There’s something about little girls fighting their way through a zombie apocalypse that is incredibly captivating. The Last Of Us proved that you don’t need a macho gunslinger mowing down hordes of enemies to make a compelling protagonist. And now, The Walking Dead Season Two Episode 2: A House Divided returns to continue the story of Clementine – the pocket-sized dynamo from Season 1 of the games. And let’s be clear about it, she still owns. Clementine is as much at home while she’s blasting away the undead as she is while frolicking through her surroundings. She’s certainly handled herself better in the universe of The Walking Dead than many of the adults who’ve crossed her path.
While some of Clementine’s antics push the envelope of believability, this isn’t really a major problem of any sort. You don’t see little girls cutting through swathes of zombies every day, but then this isn’t exactly the cushy universe that we live in. The world has gone to hell, and extraordinary circumstances create extraordinary heroes (or in this case, heroines). Clementine isn’t all guns and glory, though. She depends a lot on the altruism of complete strangers she encounters on her journey – a stark reminder that for all of her antics, she’s still a little girl. These different dynamics meld together to create a fantastic entry into Telltale Games’ stellar series of games. The game works equally well as a standalone story or as an episodic adventure in the series.
When Robert Kirkman created The Walking Dead graphic novels, he did something unusual – making zombies believable. He achieved this by essentially making it a character study about humans trapped in an insane situation. We, as the readers eventually came to recognize that the humans in the story were essentially the walking dead. Telltale Games’ has used this rich lore from the graphic novels to create a great story of their own. In episode 1, we met a band of survivors as Clementine and tried to fit in and survive. Episode 2 continues the story of these people we met, and their personalities are explored in greater depth than they were earlier. Nick no longer is a stereotypical rebellious teenager. Rebecca isn’t a shrill cynic, and is more relatable even though she remains an unlikable character. Luke, Sarah, Calvin and Arlos all get different layers to their personalities which makes them all feel more like real people than plot devices.
Even the setting the episodes are based in is starting to gain more depth as we begin to understand the gravity of the situation Clementine and the others find themselves in. Distrust and paranoia has always been a central theme for The Walking Dead, and episode 2 ramps up things on this front. Clementine is essentially completely isolated from the rest of the group and is rapidly losing any traction and support she had. She meets one of the characters who appeared earlier in the story only to find that the person she knew is gone. Clementine must survive through this ordeal while constantly questioning her alliances and friendships. This story mechanic adds an extra layer of danger to the situation, since she needs to protect herself from humans as well as the zombie lurkers.
As a matter of fact, dealing with zombies turns out to be infinitely easier than dealing with humans. With a zombie, there’s no need to think about what you need to do – either you kill, or you run. With her human acquaintances, Clementine is constantly walking the razor wire of friendship and enmity. Even the dialogue choices grow suitably grimmer as we progress through the story. Most of the time, you are forced to be blunt and harsh to the people you meet, since there isn’t much time for subtlety. Clementine is finding out that the world is filled with dangerous situations and death is a constant companion. She’s coming to understand that even though a group of people might have banded together through necessity, each and every one of them is on their own.
This cynicism doesn’t feel like it’s forced into the story. Clementine’s attitude is a natural outcome of the bleak world that she inhabits. She knows that bad things will happen, often. And everyone whom this group of people meets undergoes some sort of tragedy or pain. When people are this afraid for their lives, they are extremely secretive. Carver, the man who loomed like a spectre through the discussions from the last episode finally makes an appearance. And he doesn’t disappoint. He is a complex villain who starts out by talking about leading the survivors to safety, but somehow more and more people die on his watch. He threatens the life of our heroine multiple times and is completely prepared to inflict brutal violence to achieve his ends. He is a fitting entry into the cadre of fantastic villains from Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels.
It needs to be said that The Walking Dead Season Two Episode 2: A House Divided is uncompromisingly bleak. Every single person in this story seems to be doomed. Bad things happen to good people. In fact, the story almost dresses up its characters in red shirts as soon as they perform an act of kindness. Telltale, please give us some hope. Surely, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel here?
In summation, Episode 2 gets the story of Season Two up and running. Episode 1 featured a lot of table-setting and plotting, and we finally get some paybacks here. Clementine is still a compelling heroine, and Carver might turn out to be good enough to share a frame with Negan and The Governor. With the series now in full swing, it will be interesting to see how Season Two turns out in future episodes. For more PC & Video Game Reviews along with current console gaming reviews make sure to check out our main blog at The Old School Game Vault.
Game Score 8.5/10
Written By: Brandon Perton