The Walking Dead: Season 2 Episode 3 – ‘In Harm’s Way’ Review

Published 7 months ago by

Clementine and Carver in The Walking Dead - In Harm's Way

When we last left our ragtag group of survivors in Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, gravelly-voiced villain Bill Carver had caught up to them, committed a bit of light murder and then ordered everyone to be rounded up and taken back “home.” Players who were hoping that the third episode of season two, ‘In Harm’s Way,’ would use this to inject some momentum and direction into the rest of the season will be disappointed, however, as it instead it’s more of a standalone story that leaves the plot little more advanced by the end.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with standalone episodes. The excellent second episode of the first season, ‘Starved for Help,’ introduced its villains near the beginning and had done away with them (in one way or another) by the end, and ‘In Harm’s Way’ feels in many ways like an attempt to create season two’s own version of the St. John’s Dairy Farm. Clementine and friends are thrown into the prison yard of the shopping mall where Carver’s group have settled, and spend the episode trying to squirm out from under the thumb of this psychopathic oppressor.

Michael Madsen’s portrayal of Carver is suitably scary, but despite being easy to hate he’s also probably the least interesting antagonist of the series so far. He seems to be somewhat invested in building a strong community, but despite all his speeches he ultimately comes across simply as a bad guy who does bad things because he is bad. Carver’s second-in-command, Tavia, also feels woefully underdeveloped, as does his thuggish henchman Troy.

Kenny in The Walking Dead - 'In Harm's Way'

‘In Harm’s Way’ definitely feels more hands-off than any of the previous entries in the series. Much of the episode is spent sitting back and watching events unfold, and when the player is given the option to select Clementine’s dialogue, the choices feel more arbitrary than they ever have before. At times it feels like the game’s designers were struggling to find things for the player to do; one of the walker attacks in particular comes out of nowhere, has no lasting impacting and was apparently only included to meet a minimum quota of QTE combat.

There has always been a limit to how much Telltale can allow player decisions to affect the outcome of the plot. In the first season, for example, the same characters will eventually end up dying regardless of what choices the player makes, but the decisions themselves went a long way towards developing Lee’s character and shaping the player’s experience of the game. ‘In Harm’s Way’ is noticeably lacking in truly tough choices – save for picking the lesser of two evils right at the very end – and it makes the episode feel uncomfortably scripted.

Another disappointment was the reappearance of characters from the 400 Days DLC, who only show up in brief cameos where the cut-n-paste lines are practically visible. Aside from Bonnie, whose decision to join Carver’s group was default, it’s clear that Telltale didn’t have the manpower to allow each of these characters to develop and affect the plot in any meaningful way, since there were too many variations of 400 Days‘ ending. The Walking Dead succeeds best when it pulls off the illusion of the player creating their own story, and the shallow nature of these cameos spoil that illusion as badly as a heckler yelling that cards were up the magician’s sleeve all along.

Clementine in The Walking Dead - 'In Harm's Way'

It’s worth mentioning that ‘In Harm’s Way’ does have some highlights. Kenny and Luke both continue to be incredibly likable in very different ways, which only makes it all the more frightening when one or both of them seems to be in immediate danger of getting killed off. Carlos is forced into a heart-breaking decision of the sort that’s usually left in the hands of the player. The group’s ranks also get replenished somewhat, and of the new characters a tough survivalist called Jane stands out as one of the most promising new additions.

‘In Harm’s Way’ is probably the worst episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead so far, but in light of the game’s consistent high quality that doesn’t make it bad. Purely in terms of writing it remains head and shoulders above most other games currently being released. More than any other episode so far however, ‘In Harm’s Way’ felt like reading one of The Walking Dead comics or watching the TV show, and this sense of detachment from the narrative hits at the heart of the game’s strongest quality. Let’s hope that the next episode has a little more audience participation.

The Walking Dead season two, episode three, ‘In Harm’s Way’ is available now for PC, Mac, PS3 and Xbox 360, and will be available on iOS from May 15, 2014.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

TAGS: iOS, Mac, PC, PS3, TellTale Games, The Walking Dead, Xbox 360

8 Comments

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  1. It wasn’t a bad episode but it did have a lot of problems, they tried waaaaay too hard to turn Carver into Mega Hitler, his motivations were a bit off and as abusive and murderous as he was even with people who’d been loyal to him, it really made no sense. Any rational group of human beings would have taken this bastard out long ago, he wasn’t offering them anything they couldn’t take for themselves once he was dead.

