Warning: Major Spoilers for “Broken Toys” and prior episodes of Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” follow.
There was a time in September that I wasn’t really sure I would ever get to write this review. With Telltale Games’ closure, it seemed like Clementine’s story was coming to an abrupt end, and more importantly, the jobs of around 250 employees. Thanks to Skybound Games, though, we are indeed getting not only the conclusion to Clementine’s story, but also (and again, more importantly) a majority of those who were working on “The Final Season” at Telltale were brought in to finish their work. This episode picks up right after the last one. With the school and the remaining kids reeling from the attack, Clementine and AJ are left to interrogate their new hostage Abel.
Using the interrogation scene as the start of the episode is a smart choice, and based on how you decide to get the information out of Abel, it sets the tone for the rest of the episode. With AJ accompanying Clementine, the choices you make have an extra weight thrown upon them in deciding how you want him to see and learn from your choices. It continues the thread of how your choices really are affecting AJ’s own personality as a young, impressionable kid, and the dialogue throughout the episode does reflect this.
James, the former Whisperer, makes his return this episode and is asked by Clementine to help attack Lilly and her raider group’s riverboat to rescue the kidnapped kids. As James is able to blend in with the herd of walkers and maneuver them, his expertise is absolutely needed in their rescue. However, James first makes Clementine walk into his barn of walkers with his mask and gear on to try and prove that they still, in fact, have some semblance of humanity in them. At this point, James — a character I had quite liked since his introduction — had gone off the deep end for me. Clementine does perform the task and there is a touching scene that almost gave me an idea of what he was getting at, but I still believe he is a nut job. After doing it, James asks Clementine whether she agreed with what he was talking about now, and since I thought this was the make-or-break moment for getting him on our side, I agreed. Once Clem and AJ leave, though, AJ asks Clementine if she really believed what James was talking about, and I answered honestly that I thought he was nuts. AJ then takes that as it is okay to lie in certain situations. It was at that moment that I realized how terrible of a role model I set Clem up to be, at least for that whole segment.
Before the big climax of the episode, there are some moments of brevity to be had, the first of which is a party the remaining kids have to lighten up before their rescue attempt. Some of the kids talk to Clem about how they ended up at the boarding school for misfits. Everything is going swimmingly until Willy decides to share his tale which boils down to two words which I will not repeat here. The look on Clementine’s face and the reactions by the others, especially Louis, is priceless. Once the party is over, Clementine and AJ head to bed where Clem begins to dream.
Clem’s dream sequence is one of the best scenes in the entire series. Being back on the train from season one and talking to Lee is already a solid recipe for success. Hearing Dave Fennoy’s voice as Lee brings a level of reassurance and comfort, and to further drive it home, Clem is depicted as her younger, season one self. The setup as Lee being her conscience is awesome, with Clem using her memory of him for guidance and still seeing herself as the scared little girl. The best moment comes after Lee gets up to leave and hugs her with a camera cut transforming young Clem to how she looks in the present. Seeing Lee’s reaction is heartwarming, and its a great symbolism for Clementine as she finally accepts the responsibilities of looking after her own group now and no longer being afraid for the worst. Also hearing Melissa Hutchison’s voice transition from kid Clem to her young adult self is incredible, and again hits you right in the feels with how far she has come. This scene could have easily been to pander for season one nostalgia, but instead, its written beautifully and Lee’s inclusion doesn’t feel hamfisted in at all. It feels necessary for Clem’s growth and sets up the climax terrifically.
The final attack on Lilly’s riverboat to rescue the school kids is a terrific ending all throughout. Who you chose to save in the last episode (Violet or Louis) has a noticeable impact on the episode. I chose to save Louis, so we went in to get out Violet and the others. She doesn’t quite give the warm welcome I was expecting for saving her, and she shows a clear resentment towards Clem for picking Louis over her. I don’t think it actually had any effect on how she treats Clem, but it does make sense as I friend-zoned her in the last episode. I am even more happy I picked Louis now, as not saving him would have meant he gives a warm welcome but has his tongue cut off by Lilly (and also because Violet is incredibly ungrateful).
At the very end of the episode, the final showdown between Clem and Lilly occurs. After some fighting and switches in the hands of who has control over the situation, AJ ends up in a similar position yet again with his gun pointed at Lilly. He looks to Clem for the advice on whether to shoot her or not, and I told him no. This decision pleases James as it was his wishes for AJ not to have to kill another human being at such a young age, though right after this, James gets a knife driven through his head by Lilly. While I think he was a bit on the loony side, at least he got his wishes respected despite how disingenuous I may have been with some of them. Despite how much my hate for Lilly extends from all the way back in season one, letting AJ kill her would only ruin the kid’s moral compass even more (which was confirmed by watching the fallout of the alternate choice afterward which AJ unloads the entire magazine into her). The episode ends with the lower decks of the ship exploding from a homemade bomb Clem and the others planted, leaving the fates of Clem, AJ, Lilly and everyone else up in the air.
I was curious as to how the quality of the series would continue after the shutdown of Telltale, even with most of the original crew working on it, but I am blown away by just how good it is — if not better. The weight of your decisions molding what AJ becomes enhances the story significantly. There are a number of great moments in this episode — some happy, some sad, some funny and some tense — and it just felt like a rollercoaster of emotions. Going into this season, I told myself that if there was ever a decision that involved choosing to sacrifice Clem to save AJ or let him die, I was going to always keep save Clem no matter what. Now, though, I am not so sure. The role reversal of Clem to Lee’s position is well-deserved, and no matter how much I still see her as her season one self, AJ has quickly taken that role over. The next and final episode of Clementine’s story is set to release on March 26, and I am not at all prepared.