Part of what has really struck me about The Walking Dead Season Two is that the game is almost completely dominated by female characters. There are male characters, for sure, but most of the male characters are cracking around the edges or finding themselves caught up in what they believe their role should be. The traditional gender roles in the game have been reversed in season two, let’s look at how it’s changed.
The first and most clear change to The Walking Dead in season two is that the player now controls Clementine. Clementine was the young, scared and unable to care for herself in the first season of the game. She relied almost entirely on Lee, Kenny and the rest of the crew to look after her. She clung to her hat, her hair and her non-functional walkie talkie because she couldn’t let go. In season two she is forged by fire, put through some awful situations and forced to fend for herself and to be wary about who she trusts.
Not only is Clementine growing up and becoming more of an adult, but she’s a strong female lead in a major videogame who doesn’t have to be a damsel in distress or a sexual object at all. She’s a little girl, eliminating what most of the tropes would be for a female lead in a videogame. More and more characters turn to Clem for guidance or strength while they themselves falter.
Jane is one in a long line of powerful female characters featured in The Walking Dead. Almost everything that she has done has been under her own power, although she has not been afraid to open up to Clementine about her own frailties. If anything, Jane is a callback to Molly from last season, but more fleshed out. Molly was a tough survivor in Savannah who helped the crew out. Jane very much plays a similar role in this season, although she takes a shining to Clementine and helps her in many ways.
She is quick to teach Clementine a few more survival skills, which prove to be quite useful. There are also important lessons that come from Jane, good and bad. If Lee was Clementine’s moral compass in season one, who taught her to be strong and caring, Jane has been teaching her when those things can get in the way of survival, when to shut them off. Even the way that Jane utilizes her sexuality is one of power, with Luke smitten by her but Jane clearly in the driver’s seat.
3. The Male Leaders Have Weakened
Kenny was always a pain, always trouble. That being said, he was always strong and always willing to lead the group where it needed to go, even if kicking and screaming. In season one the clash with Lily was a major focal point for Kenny. Lily was a powerful woman unafraid to express herself and take charge, leading to some of the biggest clashes between the group. Ultimately Lily was pushed away and Kenny got his way.
In season two Kenny is a broken-down shell of a man who has lost and lost and lost, only to lose more. Luke was primed at the start of the season to be the new de facto leader that everyone looked to for guidance, but he has failed as a leader time and time again. He was unable to keep control when they were in the cabin, unable to make his big heroic rescue at Carver’s and in Amid the Ruins he had completely lost any semblance of control. As mentioned before, he’s a bit smitten with Jane and clearly she was using him.
4. Portrayal of Women Has Changed
Lily was, to put it bluntly, kind of a stereotypical bitch. She was written to be almost unlikable, with some valid reasons for being the way that she was, but shown as ill-equipped. She ended up doing something horrific and was completely misunderstood. This time around things are different. Even a character like Bonnie has gone from weak to strong since 400 Days. She, much like Clementine, was forced to grow up in a hurry (albeit she’s older) and has had to take charge in certain situations.
Hell, even the power structure at Carver’s included women holding more power than certain men. Even Carver wasn’t discriminating.
5. Gender Has Stopped Mattering
Gender has become less of an issue. The chivalrous “protect the women” stuff is almost nonexistent in exchange for simple “protect the group.” Rebecca has been a burden for obvious reasons, but she’s also had the power to be able to dictate what happens with the group due to her pregnancy. There are still men like Carver looking to “victimize” the women, but there is less and less of a place for them to do so.
Clementine’s gender, while important when looking at the game in this light, matters very little in the game itself. You are never presented with a place where Clementine’s gender comes into being a major issue. The same can be said for characters like Bonnie and Jane. The men are just as fragile and susceptible to being zombie fodder as the women are, leaving everyone on equal grounds.