When The Walking Dead: The Final Season got canceled, I wasn’t exactly surprised. The now defunct Telltale Games studio was a trendsetter in the adventure game genre, but they couldn’t replicate early successes. Despite the first season of The Walking Dead being a smash hit, Telltale Games failed to reach financial expectations and closed their doors. This surprise shutdown happened halfway through the development of The Walking Dead: The Final Season, effectively cutting the season short. With the studio closed and only 2 out of 4 episodes released, many of us thought The Walking Dead was done for good. Despite these assumptions, Telltale made a deal with Skybound games, who agreed to take up the publishing rights and finish up The Final Season. Many months after all this drama, we get The Walking Dead: The Final Season – Episode 3: Broken Toys. It’s a decent episode that fails in some regards, but exceeded my expectations in others. For how shoddy Episode 1 and Episode 2 were, Episode 3 saves the day with a handful of surprisingly effective scenes.
This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead: The Final Season – Episode 3: Broken Toys. If you don’t want the game spoiled for you, turn back now.
Going Through the Records Box
One of the biggest problems with the first two episodes of The Final Season was the excess of new characters. Clementine and AJ stumbled upon a ruined boarding school, where a group of troubled teens were holed up. There were far too many of them, and for a four-episode series, The Final Season simply didn’t have enough time to flesh them all out. Now that we’re on Episode 3 and a good number of them are straight up dead, the game finally takes the time to build the remaining characters.
Around halfway through the episode, Clementine and the rest of the kids gather around an old box of school records. Inside are the intake forms for all the kids in the group; the reason why they were put in the boarding school for troubled youths in the first place. As the freckled and chubby Ruby reads out various reports, it’s up to Clementine to try and figure out who the report is about. It’s a nice little moment of sincerity and character building, which is immediately followed by some heart-crushing revelations. As Ruby digs through the box and counts off the names, you suddenly realize just how many people from their group have died.
Earlier in the episode, Clementine has a private discussion with AJ. When AJ vents about certain kids being less survival-orientated than him, Clementine explains it away; “We’ve just had it harder than the rest of them”. For the first two episodes, you assume that this group of misfits are weak and haven’t seen the true horrors of the outside world (for the most part). As Ruby lists of dozens of names, recounting their now deceased friends, it’s hard not to feel like an asshole. It’s an effective moment and one that does a great job making Ruby and the rest of the kids relatable.
The Torture Scene
One of the earlier scenes in Episode 3 sees Clementine and AJ interrogating an injured raider. During the previous episode, him and a handful of other raiders attacked the school, resulting in the capture and death of several kids. The raider wakes up unconscious, strapped to a chair and bleeding. As Clementine interrogates him for information, you have the option on how hard you interrogate. This is also when you start to see AJ’s blood lust grow. Despite being a child no older than 10, he has no issue kicking in the raider’s broken leg. Even worse, he seems to take pride in it.
This scene also contains one of the big moral decisions of the episode, which was a tough call to make. Eventually, the raider begins to cough up blood, realizing he has internal bleeding. Terrified that he will turn into a zombie, he begs Clementine to end his life mercifully. You can choose whether or not to grant his wish, and being the merciful player I am, obliged him. Before sinking your knife into the side of the raider’s head, Clementine turns to AJ and instructs him to look away. AJ responds, “I want to watch.” It’s at this moment when you might suspect that your actions have rubbed off on AJ in a bad way.
The Train Flashback
Before launching their counter-attack on the raiders, the group of kids enjoy one last night of festivities. As they all tuck into bed, Clementine slips into a dream. Here, we see Clementine sitting in an empty boxcar on a moving train. Out of the shadow, another figure appears. It’s Lee, the original playable character from Season 1 and Clementine’s mentor. Instead of appearing as the teenager she is, Clementine reverts to her younger self in the dream. Full of anxiety and stress about the upcoming attack, she turns to Lee for advice.
If you played through the first season, the scene that follows is an absolute assault on your emotions. Telltale has done a decent job aging Clementine from season to season. When you see her on the train, it’s the first time we’ve seen young Clementine in many seasons. As Clementine and Lee discuss the past, it’s easy to see just how far Clem has come as a character. However, despite all the strengths she displays, she still reaches out to Lee for help. We once again see Clementine as the innocent and naive girl that she once was, and for just a moment, she embraces that. It’s a gut-punch that happens halfway through the episode, and sets the stakes for whats to come. At the very least, it’s a quiet and personal reunion between two of The Walking Dead‘s focal characters. At the core of the franchise, Lee and Clementine’s bond is what ties everything together. To see that represented in The Final Season was a treat.