The Walking Dead The Final Season completing its last episode is an accomplishment in and of itself. Shuttering a studio and screwing over hundreds of people may not put these closing installments in the best light but the mere fact that it is a complete product now is quite noteworthy. But merely finishing something doesn’t guarantee that it’ll be good and even though THE WALKING DEAD THE FINAL SEASON EPISODE 4 doesn’t completely reek of the turmoil surrounding it, it’s a rather tame walk into the sunset.
Its prior three episodes followed Clementine and AJ through this apocalyptic world as they struggled to fit in to the school from the season’s debut. While the second episode flirted with bigger stakes and some grand, far off war, the third entry seemed to imply that said war was imminent in Episode 4.
However, Episode 4 doesn’t take the narrative baton from its promising predecessor. Instead, it picks up after the climactic moment from the prior episode and is simply about returning to the school in one piece. This approach lacks any grandiose plot and the results are mixed.
The Walking Dead The Final Season Episode 4 Review | Lee would be proud… sort of
The Walking Dead has always been about character development and this is no different. Clementine and AJ’s emotional journey together is at the heart of this season and can blossom without dangling a plot hanging in the periphery. The duo still has a lovely relationship that bounces from tense and combative to loving and silly, despite this final outing appropriately touching on more serious tones. And while some of the secondary cast members also share a few sincere, vulnerable moments, Clementine and AJ’s bond is front and center and is unsurprisingly bolstered by some engaging performances.
Some of the topics that were constantly bubbling under the surface the whole time come to fruition and feel mostly earned in the way the game has building up to all season. It’s similar to the first season, which this final season has been shamelessly echoing the whole time. However, much like young Clementine contrasts to young AJ, this final season takes some detours that avoids this relationship being a carbon copy of Lee and her had the first time around. Some of the revelations are a little manipulative and seemingly go against some rules established in the earlier seasons, but it’s a decent conclusion to that arc even if it isn’t nearly as emotionally devastating as the climaxes from those earlier seasons.
But lacking a plot that makes ample room for character development is a bit of a cop-out. Good plots push their characters to change and make tough choices and are the external impetus to encourage internal change. The first season exemplified this well as the journey to the boats was just a vehicle that the game used to put the team through the wringer to force change out of them. The previous episodes in this season were building up to a conflict that never occurred, which is fine, but nothing takes its place.
It’s a buildup that evaporates and no other story fills that void so this episode’s plot is just about getting to a safe zone; a zombie story at its most basic. This robs the adventure of a grander purpose as turning tail and running back isn’t a compelling or deep enough crux to support the whole episode and an anti-climactic way to end the season and series. It gives some of the cast ample time to work through their insecurities but without a better overarching goal, it ends up being a cheap shortcut for character development.
The Walking Dead The Final Season Episode 4 Review | Running out of time
As is tradition, the episode is also incredibly short. Telltale’s final episodes are usually quite succinct as it’s the point where the most branching can happen. Brevity keeps the pacing up but it exacerbates the problems in the other parts of the narrative. An abbreviated hour count doesn’t allow for much of a story to unfold nor does it give the dramatic moments more room to breathe. Most of the characters from the school don’t get more than a couple lines of dialogue, much less the chance to complete their arcs. Whether it was the short runtime not allowing for a deeper plot or vice versa, this final episode is too short to realize its full potential that is present but not as bold as it could have been, given its finality.
It’s not yet possible to know if its abruptness was the victim of the game’s unorthodox production or if it was planned like that from the start, but the episode’s gameplay feels like it was a casualty of the chaotic development. Like the other episodes this season, it tries to add variety with actual gameplay systems like shooting and puzzle-like melee zombie battles. While it never reached its full potential, it was a noteworthy start to a more mechanically sophisticated experience.
There are only a handful of these scenarios this time but each buckles under the cumbersome controls. The odd cover shooting is particularly egregious since it’s sluggish and will likely kill most players a few times as they grapple with the overly subtle UI and punishing fail state. Melee sections are still a bit slow too and can be frustrating due to the finicky attack prompts. The Walking Dead was never going to be as sharp as dedicated, more traditional games but it should have been tuned around its gameplay shortcomings so they weren’t as noticeable.
After a studio closure, cancellation, revival, six years, four seasons, and a couple spin-offs, The Walking Dead is finally over. And despite it being a sprint to the finish line that lacks a big, properly paced climactic story, this episode gives Clementine and AJ’s relationship a decent yet ultimately tame resolution. As a singular episode, it’s fine. But in the grander scheme of wrapping up a six-year storyline and four-episode arc, it’s also just fine and that middle of the road result is a bit of a disappointment. The finale to a once-revered franchise should have more impact than this and even though parts of this episode are pretty solid, it doesn’t quite rise to the occasion and fulfill its full potential. It’s the end of an era. It just should have been a more memorable end.
GameRevolution reviewed The Walking Dead The Final Season Episode 4 on PS4 via a digital code provided by the publisher.