I approached the fourth episode of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead with all the caution of an unarmed man creeping past a mob of walkers. The last episode left me genuinely, emotionally drained in the wake of its numerous tragedies that left my small band of survivors even smaller than before and any sense of hope dashed to the ground. It’s the sort of doomsday writing that makes me crawl into a bottle.
Episode 4—Around Every Corner, mercifully, keeps its body count relatively low this time around, replaced by a much deeper, darker sadness. This episode was written by Gary Whitta, who also penned the post-apocalyptic The Book of Eli, and Episode 4’s script reflects that movies tonal qualities at times. After the loss of 4 party members during the course of Episode 3 (at least in my playthrough), what’s left of the group now seems more hardened and emotionally detached. The once-passionate Kenny has been almost reduced to a zombie himself, shuffling towards Savannah and the promise of a boat to allow the party to escape the mainland. Lee is also deadened by the game’s events, to the point that finding the corpse of a party member elicits little more than a passing grunt. Even the wide-eyed child Clementine seems more cynical and focused on finding her parents, no matter what the cost. These are people that have become jaded and desensitized in the wake of the zombie apocalypse, and Whitta’s writing captures it beautifully, positively dripping at times with the sadness of each character’s loss.
Much like previous chapters in the game, there is also the true element of danger in the form of other people as well as the walkers. This time, there’s the threat of Crawford, an exclusionist colony of survivors who practice their own form of Darwinism, and they lurk just out of sight like a bogeyman. There’s an obvious parallel to the comics in Crawford’s brief inclusion, and it serves as a reminder that mankind is just as much of a threat as the walkers.
There are also a few standout scenes that, again, hint at greater depth than the main brunt of the game. There’s on particularly agonizing scene in the attic of an abandoned house that gave me pause before I made my decision (and it wasn’t a popular one, according to the end game statistics), and the ending of this chapter that, sadly, reminded me that this is indeed the second to last chapter and the story is coming to its natural end.
This is The Walking Dead’s strongest point: I’ve never been so sorry to see the end of a game coming, and this penultimate episode lays down the groundwork for the final chapter. I’ve become quite fond of my little band of survivors over the course of these 4 episodes (more than I can say for some people on the TV series…Lori) and knowing that the next episode will be the last is bittersweet indeed. Sure, it’s more of the same fantastic writing that we’ve been spoiled by over the last four episodes, but it will all be over soon.
Guess I’m drinking again after all.