The Walking Dead is over. The finale to Telltale’s brutal and often emotional take on the popular series is out, and after beating it, all I can really say is… damn. Everything comes to a head here –- friends will die, lessons will be learned, and even though this is the shortest episode in the season (it took me about an hour to complete), it packs as many, or more tough decisions and gut-wrenching moments as most 20+ hour games. I braved the final outing in what has gradually become my top choice for Game of the Year, and if this series has been an emotional roller coaster ride, this is the part of the ride where the coaster goes off the rails and shit gets crazy.
Oh, and there will be spoilers, because I really, really want to talk about the ending. You have been warned.
The things that make this game so difficult to review are what I love the most about it. Your experience is unique and every decision you’ve made over the course of the last four episodes has brought you to where you are now. Through the decisions you made you essentially chose who would be left standing with you in this episode. Those aren’t the only decisions that matter, as the relationships you’ve created with your fellow survivors are just as important. One bad choice and people can, and often will, turn on you.
At the end of episode 4, Lee had been bitten and Clementine — the only person in the world that Lee is willing to sacrifice himself to save — has been kidnapped by a mysterious stranger on the Walkie Talkie. Not five goddamn minutes into the episode and you’re already recreating a scene out of Saw. The problem is Lee’s been bitten, so in an attempt to stave off the infection (or possibly nip it in the bud entirely), you have the option of cutting off that pesky arm. I did, and because I’m a total badass, I did it myself. I always say, if you want a limb sawed off right, it’s best that you do it yourself. With a little extra time on his side, Lee’s attention turns to Clementine.
The big reveal of the kidnapper makes sense, and it made me feel like a bit of a dick for a decision I had made earlier in the season. This review’s already brimming with spoilers later on, so I’ll just say he’s a wholly pissed off little league coach.
My favorite part of this episode came during the interrogation scene between Lee and the “stranger”. This guy, who’s been stalking Lee for the better part of three episodes, knows a lot about Lee’s adventure, and he doesn’t seem too happy about the decisions Lee/I made over the course of the season. What did you do with Lily? Did you stop Clem from eating human flesh? These decisions and more will be brought up.
This guy was doing a great job making me feel like I had made all the wrong decisions, so when he told me it’d be better if he looked after Clem, I almost felt like that could be the right choice. That is, until he started having a chat with the reanimated head of his wife he had stuffed inside a bowling ball bag. Knowing this poor guy had lost every last one of his marbles, I strangled him — with one arm no less — and went about getting Clem to safety. There’s a bit near the end where to get out of the city Lee and Clem have to cover themselves in guts so they smell like the zombies, giving them the ability to walk through the hordes. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so too.
Telltale made a lot of smart decisions with this episode. For starters, they removed, or focused less on everything that didn’t push the story. This means you’ll see less of the item scavenge hunts, puzzles, and gun fights. This episode is all about the story, and that’s where the second great decision was made: they focused on Lee and Clementine. My two favorite characters of the series (Team Clem all the way) are what this episode is all about. Their relationship feels genuine, and while it might’ve taken a zombie apocalypse to bring them together, they really are a perfect fit. I’m a little bummed Molly and/or Lily didn’t make an appearance, but other than that, I have few complaints.
Now about that ending.
Obviously, we’re not all going to get the exact same ending, but the essentials will remain the same for everyone. Lee’s chapter has ended, whether he was left to a slow, lonely zombification in the city of Savannah or by a bullet to the brain, courtesy of Clementine. I chose the latter, because the thought of a zombified Lee sitting handcuffed to a radiator for god knows how long sounded a little crueler than asking a nine year-old girl to shoot him in the head.
In a weird way, I made that choice because I wanted to teach Clem one last lesson. I had her shoot Lee as the final lesson in an attempt to prepare her for survival in this cruel, zombie infested world. Cutting her hair and teaching her to use a gun in episode 3 were important first steps in her necessary transformation from innocent little girl to a woman who’s capable of surviving on her own. That was easy. Shooting Lee was like that final test before graduation. She made it.
This is the first of two planned seasons (if the second season does well, I’m sure there will be more), so there’s a good chance season two will follow a grown-up Clementine. So until we meet again, good luck Clem, you’re going to need it.
The Final Word: This is an incredibly emotional ending to what’s been a consistently amazing series. I can’t wait to see what Telltale does in season two.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of The Walking Dead.