Leaving the past behind
While I was a huge fan of both of Telltale’s previous Walking Dead seasons, in many ways The Walking Dead: Michonne has, at least up until this point, failed to resonate with me in quite the same way its predecessors did. Sure, this miniseries’ titular protagonist is one of the most interesting characters in the TWD universe, but the abridged nature of this three-part saga has largely hurt the experience. Would-be compelling characters have been frequently killed off just as quickly as they were introduced, and the lucky few who’ve managed to stay along for the ride have been mostly two-dimensional caricatures, as there’s little room in this bite-sized story for character development. What’s left has been an adventure that’s been more akin to a tightly on-rails journey that disappointingly shies away from Telltale’s trademark freedom to impact how story unfolds in a meaningful way in favor of moving things towards their final grisly destination.
Despite the rough start, I’ve had faith that Telltale would manage to close out Michonne with an proper sendoff. I’m happy to say that, while it most likely won’t go down as one of the studio’s best, the series does ultimately find its stride in the appropriately titled final chapter, What We Deserve.
The sense of dread is palpable from the outset in Michonne’s finale, as Norma and her gang are quickly descending on Michonne and her companions to exchange Randall for Pete’s captured shipmates. Despite the persistent feeling of urgency, it’s in this chapter that we’re finally treated to some of the most compelling character development in the series. Up until this point, most of Michonne’s journey has been spent in the company of other adults. Now, waiting for her final showdown with Norma, Michonne is now in a house full of children, and visions of her dead daughters, Collette and Elodie, constantly haunt her. It’s here that Michonne begins to finally let go of that fateful day, as she vows to protect Sam’s younger brothers, James and Alex, in the way she wasn’t able to protect her own children. I genuinely felt for Michonne as visions of her lost children manifested themselves through her crumbling psyche throughout the episode. Witnessing her wrestle with her inner demons while tending to Sam’s younger brothers to ultimately find closure served as a powerful plot device, delivering a sense of weight that the previous two chapters of Michonne were sorely lacking.
While it’s a step in the right direction for sure, some things still manage to fall a bit flat – the most glaring of which being Sam’s father’s funeral, which, while a necessary plot point, lacks any real impact when considering he was killed off within minutes of being introduced. Again, this can mostly be chalked up to the game’s breakneck race to cram as much story as possible into what amounts to a roughly four-hour tale. Michonne’s flashbacks are also more frequent than ever, and while a few managed to shed some welcome light on Michonne’s origins story, others felt like padding to what is noticeably the shortest chapter in the miniseries.
Of course, the episode’s climax comes as Norma and Michonne finally come face to face for their final showdown. As expected, the sparks fly when the two parties meet. The dialog during Michonne and Norma’s hostage exchange is tense, and seeing “Stormin'” Norma’s hard-nosed facade crumble as she pleads for Randall’s safe return reminds you that in the end, despite their vastly different methods, Norma and Michonne aren’t too different in a lot of ways, and will fight to the death to the bitter end to protect their own. Ultimately, the payoff at the end of this exchange is nothing short of spectacular depending on how you chose to wrap up the previous chapter.
It’s just a shame that what follows is little more than a canned shooting gallery sequence, which is a far cry from the elaborate QTEs that stole the show in the first two episodes. Whereas the choreography for these scenes was fantastic in “In Too Deep” and “Give No Shelter“, what’s presented in this finale almost feels like an afterthought, which ultimately makes the final showdown with Norma and her ragtag band of bandits feel a bit unsatisfying.
It’s often said that the best zombie stories aren’t actually about the ghouls at all, but rather about the lengths people will go to when they’re forced against the wall with little hope of salvation. In the end, this is where The Walking Dead: Michonne‘s finale really succeeds. Michonne’s battle with the loss of her children, and her fight to let go of the past to protect those around her is an incredibly human tale. And while Norma may have initially seemed like a cardboard cut-out of a villain, by the end of the chapter you can’t help but feel that not long before the outbreak she was probably a very different person.
Given a few more episodes flesh things out, The Walking Dead: Michonne could well have been a much more satisfying series. Even still, Telltale deserves credit for delivering a finale that does a solid job of fleshing out the cast of characters as Michonne learns to let go of her tormented past. Sure, in some ways the chapter is still a bit hobbled by its awkward pacing and some lackluster QTEs, but when all is said and done The Walking Dead Michonne – What We Deserve mostly manages to live up to its name.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Mobile ; Publisher: Telltale Games ; Developer: Telltale Games ; Players: 1; Released: April 26, 2016; Genre: Adventure; MSRP: $4.99
Full disclosure: This review was written based on review code supplied by the game’s publisher, Telltale Games.