The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier: Episode 5 - From the Gallows (Xbox One) review
"Like a Walking Dead cover band."
We did it. We made it all the way to the finale of Telltale's The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. This review heavily spoils events in earlier episodes, so if you haven't played the game up to this point, take a look at the review for Episode 1, or skip to the final paragraph for some thoughts on the season as a whole.
This episode's opening flashback is a perfect comment on Telltale's adventure games, and I'm not sure it's intentional. Javi is playing dominoes with David and their father, and you have to choose a domino to play. You have two choices, and the domino David plays is a perfect counter to both of them. There's no way to win the game, which is fine, since that's how games of chance work sometimes, but the game has you make a decision that is ultimately meaningless anyway. Many (though not all) of the choices you make in Telltale's games work basically this way. No matter what you do, the immediate and ongoing result doesn't change. It's weird of them to make it so obvious in this minor instance.
The episode proper opens with a familiar scene for Walking Dead fans. The town, which everyone thought was so safe, is overrun with zombies. This is because Kate, who tragically survived her explosive crash into the town's barrier, has left a giant hole for any old rotting creature to just waltz right through. Now the people of this town are being eaten alive, but Kate, like, feels really bad about it, you guys. At this point I don't understand how anyone can like Kate, but that's the assumption Telltale makes.
Despite things occasionally looking up with David, he continues to make bad calls left and right. In a scene with a hysterical woman whose husband has been bitten by a zombie and is about to die, Javi can calm her down and resolve the situation peacefully, but that won't stop David from brutalizing her for no reason.
This scene is followed by one where David pours his heart out to you and you're meant to feel sympathetic towards him, which feels flat in retrospect, as he continues to behave more or less the same way for the rest of the game. The highlight of this scene is that you can calmly and sincerely tell David to jump off the roof and kill himself. That's the greatest dialogue choice of the season for me.
David's supposed desire to change takes a back seat to his desire to be a piece of crap when Kate blurts out that she and Javier have been romantically involved, which isn't even true in my playthrough. That's enough for David to get violent with Javi, who has the option to take the beating or to fight back. Once that drama has passed, you have to decide whether to stay with Kate and help save the city she ruined, or go with David and Gabe, who have a truck and want to get out of there. In my game, Clementine stayed with Kate, and Clementine is the only character I really cared about this season (or, at least, the only one I cared about who wasn't doomed by being the person I saved from death in the previous episode) so the choice was easy. This led to a sad ending, which I'm not sure was avoidable if I'd chosen to go with David instead, but it's implied.
Ultimately, this season of Telltale's The Walking Dead was a letdown. While switching control away from Clementine was probably a good idea, as her existence as an established character brought down Season 2 a bit by narrowing down what choices would be believable for her, she was still the best thing about the season. (A post-credits teaser claims that we haven't seen the last of her, and while I fear this downward trend the Walking Dead games seem to be on, I'm glad Clem will be back.) Javier was a good main character whose personality as a generally nice guy didn't feel too stifling. However, most of the rest of the cast left something to be desired. The most important secondary characters were straight-up bad a lot of the time, between Kate and her undesirable relationship being forced upon you, and David and his lack of sympathetic moments that make his “complicated” relationship with Javier actually pretty simple. Even lesser characters who I liked early on began acting like jerks in Episode 4 and didn't necessarily redeem themselves by the end of this finale. Poor characterization combined with a lot of rehashed ideas leaves us with a mediocre end to a disappointing season.
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (June 14, 2017)
Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.
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