Remember in my review for the first episode when I said that a more threatening character was too come in the next episode. Well here he comes.
Episode 2 introduced us to big bad guy this season that was touched upon in episode 1 to a small degree and that is Carver played by Michael Madsen. He’s terrifying, menacing and brutal. Madsen delivers one of the greatest performances from the series to date and is the stand out character of the episode. He feels much like characters from the show, such as the Governor and characters from the comics like Negan. Madsen’s character feels like a nice mixture of both. It’s already clear that he is going to have strong influence on Clem and the group and is going to change her as a person, which is already clear during the opening scene of the episode as she speaks to Carver and looks over at the knife ready to stab him and kill him the next chance she gets.
But Carver isn’t just a random interaction that Clem will be able to take down easily. He’s cold, calculated and terrifying and this is all obvious whether it’s when he’s talking to a young girl or torturing a man for answers. At all times he’s in control and having control over everyone and everything is what drives him and he sets things up nicely for a bleak dark future for Clem and the group. If you aren’t keen on violence then this season might not be for you as things are being set up for a violent revenge story as killing Carver becomes Clem’s new goal in life. During the review for the first game I mentioned that each season would have a new threat and this season is definitely the threat of humans and Carver.
Clementine shows the start of control for herself as she becomes darker and her character growth is cold and uncomfortable to watch unfold. But what this season is proving quite quickly is that there is always someone worse then the worst person you know. So maybe not trusting the group and blackmailing people left, right and centre wasn’t the right thing to do because they are your strongest allies in all of this. A House Divided is 2 and half-hours of massive decisions that overall will make or break friendships as you have to choose where your loyalties lie but at the end of the day there’s a greater enemy then each other.
What makes this episode so brilliant, and makes for some of the best gameplay and dialogue from the entire game, is during the 30-minute climax where we see that, whilst Lee’s death affected Clem, nothing affected her and changed her more then Carver in these final moments. The dilemmas and consequences during this scene make for some of the hardest decisions of the series and makes for some memorable moments.
Conversations and talking to the members of the group make up for most of the episode as gameplay takes second place to dialogue and story, which makes for a better episode. A House Divided feels the biggest as far as ground covered and consequences and events that take place in the episode. Episode 2 is where this season finally feels like it splits off as people create their own stories and make their own relationships with people and other members of the group. What’s brilliant about said conversations is that they differ depending on members of the group that are dead or alive, who you became friendly with and how you treat other members of the group. What makes Telltale Games so great is that there are certain interactions and dialogue situations that you may never see over the 5 day span of the episode.
During this 5 day timespan, as she journeys north on the search for a lost friend, we are treated to small but brilliant action sequences that are tense, heart racing and had me scared to the core for Clem’s safety. Whether it was fighting off a walker on a bridge as you fall off the edge and try and scramble for a weapon to save your friends. The tension during these button mashing scenes make for some amazing tense moments as your heart and fingers are put to the test trying to keep Clem alive and keep the other members of the group alive. My only trouble with these scenes is that on the console versions of the games there’s still those frame rate issues that are apparent throughout these sequences.
The scenes throughout the episode feel like they will have some strong lasting effects on Clementine as she has to choose where her loyalties lie and where she feels that she belongs. They all lead to Telltale changing up the playing field as your choices will make your time in the final scene easier or harder on the group as you choose whether to give yourself up and make the rest of the group’s time easier or escape and try and warn the others. What’s brilliant about this episode is that they get back to what’s great about The Walking Dead. Different choices mean different gameplay choices and dialogue.
This episode touches on key things in life such as religion, homosexuality and tolerance with grace, which makes for more weighty, interesting and brilliantly crafted characters that feel more complex, endearing and interesting as we learn more about them.
Overall A House Divided is one of the strongest written, crafted and well-produced episodes from Telltale that they have ever created. It’s big, bold and full of great dialogue, action set pieces and consequences that make for a brilliant episode. It sets things up nicely for episode 3 and the rest of the season and has left me confident that we are looking at another brilliant season for the game. Clem’s growth as a person is where the game thrives as she becomes more brutal and dark with every dialogue situation and action sequence.
But Michael Madsen as the mad and evil Carver is who I am most excited to see how he plays out and learn more about his character.