By Marty Mulrooney
Above The Law is the third episode of A New Frontier, the third season of Telltale Games’ critically acclaimed episodic adventure game The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series. After a three month wait, the latest episode picks up right where the previous one left off: Javier and his group have finally reached Richmond, but they might not like what they find waiting for them…
After a strong two episode debut – which AMO described as “a memorable premiere” that “certainly captures some of that old, elusive magic” – Above The Law arrives with the weight of expectation upon its shoulders. Thankfully, it doesn’t disappoint. In retrospect, it seems inevitable that Javier’s brother David would eventually show up again. However, his role as one of the leaders of the New Frontier is genuinely surprising and raises several difficult questions. Did David know that his men were attacking Javier and his family? Does he know that they shot his daughter in the head?
Kate is taken to a hospital along with Gabe while Javier and his group are placed in quarantine. It’s the latest in a string of signs that something isn’t right. Sure, Richmond has rules – but is that any way to treat your brother, especially after he’s been looking after your family? The conversations between Javier and David are wonderfully tense. We’ve already seen that David used to have a terrible temper. How will he deal with the closeness that has developed between his brother, his wife and his children?
Threads that were left hanging in the previous two episodes continue to be tugged at in this latest offering. Clementine is absent for the first half of the episode, but Javier has developed to become a worthy protagonist in his own right. In many ways, he’s more capable than David of making level-headed decisions that won’t get people killed. Plus, he’s likeable. You care what happens to him. The interesting thing about Above The Law is how is turns your expectations upside down.
As much as you might try to hate David, it becomes increasingly difficult. Kate and the kids are his family, and as the episode moves forward it becomes apparent that he doesn’t actually call all of the shots in Richmond. Furthermore, despite being a jerk at the best of times, his love for Javier does seem genuine. There’s more going on here than either brother realises, making the split-second decisions of the episode all the more nerve-racking and enjoyable.
When Clementine does return, the action and accompanying quick time events shift into high gear. After two seasons where she was the focus, it’s a brave decision to relegate Clem to a supporting role… yet, it works. It’s a constant delight seeing her as a capable survivor, following her own agenda and moral code. Not every player will see it, but there’s a moment where Javier and Clementine hug that echoes her past relationship with Lee so perfectly, it hurts. Back in 2010, it would have been considered blasphemy to even think Clementine could ever form another bond so strong. Now? Javier has a long way to go, but he’s getting there.
The storyline itself suffers from mid-seasonitis, where things more forward… but not too much. Yet it’s the characters and their interactions that manage to cover the most ground. The voice acting is great – the charismatic Jeff Schine as Javier in particular – and some of the best scenes revolve around using words rather than hitting quick time event prompts. Later, there are some extremely fraught moments where Javier must decide how far he’s willing to go to do the right thing. As always, the right thing is never clear-cut and so-called justice can leave a bitter taste in your mouth afterwards – and blood on your baseball bat.
Above The Law serves as a strong reminder that, despite juggling multiple franchises, The Walking Dead is where Telltale truly shines. Instead of simply relying on fan favourite Clementine, the studio has taken a risk on a new character that is fast becoming every bit as likeable as she is. Javier has had to do a lot of growing up since the dead started walking. In the process, he has grown on this reviewer considerably. With two episodes to go, A New Frontier is shaping up to be a worthy follow-up to the previous two seasons that acknowledges the series’ past while forging its own unique path. The ending is too abrupt, but hopefully the next episode won’t take another three months to arrive. I’ll never forget about Lee (or Clementine for that matter), but I can’t wait to see how Javier is going to fix this mess.
8 OUT OF 10