The Walking Dead Ep. 5 Review: The Way It Had To End
Warning! This review contains spoilers for the previous four episodes of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. Do not read this review if you want to get through the story intact. We’ll save you some trouble: You should absolutely play The Walking Dead.
Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, as it turns out, is not a story about zombies. It’s a story about the way people hurt each other, and the consequences of those actions.
Things are bad for Lee and his crew as Episode 5: No Time Left, the final installment of the first season of Telltale’s adventure adaptation of the graphic novel series, starts out, but that’s nothing new. With Clementine missing, Lee has set off to find her, with whomever he chose to bring along for the ride. Savannah has been overrun with zombies that followed the group’s train through the countryside, and danger is at the highest level it has been in the series up to now.
But of course, the zombies are a backdrop to what’s really going on in The Walking Dead. Relationships that players have been building through the last four episodes are drawing to their various conclusions, and there’s a lot of reaping what’s sown in this conclusion episode. While there’s a lot of “more of the same” going on — Lee and his friends and their bonds will be tested again and again, just like they always are — Telltale has attached a higher degree of emotional relevance than ever before with Episode 5.
The Walking Dead Episode 5: No Time Left
Platform: PC (reviewed), Xbox 360, PS3, iOS
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Released: Nov. 21, 2012
MSRP: $24.99 (all five episodes)
The real power of Episode 5 is that it manages to recall elements from the last four episodes with incredible fluidity. Your choices come back to haunt you, no matter what they were, and the story is able to bring up a number of events from the past and recast them based on current events. When the characters sit down and discuss what happened with Larry in the meat locker in Episode 2, for example, the events gain new weight in light of the current situation as the group considers what to do next. There are a number of other great references that remind you how far you’ve come, and for the most part, they’re more than just dialog moments when somebody says, “Hey, remember (dead character)? That was sad, amirite?”
The focus of The Walking Dead has been on character interactions and conversations, and Telltale is, for the most part, firing on all cylinders here. Character drama is boiling over as danger continues to spike, and old conflicts will get wrapped up, even though it’s not altogether nice. The characters in the game are so powerfully drawn, however, that the conclusions of their various arcs always feel natural and compelling.
There’s a degree to which it feels like the ending of The Walking Dead wrote itself. Despite the emotional heft it carries with it, there are fewer real moments in which the player has actual agency, especially in terms of what’s happening to the other characters. Things go sideways in Episode 5, as they’ve always done, sure. But the decisions are left with the other characters a lot of the time, and the motion of the episode feels inexorable; which is to say, you might find it predictable, because it is that.