    On top of that, this is a story we’ve seen so many times before, and not only in zombie stories. The so called sanctuary, it was introduced in the 400 days dlc, was claimed to be a safe haven for survivors, turns out it’s a bloody dictatorship and the rest of the story turns into prisonbreak. It’s been done to death and they didn’t really add anything new to it.

  2. “Leaves the plot little more advanced by the end.” Sorry, I can’t take it seriously. The episode ends with a completely new group and multiple fatalities, as well as a scarred and battered few remaining members. This review is completely unfair. While it had some pacing problems and interactions were strange at times, it doesn’t deserve an “average” score. At the very least 4 out of 5. It was a good story. And kept me well engaged until the end. Yeah, it felt a little traintracked at times. Like we were trapped without the ability to make serious decisions. But you know where you’re trapped and can’t make serious decisions? Prison. Which is exactly the situation you were in. So personally, I felt it was at least partly warranted.

    • It was dull, and I would have rated it lower.

  3. Agree with the comment above.They tried to pull this thing a little bit similar with The Governor/Sanctuary stuff.On the good side,there were some stronger moments throughout,i won’t spoil them here,also i kinda liked the “group spirit” that we see in the end, but this episode has little impact regarding the season as a whole.I mean,now that some things are taken care of where do our characters belong,and do we truly care for them onward?
    Clementine is possibly the only thing that is keeping me invested so far, and the preview for next episode didn’t quite get me on :/
    Long story short:
    Remember when in season 1 the group took food and supplies from that car,and then all the way in episode 5 we got surprised by the guy who was going to kill Clem?
    I am still waiting for that kind of shock-value from Telltale

  4. I thought it was amazing, best episode of the season so far. A lot happened, and even though we didn’t get to explore as much, it’s never what Telltale was about.

    I loved it. It was smarter in Clementines behaviour and mannerism options, Kenny was KENNY. Shibby.

    The trailer for next Ep was meh though.

  5. Though it was amazing too; has really brought back my interest from what I thought had been a pretty weak season so far. The railroading didn’t bother me too much, and it made story-sense. It was a change of pace from the usual narrative – wouldn’t wanna see this kind of episode too often though.
    On the 400 Days characters I’m not sure that their story is actually over yet – the door is open for their reappearance later.
    Trailer was bad – thinking they didn’t want to show everyone who survived episode 3?

  6. Ok. I know Rick went through this in the comic/is going through this on the show… Telltale has now done it as well. Appreciate It! Did it take Two AMC Seasons? No….Did it take Several “episodes”… No. They gave us a nice example ( in 1 ep ) of what Clem would do in a “Rick-type” situation. I think the episode delivered. Clem is not afraid to do whats necessary anymore. Lee taught her how to survive, mentally. Now she has to physically handle situations to survive. Landing headshots, staying calm, shooting assholes in the face, and chopping limbs off without hesitation. Hopefully she keeps it together in a sane manner and keeps her group together while hanging onto whats left of her humanity. The ep4 teaser was pretty vague, I’m sure the trailer will reel us in a couple months from now. Im going 5 stars just because I like when they “thin the herd”and I like lots of blood (just aslong as its not Clem’s), gotta love a little more action when it comes around.

  7. At this point it’s clear that the new writers don’t understand what made the first season good. They’ve built basically none of the characters up. I’m over halfway through the game and I’m STILL indifferent to the fates of pretty much everyone with two eyes (avoiding spoilers obviously).

    Ironically, he’s the only character they do spend any time with, but considering it’s been literally years at this point, his arc needs to shift to something else. And it should have in this episode. In fact, a lot of things should have happened by this episode. Season one worked constantly for the heavy payoffs in its iteration of episode 3. This one, there isn’t one death I cared about, and the only feeling I had was, “I’m glad this dumb arc is over.”

    This game seems to take way too much from the comic in terms of pacing and characterization. As in, put non-characters in a place, kill them off occasionally, and move on to the next place where new non-characters will die off or replace existing characters. Such a waste of the Clementine character.

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