Did I do the right thing? That thought was the only thing running through my mind when I finished episode five of Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season 2. Did I make the right choices? Could it have all unfolded another way? In two seasons Telltale has given us some terribly difficult choices to make but the ones in No Going Back seemed even more cruel and ambiguous. Trying to do the “right thing” has never felt so wrong.
When it was first announced that Telltale’s episodic zombie adventure was getting a second season I was skeptical of how the story would continue. Would you step into the shoes of another caretaker for Clementine? Would the story jump forward in time so Clementine would be an adult? These possibilities didn’t seem the most appealing but neither did stepping into the shoes of a young girl and trying to face the apocalypse. I can safely say that Telltale won me over from episode one and things only got better.
Season two took away some of the perceived autonomy that you had in season one as an adult and replaced it with people questioning your decisions, not listening to you and writing you off as “just a little girl.” While you proved yourself to be capable, sometimes you did need an adult to come to your rescue and that is why this season was so interesting; it didn’t conform to one particular mold.
Clementine wasn’t the powerhouse protector that Lee was for most of season one but she also wasn’t a helpless little girl who couldn’t hold her own. There was a back and forth that made it interesting to see what would happen in each encounter. This very back and forth is the reason why episode five was such a success. Clementine had to make a lot of hard choices and the player had to make them knowing that Clementine may not be able to help in the way that she intends.
Without spoiling anything I will say that there is one scene in particular where Clementine tries over and over to help, but in the end it feels like her attempts (until the very end of the scene) are completely futile. Every time she does something, it’s countered and we never saw anything like that with Lee in season one.
Sure, Lee didn’t completely steamroll every obstacle but when a choice was presented, his intervention usually had a big impact. This change in tone and change in gameplay mechanic created some of the most dramatic storytelling this game has had to offer.
Going along with this great back and forth are the fantastic moral dilemmas that The Walking Dead has become known for. The right and wrong of situations aren’t so clear-cut and this is achieved in non-traditional ways that keep you guessing as to what a “good” person would do. There is a very poignant scene in the episode that tackles this issue and leads to some fantastic dialogue. In the end you are left asking if a “good” person can even exist in this world.
The episode moved along at a pretty good pace and covered a lot of ground, providing a crazy amount of closure that I wasn’t sure we were going to get. The whirlwind of choices, situations, character deaths and more could have been overwhelming if the game hadn’t provided some good quiet character moments. Never has the “walk around and find people to talk to” mechanic felt more welcome.
The ending of the episode will vary drastically depending on your choices and there are five different endings that will no doubt have a huge impact on how season 3 plays out. The fact that you have a real choice to change the ending of the game in a huge way is a fantastic plus Telltale’s point and click adventure.
The episode isn’t perfect (with the beginning being too unrealistic for me to digest), but any problems it has are easily outweighed by the fantastic storytelling and the tense, dramatic moments that the game provides. No Going Back is an aptly named episode that perfectly sums up everything we love about this game series.