Review: The Walking Dead: Season Two: Episode 2 – Don’t Look Back
The world of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead (and of the comic/TV series world in general) shows us, if anything, that just like how civilization as we know it collapses underneath the pressure of a massive epidemic, so too does the foundation and spirit of humanity itself. Survival forces everyday people to become competitors: for food, for shelter, for any semblance of safety and feeling of comfort; it’s a brutal world that grows only more brutal as resources become scarce and the number of “walkers” grows and grows.
Likewise, it’s only appropriate that the second episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead series, titled “A House Divided,” is one of the most prominent episodes in the series to date for showing that struggle, along with the sacrifices that need to be made in order to survive.
Filled with tension, heartbreak, and more than a fair share of difficult questions with even harder answers, A House Divided continues the standard of excellence that The Walking Dead has held, while serving admirably as a set-up for where we (and Clementine’s group) will be heading into the remainder of the season.
Picking up after the conclusion of Season Two’s debut episode last December, All That Remains, the second episodes sees Clementine adjust to her new group, and likewise we get a deeper understanding of where these new faces have been, and where they are going. Out of all of the episodes so far, the title “A House Divided” couldn’t be more appropriate thematically and literally: Clementine’s group soon faces a new threat that causes tension and anxiety, while the conditions of the post-apocalyptic world only makes the divide between safety and survival even wider.
From the strong-minded leader Luke, to protective father Carlos and his daughter Sarah, to worried couple Alvin and Rebecca, many of these characters that were given only a brief introduction in the first episode get much more fleshed-out backgrounds and stories, thanks not only to Telltale’s continuously-excellent writing, but from the things not shown directly: the brief comment or dialogue choice here, or the subtle nods to these character’s strengths and worries, their fears and their optimism.
While any of these characters could have become easy stereotypes or one-note archetypes given their quick introduction last time, Episode Two notably builds on these characters exceedingly well, showing both the biggest strength and weakness of the episode as a whole. A House Divided is notably much slower paced than the first episode, and seems much more in line with being a “transition” piece in the second season; action set-pieces are noticeably much more sparse in the latest episode, instead focusing more on character development and plot setting than in providing some of the thrills that made Episode 1 such a kick-start to the season.
To some that enjoyed many of the thrills from the last episode (or even from the first two episodes of Telltale’s equally-excellent The Wolf Among Us), this may come as a bit of a disappointment. But, in terms of building the story of The Walking Dead: Season Two, A House Divided gives some of the most rich motivations and development we have seen yet for many of this season’s characters, along with plenty of surprises for longtime players of the series.
While this may be a more talky transition episode than the more quickly-paced Episode 1 was, Episode 2 more than anything gives an exceptional look at what is to come for the rest of the season. As tensions rise between Clementine and her group as they try to find a new shelter or feeling of safety, the introduction of the game series’ first major villain, the mysterious yet menacing Carver (voiced by Reservoir Dogs’ Michael Madsen), gives the season a much-needed direction along with even higher stakes.
While The Walking Dead has been no stranger to iconic (and infamous) villain characters through its comic and television iterations like The Governor and Negan, Season Two’s Carver has already made a big entrance into the game series and will likely make for a menacing yet intriguing presence for the rest of the season.
Strong character development and story progression aside, Episode 2 of this season also brings a prominent step forward in noting the decisions and choices made from previous episodes and beyond. Bringing plenty of callbacks and even more surprises from season one of The Walking Dead and the special episode from last year, 400 Days, A House Divided is notable for looking forward at what lies ahead for the rest of the season just as much as it does for looking back at events that have transpired. While Clementine’s experiences with this new group continue to be fleshed out, so too does this episode bring back some familiar faces and answer some of the longstanding questions from the previous season, and doing so in very surprising but satisfying ways.
The Walking Dead: Season Two started with a rush of adrenaline back in December with its first episode, and likewise Episode 2 is more of a chance to catch our breaths, if only for a moment, as it (very quickly) proves. “A House Divided” is very much the calm before the storm, as the new episode gives us a chance to catch up with new characters, reflect on the past, and at the same time jump starts the rest of the season with a menacing new villain, higher stakes, and a continued level of excellence and storytelling from Telltale Games.
Clementine and her group may face uncertainty and (most certainly) death around every corner in The Walking Dead, but in its newest episode Telltale Games ensures that players will face a tense, thrilling ride for the rest of Season Two that will have us only looking forward, with no chance to look back.