edit: Yeahhh this keeps getting longer and longer but screw it. This needs to be at the top.
Telltale Games is constantly praised as being the front runners of the industry. They were known for their exceptional storytelling, a dedicated fanbase, and a hugely diverse and interesting range of characters. This was what Telltale's fans loves them for, expecting a groundbreaking and intelligent new story to play out this season.
Characters like Sarah and Nick were hated by a large number of people simply because they existed, but we recognized the value that they bring to a story, and were immensely grateful simply because they did exist. We were completely confident that these characters would continue to be important, and that even though the events may not be merciful to them, that the writers would continue to treat them respectfully and purposefully.
But instead, now, those very same people who were once the strongest defenders and biggest fans of Telltale, have been rewarded by being marginalized, mocked, and ignored. Now, those whose who once had the utmost confidence that Telltale was too good to play into lazy stereotypes are being laughed at, not only by other fans, but by Telltale themselves in that ridiculous new IGN "interview".
The Telltale employees, instead of defending this character or pointing out that her death was supposed to mean something to the story, nodded and laughed at the delight of a grown man who was happy to see a fifteen year old eaten alive, simply because "she wasn't normal".
So now where are all the people going on and on that Sarah's death did actually mean something? Now what about the people insisting that it wasn't just lazy and offensive writing? Is this really "what the Walking Dead is all about"? Mocking and laughing at how a character was not "normal", and that it was so funny that her fans had to slap her in order to save her, and it was so well written and thematic when Sarah conveniently died in that very same episode with no reaction, emotion, or effort?
This unprofessional and offensive new interview only confirms what so many people have been trying so hard to deny. The writing is not only weak, it is completely disgusting.
Shame on you, Telltale. I'm not taking it back anytime soon.
EDIT: This point keeps getting lost:
I'm not backtracking anything I've said here; I completely stand by the points I've been making. I am only trying to clarify.
Each episode is fairly successful as a self-contained story. The issue I am pointing out in this season is that plot points, characters, and themes are completely underutilized and inconsistent. And in relation to each other, the episodes have made less and less narrative sense as the season continues.
The fact that fans try to find ways to justify the storytelling themes and characters feels less intentional and more like a lucky coincidence. This is not just fan theory and speculation, this is the fan being forced to struggle in order to find a way for the story to possibly work. You shouldn't have to come up with long elaborate theories to explain away the writing. It's one thing if a story leaves something up to the imagination, and it's another thing for themes to not be built up enough, or in some cases, dropped for no reason. There's a difference between ambiguity, and lazy writing.
- In one episode, the characters are treated with respect and depth, while in the next they are thrown away and disrespected with no emotion, consequence, or purpose.
- The episodes do not carry any overarching themes from one to the next. Instead, each episode in itself briefly touches on something interesting but abandons it in consequent episodes.
- The choices make no difference in the plot, and we are often not even offered the illusion that anything makes a difference. They are not shown to make a difference in any way- not plot variation, not character development, and not even superficial changes. The most we usually get is an extra line or two, and sometimes not even that such as when stealing from Arvo results in exactly identical dialogue. Consequently these choices mean nothing and are completely wasted.
- Determinant characters hover in the background with minimal participation and are then killed off before they can do anything further, often for no purpose to the story. Characters that had previously been developed and nuanced are suddenly portrayed as one dimensional or OOC in what appears to be a forced attempt to make you feel a certain way about them instead of letting you make up your own mind.
Episode 1 started out pretty strong. It wasn't perfect, but there was plenty of room for potential. Then in episode 2, things are a little shaky on some points but it's still ok because there was still plenty of good things about the episode and there was plenty of hope that future episodes could be even better. Episode 3 is where it really starts to go downhill. Episode 4 is where the whole thing completely collapses, and nearly all prior development is dumped. To say nothing of how offensive and problematic things have actually turned out. You can see the discussion for more details on that.
Here are some examples to support my point more clearly.
I'm going to use the specific example of "themes in S2".
You could interpret that the episodes do have themes individually :
- Episode 1= the question about trusting people, establishing that Clem is "just a little girl"
- Episode 2= strength lies in the group, which group are you loyal to?
