One thing I’ll say about The Walking Dead: A House Divided; it doesn’t waste any time trying to get your attention. Episode 2 picks up in medias res, where you escape from a zombie horde to reconnect with your new party and deal with the aftermath of how everything went down previously. Naturally, it turns out there’s no time for that because of the sudden appearance of a stranger… or is he a stranger?
Clementine, after spending most of the first episode wandering in the wilderness alone, is settled in somewhat with her new community. As is the case in The Walking Dead universe however, lingering tension remains, psyches are fragile, and relationships are built and damaged by as little as a response to a question.
As with Episode 1, A House Divided looks absolutely stunning with its character models and environments. One real improvement here over previous episodes is with its mise en scene; every scene is beautifully directed and does a wonderful job of conveying meaning with a single image.
The best part of A House Divided takes place while the characters are traveling, particularly in a section at a bridge crossing. The relationship between Clementine and Luke is beginning to develop, and it is interesting to see how different it is from when she was with Lee. Luke (so far, anyway) has many of Lee’s characteristics, but their relationship is much more as equals than the father/daughter dynamic in Season 1.
Most of the time spent in this episode is on developing the secondary characters, which is handled well for all of them… except Sarah. In the previous episode, much ado was made about her fragility and inability to cope with the world, but when they have to set out it ceases to be an issue. Perhaps Telltale has plans for her, but thus far her portrayal comes across as uncharacteristically slapdash.
The vast majority of this episode feels like relationship busywork; setting the table for bigger events coming later. Consequently, the pace of Episode 2 is very slow without much of a payoff at its conclusion. To Telltale’s credit, the writing is as strong as ever. The way it’s structured however is odd in that most of the game crawls at an extremely slow pace, only picking up steam right at the end. Even taking into account the limited interactivity of this series, there are only a handful of moments where you have control of Clementine beyond conversations, and none of the disparate action scenes are particularly tense or engaging.
There are a few big ‘reveal’ moments in Episode 2, but only one of them really resonates on any meaningful level, which is an inevitable drawback to the narrative style of a series like The Walking Dead. This is a series whose main hook is its ability to never let its audience feel comfortable; every moment can lead to an immediate and shocking twist that comes out in unexpected ways, and often far worse than what you could have imagined. Telltale has demonstrated incredible skill at delivering this up to now, but seven episodes in the strings are starting to become visible to the player.
The Walking Dead: A House Divided is definitely the most disappointing entry in this series to date, which is to say that it’s quite good but unremarkable. The biggest problem with it is that it feels less like a full episode with its own arc and more like a placeholder to set things up for when the story really kicks in. While it may end up looking much better framed within the context of the season as a whole, as a stand-alone it falls flat.
[+Characters are more fleshed out] [+Looks and sounds stellar] [+Clementine/Luke is becoming a great partnership] [-Very slow pace] [-Weak story arc]