The Walking Dead: Season 2 – “In Harms way” review

in harms way

Do check out our other reviews of ‘The Walking Dead: Season 2’;

Episode 1 – “All that remains”

Episode 2 – “A house divided”

So here we are. The mid-way point of season 2 – Over the course of the 90 minute running time Telltale will have brought each and every character to their breaking point and give us control of their fate at precise moments. There are a multitude of choices to make and none of them are easy.

Telltale are aware that they are sticking to a formula here, they set the bar incredibly high after season 1 and are trying to give the player everything they want, every episode. Question is do Telltale have enough nous and talent to give us surprises along the way or is the format getting tired and are these choices worth making?

Let’s get the game mechanic critique out-of-the-way – the same as always. Surprisingly though there is even less game-play on show here than in recent episodes (some going really as the previous episode was hardly brimming over with game-play) and at times (the faux stealth section) the curtain is pulled back a little – which somewhat soils the experience – yet this doesn’t really matter; if you have bought into these characters then you’ll be swept away in a narrative tour-de-force.

Although the set up is you’re a prisoner and a massive herd of walkers are en-route the real danger comes from Carver. This is Carver’s episode. Although some of his dialogue is borderline cliche (“the better good” etc.) it is carried off by a performance from Michael Madsen that builds a sense of unhinged, unrestrained and unpredictable cruelty. A dangerous combination no matter which way you look at it.

In the previous episode Carver’s threat was very much in his controlled/subdued threat as he interrogated Clem in the cabin. Here his threat is as much physical as it is psychological – he controls everyone around him; by any means necessary. Throughout this episode I actually found myself dreading any interaction with him, I feared him, I despised him, I down-right hated him. Carver is a sociopath that’s indisputable, but he is not like other video game sociopaths, he doesn’t merely exist to further the plot. That would be too simplistic for Telltale games. Instead in one electrifying scene between Carver and Clem; he conveyed a calm demeanour and intelligence that would entrance and manipulate many I began to appreciate his nuance and there is a real sense of necessity in Carver. He was needed to build the bond between Clem (I very nearly used the personal pronoun ‘you’) and her new band of survivors.

Carver’s character pushed me into making decisions I rebelled against him at every possible opportunity, I stood up for what I believed in – I manipulated him when I needed to (and I did). I struggled with no choice this episode because I felt I had none to make, I could never side with this man over my friends – and this group of survivors are my friends now. The bonds I formed over this episode will undoubtedly lead to some “feels” in the future I am sure. I was reminded of George Washington while playing this episode; when he said;

“True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity, before it is entitled to the appellation”

He was absolutely right! The acts of hatred from Carver only fueled my desire to find safety for Clem and it most certainly did not lie in this prison – I chose to keep her and my group safe. I now care for the members of my group and want to keep them safe from all the dangers and horrors of this world. Clem has grown. No longer is she a little girl – she is a survivor and a leader – ironically this development was born of some advice Carver gave me earlier in the episode.

Clems change

And yet I was left with one lingering thought at the end…

…What have I done?

I still wonder (3 days later) if I made the right decisions. If I had chosen another course of action would things be different?

“In harm’s way” is ‘The walking dead’ at its darkest. A dangerous, fast-paced episode that has all the emotional impact you’ve come to expect from the franchise; the ending will stick with me for some time. A beautifully paced and expertly executed episode that is, for my money, the second best episode of the franchise (after season 1’s finale of course) which has perfectly poised the rest of this season.

10/10

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