Fighting for the future.
Well, that’s that. Episode 3 of Telltale Games’ Michonne-centric mini-series brings the season to a close with mixed feelings all around. Early on I was on board for a solo story starring one of my favorite characters from The Walking Dead. This detour of sorts allowed us to spend time her, sans Rick, Carl, and the rest of the Dead gang. The focus was on Michonne’s guilt over the loss of her two daughters before the world went and became walker-land. Along the way she met some new allies and tried hard to save those worth saving. But the biggest lesson I learned is that, at least as a framing device, problems from the past don’t carry much weight in terms of player choice.
What We Deserve begins quietly, a few weeks prior to the showdown that will take up the bulk of this episode. Michonne remembers being on a boat with folks she didn’t quite trust, but also didn’t outright deplore. Over time she began to trust them, and through a series of events, she is now away from that ship and stuck in another life or death situation.
[Spoilers: The following assumes you’ve played up to the end of Episode 2.]
Michonne last captured Randall, an arrogant, sociopath who is unfortunately the kid brother of local boss, Norma. A standoff occurred where Norma proposes a trade: hostages for her brother. Sam, this series' secondmost interesting character after Michonne would prefer to kill Randall, hoping that they can all just escape Norma’s wrath. But Michonne—and anyone who’s seen The Walking Dead for that matter—knows that walking away is never that simple. For one thing, Sam has two very young brothers to take care of. So, while holed up in a secluded home in the country, Michonne, Sam, Paige, and a few others bide their time while Norma’s gang inches closer.
Before the climatic standoff are the normal “pre-battle” moments from Telltale: talking to everyone, making sure each person has the right amount of bullets, and a revelation or two. I won’t spoil what’s said as those some of the best moments in this episode. I will just say that Michonne’s encounters with Sam’s two younger brothers are a highlight. Like Clementine in The Walking Dead season one, the writers are really good with kids. They feel real, they make mistakes, and they also surprise. I began this series choosing dialogue options that I felt made Michonne more of a badass, but by the end, I felt my version of the iconic character had softened in the best way possible. And a vital part of that is because of these kinds of precious encounters.
The big meet with Norma doesn’t disappoint either. Things are said, glances are exchanged, and some walkers show up to the carnage level to 11. All of this is extremely satisfying. As I said in my review of Episode 2, my hope was that the finale would stress how it’s not about Michonne surviving, but everyone else doing the same. In that respect, the tension to see if Sam, Paige, and those kids make it out alive, and whether Norma and her sadistic brother do not, felt earned. Kudos to Telltale.
Sadly, this terrific last act is nearly ruined by an overabundance of flashbacks. As anyone who’s played the previous chapters knows, Michonne keeps seeing dead people, namely her two dead children. But unlike Sam’s two siblings, these little ones barely register as characters. Their sole purpose is to haunt Michonne, nothing more. So when a highly crucial moment occurs near the end, and players are forced to choose between a very present, very real. and dangerous situation versus a dream, well, it’s almost comical to think anyone would pick the dream. I get the idea of having a lead character haunted by her past, but it is the past after all. I think it’s perfectly fine to have the past inform who a character is, but having some overly dramatic choice about something that can’t be changed is ridiculous.
Here’s another way to look at the problem with those last few moments. We’ve spent hours getting to know Sam, Paige, and others. So there’s a chance we’re rooting for them. Michonne’s daughters, however, are never “real” amd therefore the player has no connection to hem. Pitting these two parties against each other just doesn’t work.
Before that though, What We Deserve is a solid finale as a standalone Walking Dead adventure. I loved getting to spend more time with Michonne and the supporting cast left an impression too. The art style and gameplay mechanics fit nicely into the Telltale world. The closing song “To the Bone” is so good I wanted to find out where I could purchase it. Will this experiment mean we get The Glen Chronicles? Or Andrea’s Sights? I’m up for it.