Plot: Clementine and her group are now prisoners under the iron fist of William Carver. Promising to bring society back from the brink, Carver has filled his well-stocked base with loyal supporters. Can Clementine make it out alive?
“What will I do to survive?”
That’s a question that popped in my mind on more than one occasion during my first playthrough of “In Harm’s Way.” It fit somewhere between, “Do I tell this person the truth?” and “Oh crap oh crap oh crap RUN.” It really was a harrowing two or so hours. At no instance did it feel like the lives of Clementine and her crew weren’t in imminent danger. You literally spend the entire episode as Carver’s prisoners, delicately balancing his no-nonsense dictatorship with your own innate desire for freedom. As Clementine, you are put into situations that directly show where your priorities lie as a survivor. Do you stick to yourself when those around you are being oppressed, or do you choose to help others at greater personal risk? Most importantly, what can you do that can guarantee your continued survival in the worst possible circumstances?
There were a lot of ways Clementine could have been presented. I chose to go through this latest episode as the helpful heroine. When my self-proclaimed friend was in distress, I intentionally went to her side and put my work off. Once disparate plans were set to break out of captivity, I reasoned with my group that both plans were effective, and immediately set out to make each of them a reality. I regularly picked no sides within intergroup conflicts but defended my closest friends when it mattered. I chose to trust kind, apologetic strangers and it thankfully worked in my favor, despite how terrible of an idea it really was. I even stared evil right in the face and proclaimed my bravery, while simultaneously shaking in my shoes at what could happen to me in response.
What really made this episode soar was it put Clementine’s developing psyche in the spotlight. Despite being at such a young age, this girl has experienced enough horror to ruin even the strongest of individuals. It’s obviously changed her significantly. In one of the episode’s most powerful scenes, Carver openly discusses this with Clementine, exclaiming that he knows the truth behind her eyes. Carver respects Clementine as she does what she needs to survive, sometimes regardless of the consequences. He uses this to justify a disturbing sense of kinship with her. It’s tough to watch but does have a rough kernel of truth. The situations she continually finds herself in don’t get any better. They do however get easier to stomach.
“In Harm’s Way” also did a great job showing how right Lee was in helping Clementine fight her fears about the world around her. A big part of the game revolved around whether or not you want to help a slightly older girl named Sarah. Sarah has lived this long thanks to her father Carlos and has never had to survive on her own. She’s honestly generally useless in a pinch and is prone to panic. It’s basically what Clementine would have become without Lee’s involvement, if she even lived that long. In more than one instance, choosing to help or ignore Sarah was an option. I wanted to help her, knowing that it’s not preparing her for reality but maintaining the sense of structure in this path her own father put her on. Perhaps not surprisingly, Sarah completely melts down once her safety net is lost, while Clementine soldiers on unabated.
As an antagonist, Carver was exactly what you’d expect from a Walking Dead entry. He was a sadistic monster who used societal reconstruction as a means to justify his madness. The comparisons between him and The Governor are massive. A ruthless villain means some ruthless situations though. The stuff you’re forced to experience as Clementine is some of the most disturbing this game has ever presented, which is saying a lot since she has seen so much already. After “In Harm’s Way,” it’s tough to imagine where she can go from here, especially when you consider the last two “big decisions.”
SPOILERS START HERE!
Let me get this out of the way now: I was disappointed by Carver’s sudden death. He was physically around for about an episode and a quarter. Having Carver as the main season villain was something I really looked forward to, especially since The Walking Dead antagonists typically elevate the material at hand. However, his death did serve the purpose of presenting how far Clementine has really gone. The second to last “big decision” is whether or not you want to watch Kenny brutally kill the man who has terrorized you all episode. Clementine’s willingness to even let the act happen details her hard interior better than anything else. This alone makes the last “big decision,” attempting to save Sarita by cutting of her still-being-eaten hand or only killing the walker attacking her, more realistic. If this girl is capable of putting a death sentence on another human being and watching it unfold, sudden amputation doesn’t seem as insane for her. That’s saying a lot.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead has been a consistently amazing series since the very first episode, and “In Harm’s Way” is no exception. It’s not the best entry by any means but it broke some intense new ground for our young protagonist. The Clementine that is starting to come out is much harder and more dangerous than ever before. She’s constantly put into worse situations and always comes out with a new drive to live. For her, “What will I do to survive?” isn’t a simple question. It’s the motto that she has for her life now. She will even do things people are too disgusted or anxious to do in her stead. It’ll be interesting from this moment on to see if she really has a limit anymore. After what she had to witness though, I can’t imagine that being likely, which is honestly the scariest thing of all.