the Russians shoot you.

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Edited by Ronald

My biggest problem with the episode, and to a larger extent the entire season is that I just don't care about anyone but Clem. I'm perfectly fine with sacrificing anyone in the group if it increases the chances of Clementines survival, made really apparent by the scene with Sarah in the trailer.

As soon as I got in and saw the situation with Sarah freaking out sitting by the wall, I just kept repeating "leave her and get out, leave her and get out" because I was sure helping her would end up hurting Clem or getting Jane killed.

I also think the whole season has a problem (for me) with what my role is. In season one I felt like I WAS Lee, making choices to try and keep the group together while still sheltering Clem from some of the horrors of the new world.

In season two I'm not Clem, but a disembodied ghost looking out for her, whispering in her ear and trying to get her through unscathed. And so far most of the time I find myself saying "Fuck all these people, just take care of yourself!"

So what you are saying is that you are still Lee, guiding Clem and keeping her safe from beyond (Two Souls.)

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Posted by Jabbawocky

I enjoyed this episode more than the last oddly enough. While I realy enjoyed Carver I felt the last episode was way too much on the rails and the choices felt like they were going to be inconsequential (except for Sarita's arm).

Anyway for this episode has made me realise I'm basically becoming the loner character. I'm outright refusing to save people I see as a burden. I'm stealing from others like a bandit. I've stopped being the hero, I'm just a survivor.

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Posted by Anwar

The illusion of choice has not been an illusion for a long time during this season, which sucks a lot.

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Posted by PXAbstraction

Another great write-up. I actually had some of the bigger emotional impacts of the series for me from this episode but especially after reading how little the major choices impact things, I'm actually pretty disappointed now.

I chose to rob Arvo because my reaction was "I know this is wrong but people I know need this and I don't know this guy." The big problem I have (though it matters less now that I know he accuses you of robbing him regardless) is that the robbery makes no sense. All you want from the bag is the painkillers but your only choices are to take the entire bag of supplies or leave it. You can't say "You keep the rest but we need the painkillers." That's ridiculous and making it a binary choice sucks because neither are what I would have chosen. But in the end, it didn't matter at all aside from a bit of chastising from group members (in particular Luke and Kenny who you damn well know would have done the same thing) so that frankly sucks.

Also, despite saving Sarah initially, I chose to help Jane. It was really no question for me. I feel horrible for Sarah but her inability to snap out of things constantly puts the whole group at risk, whereas Jane has proven valuable and capable. It was a cold value decision. But once again, it didn't matter what I chose. Awesome, thanks Telltale.

I also have to say that I'm pretty much done with Kenny. He's been through Hell and gone but his short fuse and reckless attitude was a problem even before that and it's only gotten worse. He helped deliver the baby but all he's done beyond that is pick fights and escalate bad situations into worse ones. I get he's probably supposed to be a character you're conflicted about. You can see he's a good person in general and tries to do good things but he constantly flies off the handle and never listens to people, even when his course of action is a poor one. A lot of the trouble we've been through can be laid at his feet and I'm kind of done. If the next episode presents me with a choice between him and anyone else, it's an obvious one for me.

I'm conflicted about this episode. It was damn heavy and however this season ends, it would be pretty. At the same time, this is one of the most linear feeling episodes of the entire series and since the whole series really is just linear with only the illusion of choice, that's saying something. It's like they either didn't have time or couldn't figure out how to write sequences for multiple choices so they just gave you the choices but had the same results anyway. That's pretty crappy.

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Edited by WMoyer83

These episodes come out so damn far apart I forget things that depreciate my enjoyment. I agree with Alex, this episode was weak.

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Posted by HellknightLeon

Yeah... at the end it will just be Clem and the baby... boy or girl? I don't think they said or gave the baby a name. I bet it will be a boy and she will call him Lee. The end.

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Posted by bwmcmaste

Great writeup Alex. I suppose I'll join the chorus of people in saying that everything you said was spot on. The only I could really care about in this season so far (other than Clementine) was Jane, and Telltale wrote her out in the same perfunctory way they've been doing with every other character in this season.

One thing that really bugged me was when one of the group was pointing his gun at Arvo. The group is outnumbered, why train sights on the one guy who isn't armed?

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Posted by Sin4profit

Unfortunately, i'm feeling Telltale's formulaic approach to this type of game is wearing pretty thin on me. The QT events feel like a tired obligation to still call itself a "game" and the obvious lack of any permutations from your choices make me wonder if Telltale should just get over this format and make Visual Novels or straight up machinima.

I think their current formula was an interesting, and effective experiment, but it's not something that's going to last for me, personally. After season two, i'm most likely done with TellTale games unless they can come up with a substantial update.

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Posted by vinone

I pretty much sleep walked through this entire episode until the last scene.

I really like these articles though, well written and a nice perspective.

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Edited by Zeeman155

The weird thing about the arm this is that cutting off the arm is the smartest move for survivability. I don't see what else Clem could have done. It doesn't seem like her fault in either scenario. Also it doesn't really give you the chance to explain that she was bitten which was why I cut the arm off in the first place. When I missed that explanation prompt I was unclear if Kenny realized it himself and it made it frustrating arguing with him cause it didn't give me a second chance to bring it up, and that was vital in my decision to cut her arm off. In the end it came across like Kenny thought I intentionally murdered her, which makes no sense what so ever.

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Edited by Blackout62

This is how Kenny works:

Has something to love: Happy Kenny :)

Does not have something to love: Suicidey Kenny :(

Mix with an experienced loner who lost her sister and you have episode 4 of both seasons of Walking Dead.

That baby's gonna die and Kenny will only be worse till he can find another nice woman with an accent.

But yes, run Jane, run all the way back to Season 1. Maybe you and Molly can have loner angst together and kill all the zombies.

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Posted by MEATBALL

Welp, I feel stupid for liking this episode because these criticism are basically all solid as a rock.

It was my favourite of the season and probably in my top 3 for the series. At the same time though, I'm kind of glad the series' structure hasn't jaded me to the point that I can barely enjoy it. Maybe that'll happen for me next time around.

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