Plot: Clementine (Melissa Hutchinson) has come a long way since Lee Everett (Dave Fennoy) found her in that tree house. With everything collapsing around her, this child survivor is forced to look at herself and finally decide what she wants out of this life. Her decision, regardless of reasoning, is irreversible. There really is no going back.
I just wanted to confirm this right here and now. “No Going Back,” unlike “No Time Left,” doesn’t end with the main character meeting their ultimate fate. Clementine is still breathing once the credits roll. Now, some of you might think this is a spoiler, but it’s really not. Clementine’s survival isn’t the surprise. She’s the Rick Grimes of the video game series. Someone who witnesses and experiences absolutely horrible shit but still soldiers on. This game is all about the life she lives now, which is put into the spotlight with “No Going Back.” This Season 2 Finale explores a broad spectrum of emotions, only to end with a ruthless gut punch and an uncertain future. It was a nearly perfect capper to an extremely emotional and engrossing season that brought zombie apocalypse fiction to previously unimaginable heights.
“No Going Back” really toys with your sense of security. It’s absolutely ruthless in this regard, which makes it such an intense experience. Once that explosive standoff between your group and Arvo’s (Michael Ark) subsides, everything simply seems okay. For a very fleeting moment, The Walking Dead willingly lets its characters enjoy themselves for a change. It was easily the happiest any of these people have been in literally this entire series. They’re laughing, passing around a bottle of rum, and cracking jokes about one character sleeping with another. Does it matter that a child is there, or that there are walkers around? Absolutely not. All of their lives are shit so it was a glorious reprieve to watch these characters finally put aside their differences.
But as we have learned repeatedly, any tiny shred of happiness is short lived. The darkness that is both within and outside these survivors will always come back for more. When it does come back in this finale, it’s rightfully suffocating. This is the end point for this season’s story so everything has to come to a head. Decisions that you made with this group come back in a big way for better and for worse, along with a few things Lee told Clementine in Season 1. It honestly doesn’t take long before each group member is at each other’s throats again, and the personal rifts become far too great to cross. Once that happens, “No Going Back” becomes a cornucopia of chaos with everything falling apart at the seams. So brief is the happiness, and so short lived is the friendship.
What really stands out is how each character’s decisions are not necessarily created out of malice, for the most part at least. These survivors do what they do because they fervently believe it’s the absolute right choice. And many of them have completely justifiable reasons too! In between all of this is Clementine who is treated as both the child she is on the outside and the adult she is on the inside. The adults furiously bicker about where they’re supposed to go next and completely ignore your protests, despite being a valued member of the group. All episode Clementine does her absolute best to do good as well, but sometimes there is simply no good to be done. As usual, The Walking Dead dances in that gray area that defines the franchise
The final scenes are easily the most intense of the entire series. Everything that has happened snowballs into one last, life changing conflict, which puts Clementine on completely different paths depending on your choices. How the conflict is resolved hinges on you and the solution is not an easy one to make. You’re forced to make a decision in a situation filled with anger, hate, and deception. The game “rewards” you with justification for your actions regardless of what you do, so its entirely up to the player to decide if what they did was the “right” choice for their Clementine. I’m personally satisfied with how my playthrough ended, but I find myself wanting to replay the entire series to get a new one. The game is coming back for a third season and it really looks like it’ll start in a radically different manner depending on which of the final five scenarios you fell into.
Really, my biggest complaints have nothing to do with what was in the episode. All of that was outstanding. What I’m upset about is what was omitted. First and foremost, Christa’s (Mara Junot) fate is still unknown. Before Kenny (Gavin Hammon) came back, Christa was Clementine’s one lifeline to what she had before Lee died. Her fate has been unknown since “All That Remains” and any lack of substance for her after this finale absolutely sucks. Secondly, I still don’t see the point of the “400 Days” DLC. That extra addition was supposed to bridge the gap between Season 1 and Season 2, but this clearly had little bearing on the season as a whole. The only character out of the five in focus, Bonnie (Erin Yvette), is in Season 2 regardless of what you decided in “400 Days.” Every other character had brief cameos in “In Harm’s Way” which hardly warranted spending time and money to follow their lives before. I now completely regret buying that addition and I’m officially skeptical of any other DLC Telltale releases for this series. “400 Days” was wholly misleading and useless.
“No Going Back” was excellent. It was a wonderfully crafted experience that leaves me suitably excited for Season 3. What will Clementine be like when that finally comes? That’s the big question, and I’m glad there are five distinct ways you can end this season. That alone really makes it feel like a personal adventure and not something everyone else has done before. Though these rampant differences might make any continuation a very daunting task, I have no doubt that Telltale Games can handily delivery another fantastic product. Just don’t give us a pointless DLC in between. I’d rather wait than tide myself over with something unnecessary.
Season Rating: 9/10