It's fair to say that Michonne's had it tough. She's trying to survive the collapse of civilisation, her boyfriend got turned into a zombie, she struck out on her own, and she's haunted by the ghosts of the two daughters she inadvertently abandoned to their deaths. Worse still is every third person she meets commenting on how she's emotionally closed off, but they can see the real her burning in her eyes, etc. etc. She doesn't even get a full season of the game: instead it's a miniseries of three episodes. Yet, despite all this, Michonne's main problem is sadly the most inescapable one: she's in yet another fucking zombie story.
Michonne is an excellent main character to hang your game off. She's a steely, hardened, warrior chick with nothing to lose, no fucks left to give, and a giant machete to explain this state of affairs to anyone that tests her. Even though she has indeed put emotional walls up the writers at Telltale Games have allowed for different, realistic paths you can take with the character. Will she treat younger survivors with compassion and support, as a mother would, or be angry, aggressive, and rash, as if she honestly doesn't care if she lives or dies? Michonne is complex, she's badass, she leaves no undead alive. Yeah, you read that. It makes sense in context.
Michonne isn't alone in the cast. While the first season of The Walking Dead game featured a lot of men in power struggles with one another, and the second was more focused on a young girl having to grow up fast and navigate a world of adults, this mini–series seems to be gearing up to be about women having to shut up, put up, and make the tough decisions.
Aside from Michonne herself (who has only been living on the ship The Companion for a little while, but is already saving lives and leading the way in a lot of situations, presumably because the rest of the crew are ham fisted idiots who can't even operate a two–way radio properly), in this episode we meet Norma, the leader of a larger group of survivors. She rules with a firm hand and hasn't got time for any of your bullshit – even when you're telling the truth – and is backed up by her brother, who fluctuates between being weirdly nice and threatening everyone with a gun. There's also Sam, a young woman of origins unknown who's tangled with Norma before. She's brave but desperate, and is out to protect her family at all costs, in particular her younger brother, who has a hard time standing up to interrogation.
In other circumstances these characters would be the linchpin for a great game, but unfortunately these aren't other circumstances. The tropes of a zombie apocalypse scenario are now pretty worn, not only because of The Walking Dead as a comic and TV series, but also because of Telltale's own previous seasons of The Walking Dead game: after two of them the story shambles along with the same sense of purpose as an undead walker. As compelling as Michonne is, you basically know how the episode will play out from the start.
Michonne finds herself in a small group of survivors. There is disagreement between some of the survivors on whether to be cautious or optimistic. Michonne must react to this. Other characters Will Remember That. They discover a deserted location – or is it!? They become entangled with another group of survivors, who have unclear intentions. Arguments escalate. Michonne has a chance to de escalate them. There is a Kindly Idealist and an Emotional Teenager Who Doesn't Need Your Help, and at least one Shouty Aggressive Douchebag Who'll Get Us All Killed. Sprinkle with some surprise zombies according to taste.
It still looks good, of course, because Telltale games always do (provided you like cell shading), and there are some nice set piece fights – notably a short one that takes place underwater, and feels genuinely more desperate as a result – but functionally it's like taking an old dress, appliqueing some nautically themed patches on top of it, and passing it off as a brand new one, but unfortunately the other girls at prom are never going to fall for it.
If humanity ever builds a time machine, once we've finished debating the ethics of killing Hitler and so on, we should use it to go back in time and make the first season of The Walking Dead all about Michonne, before the zombie thing got boring. Right now this miniseries will have to pull some serious surprises out of its hat in the next episode to make it worth buying the whole lot.
5 / 10
- Michonne and supporting cast are great
- Still looks cool, as you'd expect
- Seriously, it has exactly the same plot beats
- Is the same as the other Walking Dead games