The problem with episodic games is that you have to finish strong, otherwise you risk spoiling months of build-up and leaving a sour taste. Unfortunately, the finale to The Walking Dead’s third season is a big disappointment, and it’ll leave you pondering exactly what the point of this story was in the first place.
With the subtitle A New Frontier, it seemed like Telltale wanted to spin a new story in its comic book inspired post-apocalyptic world. And to its credit, it has introduced a couple of decent characters: ex-baseball star Javier Garcia has been the glue that holds the series together, and his somewhat incestuous relationship with sister-in-law Kate Garcia has proved one of the more engaging sub-plots running through the release.
But ever since Clementine re-appeared, we’ve always felt that the developer’s been caught in two minds: shed its best character by a country mile – or keep her at arm’s length while it waits to see what sticks. Episode 5: From the Gallows proves that the studio still sees the teenager as its strongest asset, and while it’s hard to disagree, the closing moments render the entire season little more than a stepping stone to a much better story.
To be fair, the ending does complete the character’s transition from girl to woman, and her transformation is accentuated by some bad ass yet appropriate style tweaks. But you have to question whether these should be the takeaway in a story that’s supposed to be all about a brand new cast.
Sadly, practically every beat involving those new additions falls apart. There are so many narrative inconsistencies that it doesn’t make sense: characters tell you they’re physically frightened of certain individuals, only to head off with them on their own a couple of scenes later. And other personalities go along with that – even though you know it’s against everything they’ve stood for in the previous four instalments.
But the worst of all is how the episode tries hard to push a romantic agenda between Clem and one of the weakest crew members in a while. It’s implausible to think that the youngster would ever fall for such a whiny, reckless scrote – and it actually threatens to undo any of the development that the character makes elsewhere.
And that would be a disaster because aside from the teen’s aforementioned transition into womanhood, the entire story seems to hit a dead-end. Some characters are killed off-screen, others simply disappear and are never mentioned again, and the very final shot will leave you with the lingering sentiment that you could have skipped this season entirely and been fine.
Clementine is The Walking Dead, and by showing her transition into womanhood A New Frontier is just about a must for fans. But while it lays the foundations for new regulars in Javi and Kate, the fact is that all of the season’s other story threads come to an abrupt and unsatisfying end in Episode 5: From the Gallows. There have been many good moments over the course of the season, but the finale does little with them, and the journey feels like a waste of time as a consequence.