Friday, March 21, 2014

The Walking Dead Season 2: A House Divided Review

Trying to review The Walking Dead Season 2 is a tricky beast. Due to the nature of episodic releases, the game is coming out in five episodes spread out over a year long gap. In that gap, a question becomes apparent on how I can review the game. Should I review the entire season when it's all completed, or should I review each episode when it comes out? Back in December, I had no idea what I should do, so I didn't review the first episode of Season 2, All That Remains. Looking back on it, I feel like that I should do episodic reviews to convince people why they need to be playing The Walking Dead Season 2, despite the quality issues between each episode. I thought the first episode had some solid setup, but does A House Divided give the payoff we're looking for?

In essence, we last left our protagonist, Clementine, in a not so good position. After the events of Season 1, which you should go out and play immediately because it's one of the best games in the past five years, Clementine, a young child, has to fend for herself in the zombie apocalypse and try to survive. For all intents and purposes, she is completely alone with no one to help her. All That Remains, the first episode of season 2, has Clementine by herself and struggling to survive, only to find a group of survivors that may or may not trust her. All that she knows is that they can give her some form of safety from the walkers, and some safety is better than no safety. That is until the group gets word that a man named William Carver is looking for them...

I won't spoil the events of the episode, since it is still relatively new, but I will talk about the characters and some of the situations that they're in, with only the slightest bit of hinting as to what has happened. The one thing that's really apparent in this season much more than the first season was the issue of trust. The first season had much more moral and ethical dilemmas than season 2 (so far), with season 2 putting a much stronger focus on how Clem reacts to each character. In season 1, you were in a position of power, so making tough decisions came naturally to being the leader, despite how difficult some of them were. Here, Clem isn't the leader; she's just a little girl. She can try to lead, but people just treat her like a child, which Clem does use to her advantage several times, often to borderline manipulative degrees.

There's only one big action scene in this episode. Yay?

Take Clem with one of the other members in the group Carlos. Carlos and his daughter, Sarah, have completely different relationships with Clementine. Sarah is more sheltered from the horrors of the world outside her room, so she acts like a fairly normal young girl to Clem, which she can use to her advantage to get gain an ally in the group. Carlos though is much more suspicious of Clementine and knows that she's a smart girl and to stay away from his daughter out of fear that she'll reveal to Sarah the horrors of the zombie apocalypse. There's not much development between Clementine's relationship with them, which is sad since I was looking forward to see how their relationship will change as the season goes on. Instead, all of the focus was placed on two characters that are volatile to say the least. 

Nick, a member of your group, goes through a really interesting character arc in the span of this episode. After the events of the first episode, people in the group are severely mistrusting him and view him as a loose cannon. He argues with everyone in the group, is violent, and just a general rude person. However, he's a sympathetic guy that we all can relate to in a way. He's lost everything that he cares about; his family, his friends, and the only thing he has left to remind him of what life was like before the apocalypse is Luke, the leader of your group and a general great guy. Luke doesn't get much development besides being the one guy in your group always on your side, but it's great to have a central person to stay rooted in for the story. Nick though is completely AWOL, and seeing how he reacts to certain events in this episode makes me wonder just how well he'll mentally do in the comings months. Will he crack and have a mental breakdown? Will he take his life? Will he stand up for the group in the face of greater evil? I have no idea, but I'm rooting for the asshole everyone loves to hate. 

Carver though is that greater evil and the most volatile person of the season though. He's a man obsessed with the idea of community and family and will go at lengths to be sure that your group joins his "family" by any means necessary. What's scary about Carver though is how smart he is, and it's even worse given the fact that when you first encounter him, it's a conversation where you know he's a man not to trust, yet someone you don't want to mess with. It's great that the season now has an identifiable villain, since the biggest fault of the first season was that it really didn't have that much of an over arching plot. Each episode felt like it could stand on its own, with the only connection between episodes being Lee Everett and Clementine. Carver though looks like he's going to tie each episode together and form a more cohesive story, which I am curious to see. And given how the episode ends, things are going to get really interesting with him.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the other characters that you encounter this episode, but I haven't really gotten a peg for most of their personalities. The only new character that was interesting was Walter, who had an ethical dilemma he had to handle after the group meets up with his. It essentially boils down to could Walter forgive someone for what they've done even though they weren't aware of it? It's one of the moral choices in this episode, which definitely shook things up a bit. The only gripe I could have for the structure of the episode was that it seemed very lopsided. There was a lot of focus put into the beginning and the end of the episode, with the middle part feeling dragged out and delaying the tense ending. Looking back, I remember the ending and the beginning of the episode for its great character moments, not the middle where the big action sequence is. 

So far, The Walking Dead Season 2 is not disappointing in the slightest and decides to go down a much different route than its predecessor did. Decisions have much more weight behind them and look like they'll craft this into a much darker and focused story than season 1 was. We're still lacking that great relationship that made season 1 stand out so much, and I'm sure that we won't be finding that pathos in this season. Instead, we're going to get more intense actions and forcing Clementine to grow up and trust others in a world that's all darkness with little good people anymore. That's why as of now, The Walking Dead Season 2 gets a 4 out of 5. They score itself will be updated with each upcoming episode, but for the record, episode 1 was a 3 out of 5 and episode 2 was a 4 out of 5. 

Can anything ever go right in The Waling Dead?

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