- Episode 3= Carver's view, "morality = weakness"
- Episode 4= some people will not be saved, the group is fracturing, is it better to stay or leave?
Now for my point here: each of these themes exist in the episodes if you look hard. But the connection between them is not developed. The season contains no strong overarching themes. The themes only appear weaker and weaker as the season goes on because the foundation has been built but is not followed through.
Here's some specific examples:
Episode 2 nullifies the theme in episode 1 of trust when the cabin crew suddenly all like and depend on Clementine for no reason. We are not shown this development, or how anyone changed their mind about her, so the theme is invalidated and wasted.
When the group depends on Clem to do everything in episodes 2 and 3, the previous theme that Clem is "just" a little girl is erased. In episode 1, when she got things done (such as sewing up her arm), it was treated in such a way that pointed out "she is just a little girl, but she's tough." The purpose to this was to show that Clem had development since the time skip, so it made sense. The fact that she was "just a little girl" was not yet invalidated because some things continued to be a struggle, but her growth from the time skip enabled her to overcome it.
But then in episode 2, Clem is shown to be not only capable, but even DEPENDED on to do things for the adults. In itself this would not have been too huge of a mistake since it seemed to only be a case of "Clem is the PC so she has to do lots of things." The fanbase pointed out this mistake, but instead of fixing the issue, episode 3 only made it worse when Clementine continued to be depended on, not only because of her role as the PC but sometimes specifically BECAUSE she was a little girl.
There is nothing shown to emphasize that this was supposed to be logical character development. It simply "happens", and the narrative does nothing to justify it.
Of course a progression or change in themes/characters is not "bad", but there is no buildup to indicate that this was a deliberate storytelling decision. There is no acknowledged change or development to the theme/character, as a result it is unsatisfying and weak writing.
Here's another example.
The theme of "strength in numbers" that was touched on in episode 2 is skewed by Carver's view that "the strong stand together, and get rid of the weak parts."
In itself, this is not bad. It could have even been an interesting counterpoint to episode 2's point that it might be good to stick in a group and pull together.
But this is not how the writing turns out. Carver's view never emphasizes the necessity of not letting morality get in the way of survival. The only time Carver is actually shown to hold this view is when he gives the speech stating that they have to pull together as a group, and in his words to Clem about strength vs weakness. Everything else he does shows a complete lack of depth, his actions only serve to demonize him as a villain. He's just completely evil; there is no sense in his twisted moral code. He just goes around carelessly beating and killing everybody.
The issue is no longer treated with any development or subtlety, so as a result, the point is lost.
The foundation for these themes/developments is there, but they're not followed through or developed further. As a result, the entire season feels wasted and unsatisfying.
I am so incredibly angry with Telltale this season. At the end of episode 3, I was disappointed with the sloppy writing, poor characterization, wasted potential, and lack of focus but I along with many fans were confident that Telltale could fix these mistakes in episode 4.
But now, they've proven us completely wrong. Season 2 has gone down the tubes. Telltale has not only thrown their story development out the window, they have completely disrespected their fans and butchered nearly all of their characterization this season.
Let's start with Sarah. In the previous three episodes, Sarah was an important character and many of the game's decision moments revolved around her. She was widely believed to have a mental condition going beyond just being sheltered, but this was not portrayed as a bad thing, instead she was portrayed with respect as a sweet and sympathetic character, who could also be brave and selfless such as when she defends Clem from Carver in episode 3. In many ways Sarah was even shown to be a parallel to season 1 Clem. Then episode 4 happens.
Sarah's portrayal goes from sympathetic innocent with her own inner strength to being seen as completely weak and irredeemable. No one in the game attempts to show any understanding toward her. Over and over again the plot pushes you to leave her behind. The game treats Sarah as nothing more than a liability who you obviously are supposed to abandon, and not a friend who you may have built mutual trust and affection with.
