By Marty Mulrooney
A House Divided is the second episode of The Walking Dead: Season Two – A Telltale Games Series. Following directly on from Episode One: All That Remains, players must once again help Clementine fend for herself in a world where the living are just as much of a threat – if not more so – as the ever-present and ever-dangerous walking dead. *Warning – Mild Spoilers*
A House Divided is a great Telltale episode precisely because it has so many tonal shifts. Now more than ever, Clementine is leaving her childhood behind. Lee is gone and it’s becoming more and more apparent that nobody will ever be able to take his place. There’s a hardened look in Clem’s eyes that betrays a soul far beyond her years. She’s surrounded by adults, but she no longer relies on them. Often, perhaps without even realising, they rely on her. Yet still, she’s a little girl who is lost. With a hammer.
As always due to the short episodic nature of Telltale’s output, it’s hard to discuss the story in too much detail without giving away spoilers. Clementine is still aligning herself with a group nowhere near as familiar, tight-knit and trustworthy as her previous makeshift family from Season One, and a new antagonist is soon throw into the mix in the form of Carver, voiced with gravelly menace by actor Michael Madsen of Reservoir Dogs fame.
Madsen has starred in plenty of films both good and bad, but regardless of the quality of the picture he has always conveyed a sense of charisma and menace and both qualities serve him well here. The danger he implies with just the tone of his voice is wonderful and every time he interacts with Clementine, we’re reminded just how small she really is. Rather than overpowering the other performances with his star power (all of which are excellent, by the way), he elevates them by largely remaining nuanced and restrained. Carver isn’t a bad man because it’s required of the plot. It’s simply who he is.
Later, a familiar face reappears – no doubt to the delight of countless fans – and we’re reminded just how far down this zombie-infested road we’ve travelled. Killing Lee at the end of Season One was a soul-destroying yet necessary evil. It’s testament to the storytelling power on display here that he continues to live on in every single moment he is absent. The interactivity is a bit lower than usual (drawing parallels with the second episode of The Wolf Among Us) but how many games can make a conundrum out of deciding which table to sit at?
So yes, A House Divided is a truly great episode. It features the perfect mix of action, plot advancement and character development. It would have been easy to have Season 2 put players in control of yet another ‘watchful protector’. Instead, we join Clementine on a mentally and physically exhausting journey of bloody survival where nobody can be trusted and her soul is constantly on the line right beside her life. There could be more interactivity and it’s over far too soon, but the fact that you won’t really care speaks volumes about the quality of the experience. Lee is missed now more than ever… Clem could really use a hug.
9 OUT OF 10