As the popular saying goes, “misery loves company”: when strife, uncertainty, and fear hits, it comes in droves and seeks to haunt us afterwards. In the case of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Clementine and her Co. find more then just misery in the third installment of Season Two, “In Harm’s Way,” making for possibly the bleakest episode in the series. At the same time, however, Telltale crafted one of the series’ absolute best episodes yet.
Picking up right after the tense shootout and capture of Clementine’s group in Episode Two at the hands of the quietly-sadistic William Carver (voiced perfectly by Michael Madsen), “In Harm’s Way” brings some of the most violent and cruel scenarios that the series has dealt with yet, but also brings out the best qualities of what makes The Walking Dead so thrilling and captivating since we first met Lee and Clementine: its finely-crafted storytelling, its well-told writing, and its genuinely intense events and focus on decision-making.
The Walking Dead has always presented some difficult decisions and choices to be made, yet this episode manages to make them matter in a way that felt truly unique from the rest of the episodes before it. Whether my decisions felt satisfactory or wound up with myself in doubt or regret at my actions, the driving story of Episode 3, as the turning point of the entire season, efficiently and effectively serves up a story that ties in well to the previous episodes while setting the stage for even darker events to come.
Building off the success of Episode 2 in making this season’s characters more rounded and developed, such as Luke, Rebecca, Carlos, and others, Episode 3 capitalizes on their progression by placing them into deep danger at the hands of Carver, and establishing one of the most dangerous, and memorable, characters that the series has introduced yet. Much like the best game villains of the past (Vaas in Far Cry 3 coming to mind), Carver’s introduction in Episode 2 comes to a head as his sadistic personality and dangerous methods are brought out in full force through Episode 3.
Aside from the excellent voice acting by Michael Madsen, Carver becomes one of the highlights of the episode as a villain you detest at every turn but still just can’t take your eyes away from him. Equal parts calming and collected, yet at the same time menacing and cold, Carver’s scenes during the episode are always informative and deep (given his past association with Carlos and the group), but given an air of danger due to his violent and unpredictable nature.
As the middle point of the season, “In Harm’s Way” carries with it a lot of burden for building on the characterization established in the first two episodes, while also driving the story forward toward its conclusion in the later chapters: thankfully this episode delivers successfully on both fronts. With the threat of Carver and his forceful community around every corner, Clementine and her group’s reactions and strategies for seeking a way out while still trying to survive brings many excellent story moments with each of the group members we’ve traveled with so far, and even with those we have just met. Leaving multiple characters in compromising situations and ending on a cliffhanger that’s both intense and surprising, Episode 3 is an installment that isn’t afraid to throw any punches, and most of all doesn’t hold back when it does.
Over the course of three episodes so far, Clementine’s story has changed drastically from being a young girl struggling with the concepts of the new world order, into a hardened survivor that isn’t afraid to do what needs to be done, a concept that comes into full force here. As one of the most focused and plot-driven episodes to come out of The Walking Dead’s second season so far, Episode 3 manages to succeed not only for its strong, driving plot and a memorable villain, but also in its determination to not hold back and force players to make truly difficult decisions to make. Though Clementine’s story may be drawing closer and closer to some grim truths and hard choices, “In Harm’s Way” proves that The Walking Dead: Season Two is not worth looking away from just yet.