Suffer the Children Walking Dead

Image courtesy of Telltale Games

Warning: Spoilers for “Suffer the Children” and prior episodes of Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” follow.

Leaving off with a massive cliffhanger in last month’s season premiere, this episode of Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” brings back a ghost from Clementine’s past in season one. The premiere set the bar high for the season, and this episode not only holds it up, but raises it even further. With the death of Marlon by AJ’s own hands, the situation for the pair may not go well with the other members of the community. Of course, Marlon was at fault for sending his own people to die with the raiders and even killed one of his own teens himself. Being shot in the back of the head after surrendering though, certainly did Clementine and AJ no favors as new arrivals.

With the tension at a peak, Clementine and AJ are voted out of the school despite their own protests and are escorted to the end of the safe zone by Violet and Louis. After heading deeper into the woods, Clementine and AJ are soon caught by Abel, the same man who stole food from the two at gunpoint last episode. This time he is accompanied by someone else, who, after some mysterious camera angles, is revealed to be none other than Lilly. Lilly is, of course, the ill-tempered character from all the way back in season one who was left on the side of the road to die after shooting Carley (or Doug based on your choices). I have to say this moment would have been all the more cooler had Telltale not spoiled the reveal in the episode’s trailer and on Twitter. I thought I would be safe from skipping the trailer, but posting images and gifs of the reveal as promotion through Twitter was a bit disappointing. At the end of the day, I understand it was likely on the marketing team and not the devs themselves. It did leave something to be desired, especially how they play up the moment in the episode by avoiding showing her face to build on the anticipation.

While it seems like a somewhat happy reunion to start off, the two quickly realize the different sides they’re on, as Lilly is working with the raiders who have been stealing kids from the school for their own war effort. The series is focused on more personal and contained stories, so hearing about a war going on in the northern part of the country is a cool bit of world-building to learn about. Clem and AJ narrowly escape with the help of Violet and Louis and soon make it back to the school in a series of events involving AJ being shot. Despite being voted out, the two are allowed back in so AJ can receive medical help and so Clem can work on building up defenses around the school in preparation for the eventual raider attack.

There are a lot of interesting character moments in this episode yet again, though the one I enjoyed most was AJ and Clem’s. I loved that the episode forced me to help AJ struggle with his own morality in regards to killing Marlon and deciding whether he was justified or if it was murder. The relationship draws parallels to Lee and Clem’s own bond from season one, this time with Clementine being the one to pass on what Lee taught her. I like the small touches in how my choices are affecting AJ, but I am more curious as to how the entire payoff for them is supposed to play out.

In the episode we are introduced to James, who helped Clementine and AJ escape Lilly through the use of a herd of walkers. James wears a walker’s skin so that he can walk among them, which allows him to use them to his advantage. He learned the technique from a group called The Whisperers, which I believe is from the comics, and it works well in adding to the mystery of the character itself. It’s common knowledge in universe that covering yourself in walker guts will allow you to blend in, though the thought to wear one of their actual skins never crossed my mind and is an extremely cool concept. Even though he probably smells terrible considering he’s wearing a dead corpse, James proves he is an ally to be trusted by taking care of Clementine and AJ the night before and helping them get back to the school safely. While he is not ready to join back into a society again at the school, I suspect this won’t be the last we see of the character.

For the relationships with the rest of the school kids, the highlight is probably how you can choose to romantically pursue either Violet or Louis (or neither if you are so willing). These lead to some more intimate scenes towards the end, though I ultimately declined both because of my own indecisiveness. Mitch’s character is also explored more deeply, with him starting off pretty angry towards Clem because of AJ’s murder of Marlon, though as the episode progresses he becomes more friendly through some minor adventures. He ultimately becomes a big ally in the defense of the school for the climax, and while I understand it was leading up to it, his death is likely one of the most idiotic I’ve seen in the entire series. It may be a bit harsh, but it seemed a little brash for Mitch to openly charge someone holding a gun, who was surrounded by other people with guns, with only his fists. It was a weak payoff, though I enjoyed the lead up to it, and it doesn’t detract from the episode overall. The final showdown between Clementine and Lilly was a great moment and only left me hating her even more after she brought up Lee. It plays out much like how one would poke at an old wound. The defense of the school ultimately plays like the Ewoks versus Stormtroopers in “Return of the Jedi,” with the students dropping duffel bags of bricks, using homemade bombs and one even suggests the use of a swinging log to deter attackers.

As you should expect, the gameplay is on the lighter side, but works well for how simple it is. In addition to fending off walkers with a knife, this episode also spices up the gameplay by giving Clem a bow. The bow’s use is fairly straightforward, but again it is fun to use and doesn’t overstay its welcome in short bursts. Used primarily in the climax, the big moment you use the bow also only helps in building up the tension against the raiders.

This is usually the part of the review where I give my final impressions and tell you to check out my review of the next episode, though this time I’ll also be addressing the elephant in the room. If you have not yet heard, as of a few weeks ago at the time of this article, Telltale Games has begun the process of closure.  Besides a skeleton crew of 25 people staying on to fulfill contractual obligations, the rest of the 250-some employees were laid off without any severance pay or actual heads up regarding the studio’s closure. The developer has since announced on their social media that they are actively searching for other studios to pick up and finish the final two episodes. As I watched the credits scroll by with all the people who had worked so hard to make something I enjoyed and who are now jobless, it served as a reminder for how much I take the work game developers put in for granted.  As much as I love this series and desperately want to see a conclusion to Clementine’s story after all these years, I truly hope that the studio will take care of the employees blindsided by this decision before the final two episodes are possibly released. It’s hard to believe the studio is closing down, especially since they had just announced a season two for “The Wolf Among Us,” a new series based on “Stranger Things,” and even actually gave us release dates for the entirety of this season of “The Walking Dead,” which felt like the first time they had so confidently done so. This season was going so well both narratively and visually; I hope that something in this situation is able to be worked out. If we do get the final episodes of Clementine’s story, you can expect my reviews of the episodes here when the time comes.

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