In the trailer the only way to get her to move was to smack her in the face? That was so disrespectful, to anyone who has ever had a panic attack or identified with Sarah's mental condition/s. Not only that, it was completely inconsistent: Sarah almost had a breakdown after what happened earlier with Carver forcing Carlos to slap her, but this time it worked. It didn't make sense. And Clementine actually looked ANGRY as she slapped Sarah. It wasn't "I'm sorry to do this but I don't know how else to get you to move." It was more like "Get up now you stupid little girl, your pain is pointless and it angers me."
The dialogue of comforting Sarah with telling her about Lee and how he wanted Clem to keep safe was great, but what was the point? We only pay lip service to what Lee taught us in Season 1, and Sarah barely acknowledges it. It makes no difference in motivating her, and just like her death, it means absolutely nothing.
Over and over again we keep getting hit over the head with these references to Season One. And for what? Everything that Lee did is being made pointless. Telltale keeps reminding us of his fight to protect Clem and his struggle to teach her to be strong and brave but also to preserve her hope and morality, then Telltale takes that and shits all over it. Apparently unless you are completely independent and strong and selfish you aren't worthy of living, and it’s no longer a choice or moral debate. You can only weakly disagree with what Jane says, and meanwhile the entire narrative is actively working to prove her right, without question, with no other side to the issue.
What was the point of that tweet from Telltale "Teaching her how to shoot a gun is going to save your life"? It's set up to make you think this line is about Sarah... I mean Clem hasn't had any trouble shooting a gun before in the episode and she doesn't have any trouble in this episode either. Instead, it's like the whole thing was a huge bait-and-switch, a giant middle finger to all Sarah fans who thought that this episode is where Sarah will shine. All the parallels between Sarah and s1 Clem, all the focus on their friendship and all the decisions that revolved around her amount to absolutely nothing.
Regardless of whether or not you previously made friends with her, when Sarah falls off the observation deck and eaten alive, no one -not even Clem- expresses sadness at her death. Every response after Jane fails to save her is focused on Jane, and not the person who just died. You can say "I know you tried," or "It was hopeless", or "You didn't try hard enough."
There is no "Sarah was my friend", no option to give a shit. Nobody cares, and then it's never mentioned again. So in the end Sarah’s death isn’t even about this survivalist theme that they kept alluding to anyway, it's in development to Jane's character, and is then wasted anyway when she disappears with no consequence to the story in the very next scene. Telltale has just completely wasted Sarah's development and potential not even for the sake of some nihilistic theme, it was just completely pointless.
Jane gets nearly more development and focus in a single episode than any of the previous characters, and it's all for nothing. Her disappearance being consistent with her character doesn't excuse it, there are already so similarities between her and Molly it just feels completely predictable and cheap.
And why would Jane of all people proposition Luke in a time like that? I wasn't even bothered so much as I was confused. It was a big WTF towards both of their characters.
Luke, whose primary concern has always been the safety of the group, who chased after a truck on foot for days in order to save his friends decides a quickie is more important than getting ready for Rebecca to deliver her baby? If Rebecca hadn't been in labor I would easily have been able to accept this as a lapse of judgment but the timing just makes no sense at all.
Jane is even more OOC. Jane, clever and pragmatic, shown to be levelheaded and responsible suddenly decides she needs to get some instead of watching out for walkers or getting ready for the dangerous situation ahead? They both KNEW that Rebecca was about to give birth. The whole thing just came out of nowhere, and for what? Contrived soap opera drama? Another reason for Luke to argue with Kenny? A way to make Luke look like a selfish jerk?
Luke, who was first shown as a lovable goof who wants to be the hero & whose primary concern is the safety of the group as he attempts to be its leader, suddenly shifts into a completely different character. Up to this point he has been shown to be sympathetic but now he looks more like a sociopathic douche.
His response to Sarah’s shutting down in the trailer is to stand there and shout in her face. He knows walkers are right outside and he obviously also knows that he isn't helping, yet he continues to shout anyway. "Snap out of it, Sarah, I don’t know what’s wrong with you!" he shouts. Really Luke? I would've thought you'd have some idea by now. He knew that Sarah depended on her dad, and yet here it's like he doesn't even understand why she's shutting down.
