With three episodes now passed, The Wolf Among Us draws toward the inevitable conclusion of its first season. Fabletown Sheriff Bigby and (newly-appointed) Deputy Mayor Snow are drawing closer and closer to the cause of a recent rash of murders and disappearances plaguing New York’s exiled fable community, and the central whodunit mystery is coming nearly to its close.
As the penultimate episode of the season before the sure-to-be action-packed finale, Episode 4 of The Wolf Among Us, titled “In Sheep’s Clothing,” has a lot riding on it, and even more expectations. As the last episode before the finale, the beginnings of the end start to come to fruition — the heroes are drawn closer to their mysterious killer, and the game’s overall narrative is being drawn deeper down into the rabbit hole.
While the first episode debuted like a kick to the door with action, intrigue, and a great set-up to the case of The Fable Killer, “In Sheep’s Clothing” instead takes a noticeable step back from previous episodes in dispensing with the (overall) strong story and drive that have been prevalent in the previous episodes. Even more so, Episode 4 lacks the sense of meaningful decision-making and character/story development that made the previous episodes (especially from the first episode) so strong and cutthroat, making its position as the set-up to the series finale slightly disappointing.
After Episode 3 ended with Bigby and Snow recuperating from a fight against Bloody Mary and the Tweedles, following the reveal of the elusive “The Crooked Man,” Episode 4 picks up shortly after with Bigby in dire straits. Riddled with silver bullets and a broken arm, itdoes well at setting up Bigby at arguably the lowest point in his investigation with him broken both physically and emotionally, and it comes across well as the episode starts. With Bigby in bad shape physically, and tensions rising between him and Snow, the beginning of the episode is brooding with violence and angst, and most of all, intrigue.
Following a series of leads that draw them into some new locations for the series, like The Lucky Pawn Shop and The Cut Above butcher shop, the latest installment of Bigby’s tale starts with angst-ridden drive, but as it progresses draws more to relaxing and a slow burn in its short 60-75 minutes, easily the briefest of the four episodes released (so far).
While the short running time keeps the pace going swiftly, it runs at the cost of giving the episode a slightly insignificant feel to the proceedings — not much happens to drive the story forward, and often many scenes feel lopsidedly uneven, with some that easily could have used some trimming/cuts, and others that feel painfully brief that could have provided some greater detail to The Wolf Among Us‘s investigation.
On a narrative scale, scenes like Bigby’s private talk with Nerissa (the former Little Mermaid) effectively draws in the series’ strong focus on detective work and unraveling mysteries, while tying in some of the already-known details and clues from episodes past, as well a key plot thread revolving around the increasingly tense relationship between Beauty and Beast.
On an action scale “In Sheep’s Clothing” also delivers a worthy fight sequence, pitting Bigby and The Woodsman against the newly-introduced Jersey Devil This not only works as a heart-pounding action set piece, but at its conclusion made me take a step back and look differently on the (often troubled) relationship between Bigby and The Woodsman; the two seemed to have forged an unlikely alliance.
Where Telltale Games’ other series have had a consistent run for several episodes building on strong story development, characterization, and punctuations of violence and great set pieces, this episode often felt like an exercise in going two steps forward, and one step back. Though Bigby and Snow are drawing closer to their killer and the game’s story is hurtling toward its first season’s conclusion, Episode 4 shines with a few bright spots, but often feels surrounded by some dull areas with little progression in the story.
While the episode does include some big decisions that let Bigby take alternate paths, they don’t feel radically different, be they of the noble, diplomatic variety or in the typical Bigby Goes Badass routes. It’s all in the sake of keeping players on an even path assuredly, but it is frustrating being presented at times with decisions that are supposed to make a difference in the outcome of events, but often feel like they are more inconsequential, if anything.
As Episode 4 draws to a close with its daunting final seconds that show (at long last) the adversaries that Bigby and Snow are up against and (presumably) what’s to come, it bookends with a door to the vast unknown: an image appropriate as the conclusion of The Wolf Among Us draws near. Inside the door, we know not what to expect: the finale of the first season promises that the stakes are high and the mystery will (hopefully) be solved, but at this time, it’s hard to say what will become of it.
After a series of strong episodes, Episode 4 of The Wolf Among Us is noticeably the weak point of the season (so far), but like any door, there is equal opportunity for the season closer to either end anticlimactically, or conclude as viciously as we expect it to. Even as a slightly lesser and brief episode, “In Sheep’s Clothing” does provide us with the door now open to the end of Bigby’s adventures: the only way we can find out what’s next is by going through.