If you were hoping The Walking Dead Michonne would change things up and deliver an emphatic, powerful conclusion to a largely forgettable miniseries, you’re going to be disappointed. Episode 3 brings with it the confrontation the end of the previous episode promised and not much else. Some make it out alive, some don’t, and in the end the survivors decide to go on living, however changed their lives might be going forward. The Walking Dead Michonne’s longstanding issues with cliché unfortunately remain unaddressed. Characters and events have not only been done, but they’ve been done better elsewhere — Telltale themselves have shown players just how compelling the world of The Walking Dead can be. The Walking Dead, however much its comic past has already been drawn from, still has a rich, fascinating world, but this is simply not the world we see in The Walking Dead Michonne. The conclusion of Telltale’s miniseries continues to look good, run well, and feel polished, but at its core it’s still more of the same middling game.
At the end of the last episode, Michonne and her group were awaiting Norma’s inevitable retaliation to both the destruction of her settlement and her brother Randall’s capture. A skirmish left John, Sam’s father, dead, and sans Greg and the rest of Michonne’s group, our intrepid band of zombie hunters had to decide how they were to proceed. Nothing particularly interesting happens in continuation. Sam’s sad, and so are her little brothers. Pete hopes violence can be avoided, but, of course, it can’t. Paige is worried; she doesn’t want anybody to get hurt. All the characters are the same people they were two episodes ago, and those people have always had less depth than a kiddie pool. Furthermore, the body of the episode is a giant fight, which hardly allows for meaningful characterization, so there are no big reveals. Aside from a short introductory flashback scene with Oak, Episode 3 doesn’t concern itself with introducing new characters or fleshing out preexisting ones.
Yes, Michonne’s PTSD continues, and her girls are still haunting apparitions that flit on the edge of her consciousness, but that’s it. Michonne has her moments where she’s searching for her girls, wondering where they are, wondering why she can’t find them. She regrets working too much. She’s haunted in much the same way in Episode 3 as she was in previous episodes, and the climactic final choice of the series, the point the entire miniseries had been building up to (for Michonne’s character) just fizzles. The choice feels hollow, as if it’s not really a choice at all (as evidenced by the stats after the episode ended listing around 2% of players deviating), so any would-be catharsis falls flat. Michonne ends the miniseries essentially as dour as she began it, and any ‘triumph’ over her struggles is too forced to feel genuine.
The action itself of the episode, the central battle, is executed nicely. The circumstances precipitating the the fighting (surprise: peace talks go south) and the victims of the fighting themselves are fairly inconsequential, but the set-pieces are well-constructed and choice manages to remain relevant, like when Michonne has to decide whether to mercy-kill someone who has been bitten. The transition between Michonne’s flashbacks and the present is flawless. But technical proficiency only goes so far. There’s no heart, no life to the action. A story-driven game devoid of pathos will always fall short of greatness. The ever-present threat of death loses its impact when players simply don’t care if characters die.
The Walking Dead Michonne might have been successful. Michonne (in the comics and the show) is a badass lady with a dark past – the perfect lead. And, as the show and Telltale’s earlier titles can attest, The Walking Dead has a world well-suited to the screen. Zombies are perfect for mowing down; they’re perfect mindless hostiles for characters to fight. But as a series expands into medium after medium, creators must take careful pains to avoid tropes the series has already established – the stoic killer with a troubled past, the hardened post-apocalyptic psycho, the no-nonsense leader, etc. Above all, the characters in a story-driven game, however archetypal they may be, have to be people players want to be around, and the characters of The Walking Dead Michonne are simply not those people.