Review: ‘The Wolf Among Us’ Episode 4: ‘In Sheep’s Clothing’ Mixes Noir With Psychological Horror
Here's my main complaint about Telltale Games penultimate episode of its Fables prequel video game, The Wolf Among Us: It starts a little slow.
That kind of seems to be the point, though. This episode, titled "In Sheep's Clothing," adds yet another twist to the noir-ish detective story that's been running through it. There's a psychological horror element to it that plays out with a very slow build, until it explodes into the surreal the very end. There's a sort of David Lynch feel to it. I absolutely loved it.
The horror is there from the very beginning. The episode opens with protagonist Bigby Wolf waking up from a nightmare brought on by the sorry state he was left in at the end of the previous episode. After that, (and some outright stomach-turning body horror), things get very talky. There's a lot of figuring out what to do next and fretting about what to do with animal Fables and not necessarily much action. Which means it's structured like a horror movie. There's a whole lot of (sort of) calm before the storm comes.
But when the storm does come, it comes big. There's a scene with the Jersey Devil (who looks and speaks sort of like a young Stan Lee in his human form; I'm not sure if it's intentional) that is the best and most responsive fight scene the game has had yet, and there's an eminently creepy scene in a butcher shop that involves Bigby walking through a freezer full of meat. Later, there's a jump scare involving the mirror-based powers of one very scary Fable (to say who she is would be giving away a big reveal in the previous episode). "In Sheep's Clothing" really nails its moments.
And then there's the ending, which involves a magic door, a long walk down a surreal hallway, a room full of mostly silent people staring at Bigby, and the big bad of the game, who doesn't necessarily seem all that bad, at least from one very sympathetic character's perspective. Then the game just sort of...ends. Again, it all feels very David Lynch-inspired, and the atmosphere is palpable. The very distinctive (and cool) neon world that the game had established in its previous episodes disappears, and it's jarring. I don't think I want to give much more away than that. It's worth experiencing yourself.
If I have another complaint about this episode (and yes, I know I said I only had one), it's similar to something I said about the previous episode: It's hard to feel much like Bigby Wolf, as the player character, is doing anything of much consequence. The story here, of him getting wrapped up in something bigger than him, is very well told, but I'm still not totally sure how well it works in a video game where choices are so highly valued. Maybe it'll all pay off in the final episode, and player decisions make a huge difference, but as it is, I can't help but feel I'm going down the same track, just with minor variations. Playing through more than once even seems to bear that out.
At least the gameplay is the smoothest it's been so far in this one. The fight scene with the Jersey Devil is flat-out great and was hiccup-free when I played it. Load times seemed to be a bit shorter than they have been (and they've been pretty long in previous episodes). In general, this episode just seemed to work better, technically.
And it needed to. In horror, timing is everything. The makers of "In Sheep's Clothing" seem to get that.