Review

The Walking Dead: Season 2 Episode 3 - In Harm's Way Review

  • Game release: December 17, 2013
  • Reviewed: May 13, 2014

Don't even think about turning away.

by

How far is this going to go? This is the question I kept asking myself during In Harm's Way, the third episode of the second season of Telltale Games' adventure series The Walking Dead. While the entire franchise has asked increasingly stressful moral questions about what you have to be willing to do to survive in a world of zombies and madmen always looking out for number one, the latest chapter takes you into such extreme, nihilistic territory that I started to worry about Clementine's soul, not just her skin.

In Harm's Way is one of the more pensive episodes of the season when it comes to exploring character motivation, although there is enough action--especially in the chaotic, bloody conclusion--that it's not exactly My Dinner With Andre. The story picks up right where it left off the last time around, with your band of plucky survivors led by Clem and Kenny in the clutches of the evil Bill Carver, commandant of a group that has set up shop in a very well-stocked former Lowe's, er, Howe's home improvement store. This gang has loads of food and supplies in their makeshift fortress, but also loads of automatic weapons and a dictatorial nutcase at the helm who, as we saw in the last episode, thinks nothing of killing anyone who doesn't agree with him.

Clementine is still resourceful. Give her nothing more than a flathead screwdriver and say goodnight, zombie horde.

As in the season's earlier episodes, and during most of last season, the plot revolves around Clem continually asking herself how far she is willing to go to help out her fellow survivors. Carver runs the Howe's like a prison camp, but there is no Sgt. Schultz for comic relief. This penitentiary comes complete with forced work details that include looking after walling out the undead and growing vegetables for food. You're placed into many situations where you decide how you're going to treat everyone else. Do you play nice and try to help out others who lack your intestinal fortitude? Or do you do your own thing and risk putting your pals in, you know, harm's way?

Gameplay is on the thin side, with little happening aside from a handful of action moves, but the many dialogue and motivation choices make for strong characterization and story development. Helping other people is the focus of most moral dilemmas, but choosing to do so almost always backfires to the point where someone is maimed or killed. Every personal problem brought me back to the scene in which a dog attacks Clem for a can of food--even if she tries to share it with the initially docile mutt--in an earlier episode. "No good deed goes unpunished" might as well be the subtitle for the whole series.

In Harm's Way doesn't shy away from violence.

Here, the apparently docile mutt in question is Clem's new friend Sarah, who's still not adapting well to life on the run from zombies. There are many occasions when you can help her, ignore her, or tell her plainly that she's got to toughen up to survive. I always tried to help her out, to preserve some of Clem's fading empathy, while all along knowing that at some point Sarah was likely going to bite me, too.

The primary drawback with the storytelling is the black/white nature of most characters. Sarah is an annoying whiner; Kenny is devolving back to the old cattiness that made me want to see him dead by the second episode of the first season; and Luke is the earnest young guy who would be the member of the boy band that you would want to take home to meet mom. Others in the supporting cast are barely there. I can't even remember the names of the pregnant woman and the doctor. There is a real danger that characters are becoming too dispensable outside of a core group of two or three. You know Clem is going to make it, along with one or two of her closest companions, but beyond that, everyone might as well be wearing a red shirt and beaming down with Captain Kirk. Carver may be the weakest point. He's a murderous tyrant so openly monstrous that it's impossible to understand how he's still alive. There is this assumption that he's seen as a necessary evil, the bad guy needed to battle the even worse bad guys and monsters just outside the door. But he's really more of a grizzled tough-guy caricature spouting off Ayn Rand-style nonsense. A guy like this would have been shot in the head by one of his henchmen long ago.

Yeah, this is gonna end well.

Still, even the melodrama mostly works in In Harm's Way. The focus on Clem kept me invested, because even though I saw through some of the supporting cast, I was always concerned about her humanity, which was clearly being chipped away with every choice she made. The episode culminates by involving Clem with the most horrifying and explicit murder in the series so far. You are given a choice here, though. You can stay and watch the atrocity, which is then shown in gruesome detail, right down to the last swing of the crowbar, culminating in a scene so vicious that I was reminded of the torture scene from Grand Theft Auto V. Or you can leave and preserve a modicum of Clem's ability to relate to other human beings. I stayed and watched. Even after playing the nice guy throughout the entire episode, I had to stick around out of a perverse need to rubberneck...and, of course, to see just how far the game would go in depicting what was about to happen. If the world ever recovers, Clem is going to have a lot to share with her shrink.

