[Reviewer’s Note – This review for Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead: Season Two covers the entire second season of the series, reviewed as a whole. For our reviews of all five episodes individually, you can follow the links below:]
Since the debut of the first season back in 2012, Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series has provided a chance to experience a multitude of character growth. Starting with Lee and Clementine back in Macon, Georgia and running the spans of the East Coast in search of safety, The Walking Dead has shown the best and worst of how these characters, under the stress of an entirely new world order, changed from their old lives and adapted into new ones.
After the close of Season One, a lot has changed for the focal point of the series, Clementine. She’s lost those she’s loved, gotten older, and most of all, she’s grown: grown dramatically from a young girl experiencing the beginning of a horrifying new world, to one who has adapted and been shaped by it. Most of all Telltale has had us, the players, at her side since the very beginning of this journey, of which The Walking Dead: Season Two has continued to throw both hope and fear in her way.
Picking up some time after the end of Season One, Clementine is left alone with Christa out on the road, seeking their next place of safety at the beginning of Season Two. Cold, hungry, and with no discernible direction, Season Two quickly changes things as Clementine winds up with a new group and an entirely different part of her journey — one that is no less dangerous than past sojourns.
After Episode 1 introduced us to the new collection of characters that would be alongside Clementine — such as doctor Carlos and his daughter Sarah, Luke, Pete, his nephew Nick, and a few other surprise appearances from familiar faces — Season Two‘s gameplay hasn’t changed much from the first season, but themes and story take on a slightly different approach.
Still taking its shape as an adventure game where players’ actions and choices can influence various actions and consequences, Telltale ups the ante in Season Two with plenty of danger around every corner. Though Clemenetine may have started out as the sweet-natured girl we met in the first season of the series, by the end of this season she and the players controlling her come out much different than the way things first started — luckily, it mostly benefits the story.
Taking players through its harrowing first few chapters through an oppressive community and back out into the road of an uncertain world, Season Two raises both the stakes and the emotional intensity by putting players directly into the role of Clementine. Where Season One saw players taking the role of Lee as Clementine’s protector and surrogate father figure, playing directly as her dramatically alters the experience: we’ve seen her grow since the past five episodes, and now her fate is in the player’s hands as much as it was in Lee’s last season.
Going past her already sympathetic stance as a young girl forced to deal (very rapidly) with the changing circumstances of the world around her, more importantly this seasonestablishes Clementine as a strong-willed survivor. Best of all, the change is believable and real. Many moments in Season Two put Clementine and her group through the ringer, but always at the best interest of making the world and its post-apocalpytic situation terrifying, and in that way making its characters stronger because of it.
Whether it’s being faced with imminent walker threats or the fear of other survivors, the numerous options that players are presented with are often difficult, but the moral choices (and their consequences) again serves as one of the biggest highlights of The Walking Dead, and the second season doesn’t back down from that.
Coming off of last season and the excellent additional episode 400 Days, Telltale has presented a story that spans the over multiple characters, many perspectives, and as a result, many different outcomes and paths. Outside its many exciting moments and action sequences, this series has also been keen on its quieter moments: the few shining moments where humanity seeps through as characters try to reclaim their lost lives from before, and the softer beats where character development comes into play, rather than just shotguns or hatchets.
In these moments, such as in Clementine’s tender but still heartbreaking reunion with Kenny, or with Clementine’s group convening around the campfire to remember old pre-apocalpytic memories, Season Two shines with a number of moments that bring out the best of The Walking Dead‘s ability to show humanity through the worst conditions, and to tell an engaging story that can be difficult to watch, but never uninteresting.
However, Season Two suffered noticeably from a more inconsistent pacing than the series’ first season, or even the recently-concluded The Wolf Among Us, with the biggest coming from story pacing and character development. Even with punctuations of action and story breaking things up, Season Two‘s handling of characters and development came and went in some slightly spotty ways. An example of this some characters given many shining moments, while others didn’t see nearly the same development or attention while either being removed from the story entirely, or seeing an untimely death.
While Season Two gave us a whole new cast of characters to join alongside our heroine on her journey, many ended up simply as zombie fodder with only a handful of moments in the spotlight without a reason to care or be concerned with their loss. Yes, it may be a tendency of The Walking Dead to kill off characters without rhyme or reason, but many of the quick deaths and turns here felt more of a disappointment rather than a shock at times. Even more so, seeing few choices carrying over from Season One that would play out this season was quite concerning, as well as a lack of meaningful inclusion (other than a few exceptions) of characters and content from 400 Days making a play.
Clementine has braved a world full of walkers since we started alongside with her in Season One, and since then both Clem and the world around her have changed dramatically: even more so, The Walking Dead‘s story now has changed along with them. Coming off the celebrated Season One with an even darker and more brutal Season Two, Telltale’s series has shown what an episodic game series can look like over multiple chapters, and now multiple seasons, and has shown that the road for Clementine won’t be any easier.
Aside from this season’s character inconsistencies and some uneven pacing, The Walking Dead: Season Two still delivered an exceptional story coming off the end of its previous season. Though Lee may no longer be a part of Clementine’s story going into the future, it showed Clementine and her group as survivors living in a world where the ability to adapt is key in order to live. In this case, by the conclusion of this season’s final chapter, The Walking Dead has proven Clementine is capable of surviving anything — it’s just a matter now of seeing the direction she goes into Season Three.