Plot: Despite only being around for a day or so, young Clementine has become an important member of her new group. But the arrival of an imposing force puts all of their lives in jeopardy. What secrets does this group bear and will Clementine get caught in the crossfire?
The Walking Dead, in any medium, is at its best when the protagonists have an antagonist they can rally against. This was first seen when The Governor was introduced in comic issue 27 and radically change the series during his 21 issue lifespan. Longtime fans consistently regard those events as major high points for the series. The comics are currently bringing that magic back with a new character named Negan and the television series also recently wrapped up its own powerful Governor story. It only made sense that the video game series was going to get their own “big bad” eventually. Season 1 gave us a little taste of this with the Stranger in “No Time Left,” but he was merely a guest character at best. “A House Divided” gives the video game series its first ever main antagonist in the form of William Carver, a charismatic man whom Clementine’s new group is running from. Sure enough, the introduction of Carver elevates the second episode of Season 2 to an entirely new level, easily making it one of the best installments.
One of the aspects that really makes “No Time Left” stand out from the rest is how this is the first episode where Clementine is universally thought of as a survivor and not a child. Throughout Season 1 you teach Clementine how to survive in a whole variety of situations but people still viewed her as child everywhere she went, which made sense considering how she was 8. Even “All That Remains” had this with the new group severely underestimating her abilities when they took into account her age and size. “A House Divided” however shows a radical change in focus where many of the characters talk to Clementine for advice and help, as if she were a full grown adult.
In my game, this change was especially evident in the beginning when a man named Pete contemplates cutting his bitten leg off but stops last minute when he remembers Clementine is far too weak to carry him. Her own survival abilities practically blinded Pete to her real current age of 11. This continues unabated when group members ask Clementine to protect a house on her own, make her the voice of reason with a possible threat, and even ask her for advice on either surrendering to save someone who might be executed or running out to grab help. Not even Carver is blind to the truth behind Clementine’s young eyes. It was refreshing and exciting to not have to deal with people underestimating someone who has survived for a few years now.
When you compare “A House Divided” to “All That Remains,” you’ll see that the latter contained many more WTF moments. Scenarios like mercy killing a dog or sewing an arm gash were jaw dropping in intensity but only for those brief segments. The former trades in these scenes for a simmering intensity that starts in the beginning and violently boils over in the end. Carver’s introduction through a one-on-one conversation between him and Clementine was straight up terrifying. You instantly get the sense that this man is dangerous but your small stature makes a fist fight impossible. Knowing that any action could lead to disaster, I chose to simply talk with Carver until he left on his own accord. The encounter stuck with me throughout my play through and it only gets crazier when Carver returns. Carver and The Governor are ripe with similarities and that can only mean good things for the story (and bad things for the characters).
“A House Divided” had the usual five heavy decisions you have to make but this time around even the seemingly inconsequential choices carried added weight beneath the surface. As always you have to make a tough decision that will decide who lives and dies. There’s been at least one of those per episode. For me, the toughest decision to make in my play-through was the simple action of choosing where to sit at dinnertime. Normally this is a basic everyday task, but in this episode it felt monumental. Your two options are: Sit with a group of people you’ve only known for about a week but have come to equally trust at least a little, or sit with a much smaller group that you have known for no more than an hour but contains an old friend you long thought dead. Choosing one will obviously undermine the other and give the sense that you’re already picking favorites. I chose to sit with my new group but I find myself second guessing the decision. The fact that I’m wracking my brain over what could end up being a totally pointless moment is proof positive of how much Telltale is able to suck you into their game. You care for the relationships you form and want everything to work, but sometimes that’s just not possible.
By the time “A House Divided” reached its explosive ending, I knew I had experienced something special. This episode flowed beautifully from start to finish and I found myself completely engaged at all times. Carver is a terrifyingly welcome addition to the series and the decisions felt even more serious than they ever been. The world viewing Clementine for who she really is was an excellent change of pace as well. For some odd reason, the game even looked much better on my PlayStation 3 than any previous episode. Obviously, Telltale updates the games on a regular basis but this time it felt much more technologically sound. Lastly we finally got some follow-up with the characters first introduced in 400 Days, officially bringing those events into the fold. This all combines to make “A House Divided” a truly tense, exciting, and harrowing experience that sets the bar for episodes to come.
Rating : 9.5/10