Following a number of intense cliffhangers and life-or-death moments for its characters, Telltale Games brings Clementine’s latest journey to a close in Episode 5 of The Walking Dead: Season Two. After a season of heartbreak, intensity, and close calls, where does Clementine and her gang leave off until the next season debuts?
It’s hard to say at the conclusion of the final episode for this season, “No Going Back”; but if there is anything left standing after the intense struggles at hand, it’s that the next steps of Clementine’s journey will be even tougher and no less engaging.
Picking up moments after a devastating conclusion from Episode 4, “No Going Back” sees the remaining group and Clementine looking for their next salvation in the zombie-infested world. With a potential hostage in tow and a newborn baby to care for in the midst of walkers, other dangerous survivors, and most of all the incoming winter, the finale caps off the season with a conclusion that addresses most of the questions we’ve had this season while setting up a huge number of possibilities for the next season — even if the road to getting there is filled with a few bumps along the way.
After Episode 4 debuted as a weaker episode in the season with slight character inconsistencies and choices, Episode 5 reigns things back in a bit with an improved pace and sense of development by comparison. With Clementine and the group now having to watch and take care of Rebecca’s newborn child, AJ, with a brutal winter on the horizon and few signs of the walkers slowing down, No Going Back raises the stakes while heading into danger, and on both fronts it does so with some action and more tender, intimate moments to balance out the intensity. Don’t take that as a sign for the series pulling back though: this episode is high on the danger and isn’t afraid to pull some devastating punches.
Alongside the new dangers, the group must deal with rising tensions among themselves in a way more convincing than some of the odd character choices that were present in the previous episode. Episode 5 does this well by balancing things out: the first half of the episode is quieter and more reflective, while the second half is filled with the high stakes action the series is known for.
Characters such as Kenny and Luke come to terms with their failings and show growth and newfound purpose against these new elements. In the process, the episode gives off a few shining examples of warmth: many of the characters fondly reflect on their lives pre-apocalypse, richly showing their humanity in the face of adversity; leading to players showing pity, compassion, and at points even fear at the direction of some of the characters are headed in further episodes.
Though The Walking Dead pretty consistently shines in its character development, this episode gives the series some of its strongest moments in its first hour by showing where these characters have come from, and more importantly showing them where they are now mentally and emotionally in this new world order.
No Going Back features strong moments of character development and some tense action sequences, but also falters on a few moments where the season’s conclusion doesn’t quite land on the same emotional strength as that of Season One. Featuring a quick callback to the relationship of Clementine and Lee in the first season, Season Two‘s conclusion doesn’t quite inspire the strong “what do I do?” intensity in its final minutes that Season One successfully pulled off, aside from an intense confrontation with dire consequences.
The season has built up toward some big decisions, yet ultimately many of the characters’ final outcomes or fates feel like a letdown in some instances, as a result of some of this season’s inconsistencies with their development and choices. While the season has done a strong job of giving these characters’ their moments, a majority of Episode 5 takes the focus away from Clementine which, when combined with characters that end up being killed, lost, or otherwise resulting in their stories ending rather abruptly, often feels like an opportunity wasted rather than a meaningful buildup.
Aside from this, “No Going Back” earns its namesake effectively; at the conclusion of Episode 5, players will make some key choices that could lead to some very, very different openings when we come back for Season Three next year. Though the finale doesn’t quite pack the emotional punch that Season One ended with, Season Two‘s conclusion provided a set-up that left me feeling both hope and dread at where Clementine and the group leave off by the episode’s end and, more importantly, where things remain for Season Three.
As players have been at Clementine’s side since the first season, this episode is proof that things for Clementine and the group may be dire, but there’s always the chance of a new beginning.