The Walking Dead Season 2 Ep. 4 Review: Hero’s Fall
Warning: Light spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 2 Episodes 1, 2 and 3 herein.
Oh, the hubris of thinking things might be going well in The Walking Dead.
Picking up only seconds after the end of Episode 3, “In Harm’s Way,” Episode 4 — dubbed “Amid the Ruins” — shows the consequences of the actions Clementine and her friends put in motion in the previous episode. In that chapter, Clementine became a heroic figure, venturing bravely into danger and using her intelligence to act as a leader among her older peers.
Episode 4, however, sends crashing apart the best-laid plans of the previous episode. Clementine has become a leader, it’s true, and as things go badly during the group’s escape from Carver’s camp, she has to take responsibility for those decisions, no matter how they shake out.
It’s a harsh lesson to learn, and “Amid the Ruins” tests the resolve of both Clementine and players. It’s becoming harder and harder to save everyone — it may be impossible to save anyone — and there’s no happiness to be had from escaping Carver’s deadly clutches. Players are reminded how fragile life, and the group, really are. Ruins may be all Clementine has left.
The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 4: Amid the Ruins
Platform: PC (Reviewed), Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: July 22, 2014
MSRP: $24.99 (all episodes)
The escape plan was solid, one character will later lament; it was the execution that was sloppy. Season 2’s third episode concluded with the group attempting to cross a herd of walkers they’d summoned as a distraction for their escape. Some people got shot, others panicked, and it all went to hell in the final moments. The culmination of the episode had Clementine making the split-second decision as she saw Sarita’s hand bitten by a walker: kill the zombie or cut off the limb.
How players made that choice affects a few things going forward, but the group is in shambles no matter where Clementine’s hatchet fell. Her work to save her friends, and the choices she makes to do so, becomes the major theme of the rest of the episode. Some may not want to be carried forward; at what point should Clem stop trying?
The group comes back together in pieces at the nearby Civil War memorial not far from the camp, and for those who survived the escape, things are looking grim. With Rebecca’s baby coming any time, Kenny distraught at Sarita’s fate, and other characters missing and feared dead, Clementine’s focus turns to helping her friends as much as she can. But at every step of the way, she’s faced with one major question: At what point does her loyalty to herself outpace her loyalty to others?
In Episode 3, Carver had a scene with Clementine in which he discussed the need of people like Clementine and himself to take charge of other, less capable people. In that episode, Carver justified his harsh actions, which included beatings and summary executions, as being necessary for the greater good of the people. In Episode 4, Clementine sees the opposite situation, the lack of strong leadership, a group ready to cannibalize itself as stresses become too much for it. As one character remarks, Carver may have been a bastard, but at least the shelves were always full.
More than perhaps any other episode to this point, Episode 4 puts Clementine in no-win scenarios. Her choices here are less black-and-white than usual. They’re not so much “save person x or person y”; more like, “How much time will you risk spending on saving person z,” or “Which is more important, salvaging much-needed supplies or risking a second person to defend against walkers?” It’s a slight shift in the usual gameplay for the series, and works well here, especially because Telltale continues to thin out any potential puzzle-solving, and action sequences feel a bit rote. Asking Clem to make value judgments in the moment, and positioning those judgments as if they can spiral in heated moments and have later consequences, fills the gap nicely.
Once again, Telltale proves its path for Clementine is a rough and winding one, and Season 2 of The Walking Dead continues to deliver great characters and great moments. From Jane’s attempt to teach Clementine the value of going it alone, to Kenny’s deteriorating mental state, it’s another episode that’s packed with deep, flawed characters, but none so nuanced as Clementine herself.
With only one episode of The Walking Dead Season 2 left, it’s hard to see exactly where Telltale is going to take Clementine’s tale, and that’s a very good thing. The story continues to develop in unexpected directions, and the suspense that’s building for Episode 5 is palpable and intense.
As Episode 4 teaches, however, one can’t hope for much in a world where the dead rise.
- More great storytelling and challenges for the characters as the story continues to unfold
- A few solid dialogue moments that feel more challenging and puzzle-like than in previous episodes, making up for the lack of serious gameplay
- Choices feel like they’re snowballing to make for some pretty intense moments
- Story keeps taking unpredictable turns
- Powerful themes of saving friends and serving one’s own interests keep driving Clementine’s development in interesting ways
- Gameplay remains pretty simple and rarely challenging, and continues to be streamlined out of the greater experience in favor of dialogue choices
- Plotting in Episode 4 feels a little less definitive than earlier episodes — there’s less of a through-line here than in the past
Final Score: 90/100
The Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 4: “Amid the Ruins” was reviewed using a Steam code provided by Telltale Games. GameFront employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.