Thicker Than Water pits David’s life against the New Frontier.
Please note that since each episode of The Walking Dead — A New Frontier features the same graphics engine and control setup, those elements will not be repeated in our reviews for the final four episodes. To read our thoughts on that, refer to our review of Ties That Bind Part I.
The Walking Dead in all formats has become synonymous with “jerky people doing bad things to nice people.” Sometimes this plays out for a gripping story about humanity. Other times, it’s a bit of masochistic narrative. TellTale’s latest episode is somewhere in the middle, and there are several different variables at play here.
Entering the fourth episode, Thicker Than Water, Javi’s brother David hasn’t really been given much dimension. There’s an interactive opening flashback, but it doesn’t do much to humanize him, and if anything we kept thinking “there’s a better way to do this.”
Then the story picks up with Javi and David captured at the hands of the New Frontier. Javi escapes early on while David is taken for a trial, and then the narrative splits a bit — first as Javi plans a rescue that no one really seems to want, then for a bit of time with Clementine as her back story is filled in.
This being The Walking Dead, you’re able to pick up story twists from quite a ways away, and what’s more interesting is when members of the New Frontier don’t act like assholes. In fact, there are several extended beats where this is shown, but the narrative path is clearly heading toward a showdown of some sort. Things erupt, bad stuff happens, and we’re led into the finale.
This episode moves quickly and has a high level of stakes, but we kept wondering why everyone is doing all this for a jerkface brother, or why supporting characters make completely bizarre and petty decisions out of nowhere.
On the other hand, we have more sympathy for Clem than ever before, and that’s the problem we’re seeing with this season. Even when there’s tension, Javi’s journey just isn’t as compelling as Clem’s, especially since his brother (and nephew) continues to be pretty unlikable, so why bother throwing it all away?
Despite that, we’re curious to see how it ends, but our opinion on this season is already pretty set. If TellTale can pull out a winner of a finale, it may save this season from mediocrity. As it stands, however, this may be where TellTale’s original bestseller jumps the shark (and gets consumed by it, because, ya know, misery).
A mix of interesting decisions and tender moments, Thicker Than Water is a mixed bag with its potential dragged down by bad characters and predictable swerves.