I started off my review of The Walking Dead: Michonne's first episode worried. Coming in at only three episodes, Telltale did not have a lot of time to get things right, and thankfully, they came out of the gate strong. When In Too Deep left us hanging, with a body cold on the floor and a gun in the hands of someone who might do our swarthy heroine wrong, I was certainly intrigued enough to keep going, even if the waters ahead appeared as murky as the river waters that halted Michonne mid journey.
One missing review later, and here we are with the final chapter of the shortened series in the rear view mirror. Titled What We Deserve, the episode draws this period of Michonne's life to a close, while also giving us a better vision of the dark past that keeps this lone warrior striving ever forward.
Despite her travels with Rick Grimes and the other survivors known to the readers of The Walking Dead comic, Telltale's game goes along way to paint her as alone. When first introduced in Episode 1, she was physically alone and ready to take her own life to escape not only the pain of the now, but also the haunting stares of her children, whose fate, while still technically unknown, and shown only in flashbacks and ghostly mental apparitions, doesn't appear very rosy. Eventually she meets Pete and joins his crew on The Companion.
At first, the name of the boat didn't strike me as anything out of the ordinary, but as I progressed further into the story, it began to feel kind of on the nose. You see, Michonne is a classic Drifter tale dressed up in zombie clothing. She wanders, or rather is helped on to, a boat to help a working class everyman who becomes a companion, is confronted by an “evil” ne'er do well in the form of Norma and her psycho brother Randall, saves a bystander (Sam), who turns out to be not so innocent and eventually has to make a final stand to protect the people who have taken her in. Along the way, Telltale inserts your standard Walking Dead choice of “which side of this shit sandwich do I want to start in on,” only instead of those choices leading in different directions, they simply help decide just how quickly you eat the whole thing.
In fact, while I genuinely enjoyed the tale that The Walking Dead: Michonne presented, I sit here, writing this, upset that there wasn't something a little more to it. I think that glimmer of hope, that there is something else other then just this, whether it be a landscape devoid of signs of life except for walkers, or a story trying to break through a tired trope and the bleak, dying structures of the world that forced life upon it, is what The Walking Dead truly takes from us.
It has it's great moments, like every time Michonne's past breaks into her current life, when the ragged clothes of a warn traveler are suddenly replaced by a bloody pantsuit. When the ghostly specter of her two little girls flash across the screen. When Michonne is forced, time and again, to deal with the dead walking in her path, meeting them with rending, cold steel while delivering an exasperated sigh, the words “couldn't give me a break, huh” escaping her lips. Hell, the final set piece, cast against the back drop of Sam's family home, could quite possibly be the greatest thing Telltale has ever put to digital code, and short of a few stutters and one restart, easily the most stable.
But despite those, the vast majority of The Walking Dead: Michonne is feeding us exactly what we have come to expect from this series of games: a set of gray on gray choices that feel like they mean the world in the moment, but that amount to a not quite solid hill of beans later on. This game is littered with those moments, but there is one set that feels more egregious then the rest. Taking place through at the end of Episode 2 and through the majority of Episode 3, it involves the capture of a certain character. You are given the option, multiple times to choose whether to kill or not kill this person. In fact, it's presented so much, that even though I knew that person was eventually going to die, I thought that maybe, maybe something different was being hinted at.
In the end, the death I expected does come, and it comes within 30 seconds of the reason why they were kept alive in the first place, thereby starting the conflict I was hoping to avoid by keeping said person alive. It left me simply cold to the entire thing, with nothing left to do but shrug my shoulders and soldier on.
Like I mentioned earlier, The Walking Dead: Michonne carries itself well on the technical end. I did run into a little bit of that classic Telltale jank mid way through the second episode, and was forced to restart after things froze on me near the beginning of Episode 3, but all in all, it is a far cry above what the developers showed off with last year's Game of Thrones adventure. I would also like to add that direction wise, especially when dealing with the sometimes lightning fast jumps between Present Michonne and Past Michonne, this series made many of the same advancements that the first Walking Dead did in terms of visual story telling. I can only hope, with a third season of Clementine's story now confirmed to be in the works, that the actual stories being told can follow suit.
Much like the classic storybook wanderer, The Walking Dead: Michonne ends up just like its titular heroine, a little battered, more then a little bruised, and with a little less closure then she was hoping for. Sure she saved the town. Sure the big bad may be defeated. Unfortunately, while littered with great moments, the overall journey feels just as trope-ish, just as hackneyed, as the story it sought, no matter how unintended, to emulate. At the end, this may not be The Walking Dead that I wanted it to be, but, given my ability to hope beyond hope, it is The Walking Dead I deserved.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!