Wednesday
Aug272014

Oh My Darling Clementine-a TWDS2 retrospective series: All That Remains

014 has just been a busy year for game releases; it’s honestly been difficult to not just cover everything in games that’s happened this year—but to even cover all of the things that we wanted to cover on Press Pause Radio. Surprisingly, one of those very games was The Walking Dead Season 2. The perfect storm of circumstance and time constraints just pushed into a corner where we missed the train on properly reviewing for you guys and gals; so simply put, we decided not to.

I was able to catch up when the second episode released, but by that time, it just would have journalistically made sense from a practical standpoint to try and cram any catch up for critique by marathoning an impromptu “poop-sock” session of the game. It would have been a disservice to our follower base, so we ultimately decided to omit it; maybe cover it a different way instead when afforded the opportunity.

And Well…I just personally just reached the end of Season 2 of The Walking Dead, a play-through that carried on all of the choices of the previous seasons, and groomed for all of the emotionally strenuous decisions that I have make, and reflecting at the end of it, I can honestly say this.

I was truly unprepared for what I had signed up for when I took the responsibility of continuing Clementine’s story, and despite some reservations of some particular moments along the way, it all came full circle in the end, and manage to tear down any disappointment I may have had about the ride when it was all said and done. This will be the first of a five post series where I’ll be sharing my opinions on each individual episode in detail because there’s just too much to gloss over to just summarize the entire Season in one post—I hope the project will be as cathartic for you as it will be for me. Oh, and if wasn’t obvious already, this editorial series will spoil the shit out of some major plot details and events from the beginning to the very end of The Walking Dead: Season 2, so read with caution or come back when you’re done—take your time too, no rush.

If Telltale managed to one thing really well, it’s was the remarkable setting they painted that truly set the stage for the season’s introduction. I just couldn’t help but express how impressed I was by it, the start of Season 2 was able to defy the lofty gap of time and excellently bridge the events of the first season’s conclusion to the introduction. I know this praise may seem silly, considering the revealing promotion and trailer for Season 2 unveiling Clementine as the protagonist, implicitly conveying a successful escape from whatever potential danger we last saw her in, but such a foresight still didn’t impact the feeling I immediately felt the moment the game had faded into view.

The initial sigh of relief when seeing the familiar faces of Omid and Krista, following through on their promise of taking custody of Clementine brought a sense of reprieve that was so desperately needed after ambiguous nature of the prior game’s cliffhanger, that only serve to exasperate the amount of tears blinding my helpless gaze at the rolling credits.

This unfolding scene was deceptively uplifting, fantasizing all the future prospects of Krista’s and Omid’s expected first child did a number at lulling me into having a small modicum of hope, dragging me way from the harsh cynicism of questioning just how long this precious sentiment was going to last.

And, without fail, it totally did.

The eventual swerve of momentum hits hard; gradually unraveling a string of disasters that only grew direr after than the last, to then climax with the first harrowing tragedy thrown by Season 2, in the first five minute no less.

Omid dying, and doing so at the cost of saving you; and the sinking feeling of fixating on how you could have prevented it, as the screen coldly cuts to the title card of the game, as if it were sending me a message, challenging my emotional constitution over what I was about to embark on.

No matter how you choose to compose yourself and however much you try to make of the best of the available actions prior to Omid’s murder, a lingering doubt that you could of done more with clementine, for her, only festers before you could ever really shake it off.

No matter what, the situation was doomed to be fucked into an unimaginably sorrowful conclusion from the very beginning; this theme was dabbled in before, but nothing like this—this is, and will continue on to be, the status quo Clementine’s second story to the very end.

Over a year and half time has instantly past, and lengthy lapse of time segues to the present status of our duo, and within the seconds, the on-screen display of their spirit, is polarizing in difference from the morale they showed prior—it created such a genuinely uncomfortable tension.

This decision for this particular plot direction and the execution it had its mixed elements of agency and consistency at first. I personally perceived that it just left to much to the imagination, and what I had to infer about Clem following Omid’s death that would have molded her to the state we see her in now—it was a bit unnatural.

Granted, it was necessary to move on to a more gritty, jaded, Clementine, but the devil that spawned these particular details just didn’t play out organically as it really should have—which was frustrating because setup was doing a sweet job of delivering this new Clementine and then out of nowhere, suddenly got lost on the path it started blazing. The reluctantly restrained animosity towards Clementine regarding her role in the loss of Omid comes off a bit forced; I mean, why feel so bitter still after she’s continually travelled and looked after Clem for so long, the character never seemed so petulant before.

