At the opening of the fourth episode of The Wolf Among Us, titled In Sheep's Clothing, the pieces of a silver bullet remain lodged in Bigby Wolf's arm. The shards come out, and Bigby's bones slip back into their proper positions, but not without some pain--pain on the part of the snarling victim, and pain on the part of the cringing player. It's not an easy scene to watch, but watch you must as you help Bigby connect the two halves of his snapped radial bone.
While the third episode led to a final scene of great drama, In Sheep's Clothing begins with gut-wrenching tension and then relaxes. Given this strenuous opening, it's nice to have time to take a breath in the scene that follows, though the air is as thick with smoke as it always is when Bigby is near. In fact, Bigby's obsessive tobacco habit becomes a subtle story point, with several characters remarking on his cheap taste in cigarettes, and Bigby choosing whether or not to ignore a no-smoking sign. My favorite moment of the episode came when one of the four choices I was given was simply "smoke," and the scene ended with the loud snap of the sheriff's lighter. I am not sure if the frequent smoking references foreshadow events to come, but they are certainly effective at setting the proper noir tone, and acknowledging Bigby's deepening frustration.
It's no wonder that Bigby's frustrated: Colin tells him that it takes monsters to fight monsters, while another Fable insists that he play the game by the book. Nevertheless, whether you follow the monstrous path or the diplomatic one, you make some vital discoveries that shine light on past events as well as on the Fables that surround you. Beauty and Beast in particular come into sharper focus, in part because they are clearly living beyond their means. "You know what they say: with centuries of marriage come centuries of baggage," says Beast, creating a new adage on the spot. That baggage apparently involves pretending you still live in an opulent castle. Some Fables cannot let go of the past, only to discover that holding onto the past limits the future.
This scene goes on for a bit too long, but it at least it demonstrates the couple's rising desperation. Another scene focuses on a butcher's desperation, and it, too goes on for too long, and without much of an emotional payoff. The episode designates him as a stand-in for the "everyfable," as it were, but it's difficult to get invested in the plight of the average fable when its representative snivels almost as much as Ichabod Crane did. I grew impatient during these scenes. An early meeting in Bigby's office made my heart heavy by drawing thematic ties to the original episode's gruesome murder; these later scenes imparted information without building tension, causing them to feel inert by comparison.
That inertness, in turn, made it easier to notice a number of distracting hiccups: interrupted voiceovers that halted in unnatural ways, animations that didn't flow very well into the next, and a plot point involving a monkey and a mirror that is never sufficiently explained and stands out as an obvious delay tactic. Fortunately, In Sheep's Clothing allows you to momentarily forget the minor blips and unsheathe your claws in a confrontation that might have you bonding with an unlikely ally. I adored this moment not just for its gruesome and impactful imagery, but for how I was able to form it into a finale of its own. I shared a cigarette with a fellow fable and then said goodbye. It was a moving bookend to a troubled relationship, and I was glad I had the chance to mend a few cracks, though not an entire fence.
I left the third episode of The Wolf Among Us with my heart in my stomach; I left the fourth with burning curiosity, which is not as striking of a feeling. But given what other fables tell me of the Crooked Man, I suspect that it will not just be my curiosity that burns in the final chapter of this episodic tale. I want closure, I crave closure, but The Wolf Among Us has taught me that conclusions aren't always neat and tidy, and that you must suffer pain before you can earn relief.