Telltale Games' zombie extravaganza is continuing to prove that it is every bit the equal of the Robert Kirkman comics, and superior to the AMC TV show. In Harm's Way is a gameplay-light setup episode that mostly positions the characters for the conclusion of this season, but it also descends to new depths while exploring just how far Clementine and her allies are willing to go to stay alive. It's all sad and lonely and suicidally hopeless. But good luck trying to turn away.

The Good
Moral dilemmas continue to hold center stage
Unrelentingly brutal, underlining how much of their humanity the survivors have to sacrifice to stay alive
Gruesome final scene represents the series' bleak choices at their most intense
The Bad
Some two-dimensional supporting players
8
Great
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About the Author

/ Staff

Brett Todd watched it and regretted it in this episode of The Walking Dead. He also played the game through to completion in a couple of hours.

Discussion

36 comments
daddy_dre82
daddy_dre82

This episode was awesome but we were sayn when it was over thats it it felt short but love the action parts

pip3dream
pip3dream

This episode ... blew my mind.  Easily the best in this season,  very close to one of the most riveting in the entire series.  My mouth was agape through the entire thing.  The writing is masterful,  when the last scene closes - you're completely blown away and have a moment of realization of...  What have I done? What have I become?  


The manipulation through the series and story is masterful - you and clem are being slowly molded over time, through encounter after encounter, and as it changes the character, it changes you - and the effectiveness of how this all comes together through the last few scenes to the black out of the last scene.  holy shit.

Jshaw71
Jshaw71

I agree that the game play content in this game is light, I found myself asking 'why am I not playing this portion' that played out as a cut scene, or animation sequence, I understand their captives, but they were asked to do chores, but the game did it for you... during, and at the end of the episode I found myself asking over and over again (and even before that) why not take the van out they arrived in? yeah a couple couple could have gotten pulled out of the car, and then the rest would have had to got out of the truck, and confront the walkers as the driver and passenger defend themselves, as well as the ones around you do as well, They went to a lazy ideas, from the tv, we have already seen once in the telltale game, IMO this episode was a bit of a let down, quality wise... I would go as far as to give it a 7, But that's just me...

redder1111
redder1111

I feel this season's episodes are a bit shorter compared to season 1 eps. also the gap between the release dates is too wide. Telltale should open more studios or stop working on 4 different titles at the same time.

PeterDuck
PeterDuck

Playing Episode 3 was almost as good as playing the entire Season 1.



theslovakian38
theslovakian38

amazing episode!!!! i cant believe this was soooo great.... kudos to telltale. one of the best episodes to date!!! like oskuuu said, totally worth the wait!


oskuuu
oskuuu

worth the wait! ;)

Afinati
Afinati

I feel like Carver's private conversation with Clementine rounded out his philosophy and did at least just enough to explain why he was still alive.

My biggest issue with the episode was the sequence in the truck when the brakes hit and Kenny fell over. I actually laughed as the illusion of choice was sharply taken away.

wyshouldi02
wyshouldi02

 Great episode. I'm loving how the player is given a choice as to how mature Clementine becomes. The scene where Kenny "does the deed" especially, where Clem can stay or leave, was brilliantly done. I chose to stay, and Clementine seemed 10 years her senior contrasted to the girl who chose to leave and beg Kenny mercy. This is the gaming experience I love - high on intrigue and emotion, low on frustration and skill restraint. Great review, and can't wait for Episode 4!

HipHopBeats
HipHopBeats

Episode 1 is the best so far with this ep right behind it.

Aramantha
Aramantha

Arguably the best episode so far

manutdarsenal
manutdarsenal

the "bad" point does not reflect the score. This episode should get at least a 9.0

warriors30
warriors30

Okay, so I just finished this episode and even though I was a little bored/disappointed at first it turned out to be a good episode. I wish I could talk more about it without spoiling anything, but I'm usually very bad at this stuff so I'll just keep my mouth shut. All I will say is Carver is a real lunatic, and he alone was worth "playing" through this. The ending was great too. Once again a nice cliffhanger.

I'd give this one a 7, because even though I enjoyed this episode I was hoping for a little more action scenes/interactivity. 

warriors30
warriors30

I just looked at the good and the bad, and the score, I'll read your review after I finish this episode...like I always do with these kind of games.

So far I'm really enjoying the season. I always liked Clementine, and controlling her faith is the only reason why I keep playing. At this point I really don't give a fu#! about anyone else...and I don't know how much more of this game I can take.

