Serving as something in-between downloadable content for The Walking Dead: Season 2 and a prelude to The Walking Dead: Season 3, TellTale’s Michonne miniseries felt out of place to me since its announcement last summer; however, I was nonetheless ready to whet my appetite for more of TellTale’s flagship series. Fans of the comics and the show know Michonne to be a rugged yet soft-spoken rebel lady who gets stuff done — one of the characters in The Walking Dead‘s canon who is at the very least able to be spun-off. The first episode of The Walking Dead: Michonne, unfortunately, proves Michonne would have best served the franchise if only she had remained as untapped potential. TellTale’s latest release is expertly executed and polished, but terribly cliched characters and an anemic, been-done-before story leaves me wanting much more.
If you’re coming from Minecraft: Story Mode, don’t worry, The Walking Dead: Michonne isn’t without TellTale’s (mostly) quintessential flair: action, well-choreographed fights, and interactivity. The beginning of Episode 1 is, in a word, thrilling. Michonne might be a mysterious woman entirely capable of handling herself in the zombie-infested world of The Walking Dead, but the biggest danger to her, it turns out, might be herself: with a past so horrifying it forces her to question the value of her own life, Michonne struggles through each day.
And that’s where The Walking Dead: Michonne lost me. We know Michonne has been through tough times, but there’s no pathos; we aren’t given a clear reason to care or empathize with this stoically silent butcher of the undead. Samira Wiley, of Orange is the New Black fame, does a serviceable job voicing Michonne, but what she says isn’t all that interesting. The same can be said for the supporting cast. I have no idea what internal TellTale meeting prompted writers to think, “Innocent sidekick, no-nonsense leader, and violent meathead? There it is! That’s our miniseries!” Not that all of the characters don’t have archetypes, but, especially for The Walking Dead, we already know these people all too well, and they aren’t realized enough here to make them overly compelling.
The story is no different. Pop quiz! Unsuspecting individuals, just trying to get by, stumble onto a community run by unknown, possible evil, leaders. Can you name which Walking Dead arc I’m thinking of? Probably not, you’d likely need some identifying flavor, and that’s precisely the problem. The Walking Dead: Michonne doesn’t do anything particularly memorable or unique. Yes, TellTale is merely adapting preexisting material, but with the show on the forefront of fans’ minds and the comic series nearing 13 years of runtime, choosing what to adapt is just as important as how you adapt it. Granted, with a different adaptation, Michonne’s life before the arrival of Rick and the gang could have been engaging in all the ways previous TellTale releases are, but it’s not.
Episode 1 of The Walking Dead: Michonne isn’t the worst thing you’ll ever play — far from it. The choices players are empowered to make feel meaningful, just as the action feels appropriately epic; and the game, for a TellTale release, looks and runs decently with only the odd frame-drop here and there. But The Walking Dead: Michonne is TellTale’s most fundamental misstep in years. A brief story-driven adventure without a captivating story, or one that even tries anything new, is unforgivable. With more episodes on the horizon, I don’t doubt TellTale can turn this around, but they better do it soon.