What makes this even worse is that this is going on and on in the background while Clem and Jane are all smiling and "oh look this is how you be cool at killing walkers" while we can HEAR Luke in the background and Sarah screaming in fear, and we can't even care. We have no opportunity to call him out on it or even acknowledge that it happened. The writing treats it as if, Oh well that's what it takes. And then his response to the reveal that Nick is dead is momentary shock, then he goes to "have a talk" with Rebecca as if SHE is the one who just lost their best friend of 20 years. And then hours later he’s more visibly upset at Jane leaving than he was at Nick’s death.
Earlier I might have been able to accept that all this is just supposed to be part of his character, but this is not the first time characters have behaved completely inconsistently in the season.
In episode 1, nearly everyone at the cabin treats Clementine with distrust, and the theme is constantly being emphasized (both by the narrative and by Telltale staff) that this is going to be all about earning trust, and just because you're a little girl doesn't mean you will be treated like one. Then suddenly in episode 2, everyone suddenly treats Clementine as if they skipped all that, calling her "Clem" and completely erasing the struggle to earn trust which had previously been a big theme of the season. Carlos actually ASKS her to watch Sarah, while before he had been completely against any interaction between them. Rebecca suddenly changes her mind and forgets that she "knew Clementine was going to be a problem", and completely forgets that she could have been BLACKMAILED earlier by Clementine. Everyone treats Clem like a harmless little girl, acting as if none of this happened when they had been completely hostile only a few days before. It's fine that the cabin group changes their minds, but we are never shown what made that change, so it loses all effectiveness.
Then in episode 3, Nick changes from being completely depressed to being Luke's cheerleader. In episode 2 he received strong character focus and more backstory than arguably anyone else in the cabin group at that point. He was shown to be unable to let past mistakes go, and to constantly blame himself for things (how many times does he say "it's my fault"?), but then in episode 3 he completely forgets the past and the people he got killed, and suddenly is Mr Reassuring-and-Optimistic. The characterization is completely lazy, Rebecca is shown to be regretful about Pete's death when Reggie asks about it, and meanwhile Nick who had earlier been suicidal over it doesn't even get a reaction shot.
With all this sloppiness, I can’t accept episode 4's Luke as a logical progression of his development. Luke goes from telling Clem in episode 2- "Stick with us, we look out for each other" to "I just want to survive and that means picking the right sides." ????? wut? Yeah people change, but there is nothing to indicate that this is supposed to be a visible turn in his character, and at this point it's clear that it's just lazy writing. This wasn't character development. This was "Whoops, the new writers forgot to read the wiki."
Then he and Kenny keep bickering over and over, at this point it's just irritating. Why are they even fighting? More "drama"? Because Telltale needs to make the inevitable choice between them harder? Umm yeah ok Telltale, you can do that, OR you could make these two be sympathetic and likable characters who happen to be ideologically opposed instead of trying to turn them both into d-bags.
After episode 3 and getting hardly any development already, Sarita gets no further involvement whatsoever. I guess people who were confident that Telltale wouldn't stoop to fridging a woman for the sake of Kenny's development for the second time in the series have now been proven wrong.
No matter what you choose to do she immediately dies and nobody gives a crap but Kenny. It’s understandable that she dies in the herd if you chop off her arm, and I actually like this idea, but instead of being tragic and awful, it just falls completely flat and ends up feeling lazy instead.
Nobody cares except Kenny, and the only reason Clem cares is because Kenny yells at her about it. As a character Sarita was just completely wasted, her death wasn't even made to be sad, it was just there made things hard for Kenny. Completely cheap and wasteful.
And while we're on the subject of Kenny, why did the writing keep pushing for him to be the only one who knows anything about babies while the fact that Clementine has traveled for months with a pregnant woman was completely ignored? I mean I understand that he used to be a dad, but this was the perfect opportunity to finally reveal what happened to Christa's baby, and for the writers to prove that they haven't just completely forgotten about her & Omid. Why would we constantly be forced to talk about how Kenny knows all about babies, when we have no reason to even know that beyond the fact that he used to be a father? It was just such a complete waste of opportunity. Now if they ever want Christa to show up again it's going to look like a complete asspull, since they've apparently completely forgotten about her up to this point.