I'm not sure if I would want a third season, because unless they change their episodic release model (so tired of waiting months for a couple of hours of fun and progression) then I'll probably stop at the end of season 2. 

jjleshko90
jjleshko90

anyone else think gamespot's new design absolutely sucks? i had to scroll all the way down past the laggy bells-and-sprockets design to get to the score for the game...

Mr_Mark_Legion
Mr_Mark_Legion

out of the 3 episodes this season, this one for me was the most boring.

Blue_Tomato
Blue_Tomato

This game reminds me of those old books where you could "choose your own story". You read for a while, then make a choice and turn to a page representing your choice. Once in a while you threw a dice to see what your choices would lead to, such as who would win a fight. Pretty linear and boring, with no real gameplay. Just like this game. But, sure, if you like a million cutscenes instead of a game, then here is what you are looking for...

Aaronp2k
Aaronp2k

this episode felt more like a film than it did a game. Most of it was dialogue and cutscenes. Quite disappointed with this episode tbh, was expecting a lot more after what went on last episode. Last episode was by far the best out of any of the walking dead telltale series, will be very difficult to top that episode. I just hope next episode is more interactive than this one was.

SoNin360
SoNin360

Well, I'm glad I don't read reviews before playing games. Not only is the ending basically spoiled in the review, there's a damn picture of it, too. Oh well. Another solid episode in my opinion. I agree that side characters are becoming a bit too worthless and expendable, that's a pretty good point. But other than that, I'm still enjoying the hell out of this series. I like how it's progressing and I'm thinking this season is going to end up being damn near as good as the first.

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

I hope this all ends badly. Telltale's new characters gonna suffer for the death of Lee.

annananax2
annananax2

I disagree with why this reviewer gave this episode an 8 out of 10. Two-dimensional players? Really? Ok. -_- The bad should have been what was stated in the review; minimal gameplay, but that was still only in the terms of open exploration. But even with that, it should have still been rated, at least, 8.5 or higher. It was a fantastic and thrilling episode, from beginning to end.

pip3dream
pip3dream

@PeterDuck totally agree.  i was completely spell bound by this entire episode.

warriors30
warriors30

@PeterDuck  It's weird, the opinions about episode 3 are all over the place. Some people say it's the weakest episode of ALL episodes (including season 1), others, like yourself, say they loved it. I was somewhere in the middle after my first playthrough, but now that I started the episode a second time (and changed some previous events I wasn't happy with) my verdict changed from "good" to "very good". 

I've played every episode at least twice now and I'm still having a good time. Great game! The Wolf Among Us is also fantastic. Keep em coming, Telltale.

manutdarsenal
manutdarsenal

The fact that some other games such as Titanfall get 8's and 9's even though they suck more than this and have more "bad points" is hilarious. I wish Gamespot reviewers could look at their "bad" points and then think how much it actually damaged the overall experience of the game before assigning a score that they think will make readers happy or content. The episode definitely deserves more than a 8 by merit of not having enough substantiated "bad" points and for it actually being way better than most games released nowadays.

RogerioFM
RogerioFM

@jjleshko90 This is why this scoring system sucks, people like you only care about number, try to read the review itself friend. Also, are you lazy or what? It takes no effort to scroll down.

bluefox755
bluefox755

@Blue_Tomato  These games are story driven, I'm not sure anyone goes into this expecting exciting gameplay, it seems like you're judging the game as something it's not, nor is it trying to be.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@annananax2  

I would tell you here that score-whining rarely works here at GameSpot - especially against Brett Todd, a long-time freelancer who know better than to argue over numbers.

annananax2
annananax2

@Gelugon_baat @annananax2  "score-whining" is not what I would call it, but whatever title you put on it, I simply disagree with the review. And with GameSpot reviews based off of a numbering system, with valid reasons to back those numbers, there is going to automatically be discussion based off of the number the reviewer gives in his review...

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@annananax2

If you are not score-whining, then you are score-bargaining - that also doesn't yield much here.

The Walking Dead: Season Two - A Telltale Games Series More Info

First Release on Dec 17, 2013
  • PC
  • Macintosh
  • + 6 more
  • iPhone/iPod
  • PlayStation 3
  • Xbox 360
  • Xbox One
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  • PlayStation Vita
The Walking Dead: Season Two - A Telltale Games Series consists of five episodes and will continue the story of Clementine, a young girl orphaned at the outset of the undead apocalypse, now left to her own devices to seek safety and survive in a world gone mad.
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