Krista’s apparent lack of any believably presumable signs of attachment to Clem only managed to hurt the writing of Season 2 so early to me because it almost defied the very walls of practicality in such a jarring manner. Think about it, Krista doesn’t shares no real value of obligation with Lee that’s solid to sell that she would stick by the one person she obviously harbors a grudge towards over the death of her lover .Dealing with that amount of bitterness for over 16 months? Nope, the illusion of relatability through fiction heavily based on the human condition just became incredibly flimsy during this juncture, and it couldn’t have ended sooner.

One thing became believably clear though from their interaction—Clementine has hardened. That flair of optimism seemed tainted, her remaining air of innocence fading, it was the eventual change of Clementine that everyone didn’t want to happen solely out of the simple love that we felt through Lee. Yet, it’s also the very same character path that we had to begrudgingly accept as a turn she was taking for the better, only because it’s one of the most effective attitudes to have when it came to bettering her chances of survival.

It didn’t take long after I settled into the new setting the game had built before more calamity would fall on top of their heads yet again. A group of marauders discovered our pair, and subjected them to the dire reality of apocalyptic Darwinism. The fallout from the skirmish ultimately separated Clem from the one and only adult she felt like she could actually trust, and the separation now pitted her against the dangerous elements of The Walking Dead’s world alone for the first time, since she met Lee.

The subtlety achieved by Telltale when the story had finally thrown Clementine into that heavily foreshadowed scenario that Lee had prepared her to possibly come to grips with was veiled brilliance, it just steered the experience back to where it needed to be. Even though Clem has admittedly wizened up into being someone who is fully capable of surviving, All That Remains proved that she still vulnerable to rookie choices, and even susceptible to mistakes that would compromise the very person that she aspires to live as.

Even though players always had the room to do questionably moral, downright terrible things as Lee, there was always one desire at the end of whatever action or course players choose to take with him that was abundantly clear; to mentor and hope the absolute best for Clementine, in the best way you possibly could. This key factor alone, contributed a completely new level of difficulty when making decisions with Clementine, and compounded the initial resolve I had for the actions I wanted her to take because of the obvious respect and love that she had for Lee and the intentions he wanted her to live by.

I don’t I think I was tested any harder to follow that principal, when it came to the segment where she discovered food before encountering an unassumingly friendly dog who warmly welcomed her like anyone would expect “Man’s Best Friend” to. While players who’ve invested this you far into Telltale’s adaption have had the unfortunate awareness of living to see another day meant to be more wary of people over the undead, The pleasant surprise of the demeanor of this hapless dog didn’t translate that. Instead,  the strange canine  ironically carried the torch of lit with everything good that the human spirit was capable of, before zombie doomsday happened.

When the urge to selfishly deny the furry little thing a share of the food that I miraculously found was presented, I just couldn’t bring myself not give him any, and even if I did deny it—the canine’s violent response seems like it was the inevitable action no matter what I chose. Either conclusion was set to teach a harsh lesson regardless it seems, and subsequently, a shrouded test of Clementine’s dwindling sense of humanity.

I killed the dog after it failed its desperate attempt at my life, costing the beast his own existence—because it was the one right thing to do, and one of the few decisions I felt like I actually had full control over. It came down to using the same attitude I came into the situation with originally, when I decided to show mercy the first time by feeding the starving animal, and it was only because the dog succumbed to its rabid instincts of survival of the fittest, that I forgave what was otherwise an unfortunate circumstance.

I wanted to have faith that I was capable of more than the simple carnal will to survive still, especially during a time of uncertainty on just how long it would be before Sweet Pea found other friendly life, Clem could easily go mad if there was no threshold of composure to hold herself by. Ending the mutt’s suffering was just better than the spiteful alternative, for her sake.

Now I’ve been frequently mentioning the law of Darwin throughout this piece, and I’m honestly surprised that I haven’t mentioned his best friend who has a law of his own, one that arguably occurs more often than the D-Man’s; Murphy. All That Remains consistently, and mercilessly enforces Murphy’s law more than Season one ever did; it does lend to the ups and downs of Season 2’s narrative sure, but there’s no denying Telltale’s Moxy in motivating Murphy to spare no expense, in his effort to piss harder, and harder, into Clem’s figurative cereal every time he makes an appearance.

