‘The Walking Dead: Michonne’, Episode One – ‘In Too Deep’ Review (PC)
When Michonne first meets up with the rest of Rick’s survivors in the Walking Dead comics, she’s incredibly isolated. The only companions she’s had on her trek are the two neutered zombies she drags with her wherever she goes. Michonne remains antisocial and distant, and it’s a long time until she trusts Rick, or anyone else, enough to open up. Well, if you consider terse statements opening up anyway. She’s a capable warrior, and someone all the survivors eventually come to trust with their lives. But Michonne remains a mystery even to those closest to her in the zombie-filled plains of the south to this day.
Hearing that Telltale Games would be exploring Michonne’s past in depth for the first time was exciting. Hints and small bits of her history have been dribbled out slowly in The Walking Dead comics, but the driving forces of Michonne’s life have never really been dealt with the way they have with other characters. Though some new ground is tread, the first episode of The Walking Dead: Michonne doesn’t bring much we didn’t already know to the front. What’s more, it spends so much time introducing new characters, there’s hardly any time for Michonne to show off.
Taking place a short time after Michonne abandons Alexandria after the events of “All Out War,” The Walking Dead: Michonne has her once again wandering the south all by herself. While there was a time where she might have felt content, or even at ease, among the denizens of the new world Michonne helped Rick found, she’s struggling with her choices now. We’re dropped in the thick of Michonne dealing with the demons of her past immediately, and as anyone who’s familiar with The Walking Dead knows, there are just as many physical demons in the world as there are mental ones.
It’s clear Michonne is not having an easy go of it, and being inside her head for the first time is jarring. She’s been so reluctant to live in the past, when it finally starts catching up with her in this game, it’s difficult to deal with. Telltale’s always done a tremendous job with its characterizations, and giving players the options to project the personality they believe a character should have onto him or her. You’re given such a choice right out of the gate, and it’s a sobering moment to be in Michonne’s shoes. This first decision sets the tone for how far Telltale is willing to go and push this character, but the rest of the episode can’t possibly keep up with that kind of emotional weight.
Telltale moves quickly to put Michonne back into an element players might recall from earlier Walking Dead games. This still is a game after all, and there must be an element of action to give players a breather from the mental anguish. As Michonne is a more capable fighter than we’ve seen in a Telltale Walking Dead game before, zombie encounters are a breeze. You’ve still got to time your attacks and responses just right, but the execution of Michonne’s prowess is spot on. She’s not inexperienced like Lee was, nor is she an adolescent girl like Clementine; Michonne is a monster all her own, and playing as her is a reward for all those previous frustrations. Still, Telltale’s games are all about character and narrative, and not every element fires on all cylinders this episode.
So many new faces are introduced, it’s hard to get a grasp on how all of this will expound upon Michonne’s past. While it’s nice to have some development for characters like Pete, who has appeared in the comics all too briefly, too much time is devoted to setting up yet another antagonist that falls under the “do what we must to survive” archetype. Surely there are some people who have survived the zombie apocalypse that have more to them than this simple ideology. Part of what made the major antagonist of Telltale’s first season of The Walking Dead so menacing was the faceless nature of the threat for so long. Meeting another group of survivors who act according to their own rules, and spurn anyone who doesn’t follow, is becoming quite stale.
It’s fortunate that Michonne is voiced by such a tremendous talent as Samira Wiley. Her performance carries this game, even if you happen to be playing Michonne as a silent tactician. There’s an honest intensity to Wiley’s Michonne that feels like she could snap at any moment. Even when backed into a complete no-win scenario, you believe Michonne is the most dangerous threat in the room just from the way she speaks. Some of that brilliance also comes in the form of the direction of “In Too Deep,” which is paced quite well, even if too many of the beats feel familiar by now. The action sequences are thrilling, and the tension in the quieter moments is palpable.
The Walking Dead: Michonne, Episode One — “In Too Deep” sets things up for the next two episodes, but doesn’t give enough time to its own story. Providing the foundation for a complete narrative is all well and good, but so much of what’s on display has been done before, even by Telltale in one of its own Walking Dead games, that “In Too Deep” feels shortchanged. Michonne is the big draw here, and Samira Wiley’s performance alone makes this episode worth playing. We just have to hope the later episodes give her more to do that we haven’t already seen before.
This review was completed with a download of The Walking Dead: Michonne, Episode One provided by the publisher for PC.
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