Yesterday, the third episode of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead’s second season was released. The episode, entitled In Harm’s Way, stands tall as one of the best entries yet across The Walking Dead’s two impressive seasons. Thematically tense and utterly engaging throughout the episode’s duration, In Harm’s Way serves as a turning point in The Walking Dead’s second season.
In Harm’s Way opens up where the previous episode left off, Clementine and her group have been captured by Bill Carver and are en route back to his compound. Those in Clem’s group who have already escaped from the wicked Carver are defeated, fearful of what will happen to them upon their return to the place they once called home.
What happens in between the early events and the shocking finale of In Harm’s Way is perhaps the best example of Telltale Games crafting a story that players genuinely care about. Many -if not all – of the previous episodes of The Walking Dead have been engaging, but In Harm’s Way takes the cake when it comes to drawing the player in. The previous two episodes have done a wonderful job at introducing the player to Clementine’s new found friends and the events of In Harm’s Way simply pull at the player’s heartstrings because of this.
It seems that Telltale’s intention with In Harm’s Way was to craft an episode that showcased just how brutal human beings can be. Zombies play a much smaller role in this episode than they have in ones past. Humans, instead, are shown as the most dangerous threat existing in this harsh world. From the very opening moments, Carver’s forces are shown as overly violent and wicked, going so far as to strike Clementine down within minutes of the episode’s start.
As In Harm’s Way progresses, Carver is shown as something more of an unstable – and delusional – leader. His talk of repentance stands in stark contrast to the acts he commits in front of others. Painted as a man with a vision gone askew, Carver is every bit as terrifying as a villain as players have seen so far in The Walking Dead.
Clementine is once again at her best in this episode. Far from the scared girl that she once was, each dialogue option the player may chose for Clem in various conversations allow for her personality to develop further. Regardless of the various options – which generally boil down to sympathetic responses, stern statements, walking a neutral path or simply staying quiet – it is clear that In Harm’s Way is the first episode in which Clementine genuinely feels like an adult. Despite her impressive survival so far, there have always been elements of Clementine that remind players of her youth. The events of In Harm’s Way, however, show that despite her young age, Clementine’s ability to make insanely difficult decisions makes her more of an adult than ever before.
In Harm’s Way guides players on Clementine’s group’s efforts to escape the compound of Carver. Treated as prisoners from the moment they get there, it does no take long before Clementine, Kenny and company make the decision to escape at all costs. With the help of two new characters already in the prison – Nick and Jane – the group begins to formulate a plan to get outside of the compound’s walls.
Formulating this plan has Clementine stealing her captors radios, in order to maintain contact with Luke, who has entered the outskirts of the compound unknown to Carver. With the help of Luke and Bonnie, Clementine and the rest of the group prepare to guide a herd of zombies towards to compound in order to slip out unnoticed during the chaos.
Of course, things do not go off without a hitch. In the interest of avoiding major spoilers, suffice to say that there are a few bumps along the way that lead to Carver’s wrath being put on full display. In one of the most intense scenes yet in The Walking Dead, Carver brutalizes one of the group, leaving him near-death and disfigured for life. It is in this moment that the gravity of In Harm’s Way becomes apparent. While the episode leaving up to this has certainly been tense, seeing Carver so casually and willingly harm another adds a sense of urgency to the escape.
In an awful position, the group feels downtrodden and ponders their ability to escape and bring everyone with them. In a harrowing moment, the decision whether or not to leave members of the group behind hangs over the player’s head.
Ultimately, the time to escape comes and the group makes their move. Clementine serves as the crux for the escape, sneaking into Carver’s office in order to utilize the PA system the group aims to use to draw the herd of zombies towards the building. In the resulting chaos, Clementine attempts to flee with the rest of the group only to find that they have been cut off by Carver. As he launches into a tirade about the group’s betrayal, the player quickly realizes that only Clementine can do something to save her friends, causing her to leap onto Carver from above, startling him enough to the group to pummel him.
The next event in In Harm’s Way presents players with two of the hardest decisions ever faced in The Walking Dead. With guns drawn on Carver, the decision whether to tie him up and continue the escape of murder the wicked man is given to the player. Despite everything wrong this man has done, what to do is a hard decision to make, but nothing compared to what comes next.
Kenny is finally given a chance to extract vengeance upon Carver for the brutal beating he received earlier in the episode. With a crowbar in hand, Kenny urges the rest of the group out of the warehouse so that he may have a minute alone with Carver. Clementine’s decision to stay with Kenny and watch the violence or leave with the group is a tough moment, as player’s can easily see the benefits to choosing either. Illustrating the point made earlier, this decision marks Clementine’s maturation even further, as she must balance her own desires with that of the better of the groups.
The finale of In Harm’s Way comes immediately after exiting the warehouse. Cornered by the approaching herd, the group must cover themselves in guts in order to attempt to slip through the zombie masses unnoticed. In an extremely tense scene, Clementine and the group do their best to stay calm as they struggle through the herd. The actions of one, however, end up being costly to the rest of the group, as their cover is quickly blown and the lurkers bite, forcing the group into action.
As the episode comes to a close, one of the group is bit in the hand during a struggle, giving player’s the option to swing for the biting zombie’s head or chop through the bit person’s arm in hopes of saving them. This choice is a frantic, dizzying one to make and arguably the best example of quick thinking that players have ever had to do in The Walking Dead. The choice, and cost of it, will sit with the player in the following months as they wait for the fourth episode to launch.
In Harm’s Way is a thrill ride from start to finish. As previously stated, there is little denying that this episode is one of the most tense yet. The characters, both of Clementine’s group and Carver’s forces are pitch-perfect throughout, added a sense of belief to the actions that follow. Writing-wise, Telltale has always done a bang up job in The Walking Dead, but In Harm’s Way is perhaps the best storytelling we have seen yet.
Visually, The Walking Dead maintains the impressive art style that keeps with the graphical fidelity of the comic series. Each character is well designed and looks natural. The only awkward moments visually come from controlling Clementine in large areas, where her relatively stiff walking animation is put on display.
Yet again, In Harm’s Way carries on The Walking Dead’s tradition of top-notch voice acting. The new additions to the cast this episode are well-acted, specifically the one-armed Reggie, who delivers each and every line of dialogue with a perfect blend of wit, humor and emotion.
The Walking Dead’s second season has been an undeniably intense one so far and In Harm’s Way sets the bar at an all-time high. Left in an arguably worse situation than the group was in at the start of the episode, In Harm’s Way is rife with action and unforgettable decisions that will change the game forever.
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