The Walking Dead Season Two has been a long and treacherous journey. We’ve lost countless companions, travelled God knows how far across the country, and killed a lot of zombies. No Going Back finally sees all our hard work come to an end, but is it a satisfying conclusion to a game full of upset, or does it simply leave us wanting more?
No Going Back has almost all the ingredients for a perfect episode, at least on the surface. There is great pacing between action sequences, decision making and downtime, there are some unbearable decisions to make and, finally, as we were promised, our choices in the game actually shape how Clementine’s journey will continue. The inclusion of multiple endings made Clementine feel more like our own character, and this was honestly the best thing to come out of the episode. It was also extremely important for the entire series, as Telltale couldn’t keep telling us our decisions shape the game when, really, Clementine just carries on her scripted path no matter what actions we choose.
The decision making as a whole was, as it often is, where the episode shined the brightest, especially in the closing moments where everything was down to Clementine. However, even when I had to make some of the toughest of decisions of the game, I regrettably found myself lacking any real emotional involvement. When choosing to save one of two people, I didn’t think ‘who do I want to live,’ but instead, ‘who will help Clementine the most.’ This was consistent with all other major moments throughout the game for me, as I always put Clementine’s wellbeing and the usefulness of others before anything else. This logical approach even felt to be encouraged, as we were pushed by the game to be a strong, independent survivor and never had the chance to grow particularly close to the other characters. This means that many of the decisions, while tense and difficult when against the clock, lacked any real gravity or depth.
With No Going Back being the finale, there were some real stand-out moments to communicate to us that the end was nigh, and they made for a good change of tone for the episode. In one early scene, Clementine is tasked with gathering her companions around a fire, so they can drink and joke and act like the world isn’t ending for just one night. This was a wonderful little moment of respite and reflection before the madness of the episode unfolded, but did admittedly fall short due to my apparent lack of care for most of the characters. It was nice, but it wasn’t exactly heart-warming.
The only time I really felt that pang in my chest was during Clementine’s dream sequence, which both blind-sided and left me nostalgic. It was a beautiful reminder of how far Clementine had come and how far we had taken her as a player, though it was also sad to think how that little girl had to face so much in her life. If something in a similar vein would have been the ending I think I would have felt okay with that, but alas, Clementine awoke and the trials of real zombie life continued.
While the episode did have moments that made it feel like the last, there was unfortunately no real closure for the season as a whole – instead, upon the credits rolling, it just felt as though the next episode was waiting in the wings. It was a stark contrast to the conclusion of Season One which felt like a true ending, with a clean cut between the end of that story and the beginning of the next. We could have never seen Clementine again, and I would have been satisfied with the journey I had taken with her and Lee. However, No Going Back left me feeling as though I have to play the next season, whether or not I want to, simply because that’s what comes next. The apocalypse rolls on, and so must I.
Season Two as a whole hasn’t been as shocking, thrilling or moving as Season One, and this is hugely disappointing. The biggest aspect the season has suffered for is that death is no longer a shock or an ever-looming threat, it is now inevitable. When characters I’ve liked have died, I’ve felt irritated, not upset, because it was just another one down. Others I’ve felt nothing for at all. Many players may already becoming desensitised to the death, in turn becoming disconnected from the characters that come and go, and indifference is the last thing you want in a game like this.
The season also failed to really get us invested in the characters due to most of them lacking development, and in the end it was only Kenny, who we already knew from Season One, that I cared much for at all. There were simply too many people that appeared and then vanished before we really got to understand who they were. This onslaught of hollow characters and death-for-deaths-sake needs to change, or Season Three will surely suffer for it. We need to care again, and about more than just Clementine. We need less faces being thrown at us from all angles who die within an episode or two, and we need to have a few, well-developed characters who we can emotionally invest in for the long haul. That’s what made Season One really shine and stand out from the sea of games on the market. That’s what made me want to play Season Two.
While each episode, in and of its own, has been strong, the season as a whole falls short of the grand expectations that Season One builds. No Going Back was an excellent episode, and definitely contained many highlights of the season, but I can’t help but feel there’s still something missing. I guess we’ll have to look to Season Three to find that something to fill the void.