The beauty and the agony of The Walking Dead series is that even during its most uplifting story beats, you're anticipating the gut-kick; that moment when the world turns to ruin around you. As one character remarks early in the episode, you're all just waiting for your turn to die.
So, though the midway point of A House Divided is marked with an emotional reunion followed by some touching exchanges from friends old and new, you can never shake the knowledge that something bad is just around the corner. And try as I might, this knowledge is slowly hardening my once-innocent Clementine.
The controversial choice of casting Clem as Season 2's protagonist is working both for and against developer Telltale at the moment. On one hand, there's a deeply uncomfortable but somewhat novel vulnerability in playing the part of a young girl in the midst of a zombie apocalypse or alone in a house with a male stranger, and it's empowering to see Clem handle herself better than the majority of grown-ups surrounding her.
But, that said, there is a fair amount of disconnect in this episode when characters continually ask too much of the underage protagonist. It's not that you don't believe she's capable of taking care of herself; it's just that you end up thinking considerably less of almost every single adult in the game for sending a child into danger instead of themselves, or for burdening her with problems that are simply way beyond her maturity level.
Clem may regularly assert her independence, but she's still just an eleven year old kid. Not the same wide-eyed kid that Lee gave up everything to protect perhaps, but I felt a pang of, I guess, maternal instinct when confronted with her weary little face confiding to a friend that she was "tired of running." With all she's been through, who wouldn't be?
In terms of action, A House Divided is less full-on than Season Two's opening episode winceathon, but there are a few hairy moments where you'll be both shooting and smashing yourself and others out of harm's way. This episode's most engaging challenges are of a quieter variety, however, and it's in these subtle character-building moments that you'll really be able to define Clementine and determine where her allegiances lie.
And it's just as well these smaller moments carry such weight, as by now we've seen numerous variations on many of The Walking Dead's major set-piece struggles before. Meeting an ambiguous stranger and deliberating over whether to trust them; dealing with the fallout of inadvertently killing an ally of an ally; talking sense into someone who's close to giving up on it all - it's perhaps an unavoidable problem of the now-familiar setting, and it's worth mentioning that the same issues are currently present in the comic book series too, which is struggling to live up to the novelty of its earlier story arcs.
This episode ends on a doozy of a cliffhanger, but as a fan of the comics (and to a lesser extent, the TV show), I'm worried it's straying into another kind of scenario we've seen played out several times before. Here's hoping Telltale proves me wrong. Keep that hair short.
- You'll know it when it happens
- Setting things up for an explosive ep 3
- Our little Clem's growing up
- Most adults happy to hide behind a child
- Set-pieces are starting to wear thin