As for Nick's death "scene", I was fuming. I was prepared for him to die but I was so sure that Telltale was going to.. hell i don't know, maybe actually do something with him?!! Or give him an actual death scene? Nick was one of episode 1 and 2's most developed characters, several major decisions revolved around him, the majority of fans saved him, and he was one of the most talked-about characters in the fanbase. In response to this, Telltale thinks it's a good idea to give him no further involvement and then kill him offscreen and leave him stuck on a fence? What purpose does this serve? "LOL look guys, Nick is such a fuckup, LOL." Thanks, Telltale, you're so deep.
What about his character development and buildup in previous episodes? What about the players who promised Uncle Pete they'd look out for him? What about that time in episode 2 when he was SHOWN fighting off walkers with his bare hands and survived? There is no emotional payoff to seeing his growth and his struggles, instead he is suddenly just dead. Clem barely has the option to express any sadness, it was barely treated as a sad moment, or given any gravity at all.
So saving Nick results in one or two OOC lines, a two-second scene of him running after Luke as he gets shot, and then that's that. They just swap his corpse in and have one or two extra lines about it. Then immediately afterward Clem is all "Cool! Now for fun zombie slaying time with Jane!" This does not come across as "people die and the world doesn't care." This comes across as "people die and you care, but Telltale sure doesn't. They're too busy counting their money and the undeserved five star reviews."
And let's talk about that conversation between Luke and Clem.
Luke: "Hey are you ok?"
Clem: "No I am not ok."
Luke "Same. Anyway I can't wait to bang Jane again."
Really? Excuse me but I thought maybe we were going to have some kind of tiny conversation? Telltale baits the fans putting that line in the trailer and then smacks you in the face for falling for it. This is the perfect time to talk, maybe reveal some Luke backstory, or to show at last his reaction to events so far, such as Nick's death -which if he died in episode 2 fans were confused as to why he didn't react, and thought that at last they would get to talk about it. But NOPE. Telltale tweets: "You're going to hate us for that last line in the trailer." Hmm I wonder why. Telltale: GOTCHA LOLZ !
I am not sad about this anymore. I am angry. What about the fans who watched the trailer and overanalyzed every teaser and screenshot? It was all proven completely pointless and irrelevant. I didn't even watch the trailer, I avoided all information possible prior to the episode, and I felt completely cheated and let down. I can't imagine how those who speculated and conjectured for months beforehand felt.
TLDR; Everyone is doing constant 180's for plot convenience or contrived drama and the characters have just been completely wasted. They build up characters like Sarah and Nick to be complex and interesting, only to flush them down the toilet, while being completely inconsistent and disregarding to the story and the characters.
I honestly don't understand how people are excusing this. They defend Telltale’s writing by saying "Death happens and we're powerless, no one is safe, that's what the Walking Dead is all about." Ok, if that's true, if your characters are just randomly being struck by lightning one after the other as some sort of deep statement about the futility of life, then why doesn't Joe Shmoe have heaps of riches and praise for a story where all the characters are set up to be fascinating and complex but are then unceremoniously dumped before they even do anything?
Instead, Telltale is constantly hitting us over the head with heavyhanded references to Season 1 while they completely contradict what Lee was all about. They build up great characters and interesting themes only to flush them all down the toilet in the very next episodes.
Telltale continues to pat themselves on the back and act like they are being all deep with themes and drama and choices and then they just completely let us down. Here Telltale goes, tweeting that statue screenshot, and zooming dramatically in on the sign constantly "Gone but not forsaken" while they completely butcher, disrespect, and FORGET about all the prior development to the story and characters. They have completely alienated and marginalized their most loyal fans. It's a huge slap in the face and a complete mess. I no longer feel the urge to go back and replay the episodes. I am no longer moved to tears and emotional on the edge of my seat while playing the game.
I'm so angry about this, but considering the way it's gone so far, it's probably not even worth it to care anymore.
Shame on you, Telltale. Shame on you.