By Marty Mulrooney
In Harm’s Way is the third episode of The Walking Dead: Season Two – A Telltale Games Series. Following directly on from Episode 2: A House Divided (which Alternative Magazine Online described as “the perfect mix of action, plot advancement and character development”), Episode 3 sees Clementine and her new group captured and put to work by Carver, a totalitarian psychopath who uses fear and violence to instil has own uniquely twisted brands of justice and new world order. Make no mistake, they aren’t Carver’s guests – they’re his prisoners.
In Harm’s Way sets itself up like a classic escape movie. After being transported like animals in the back of a windowless truck, Clementine and her group are herded at gunpoint into a hardware store that has been transformed into a makeshift fortress/prison. Zombies groan outside as they are forced inside a concrete room, the “yard”, and locked behind a metal shutter.
The cast of old and new faces continues to expand as Clementine and her group are introduced to their fellow ‘prisoners’, as well as the guards who patrol the hardware store with walkie-talkies and firearms (including some familiar faces from 400 Days). Some, such as Bonnie, appear uncomfortable with the way things have worked out. Can she be trusted? Others, such as Troy, take far too much pleasure exerting their ‘power’ through verbal and physical abuse.
Carver is the sickening glue holding the whole operation together. He isn’t just a leader, he’s a dictator. After the brutal attack at the end of the last episode, he now wants Clementine and her friends to earn his ‘forgiveness’. They will do so by doing exactly what he tells them, earning their place within his newly established society (whether they want to be part of it or not) through what ultimately amounts to slave labour.
Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill) once again delivers a nuanced villain who always seems 100% sane even when he’s acting completely crazy – it’s a powerful, scary performance. Melissa Hutchison as Clementine continues to astound with her increasingly mature performance as a determined survivor. Clem is a little girl growing up at an alarming rate – whether Lee would be proud of her or not is up to each individual player. Yet In Harm’s Way is undoubtedly Gavin Hammon’s episode. His performance as Season One returnee Kenny is sheer brilliance. He’s hot-headed, short-tempered and loud-mouthed. He’s a good man who makes it very, very hard for players to like him. Yet when given the chance, I imagine many players will choose to hug him without giving the decision a second thought.
The Walking Dead: Season Two – Episode 3: In Harm’s Way is the latest triumph in an impressive winning streak of superb episodic interactive entertainment from Telltale Games. The game engine still creaks occasionally and the level of interaction is lower than it initially appears… but who cares about any of that when the overall experience is so exhilarating? What you will care about is the characters and their fates. This is some of the best storytelling in video games – or any medium for that matter – available today. Now grab that walkie-talkie and let’s get the hell outta here!
9 OUT OF 10