Telltale Games is starting to develop an unhealthy pattern in the seasons of its adventure games. For some strange reason, the developer just can’t seem to put together a highly compelling fourth episode. Perhaps it’s just the unfortunate fact that this episode will always follow the high-intensity of the middle chapter and precede the climax that is the finale. But regardless of why it happens, The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 4 – Amid the Ruins has become its next victim.
To be fair, it’s pretty hard to beat out the epic and frantic happenings of Episode 3 – In Harm’s Way. We pick things up in the immediate aftermath of overthrowing Carver and feeding his dystopian colony to a herd of walkers. Clementine and company are mostly separated as they all try to escape from the zombie mass and have to find one another yet again.
We discover that not everyone has made it out safely, and a few members of the group begin to suffer some deep psychological trauma as a result. This leads to a moving scene between Clementine and one of these characters that really drives home the thematic question of “Is it worth it to keep going?” that The Walking Dead franchise prides itself on across all forms of media. Unfortunately, this tender moment is utterly ruined later on in the episode thanks to what I felt to be a completely senseless death.
And while some characters do progress in interesting ways in this episode – especially Clem, which I’ll get to in a bit – it was annoying to find that Kenny had reverted back to his late-Season-1 ways of being a completely cynical, suicidal ass. By the end of the episode he seems to pull himself out of it and find a new purpose in life – and I get why the writer’s chose this path for him – but it was still aggravating to see one of my favorite characters in the series fall away from important character development. It also seems to put a label on Kenny that says, “Unless I have some semblance of a family to try and protect, I’m just a borderline psychopath.”
Clem’s actions at the very end of In Harm’s Way could also have qualified as borderline psychotic, heavily testing the morality of my actions as the young girl. This time around, Clem is placed in an entirely different moral predicament; one that isn’t settled by Amid the Ruins’ end and could play a huge role in the season finale. She’s asked, “Is it truly better to be in a group, given how often they seem to splinter and its members perish, or just survive on your own?” In a way, it’s revisiting a theme from this season’s first episode, but now that Clem has proven to be more capable of protecting herself, perhaps now going it alone isn’t as scary as she first thought.
This question, however, actually once again brought back a thought and feeling I had back during Season 1, Episode 4, which was that of mental and emotional fatigue. The bleakness of this world and sheer carousel of death that has surrounded the series has me seriously believing that I shouldn’t get invested into any of these characters anymore. As of this episode, there are only two characters still alive from Season 1, Episode 1, and the number of characters still alive from even Season 2, Episode 1 is dwindling fast. I don’t’ know if it’s because of the nature of the world or the gameplay of The Walking Dead, but I’m getting really tired of trying to get any sense of attachment to anyone other than Clem. Even now I’m starting to think Clem isn’t so safe and preparing myself for another Lee-like twist from Season 1.
As this theme of constant death beats itself over my head to…well…death, so to have I beaten in the fact that Amid the Ruins is suffering from a severe case of fourth-episode-itis. No major antagonists, constant death, and Kenny’s regression really make the plot feel like it’s stuck in the mud, spinning its tires. This is despite some excellent themes and questions raised that did, like most episodes in this series, pick my brain and lead me to evaluate morality and survival in this walker world. I don’t doubt that the finale will turn things around and leave us anticipating the arrival of Season 3. I just hope that season doesn’t give me the same sense of emotional apathy that Amid the Ruins has.