Telltale Games / Dabe Alan
The Walking Dead’s Clementine is gaming’s cutest shotgun on the wall (Spoilers through Ep. 3)
This speculation about The Walking Dead assumes you’ve played and finished all available episodes. Be prepared for spoilers.
The month or so between episodes of The Walking Dead game from Telltale is interesting; the space gives fans of the game time to discuss the decisions they made and think about where the series may be headed. Most fans are going to play through each episode in one to two sittings, and then argue over what choices were “right,” even before we know for sure.
I’ve been asking people whether or not they took the supplies out of the abandoned car in Episode 2, and everyone has good reasons for why they either took the food and clothes or left it there. The game usually offers you two choices in every situation: do something terrible, or do something awful. No one is going to come out of the game in a better place than they went into it.
Which is why Clementine is the most frightening character in the game.
At the end of the Episode 3, at least in my playthrough, Clementine was the only child left alive. She’s the only character you could describe as being innocent, as everyone else has some form of blood on their hands at this point. We also know very little about her, once you get down to it. Like Lee, her backstory happened off screen, and the only thing we know about her parents and her past were told to us by a very frightened little girl. The message received through her walkie talkie at the end of Episode 3 may hint that things aren’t exactly as they first seemed. Where is that signal coming from? How long has she been talking to the person on the other end? Episode 4 may or may not answer these questions, but the revelations are bound to be intense.
The Walking Dead comic never pulls any punches, and the game has never shied away from putting characters in terrible situations or even taking their lives. Carley’s death in Episode 3 was so surprising it led to a number of people posting reaction videos online. I’ve also been warned by members of the development team that Episode 4 may deliver some heart break. “There is a moment in Episode 4 where we present you with one of the big choices. It’s not a violent choice. It’s not a verbal choice, it’s like a silent thing. I can’t wait for people to play it,” Kevin Bruner, the co-founder and CTO of Telltale Games, told me in a previous interview. “You’re going to have the controller in your hand, and you’re going to see this choice we present to you, and it’s super heart-breaking, and I hope people think ‘you gotta be kidding me.’ It’s not a choice to physically hurt anyone, it’s kind of like the most subtle thing you can possibly do, but you know how heart-breaking it is to the characters that are right there. And it’s a no-win situation. It’s brutal.”
I told this to Gary Whitta, the writer of Episode 4, and he was momentarily confused. He explained there are multiple moments in the next episode that may cause players psychic pain.
There are already hints that Clementine is going to be put in more direct danger than we’re used to seeing in the game. Lee cut her hair in Episode 3, and she’s now armed. She has an irrational hope that her parents are still alive, and she’s being fed hope that will likely turn out to be false by the phantom voice on the walkie talkie. The brief nightmare sequence in the last episode also served to remind you that every character is in play. No one is safe. If this were any other game I’d say that Lee and Clementine are guaranteed to live through the game, but this is The Walking Dead. I have no doubt that there may be choices that result in one, or both, dying before this season is over.
While we get to have some say over how Lee deals with the situations in the game, we also know that he very likely killed someone in the heat of passion before the events of the game, and he has no problems with violence when it’s warranted. He’s often kept in check by his relationship with Clementine, and at least in my game he feels the need for her to see him as a nice man, and a protector. So many of his decisions are made to protect her feelings and physical well being. The relationship between Lee and Clementine is the central plot point that informs almost everything else in the game. What happens to Lee if Clementine is removed from the equation? Will he continue to be a “good guy,” or will he be placed in a situation where he loses his humanity completely?
The fact that Lee and Clementine seem safe from the dangers around them due to being the “stars” of the game should scare the shit out of you. They’re not safe, and they will likely never be safe. The team behind the game are merely saving them for last, in order to turn the screws as tightly as possible when the perfect moment rears its head. Clementine seems designed from the ground up to elicit protective, paternal feelings from both the character and players, and that doesn’t make her a well-written part of the game, that makes her a weapon. If she’s the shotgun hanging on the wall in the first act, it’s time to start dreading what’s going to happen when she goes off.