Editor's Note: Although this review avoids major spoilers for the current episode, past Walking Dead installments may be discussed. Enjoy!
Clementine has been through more crap in her short lifetime than most families ever endure collectively. By the end of “All That Remains,” she had no one left to care for – and no one left to care for her – from Season One. But Clementine is not out of the woods yet. The Walking Dead’s latest episode, “A House Divided,” adds to the death toll and puts a face to the core villain while enriching our knowledge of Season Two’s cast.
That villain, in cast you forgot, is Carver (three months is a long hiatus). The characters muttered his name in passing before, as if “Carver” itself was taboo – as if saying the word aloud would cause him to materialize from thin air, Voldemort-style. But his introduction – a home invasion – sets up the most chilling moment of the season. Could you maintain your composure when confronted by an utter stranger, in a house equally foreign? Could you keep your wits as an eleven-year-old girl?
Clementine's physique still poses problems.
Like The Governor from Kirkman’s comics, Carver teeters on the brink of insanity. Voiced by Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill), he is the perfect quasi-villain. Carver wishes the best for humanity – family, food, shelter – except he does not shy away from coercion. He would ask to be your best bud while torturing your mother, and his calm, nonchalant tone masks unpredictable reactions. If I must complain, Carver lacks originality. He behaves too much like The Governor.
The series does not need another copycat psychopath. Will Carver chop off Clementine’s hand or introduce Alvin’s skull to a baseball bat repeatedly in Episode Three? Both The Governor and Carver kill without remorse, but watching The Governor commit his brand of horrific atrocities desensitized me to Carver’s threats during “A House Divided.” Broken fingers and black eyes? Is that all you got? Although Carver is an irrefutable sack of waste, he is also a “me too” antagonist.
"You got red on you."
Robert Kirkman already did one better, then. As consolation, “A House Divided” dials back on the “go go go” mentality of “All That Remains.” After Carver’s debut – in his attempts to return our wayward protagonists to his flock – the momentum relents long enough for Clementine to get acquainted with Luke and company. Fans that mourned their paper-thin personalities rejoice. Rebecca's sour attitude sweetens, Alvin plays the altruistic husband, and Luke acts the big brother type. Moreover, I learned their names. I had trouble separating Nick and Luke before, and forgot Alvin’s identity until I read a wiki.
Still, the group’s dynamic seems more divisive than last season’s. An apocalypse should unite people against a common enemy; instead, the characters claw at each other’s throats and whisper behind backs. They ask for Clementine's advice, too, a sign that her opinions carry weight. Her age aside, I embraced Clementine's role as a leader rather than a follower, and the developers use every trivial choice effectively. Deciding where to sit at dinner – next to Clementine’s current troupe or a friend from Season One (following a tearful reunion) – tested already fragile alliances.
At what point is the universe just screwing with Clementine?
I rarely replay episodes as well. I prefer to live by my decisions, but this chapter’s climax threw punch after punch, layering on volatile situation after situation without leaving time to reflect on my actions (the impact only hits post-credits). Regardless, the finale provides numerous perspectives to explore. The conflict could end with several deaths on your hands, or you as an innocent bystander. I jumped back in, ready for round two despite my battered and bruised emotions, to see all the available outcomes.
“A House Divided” also ties events of Season One and 400 Days together. Clementine mentions Lilly’s behavior following the attack on the motel, for example, which broke hearts and angered the audience. Long-time players should appreciate the extra bit of fan service during this slow interlude. If nothing else, the references alleviate unfavorable sentiments towards Carver. Now, if Telltale can get the next episode out before June...
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign)
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Mac, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, iOS
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