Perhaps I’m a victim of hype, but I had high expectations for The Walking Dead Season 2 (TWDS2) by Telltale Games. That’s not to say that what I have experienced in Clementine’s return isn’t well written, or a series of non-sense scenarios in the form of a cash-grab., not at all. All the variables are in place for an excellent season to come, that said everything that happens to Clem in the first episode has an air of predictability that, at times, marred the experience for me.
In the interest of keeping things fresh for those who have yet to experience the first season, I’m issuing a SPOILER warning now…
** SPOILERS AHEAD **
The closure in Season 1 was left rather ambiguous. We knew Clem was destined to survive on her own, Lee ensured she had the survival skills and tools to do so. Meanwhile a shadowy figure was seen on the horizon and we were left to decide if it was friendly, or otherwise. Season 2 picks up after an undetermined amount of time has passed, so we really aren’t sure how Clem came to be in the company she now keeps, that of Christa & Omid. It was heavily implied as The Walking Dead Season 1 (TWDS1) played out, that Christa & Omid would ultimately be the caregivers, although in my play-through their fate was left rather uncertain due to some decisions I had made on the back half.
With TWDS1 behind me, I was left eager to discover Clem’s fate, however I left knowing she was ready for this. Again, Lee was written to provide for her, to make her understand this new world and what would be required of her to survive. It’s with this knowledge that I find some of what transpires in the first episode of TWDS2 so incredibly confusing. Clem seems to dip in and out of two character personalities, at one point exercising her survival knowledge, at the next aptly neglecting any sense of perception, and then again detailing amazing resilience. We have this ultimately naïve Clem that we were introduced to at the beginning of TWDS1 and its subsequent episodes, and the battle hardened, yet reluctant survivalist she grew to be at its close flip-flopping throughout the episode. It seems intentional, but I feel most of what Clem is wrestling with in this first episode of TWDS2 is done so as a reminder to those who haven’t played the first season since its release and final episode. Perhaps it’s in this context that it could be considered a recap, of sorts, to remind us that Clem certainly isn’t like the other callused individuals and pessimists she often takes company with. Furthermore it seems a product of design to introduce a character that, for whatever reason or another, a player may have no familiarity with. Certainly the story arc should be enjoyed across both Seasons, but I do feel Clem has been written into TWDS2 in such a way that someone could experience this latest season, without completing the first. It makes sense, but it ultimately makes the first episode of TWDS2 a slow burn that, I can only imagine, will build in subsequent episodes.
Similarly, and entirely a product of my apparent impatience, we’re told at the outset that all of our decisions from the first Season, and the bonus episode “400 Days”, would have some part in Season 2. It’s still too early to see how my decisions will effect this Season, and I’m incredibly eager to see them play out. With that, it’s also difficult to feel that this episode’s choices really have much weight. TWDS1 made it incredibly clear when a decision would carry on to subsequent interactions with a character, often noted by in-game text stating “Omid will remember that.” There are only a few instances that I had experienced in TWDS2’s first episode where this was even an option. Most of the decisions would result in one of two outcomes, Clem surviving, or otherwise. Again, I feel this is simply a product of re-introducing the character and setting the stage ahead of us, but it’s tough to muddle through when TWDS1 did such a great job building on a character we’ve come to understand and love
TWDS2’s first episode is by no means unenjoyable; it’s simply that some of the writing choices are questionable. Without knowing exactly how the series is designed it’s difficult to surmise the intent. Is it intended to be played only by those who enjoyed the entirety of TWDS1, or are we seeing a measure of reintroduction for those taking the plunge into Telltale’s critically acclaimed entry for the first time? I firmly believe it’s the latter which would explain some of Clem’s writing, but let it be known…I am cautiously optimistic. TWDS1’s first episode was a punch to the gut, refreshing and well-written. Those of you who enjoyed the entirety of TWDS1 know what to expect, and it’s par for the course.