Hey, this blog post, if you couldn't tell, will be about The Walking Dead, specifically Telltale's version, and more specifically, episode 4. If you don't want to get spoiled, leave now.
Seriously, I'm not even going to use spoiler tags, because this should be plenty of a warning for you. I'm adding all of this preface so even if you DO click on this blog post, you would have to scroll down to actually be spoiled. See? I'm thinking about you.
Okay, last chance. If you don't want to be spoiled about The Walking Dead, click these yellow words!
I know it's dumb of me to actually think that people would read this blog post at all (they have much better ways to waste their time), but that doesn't mean I can forgo common courtesy. Anyways, I played The Walking Dead: Episode 4 a month ago, and I've been wanting to put these thoughts down in writing for a while now.
It was a fantastic episode, as usual. My normally apathetic and unemotional self felt a myriad of things during the course, like anger at Ben when he took off without Clementine, pity for Kenny when he found the child in the attic, regret for Chuck, and I was deeply grateful for Vernon's help. There were a few too many shooting sequences in it (By the way, where did Lee get that infinite ammo gun?), but that's a moot point.
What I really came here to talk about was Ben's death. Yes, this means I let him go. Yes, I fully accept that fact that what I did was wrong, and I am now a murderer. But here's the thing: I don't feel bad about it.
It started back in episode 3. We all know how much of a roller coaster ride that was. From Carley/Doug's impromptu death to Duck slowly fading before our eyes, it was an emotional episode. I'd like to think that, because I was under so much sadness, I was more forgiving of Ben when he admitted to stealing supplies for the bandits. Of course, I told him to never tell Kenny EVER, and he agreed. After that episode, however, I guess I changed. Don't assume some life changing thing happened to me in real life between episodes 3 and 4, either. My life is as dull and boring as you imagine it, possibly even more so. Nothing eventful happens, ever, but I digress.
When episode 4 started, Ben continuously showed incompetence, and Kenny was beginning to get on my nerves as well. Everything was falling apart, and none of my conversation choices were making anything better. My frustration with the group eventually culminated with me....killing Ben. Totally on purpose. Now, I'm not about to justify what I did, but I just want to put my thought process down for....whatever reason.
I felt like I was losing control of the group, and then I lost Clementine because Ben can't keep an eye on anybody, and he thinks that hammer stuck in the door just happened to be there for no specific reason. Then, I know he was feeling guilty about what he had done in episode 3, but he picked the absolute worst time to come clean. We were in immediate danger. I understand not wanting to die with regrets, but if he had just helped Kenny with the door instead of standing there announcing what he did, maybe things would have been different.
Then the run up the staircase happened, and Ben was grabbed and almost pulled off. With Lee hanging on by the tiniest bit, Ben utters the words that completely flipped the script on me and my moral compass went bleeping everywhere.
"Just let me go." He said, defeated. This high school kid had already accepted that his death was imminent, and he had accepted it.
All throughout my life, I've had some pretty crazy scenarios come up in my head. I'm sure that's a common thing. Things like "What if I could run up the side of that building?" or "What if those group of kids came up and started harassing me? I'd sure love to tell them off" or "What if someone broke into my house?" You get the idea: I waste my life enough on video games, but I also daydream a lot.
Anyway, one of the scenarios I come up with is "What if someone I love/care for, what if their life, falls into my hands, and they want me to end it?" For every other daydream, I have an answer to, a plan, but not this one. It's so gray. There is no right answer, but every answer seems and feels wrong whenever I consider it.
- If I respect and honor their wish, I have to end the life of that person. Not only will I have to commit murder (but is it murder if they ask for it?), but I have to live the rest of my life without them, knowing that they could still be by my side if I had said no.
- If I refuse and rescue them, we could both end up getting killed (situational), which I'm sure is exactly what they wanted to prevent. If we both survive, they have to live with the guilt of either 1) Being alive when they don't want to be, or 2) Showing their lack of faith in me and my ability to save them, or maybe a combination of the 2.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not in love with Ben, and I realize he's a video game character, but that's the brilliancy of The Walking Dead: It's not just about saving this character's life: it brought me to that one scenario I never had an answer to, and forced me to choose in the span of seconds, which is exactly how that situation would come about. All that thinking, all of those "What ifs," all of that meant nothing, because when it came right down to it, my mind blanked, and I did absolutely nothing but quickly dart my eyes between the two options, my thumb shaking over the buttons.
You know how this ends. Obviously I chose to let him go. I gave him what he asked for, and now I have to go the route of the first bullet point.
How does desensitization come into play, you ask? Look at everything I just wrote. Against my own will, I am going above and beyond to try and justify myself. Even though I already said it wouldn't, when the thoughts enters my head, a little voice interrupts, saying "This was for the good of the group" or "He caused more than one person's death." This little voice was not even present in the first three episodes, because I was a good guy, and if the zombie apocalypse was going to take me, I would go out a good guy. I didn't take the car supplies in episode 2, I shot the girl in episode 3, and I let Kenny and Katjaa choose who would be the one to end Duck's misery.
But now...now what am I? I had the power to save Ben, and I let him go instead. Am I finally starting to devalue human life? Organize every person into objective pros and cons and not what they mean to others?
Most importantly, if this is a road I'm heading down, how can I stop? When the apocalypse hits (in whatever form it takes), can I be trusted to protect others, even if they are strangers? Will I be able to? ....Will I even want to?