There is one issue I find with the episodic format for games, and that is also the same problem I have with television episodes as well; sometimes you get episodes that are just bridges to bigger idea or moment instead of entertaining moments in and of themselves and leave you feeling a little less than fulfilled, yet still wanting more because of the implications of what’s to come. As the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier comes and goes, I can’t help but feel a little hungry for more, and not in the best of ways.
Walking Dead: A New Frontier episode four opens with a family moment from before the Walkers became a problem. We join Javier and David hitting baseballs at the batting cages with the choice of either showing off and upsetting David or being humble. Either way, David proposes you look after his family when he joins the military. This moment highlights the major difference between New Frontier and past Walking Dead seasons. We are reminded that our protagonists are not a found family as in previous seasons, but a family that is already established and even has biological attachments. While we had characters in the past that were already a family (such as Kenny, Katjaa and Kenny Jr.) they were never focused on. Looking back on the past of this family in moments like this helps build a connection not just to the individual characters, but to the family as a whole. One may hate David, but there is a complexity to the story that makes you feel for the family and wants them to be rejoined regardless of past sins. That of course, does not change your ability to choose others over blood relations such as David. You get to truly decide if blood is “thicker than water” or not. Me personally, I got quite frustrated with David and often made choices that were not in his best interest regardless of how torn I felt doing it.
These conflicted, strong feelings are what Telltale thrives in, and you get quite a few of these moments in episode four, but unfortunately they happen mainly at the end of the episode. Most of the episode is escaping your current stuck situation and getting out of Richmond with ideally the whole family, both blood and found. You make various choices based on who you want to be loyal to and what you feel the best plan of escape is. Aside from actually implementing the plan and making your attempt, the episode doesn’t offer much until the end when some big plot points and choices happen and a beautifully bittersweet flashback involving Clem, that only further emphasized what a nurturing and caring girl she has grown to be. At times, I had a hard time staying invested in most of the episode because it just felt like a long series of steps to take to get to the real story and when the story finally picked up, it was the end.
Overall, while the episode offered some strong, small moments and a fantastic bang of an end, the majority of the episode seems to be a means to an end. If this was part of a single long video game or a movie, it would be a small, low key, quiet part and wouldn’t feel nearly as unsatisfying. As an episode of a once per month story, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed. I can only hope the grand finale will be worth the wait and if the ending is any indication, I look forward to seeing what The Walking Dead has in story for its audience.