Those who have been following our reviews know that we had a few issues with the previous episode of Telltale Game's The Walking Dead, specifically the decision to abandon the Carver storyline halfway through the season. While it isn't perfect, the newly released finale does a serviceable job at putting the season back on track during its final moments by expanding upon its themes and showing us another side to its characters. “No Going Back” also gives some added weight to player decisions and the role of Clementine in the group's survival. Before we continue with this review, we should warn you that there will be plenty of spoilers for the previous episodes of The Walking Dead, though we will avoid giving away major plot details from this episode that don't occur within the first few minutes.
The final episode opens where “Amid the Ruins” left off, with Clementine and the others engaged in a brutal shootout with Arvo and his gang. An undead Rebecca has also been shot (either by Clementine or Kenny), leaving her newborn baby defenseless in the winter snow. It doesn't take long for the action to subside. Like the previous episode, most of this chapter deals with the group's dynamic. In a surprising move, “No Going Back” actually features a few light-hearted moments. Each character gets a moment to be charming, poignant or humorous, allowing the player to grow close to the group in a way that the game's bleak situations typically don't allow. Of course, this only serves to make this episode's losses even more painful.
As we mentioned earlier, we were previously disappointed with Telltale's decision to depart from the Carver storyline so early in the season. “No Going Back” worked to set things straight by tying Carver back to the themes presented in this episode, namely how desperate times can change people for the worse. Like usual, it's up to Clementine to act as the group's moral compass during these difficult times, though “No Going Back” often leaves her and the player without any “correct” choices.
The character deaths themselves felt a lot less forced this time around (Nick's offscreen zombification in “Amid the Ruins” was especially cheap). “No Going Back” gives each decision and death the weight it deserves. This is where the episode really excels. Players have faced difficult decisions in the past, but there has usually been an easy way to justify and rationalize their choices. There are several instances during this episode where any given choice will cause someone to suffer, or may have unforeseen consequences. Clementine herself is lost at this point and begins to wonder what is best for her, something that will ultimately reflect on the player and their choices.
Fortunately, the impact given to Clementine's actions are unlike the franchise's previous chapters. While “No Time Left” was a fantastic way to end season one, Telltale was forced to funnel players into one possible outcome in order to set up a story for season two, making the choices throughout the player's adventure feel far less meaningful in the end. “No Going Back” doesn't follow these restrictions (it's probably safe to say that season three won't follow this cast of characters), and gives the player the ability to drastically change the game's outcome. This was a much-needed change for a season that otherwise made the player feel like a helpless bystander, regardless of which choices they made.
Overall, while a strong episode, “No Going Back” lacks some of the emotional punch that made season one's finale such a success, though it makes up for this with its focus on player choices and character interactions. This episode made us love the characters and long to see how things could have been had they met under better circumstances. The focus on Clementine's feelings perfectly illustrated how the character has grown since her time with Lee. In the end, “No Going Back” served as a strong finish for an, at times, shaky season.