I loved the first two seasons of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, and, looking back, I believe that a major reason for this is because both seasons ended on such a strong note. From the bittersweet victory at the end of the first season to the cold emotional beat-down that was season two’s finale, I always left the series with strong emotions. The last episode of A New Frontier, however, didn’t make me feel anything. I didn’t feel like I had succeeded or failed, and, when the credits rolled, I didn’t feel like this story had been anything more than a diversion in the greater narrative that is Telltale’s The Walking Dead.
As with the review of episode three, it’s really hard to avoid spoilers when talking about this episode, especially considering that it’s a season finale. While I won’t give anything away directly, I will be talking about some of the game’s multiple endings in vague terms, as well as the previous four episodes.
This last episode, From the Gallows, starts exactly where the previous one left off: the small community that is the New Frontier has devolved into anarchy, the walkers have breached the walls, and the body count is rising. You quickly regroup with the survivors and plan your escape, though plenty goes wrong along the way. It’s an ending that feels explosive and powerful for the first five minutes, but quickly loses a lot of its punch very early. For a violent uprising, there’s not a lot of threat once you get out of the initial fight. While the walkers are back, after being largely absent from the previous episode, it still felt relatively low-stakes this time around. The few times that the walkers catch up to you aren’t particularly memorable, either. There’s a scene that feels like it’s been lifted directly from the finale of episode one, but without the emotional engagement that made it effective.
There are a few saving graces to this episode, however. This season has been all about the relationships between characters, and nothing has highlighted this better than this episode. Your relationship with Clementine turns out to be one of the most important factors in the game’s multiple endings, and the scenes featuring the little family you’ve gathered together are still some of the best written in the series. There’s one scene right before the climax where the family starts to break apart that feels downright heartbreaking, even if it can feel a little bit contrived depending on your choices in regards to the love triangle subplot.
In terms of the endings, there are multiple different ways the story can end, based off of both the choices you’ve made up to this point and the ones you make in the final moments of this episode. On the whole, the endings are a mixed bag. Some serve as a fitting conclusion to the story, tying together with this season’s strong familial themes, others are just downright disappointing. My first time through, I ran off to do what I believed to be the most moral thing, only to come back and find that the central plotline of the series, the incoming conflict between Javi and David that had been built up with at least one flashback for episode, had been resolved completely offscreen.
There are also a lot of technical issues with this episode, though framerate was pretty consistant this time around. Characters are missing animations, and occasionally their facial animations stop completely, leaving them expressionless even as they suffer horrific injuries. There’s also a noticeable issue where hordes of zombies appear to be represented by low-res two dimensional sprites rather than actual character models. While this is understandable when there are a ton of zombies offscreen in the distance, it’s distractingly ugly when they’re mere feet away from Javi and Clementine.
In the last moments of the game, right before the credits, the words “Clementine will return” flashed onscreen, and I realized what this season really was: a diversion from Clementine’s story, starring characters we most likely will never see again. And while I look forward to seeing her again, I don’t feel the need to ever revisit the new frontier. While the first episodes showed a lot of promise, Javi’s story is over.