In 2012, the world was introduced to Clementine, a young girl who found a surrogate father in wrongfully accused escaped convict Lee in Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Telltale had produced games based on beloved IP like Back to the Future and Jurassic Park prior to that, but it was their five episode series set in the world of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead that put them on the map, which in hindsight was both a good and bad thing as this new found success led Telltale to over extend what they were capable of, causing them to unfortunately close their doors in late 2018 during production of what was to be the final season of The Walking Dead and the end of Clementine’s story. With some help from Kirkman’s company Skybound, Telltale alum were given the backing to release the final two episodes of The Walking Dead with the finale, Take Us Back, serving as the final chapter for both Clementine and Telltale itself. Take Us Back’s unpredictability makes it one of the more engaging episodes that uses the well established Telltale formula, however its ultimate conclusion fails to have the emotional payoff it could have as the episode fails to cut off at the point where it should.
For those who haven’t been keeping up with The Walking Dead, The Final Season has seen a role reversal for Clementine as she is now the one charged with being a surrogate mother to Alvin Junior, or AJ, a child whose parents died all the way back in the series’ second season. In searching for a home, Clementine and AJ find themselves in a fortified school that its students have built into a shelter, but like all things in The Walking Dead universe, there’s some dark secrets in this facility that put Clem and the students in the crosshairs of some less than reputable characters.
More so than another conflict against an antagonist community and a charismatic leader with different, often twisted, ideals, the driving conflict that has made The Final Season among the best of Telltale’s work is between Clem and AJ. Unlike Lee from the first season who was able to raise Clem, albeit for a short time, with some memory of the world as it was before, AJ knows nothing of a world that isn’t shared with flesh-eating monsters and fails at times to grasp the morality that Clem is trying to teach him. Not helping matters either is that Clem is in many respects a kid herself who has had to mature into a role that she perhaps isn’t quite ready for, coming far from the child that if you had a heart beat you didn’t want any harm to come to, due in large part to voice actress Melissa Hutchison. Hutchison has brilliantly grown into this character, as evidenced by early episodes in this season alone where she’s able to jump back and forth between a younger version of Clementine and the one who you’re controlling in the present with seemingly little effort.
Take Us Back picks up immediately after the events of episode three where, without getting into spoilers if you’re not caught up, left Clem and her new comrades in a very dangerous situation, both from the people who have been poaching them as well as the chaos that ensued after the plans you developed went perhaps a little too well. This episode works as a great conclusion to the series as it feels very much like a culmination of the choices that you’ve made, to the point where you’ll be more than willing to go back through this entire season just to see how differently things play out. With this latest season of The Walking Dead, Telltale and those who picked up the series after their demise gave the player far more agency than they’ve ever had in a lot of their work, allowing you to explore rooms, collect items, even attack enemies with with close and long range weapons divorced from a quick time event. Such things may seem pedestrian given the fact that they’re now standard in nearly every video game, but anything greater than funneling you to the next conversation or interactive event haven’t been seen in a Telltale game since the first season of The Walking Dead which felt far more like a traditional adventure game. These episodes are interactive stories, and any story tellers greatest tool is their ability to surprise whoever is consuming what they’ve made, and in that respect, The Final Season’s finale is effective because choices you’ve made long before you start this episode, and ones you make within it, will have consequences you could never see happening.
What’s stops this series from being as good as it could be though is that it can only be likened to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in how much it seemingly stops and then keeps going. This review will not give away anything that happens within it, and it will depend on a person by person basis on how you want this story to conclude, but Take Us Back presents a fantastic conclusion that near perfectly works as a finale for how this branch of The Walking Dead universe started, and then it keeps going into an ending that feels far too safe. It’s hard to say whether this ending was affected by the events surrounding Telltale from last fall, but it certainly feels like it has in some respects. The ending isn’t bad per se, offering a decent enough send off to a wonderful character, but it also doesn’t feel as strong as what it could have been much earlier in.
It’s somewhat of a miracle that anyone can even play Take Us Back, and players who have been with the Clementine character from the start or have discovered her over the course of almost a decade of games will more than likely be satisfied with how this finale unfolds. The episode does a great job with keeping you at the edge of your seat with even the smallest choices having unforseen consequences, but it also overstays its welcome just a bit too much and fails to leave you with that emotional high you want it too given how strong this series started and the circumstances of how this finale came to be.
The Walking Dead: Final Season is available now for Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. This review is based on a PS4 copy of the game purchased by the reviewer.
The Walking Dead: Final Season Episode 4
- Great performances
- Choices that have meaningful consequences
- A somewhat satisfying send off for Telltale and their The Walking Dead saga
- Episode is perhaps too long and doesn't know when to end when it should
- Marks the end of Telltale as it once was