Warning: this review contains references and suggestions that could be seen as spoilers.
The finale of Telltale’s second season in the world of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead had a lot of buildup, but it completely fumbles the landing, making for one of the most disappointing stories and games of 2014 so far.
With a huge, albeit disappointing, cliffhanger from the last episode hanging over the beginning of this one, there was again a lot of momentum building into the start of Episode 5: “No Turning Back.” It walks it off better than Episode 4, which felt too energized in the beginning only to blow it’s excitement right out of the gate. The fight at the beginning here was well paced, short, and intense. There were a lot of unknowns in it, but it ended all too perfectly. It felt like they could have put a bow on how well it went, and it would’ve made much more sense to take some players out of the game here.
Instead, “No Turning Back” decides to unceremoniously knock characters off of the list in probably the least sensible way possible. Sometimes they just die for no real good reason. In other cases, they leave for no real good reason.
The character at the center here is Kenny. The ties of his behavior to Episode 3’s antagonist, Carver, are very heavy handed but are overall executed well. It’s his actual personality that doesn’t seem to fit the bill here. He makes a lot of fuss, but at the same time, he acts overly friendly when he was so bitter toward Clementine just one episode ago. This could come off as driving home his instability, but instead it appears as inconsistent character development that feels awkward and out-of-place. In fact, almost every character’s decisions here, save for Clementine’s, feel absurd or completely out of left-field. The only character that seemed consistent is the first to die!
The episode is building to a confrontation though: one that feels so trite and telegraphed that I saw it coming from a mile away. The execution was relatively well done, but it felt like Telltale wanted to pull at heartstrings for a character that the player had zero reasons to care about. Killing an ally is only painful and dramatic if that ally is likeable, well-told, or has any remaining good qualities at all. This one did not. The inconsistency of his character in the episode lended itself to that, which follows through on my point that the writing was completely off-base here. It felt sloppy and downright bad.
“No Turning Back” has some magical moments that tie it together. Some are of levity, and some are the complete opposite end of the spectrum. They shine through this episode, redeeming it a lot for me, but just not enough. In the end, the mismatched tone, the poor character pacing and development, and the complete inconsistency of the episode lead it to mediocrity above anything else. More so than any episode before it: it completely falls apart just before the credits roll.