The Walking Dead: Michonne – What We Deserve
Goddamnit Telltale – I think you might have a direct line to my tear ducts.
Just to be clear, I don’t cry easily. I can count on one hand the number of times fiction has moved me to tears. But this poignant and moving finale did just that.
Telltale have already proved they understand parent-child relationships; they did this to great effect with Lee and Clementine and examined the loss of a parental figure in The Walking Dead – Season 2. And whilst it took two episodes, the emotion Michonne felt for her children could finally be understood as more complex than just a sense of being haunted by their figures. She feels guilty that she is not yet dead, she feels guilty that she left when she did and that she never found out what happened to them. It cleverly influences her (or your) decision making during the final twenty minutes and at the emotive apex of the episode, you start to realise the depths of her utter despair. And yet, by the end of the episode, Michonne’s redemption seems a warranted and natural conclusion. There is a sense of finality and bittersweet acceptance to close the game. It is this transition which is so effective and brilliantly written.
Previously I had complained that Michonne did not live up to the complexity of the comic book character and this is still true to an extent. The game never acknowledges the rest of her backstory and yet, now that all the episodes have been released, it is much clearer how Telltale wanted to treat Michonne. In the context of the comics, the aim was here to show how Michonne felt she could return to Rick’s group without feeling unworthy of love or friendship; how she resolved the guilt that she could be living and enjoying relationships but her children were dead. This part of Michonne’s mind and the transition from hurting to healing was the ultimate aim of exploration within the game. The result is that the narrow focus actually did help to reinforce the themes and it would have been difficult to examine Michonne’s many other problems in just three episodes.
The key decision at the end of episode two has some dramatic implications on the story of this last episode. Although of course, I suspect it does not change the ending, it was still nice to see some significant consequences from your actions. One scene in particular, an exchange of hostages, felt as though the smallest of mistakes would result in angering your opponent and someone ending up dead which, for a choice-based game, is the perfect balance of the need for trepidation and quick action from the player.
Whilst I enjoyed the episode immensely, some of the problems of previous episodes were once again present. There was still some narrative leading. One example of this is when Randall points out that he is just like Michonne. The idea that Randall was a reflection of the worst parts of Michonne had already been conveyed in a more nuanced and effective way when Michonne saw herself in Randall’s place as a hostage. It was just unnecessary to have a large signpost toward it and smacked of a distrust in the observational capacities of the audience. To add to this, parts of the climax felt slightly cliche with Michonne having to save two children to redeem herself for losing her own two children. Indeed, the entire Fairbanks family almost resembles cannon fodder for Michonne’s emotional development. That said, this might actually be a slightly unfair assessment – there are only so many characters Telltale can kill from the comic book cannon and the Fairbanks family are all up for grabs. Plus, in practice this was executed more effectively than such a played out concept would have you believe.
Even still, the last twenty minutes more than reclaimed the writing. And it has to be said, this episode has redeemed what might have been seen as some middling previous episodes. There was not much to fault at all in this episode and by the last five minutes my minor criticisms had all but been forgotten. Once again, the incredible voice work of Samira Wiley must be applauded. In fact the whole voice cast was excellent and were the heart of the game’s effectiveness. The emotions portrayed were raw and real.
I said in my last review that it all depended on the final episode and whilst Telltale proves again how good they are at turning me into an emotional wreck, tears doth not necessarily a good score make. Given the problems with the previous episodes, I would class the whole game as a solid 8, though this episode in particular was an excellent, climactic and, above all, affecting foray into the mind of Michonne.