*Warning: Some Spoilers Ahead*
Amid the Ruins is Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season Two’s episode four, it’s the setup to the grand finale of what has been a more understated, yet powerful season. The first season of The Walking Dead was a bit more frenetic at times, about survival and the tensions of the group. You were also playing as Lee throughout, making the perspective a bit different than what we’ve seen in season two.
Season Two is different, a lot different, which means that the expectations that people have for the series are sometimes not in line with what Telltale is trying to do. Season two’s focus has been on the growth of Clementine into a powerful, independent lead female character who is tasked with keeping these adults in line. It’s an interesting, difficult dynamic, but the writing has been on the walls throughout the season about the shifting power dynamics.
Kenny has been despondent, difficult and unable to be the leader that he once fought so hard to be. Luke was originally built to be the strong, new young leader who makes all of the tough decisions, but he’s proven to be just as fragile as the rest have been. The group finds themselves looking to Clementine more and more for these decisions, which has made this season very different.
Amid the Ruins has gotten some flak online already, most of it I find to be a bit unfounded. The deaths don’t feel important anymore, is the argument. Why isn’t Luke being the strong leader that he was meant to be? It’s all so simple, it’s right in front of our faces and in Amid the Ruins it is as clear as day. Luke has been attempting to be a moral compass, he’s yet to find himself tainted by the chaos and still believes. He still believes that everything will be alright. He finds himself saddled with Sarah and unable to leave her, forcing Jane and Clementine to make the tough decisions about Sarah.
It felt like look was just looking for a way out after how the last episode ended. He had been stripped of his power and all of his friends were dying off. Protecting Sarah was his last burst of chivalry that he could muster, an unspoken promise to a dead friend. This episode was priming the player throughout the entire episode to let Sarah drift off, to let her finally die. She was a burden, she was a friend, but she had lost the will to live. In the world of The Walking Dead losing the will to live makes you a liability, it means you are going to cost someone else’s life in exchange for your own at one point.
Jane is Clementine’s guide, her latest teacher and perhaps the best teacher that she could have for this point in her life. Lee taught her goodness, he taught her how to be strong and that there were things worth fighting for, while Jane taught her how to not only survive, but to thrive. Jane teaches Clementine that self-preservation is the end game, that you can still be good, be strong and to care for other people, but not at the expense of your own life. She also taught Clementine what not to be.
Each and every decision throughout this episode was difficult, difficult as in you feel awful picking one or the other. You know that every decision is in a way wrong, but you also know that there will always be a better decision and that it has to be made. Telltale might be moving in a more linear direction right now, but they’ve also established the characters and are telling the story that they want to tell, which I can find no fault in.
The explosive finish of the episode makes waiting for the next one cringe-inducing, but that is only a sign that what Telltale has done is marvelous.