This is a spoilerific piece on the first episode of The Walking Dead season 2, as well as season 1. For the spoiler FREE review, click here.
“But what happens to Clementine?!,” a sentiment most of us shared upon completing the last episode of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. With Lee’s mission to save Clementine from the stranger complete, Clementine was left with the difficult choice of shooting a dying Lee or leaving him handcuffed. Whatever your choice, Clementine flees, her fate left unknown. We were forced to wait and see what would become of the young girl we’ve grown to care for, and we finally have that answer with season 2’s first episode, “All that Remains.”
Clementine is now the main protagonist, an obvious shift, but a necessary one. Characters like Kenny and Christa were important towards the end, but the focus was always on the dynamic between Lee and Clementine. With that relationship gone, season 2 focuses dominantly on Clementine’s development, evident in episode 1’s lack of story or central goal.
The first episode of season 1 presented an interesting backstory to Lee as he was driven to jail, and meeting Clementine presents the overarching objective: reach Savannah to find her parents. Yet this episode doesn’t match that same level of structure. Though there are unanswered questions lingering—What happened to Christa’s baby? Who is this Carver everyone’s afraid of? Who does Clementine see when she says, “I thought you were dead”? —all of these contribute to the Walking Dead formula to keep you interested.
Clementine stumbles upon a new group of survivors who seem to play key roles in the rest of the episodes, though upon their introduction there’s not much to them; we don’t get a sense of who they are or why should we care. In fact, at the end of the episode the game forces you to choose between Peter and his nephew, a decision that wasn’t all that hard to make—I didn’t really know any of them well enough to feel an emotional pull towards either, and one of them was bitten. Easy pick.
Then there’s the beginning of the episode: Omid’s death. The setup for his untimely demise was well done, but it occurred much too early, thus pulling away that emotional attachment we’re meant to feel. If his death is meant to illustrate how future episodes are dialing up the ruthlessness, that’s fair, but I hope that’s also not the case. Too much viciousness can desynthesize the experience, and take away what The Walking Dead has built up to this point.
Ultimately, this episode wasn’t light on the brutality at all. The vicious dog attack and subsequent wound cleaning was very hard to sit through, intentionally so. In fact, come time to choose whether to let the dog live or die after it’s impaled on nearby debris, I decided to end its suffering but looked away when I made my choice. Seeing man’s best friend turn on an innocent Clementine were hard enough—I understood why the dog acted like it did, and I felt Clementine did too…
Considering that I’m speaking of a fictional dog and its fictional suffering speaks mountains of The Walking Dead’s writing prowess.
In previous DLC, 400 Days, social dilemmas were lightly touched on with each individual story. Topics such as, “how are language barriers dealt with in a zombie apocalypse?” are aspects not usually discussed in mainstream zombie media, but still something we deal with every day that wouldn’t just disappear should the worst happen. Which is why I love that the first episode introduces the “is it his?” dilemma with the pregnant survivor—it’s a problem Lori Grimes also dealt with in the comics and television show. The Walking Dead centers on personal struggles that sometimes overshadow the undead problem around them.
Moreover, Telltale takes it one step further and even uses the community’s feedback of the game itself to mold future episodes. As Walking Dead veterans know, the choices you make in every episode are tallied and compared to other players, but this isn’t the only information the developer uses to construct the story—the way we react on social media counts too. Duck, Kenny and Katjaa’s son from season 1, was apparently an unlikeable character in his initial debut. With this information the writers figured his character had to die, but they needed it to be meaningful, thus ultimately tailoring certain situations where Lee is forced to interact with Duck to make his death all that more significant.
Finally, Clementine. She is no longer the bewildered child Lee met at the beginning of their journey; she’s seen enough to understand the direness of her situation. Her dialogue choices in season 2 can make her blunt or manipulative, superbly crafted to showcase her growth. The first episode is powerful in its messaging that Clementine is tough enough to take care of herself, given the lengths she goes to just to tend to the dog bite, but the developers make sure to not completely rid her of what makes a child, a child: hope. She still believes Christa is alive, and she immediately warmed to the dog she meets in the woods (well, it’s your choice to, but at least it’s an option). Clementine hasn’t resorted to being a one-dimensional character, nor shall she ever be. What’s left to be seen is if the other characters can catch up.
It’s back to the waiting game; waiting for the next episode, waiting for new problems for Clementine to overcome (or not). Season 1 blew everyone away, and now it’s time to see if Clementine can deliver the same effect on her own.