Shortly after the dog, Clem is rescued from collapse by a pair of travelers named Luke and Pete. The tension of potential danger had sounded off real loud at first, but was thoroughly suppressed soon enough from the realization of predictability from TWD’s strict commitment to adhere to certain story beats that round off the astonishing narrative swerves it’s famous for. The McGuffin was honestly a welcomed one, as it was only natural that a game that emphasizes a great deal of focus on developing a protagonist’s personality and development around the influence from a cast of characters would see her finding new company soon. Nevertheless, it happened again; a chain of events began to unfold minutes after Clem’s rescue that I never would have expected, unfortunately, it was a crap surprise that also happened to  mark the beginning of this episode sad decline down.

The sight of bite from the wild dog I previously fended off left a troublesome bite wound that instantly instilled a frantic fear into every single one of the same champions that who came to my aid, flipping the script to killing me dead right on the spot—and it that’s when it got that wrong kind of weird again.

While their reactions were somewhat shocking at first because of their prior desire to help, the degree their paranoia they peaked over my possible infection in spite all of the evidence to the contrary that dismissed the insane reach of terror they displayed was just really forced, and uneven to everything that lead up to it, the more it progressed.

I mean, to clarify, I’m no dentist or anything, and I would never claim to be one, but I’m pretty sure that even through the transformation to a Walker is pretty crazy, the infection has never been proven to change any anatomy of a person (human decomposition withstanding) like teeth or jawlines. The teeth Impressions on Clem’s arm are blatantly that of a wild animal, just from the first glance at the wound alone, and the added doubt from the group’s medicine expert was seriously mind boggling, on to a whole different fucking level.  I mean, let’s sum it up; a doctor, one who assumingly possesses a PHD that required year, and years, and years of study before the world went to shit, never once considers the universally known knowledge that any infected wound could kill if untreated—it immediately took me out of the experience.

Even more so to add on to more of the same criticism, Luke, the guys who was the loudest voice of protest to the idea of keeping Clementine in their company after they notice her dog bit, suddenly comes to her defense when the group falls into a foolishly burst of disarray and panic over her situation.

The nonsensical precaution and treatment of Clem because of their refusal to accept the girl’s very plausibly, ostensibly real account to origin of her wound leads into a unnecessarily hackneyed sequence of action segments where Clem needs to break out of her prison, and steal their medical supplies in order to heal her wound. It was dumb.

The introduction of Carlos’ daughter during the break in was refreshing because of the fact that she is the very epitome of Clementine from her very first appearance in the game and yet, the exact opposite of who she presently is now. Sadly, this the only real defining characteristics of her personality because of her support role to Clem that quickly reduced her into the unremarkable status the rest of the cast has so far.

I know it sounds like I’m going on and on about the episode downfall during it’s last half, but thankfully, I started feeling a sense of agency that mattered and was relevant to our all-grown Sweet Pea—the moment I had to push Clementine into performing a jailhouse-styled surgery to heal her wounds.

This part was intense, the look of pain, the empathy involved with every painful pierce and pull of the procedure, it made my heart legitimately palpitate, effectively kicking my protective sense of our beloved heroine into overdrive. The added anxiety of a walker attack only incensed a very real threat of danger that went on to push my nerves into a state where all I craved was a happy end to it all. When that finally did happen, I genuinely enjoyed a moment of respite over everything that just went down.

Once I had proven my case to the group, they decided take me in, and while my actions were very reasonable ones because of the logic I pleaded had ridiculously fallen on what could only be the ears of the mentally disabled, they weren’t happy with my actions. That quick full-circle change over my presence went from wanting to my death to just accepting her nothing happened; it didn’t jive all that well.

Honestly, if it wasn’t for Luke or Pete, I wouldn’t have even directed Clem to entertain the idea of staying with them.

The middle, to end, All That Remains conducted the same awkward theme of unbalanced character exposition and narrative advancements .The finale forced me to decide on side with one of two characters during a moment of crisis, my choices was either Pete, or a loud dude who’s been an irrational dick to me up until now. So, the setup only made me feel pretty indifferent about my choice when it came down to it, and none of that intense pressure designed to stress me out because I had a really hard time actually giving a shit.

That ending credits song though….

Well, that’s it. These are all my feelings on All That Remains, it really is my least favorite chapter of the five, but still, it did lay some necessary elements to the overall foundation of Season 2, that are integral to what transforms the journey into an engrossing one to the very end.

Check back for the next installment in the series where I go into the next episode, A House Divided, and my thoughts on the solid improvements made,  getting closer to channeling the same kind writing direction and techniques that made the characters of the first Season so memorable.

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