As good as season 1 was throughout, it’s really the last episode that sticks with you. That final moment with Lee was heart wrenching, with two powerful performances from its lead actors; it showed how good storytelling in games could be. Because of that No Going Back, the final episode of Season 2, was always facing an uphill struggle. And you know what, they’ve only gone and pulled it off. Spoilers for the season up to this point will naturally follow.
We left our cast in a little trouble in the last episode. Two groups came together and bullets have begun to fly. Picking up here you’re thrown right into the thick of it with little chance to take a breath. Despite this hectic start the episode soon sets on a more steady pace and you realise you’re going to be delving deeper into each character unlike any episode that has come before.
The middle portion is very much about the characters, what has driven them to this point, and you start to really feel connected to each one. A complaint that can be levelled at previous episodes is that you never feel part of this group like you did in the first season, barely remembering their names half the time. Episode 5 goes some way to rectifying this. There’s a beautiful moment where you actually get time to unwind, share jokes, talk to people. It’s something that the season has lacked thus far, as the game pummels you with misery and despair. It’s nice to get some light relief.
That only lasts a short while though. Telltale obviously must’ve felt they needed to do something radically different to set it apart from last season’s final scenes. And boy, have they accomplished it. The choices young Clementine are given will stay with you long after the game is completed. Even now we feel a great wave of regret over our decisions. It is all brilliantly done. There are plenty of standout moments throughout this episode, but obviously we’re teetering on the edge of spoiler territory and this is really a game that must be experienced knowing as little as possible.
At a time when games are often criticised for tailoring too much to the male white demographic, it’s amazing that a game where you control a young girl gets made at all. And to have her be a believable character on top of that. Over two seasons you’ve seen her grow and change, and you feel like your choices have made an impact on that. That’s really the greatest achievement in all this. Remember Mass Effect 3? It was maligned by everyone because at the end of the day it felt like your choices didn’t matter. In a way, The Walking Dead is similar. Like Mass Effect 3 the game clearly has a beginning and end that is almost entirely set in stone, but it’s the events that occur in between that set it apart. You feel like your character is changing with each moment, whereas Shepard felt like a blank slate that the player projected onto, with very little in the way of character development. Telltale really are on top of their game at the minute.
Everything you loved about the first season has been expertly crafted into one episode. It’s wonderfully acted, brilliantly written and will have you thinking about it well after the credits roll.