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Walking Dead: Final Season Episode 3 - MojoPlays Review

VO: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Kurt Hvorup
We all thought that The Walking Dead adventure series would be over with The Final Season episode 2, but Clem's journey continues! See our review of Walking Dead chapter 3.

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It’s hard enough for a project to stay on track and remain a coherent creative work in the best of times, never mind those instances where behind-the-scenes trouble threatens utter devastation and chaos for all involved. The latter situation is where we find ourselves with Episode 3 of “The Walking Dead: The Final Chapter”, previously left in limbo after the shutdown of Telltale Games and completed only thanks to the intervention of Skybound Entertainment.

Various staffers from Telltale were contracted to wrap up work on the episode, their desire to see it completed and in the hands of fans clear in every frame. Intent doesn’t always match up with execution, though; there’s been a persistent fear that this will fall short of that which came before. Can “Broken Toys” find a way to shine amid the real-world turmoil, or is it another casualty of Telltale’s bitter demise?

Lingering consequences and the pain of loss are key to “Broken Toys” from minute one, beginning as it does in the wake of last episode’s carnage-filled defence of Ericson’s Boarding School. Some lay dead, others are captives of the ruthless Delta group, and Clementine is placed in the position of deciding how to go forward.

Much of the subsequent episode is dedicated to setup and preparation, as Clementine and her cohorts decide how to go about liberating their companions and doing the most damage possible in the process. It’s fun to see “The Walking Dead” commit to what is basically a post-apocalypse take on a prison break story, made more distinctive by the fact that it’s children – albeit very lethal and laser-focused ones – planning the whole endeavour. More importantly, this plot structure lets the episode indulge in thoughtful discussion between characters and stage various scenes of nuanced personal growth without needing to justify it. After all, it’s in service of getting the player to further care about the cast and make the climactic blow-out all the more satisfying.

If anyone was finding the last two episodes to be lacking in introspective dialogue which helped flesh out the cast and contributed to a overarching theme, then “Broken Toys” goes the extra mile to deliver.
For instance, a not-insubstantial portion of the first act dives further into the worldview and philosophy of James, exploring the motivations behind his pacifism towards the walkers. It’s safe to say one might genuinely begin to reconsider how they regard the titular walking dead once all’s said and done.

The episode also finds time for a bittersweet glimpse into AJ’s attachment to Clementine, a delightful mid-episode party interlude that doubles as the expected calm-before-the-storm moment, and perhaps the finest infiltration setpiece out of the entire series. That last one, the culmination of Clementine and company’s efforts, really does make exceptional use of the technology available and feels like it genuinely earns the label of ‘cinematic’. And we’d be remiss not to note a pair of sequences – one a haunting scene experienced in first-person, the other a dream scene – which may be actually all-time franchise highlights. Tears may have been shed, let’s put it that way.

Of course, all this effort might be for nought if the payoff didn’t match up. Fortunately, the developers found a mostly effective balance of tone and pace; the sneaking segments and quick-time events help keep tensions high, right in time for some end-of-episode brutality. The sheer horror of what’s shown and what comes to pass is helped along by Lilly – voiced by Nikki Rapp – who gets her own moment to leave the audience uneasy. Limited though her presence in the season may have been, the depths of Lilly’s warped perspective and astounding cruelty showcased here definitely mark her as a fascinating foil for Clementine. It’s phenomenal character work, and chilling to boot.

All the performances remain solid across the board as before, though for a change the surrounding episode manages to find room for nearly every cast member to say their peace. It’s still wonderful to hear the loving banter between these characters, watching as they fill their time in the face of what might be their final night alive.

Honestly, so much about this episode is endearing and exceptional, with only nitpicks to be had. The last act slows to a crawl so it can have one extra ‘breaking free of captivity’ detour before it reaches the finish line, which hurts the pacing a bit. Most of the technical issues that have plagued Telltale’s previous works have been excised, though we still caught the odd delayed scene transition from time to time. And though your mileage may vary, it might have been nice to have Lilly factor into the episode’s overall plot sooner.

However, nothing can fully detract from how well put-together and coherent a work this third episode turned out to be. Yes, there’s cause to be concerned about labour practices and treatment of employees, but there’s also a case to be made for celebrating those who put their time and passion into something truly great. To that end, it must be said that “Broken Toys” is excellent in its own right and a damn fine addition to the broader “Walking Dead” canon, full stop.

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