There’s something innately depressing about a new Walking Dead episode. I spoke about it before in relation to Telltale’s Game of Thrones run, and mentioned the opposite in regards to Batman, but there’s a palpable misery that comes from knowing there’s just no good way out of any given situation. And Above the Law, the 3rd episode of a 5 episode third season, shows that even with family, the choices we make have consequences. As always, I will try to avoid spoilers beyond a brief synopsis of the beginning of the episode.
Like the previous two episodes, Above the Law begins with a flashback, granting us a picture of what life was like just after the outbreak. A few months after his father comes back from the dead, and his mother is bitten, Javier is struggling to find supplies with Kate, all while holding out hope that his brother, David, and the rest of his family makes it back alive. The scene is especially important for Gabe, Javier’s nephew, as he deals with their need to not only leave their home for safety but also, the chance that David can find them.
Cut forward to a few years later and the gates of Richmond. David, now one of the leaders of the New Frontier, walks out to see his brother, wife, and son standing outside at gunpoint, Kate wounded and bleeding out. There’s a wonderful tension that builds as the last two episodes have spent gobs of time on the relationship between Javi and Kate, two people struggling to hold onto a connection in a world that is increasingly hostile to anything even resembling love. A lot of this episode deals with that fracture in the family, in the spotty relationship between David and Javi, as well as Kate’s fear of letting him back in their lives.
While the focus of the story is still Javier and the decisions he makes, Clementine’s past with the New Frontier is also examined, including the time she spent with David while she still had AJ, the baby from Season 2. It would be exceptionally easy for Telltale to paint the character of David into a corner, especially given the easy outs of a bad temper and possible tales of abuse visited on Kate, but they layer enough emotion and rationality on top of him that he almost comes off as sympathetic. Whether the writing, or the thickness of blood, is enough to make you accept him is entirely left to the player, and there were more than a few times when I stared at the choice timer in disbelief that I was being asked to choose between options that I would have found anathema in other games.
Beyond the story, there’s not much to report on. I still am troubled by a save bug that seems to haunt me like the very dead themselves, so while the game was able to gen up previous choices that looked similar to the ones I had made, my time spent in Episode 3 was little different then it would have been. I didn’t run into any graphical issues aside from the occasional lip sync being a bit ungainly, and frame rate issues experienced at other points didn’t rear their ugly head this time around. That being said, this is a Telltale game, by this time, you should know what you are getting into and how you feel about it.
Where the next episode goes from here is anyone’s guess, but there is absolutely a showdown brewing in Richmond, and misery is sure to be included in the aftermath. Rather than looking forward to any kind of conclusion to the main plot, the smaller subplots revolving around family are what have kept me thinking about the future of the season. I just hope that, given how quick the tide can come in during the closing episodes, that this family is strong enough to endure what comes.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!