The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 2 – A House Divided Review
The first episode of The Walking Dead Season 2, “All That Remains”, was a great start to a promising new season. Alone in the woods and left to die, Clementine was rescued by a group of strangers in Episode One, but their characters weren’t quite fleshed out well enough to tell if these people were trustworthy or not. We get to know the new group a bit better in Episode 2: “A House Divided”, and while I’m still not 100% sure of their intentions, there’s a much bigger threat looming now. While “All That Remains” only hinted at a man named Carver — whom the group was obviously terrified of — by the end of this episode we get to meet him face to face.
Michael Madsen turns in probably his best performance since Reservoir Dogs as the reserved yet menacing Carver. His character will likely remind players of The Governor from the TV series, as he’s the leader of a powerful faction with a quiet, subdued aggression boiling beneath the surface who doesn’t take kindly to members straying from his flock. By the end of “A House Divided”, you’ll know to fear him, too.
“A House Divided” ramps up the tension, drama, and action — firing on all cylinders, this episode is among Telltale’s best work. Characters that came off as two-dimensional in “All That Remains” become more layered here, and Clementine fights her way through several pulse-pounding, stressful situations. Even the dialogue choices in this episode feel much more impactful, instantly affecting not only relationships but the entire direction of the narrative. Suffice it to say that you will likely feel compelled to use the Replay feature with “A House Divided”, just to see how different scenarios – especially the lengthy final encounter – play out with alternate choices.
While the new group’s initial distrust of Clementine felt weird in the season premiere, their guarded personalities make more sense given the context of “A House Divided”. And while every player with a beating heart came to care about Clem last season, in Season 2 the attachment feels even stronger, as her decisions and personality are directly affected by you. Reacting to any given line of dialogue, Clem can come off as sweet and innocent, or world-weary and cynical, and all of your past choices are regularly referenced, making this feel like a truly personal tale. That said, the “____ will remember that” moments can get a bit ridiculous at times, as it can seem like no matter what you say or do you’re bound to piss somebody off. A good example is when Clem grabs some food and has to choose which table to sit at — I sat and deliberated on this decision for way longer than I should have, knowing that someone would be emotionally hurt, despite the fact that almost all of these characters are supposed to be fully grown adults.
Clementine is only just getting used to Luke’s group, but soon enough another new group will come into play – among them a familiar face alluded to in the last episode. While the two groups are hesitant to trust each other at first, they’ll both be in extreme danger near the end, when Carver’s faction and a swarm of zombies come to crash the party. Split-second decisions are thrown at the player at an ever-quickening pace in the final stretch of this roughly two-hour long episode. “A House Divided” moves at a lightning pace, with all of the fat trimmed to produce a streamlined, engaging experience. The writing deserves special mention, as every character in this episode feels and reacts to situations in a very human manner. The episode also manages to broach touchy subject matter like religion and homosexuality in an elegant manner.
“A House Divided” is easily one of Telltale’s finest stories to date. A central villain is brought to the forefront, giving the story a new feeling of focus. Well-written dialogue is given life by a cast of fine voice actors, and exciting action sequences and tense decision-making round out a very memorable episode. Excellent pacing and a strong narrative combine to form one of the best interactive stories I’ve played to date.