TSJ Reviews Video Game The Walking Dead:  The Final Season by Telltale Games

Game: The Walking Dead: The Final Season
Developer: Telltale Games; Skybound Entertainment
Actor: Melissa Hutchinson, Tayla Parx
Release: July 31, 2018
Platform: X-Box
Other Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Mac, Windows

I previously reviewed The Walking Dead by Telltale games here. In that article, I spoke about the game’s incredible emotional impact, something that caught me off guard and impressed me. It actually felt as though the gameplay animation pulled me into a graphic novel and let me take control of the characters  within the powerful story. Clem and Lee fit perfectly into the Walking Dead franchise, and their intertwined fates left me reeling by the end.

Lee and Clem, from Season 1

I quickly played Season 2 and found it to be just as compelling. Season 3 was a misstep; the plot moved away from Clem and instead focused on a different group of characters for much of the story. It was still emotional with a heartfelt theme of brothers being brothers … but I wanted more of Clem’s journey.

By Season 4 (The Final Season) the narrative refocused on Clem and brought her story to a fitting — and powerful — conclusion.

Clem and AJ. She needs to protect him, but she first needs to teach him.

The Story and Themes

Clem is taking care of AJ, whom she has been raising since birth. Following a violent confrontation with some humans and walkers at a train station, they find themselves in trouble and on the run. They end up in a private boarding school with a group of adolescents and young children, but AJ has trouble fitting in (an understatement) because Clem is trying to raise him and teach him morals in a world seemingly without civilization and social norms. It’s an interesting conundrum for Clem. How exactly do you teach a child to be moral when they are surrounding by death and killing every day? Moreover, when there are many evil uninfected people also in the mix, how can you tell who’s good and who is bad? How can you tell (and teach) right from wrong? How do you determine who actually means to hurt you? But more important, what do you do with these people?

Clem is a wonderful protagonist. She now has the weight of the world on her shoulders.

This is the theme of The Final Season. Clem is trying her best to teach AJ in this crazy world, but the dilemma of right and wrong hits again and again. It was a great creative choice, despite at times feeling that sometimes Clem’s burden also became mine and I hoped for the narrative to abandon AJ and focus more on Clem.

Marlon from Ericson’s Boarding School.

The plot also finds Clem and AJ struggling to find a place of peace in which to live and grow. This is a common plot thread in The Walking Dead, but in this instance, Clem has effectively taken on Lee’s role from Season 1 in which he was trying to raise Clem and teach her how to survive. He became her surrogate father, and now Clem has become a surrogate mother. These roles bookend her journey, from Season 1 to this, and it is highly effective.

Note how the new poster mirrors the poster from Season 1, with Clem taking on Lee’s role

Clem is now the surrogate parent.

It’s an emotional story and I give props to the developers and Skybound for stepping in to help Telltale finish this game after the company’s financial issues. To all who helped this final season make it to market, I say THANK YOU. You took me on an incredible roller coaster ride and it was a visceral and at times gut-wrenching experience. This is exactly what good storytelling is supposed to entail, and you did a great job with Clem’s story.

Thank you!

Kudos also to the production team who kept TWD one of the most inclusive properties today. I appreciate and applaud the inclusivity in many game properties, such as The Last of Us, which I wrote about here and here.

I have written on my blog about how video games have the potential to be the most emotional and immersive methods of telling powerful stories. I have also spoken about this at pubic appearances. Maybe one day I will have the opportunity to help develop the plot for an immersive game. I truly hope so.

The Walking Dead: The Final Season is a powerful addition to the franchise and yet another example of riveting storytelling. Congratulations to all involved, and once again, thank you.

TSJ’s rating: 8.5/10

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