As the titular tales of Tales from the Borderlands are starting to wind down, the trouble for Rhys, Fiona, and their intergalactic band of misfits are growing with each subsequent episode, with Telltale Games setting its trajectory at full throttle in the penultimate episode of the series, “Escape Plan Bravo.”
Appropriately, the title of Episode 4 sees our heroes banding together for a way out of the various troubles they’ve gotten themselves into, leading to plenty of the series’ most hilarious moments yet.
At the same time this also produces an episode that does tend to waver into Telltale’s usually troubled lead-ups to a series finale, marking a slightly slower-paced episode than the series’ more action-oriented path.
Directly after being captured by the menacing Vallory and her gang, Rhys and Fiona’s crew pick up the pieces by setting their plans in motion toward the fabled Vault of the Traveler.
With the Vault only providing its vast riches for a minute window of time, “Escape Plan Bravo” for the most part succeeds in setting up its penultimate chapter for plenty of the humor that the series has been known for so far, while also adding in surprising doses of drama and several moments of borderline tear-jerking scenes.
As previous episodes have been introducing characters from the series, this one eschews that practice at this stage in stage dives further into its character development — a wise choice at starting to tie up loose ends before introducing new ones at this stage in the game.
Of course, this extends just as much to the series’ original characters with plenty of poignant moments; from Fiona trying to convince Springs to have her and Athena at her aid in one scenario, to Rhys and his “bro pal” Vaughn having a conversation tinged with the obvious disconnect the pair have been experiencing in their journey together.
What’s most apparent in the near two-hour running time of “Escape Plan Bravo” is the episode’s surprising depth of convincing, emotional resonance that brings back the same feelings many players had experienced in titles like The Walking Dead: Season 1, reaching many of the highs that Telltale has mastered at this point.
Though “Escape Plan Bravo” still retains much of the charm and off-the-wall humor that Tales has in its blood from the Borderlands series, Telltale’s injection of life and connection through these characters is clear in every scene, easily making it my favorite (so far) of the Borderlands series in terms of storytelling.
Perhaps the biggest indication of this comes in the ever-evolving (and ever complex) relationship between Rhys and Handsome Jack, as Jack’s influence on him runs the gamut of being harrowing, hilarious, and heartbreaking.
Tying these elements into the player’s choices makes relating to the characters even more intriguing, as how players have interacted with Handsome Jack in the past — whether submitting to his requests or resisting him at every turn — will lead to some wildly varying consequences.
While Jack has often been one of the series’ biggest sources of laughs so far, his relationship with Rhys takes some dark turns that eagerly has me waiting for the finale.
While Rhys, Fiona, and Handsome Jack continue to drive much of the series’ biggest story beats, its wide range of side characters continue to shine as the unbearably adorable Gortys returns for more robotic hijinx, while Fiona’s adventurous sister Sasha continues to be one of the series’ best characters for her mix of sass and smarts.
However, Episode 4‘s biggest MVP Award belongs to Scooter, the lovable doof of a mechanic that steals hearts (and some brain cells) with his naivety and antics.
Scooter gets plenty of laughs throughout the episode, yet also takes the crown for the episode’s biggest emotional setpiece. I can’t really say too much more than that without spoiling things, but it’s one of the series’ best scenes to date.
Tales from the Borderlands, perhaps more successfully than Telltale’s currently-running Game of Thrones, has largely succeeded so far on the merits of its deft humor and colorful, relatable cast of characters, and while the series has been running smoothly so far, Episode 4 isn’t without a few bumps along the way.
In particular, one of the episode’s larger drawbacks is the feeling of scenes and events in place purely for padding out the episode’s length a bit, as those on the quicker end can probably breeze through “Escape Plan Bravo” in about 90 minutes.
While the episode itself is on the shorter side, the pacing noticeably takes some dips for some unnecessary item-fetching and scenes that detract a bit from the episode’s bigger moments.
With the series winding down to the finale, the story’s increasing focus on characters like Rhys, Fiona, Jack, Sasha, and a few others has also been leaving others in the dust a bit.
Even after her audacious debut in Episode 3, Vallory takes a trip to the back seat for a majority of the episode, even with her being established as a force to be reckoned with from the previous episode.
Even the series’ more colorful comic relief characters like Loader Bot, the newly-introduced Gortys and Vaughn (aside from one or two appearances) take time to the sidelines compared to the focus on Rhys and Fiona — understandable in any case, though it feels at times like a waste with not utilizing such fun characters more often.
That being said, the episode still contains some of my favorite scenes of the series so far. Even with a quick playthrough of “Escape Plan Bravo” you’ll get an entirely new word added to your vocabulary (in case you’re wondering, it’s “face pizza”), and conclude the episode with a “gun fight” that’s all magnitudes of ridiculous and silly in the best way possible. That is, it’s with finger guns instead of regular guns.
Oh, and Butt Stallion makes a comeback for longtime Borderlands fans. So there’s that, too.
Tales from the Borderlands has thrived so far on its mix of humor and action in a way that, at first, didn’t seem like it would work, and yet after four episodes Telltale Games has proven its ripe for the picking.
Though “Escape Plan Bravo” may be one of the weaker installments so far, it’s still a wild ride in its own right that adds just enough gasps to go along with its big laughs.
Rhys and Fiona’s gang don’t have a lot of time left to find the Vault of the Traveler, but Episode 4‘s buildup to the final ensures Tales from the Borderlands has been continuing to be a tale worth telling to the very end.