Starting up the final episode of season 3 for The Walking Dead, I had a hard time imagining the endgame Telltale had in mind. The main antagonist of the season had already been dealt with and the fate of Richmond seemed pretty set in stone. There were certainly a few surprises in there, I'll get to that in a bit, but after finishing up Javier's story, I felt like they didn't quite make good on what made this season unique: The flashback sequences and your relationship with David. Despite this, the thrills are still there and some difficult decisions still had to be made in Episode 5: From the Gallows, which make this a reasonably good season of Telltale's breakout adventure series.
I've made it no secret over the course of these reviews that the best thing they've been doing across season 3 has been the flashback sequences. Though the focus shifted from Clementine's adventures between the seasons to Javi and David's relationship, the character building in these moments has been the strongest writing I've seen in this season. Javi's relationship with David seems pretty cut and dry out of the gate, but as you learn more in the flashbacks, you see the ex-soldier who is unsure of his place in the world and role as a father. Many decisions in the present of the story are made well before knowing the full truth of David's past. This leaves the growth of Javi up to your faith of David's intentions, which is a perfect way to symbolize him becoming a more mature person.
In the end, I felt like even with all of this done so well, the Javi and David arc trips at the finish line in From the Gallows. In the final scene with David, you are given the choice to honor your father's final wishes and love David no matter the circumstances. As it turns out, this is not one of the major choices in the game as it does not change the outcome at all. David runs out right afterward and then it's curtains for the character. The moment itself is a revelation on the part of Javi, but I felt like it robs David of a satisfying end to a complex character that the writers put some good work into this season.
The end of the 4th episode ended on quite the chaotic note, which left plenty of action to fill From the Gallows. As the undead flooded into Richmond, the group is tasked with taking out the muertos and restoring the town they've disrupted. From the Gallows is probably one of the more action-heavy episodes of the season, if you're into that kind of thing, but it wouldn't be a real The Walking Dead finale without a gut-wrenching choice. The issue here is that you might not be entirely sure you're making it when it happens. When deciding whether to help Kate or go after David and Gabe, you're really deciding the fate of some major characters. I like the idea that a seemingly inconsequential choice could be so major, unlike the very on-the-nose options at the end of the second season.
- Plenty of action sequences in the final episode
- Flashbacks continue to smartly build and develop characters
- Javi's growth as a character reaches a satisfying end
- David is robbed of the final scene he deserved
- The major choice blindsides you a bit
- Kate not being dead after episode 4 didn't feel earned
Living up to that first season of The Walking Dead is a tough prospect. Each new series that Telltale has done since then has experimented, at least a little, to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. I like the new things that they tried with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, which took some of the narrative context for the relationships between several characters and manipulated how much you know from their past. They did fail to deliver on a few intriguing threads, but the overall experience had some interesting characters. Earlier in the season, one of the most sudden and brutal moments in the series marks this as a true Walking Dead game. It's not quite up to the level of the first season, but there's definitely enough here to make it worth your time if you're a fan. The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 5 From the Gallows is available now which completes the full season. You can find it on PC, PS4, Xbox One, iOS and Android right now.
Episode 5 Score:
Full Season Score:
Promotional consideration provided by Telltale Games.