Review: The Walking Dead: Season 2: Episode 3 – In Harm’s Way

It’s that time again. Telltale Games certainly know how to rile their audience up with release date announcements; this time around we were left with 4 days to recall the events of Episode 2 and fret over what is in store for Clementine and Co. left In Harms Way after the intense rollercoaster that flew us through the previous episode. After a warm reunion between Clementine and Kenny that drew in the facade of safety, they are ambushed by a cruel visitor from the past. Clementine’s relationship with her peers seemed quite tangled and uneasy; yet there’s nothing like forced labour and fear to focus everyone’s attentions.

Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Reviewed on: PC
Also Available On: Mac, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, iOS
Release Date: Available Now


Thanks to Episode 2‘s climax, Bill Carver is sizing up to be an effective antagonist with a cruel unpredictability that’s villainously chilling. He has no qualms about hitting young girls, yet he seems intent on keeping his own unborn child comfortable, or at least on a comfort level slightly higher than provided by a blanket on the ground. This season has already provided some unsettling insight into the dark nature of people’s processes, with Episode 3 – In Harm’s Way a further step in this grave direction.

Additions to the already jumbled pile of characters we’ve collected over the last two episodes isn’t the most desirable of things, given the slow progress made in providing distinctive, layered individuals. Upon arriving at Carver’s compound, a large warehouse building that seemed to sell a host of gardening tools and supplies pre-outbreak, Clementine and Co. meet Reggie, Jane and Mike, three fellow captives workers that definitely range on the sociable scale. Reggie’s significance is in telling his own story and providing a basis of what to expect under Carver’s control, particularly for those who disobey. Mike and Jane’s roles seem only a little forthcoming, and like the majority of the characters so far, slow to progress. Thankfully, Episode 3 does give the player the chance to repair a key relationship; Kenny and Clementine. This imbalance makes the group dynamic appear cracked in places. I recall the mishaps during Season One, when the group were quickly running out of supplies and struggling to maintain civility as well as survival. Decisions like who to give a box of animal crackers to really felt tough; and whilst here the consequences are still in your mind, the personalities of those around you don’t have that succinct individuality that makes your loyalty feel torn.


One quick thing to note is the unfailing aesthetic charm of this game, with the menus paint stroke look adding a lovely quaint charm. The butterfly sketch effect recalls the symbolic opening scene of this episode, where Clementine is first revealed looking at a butterfly stationed against a tree. The simplicity of the image brings home the weight of her situation. Her experiences don’t reflect those of a pre-teen girl. It should be all about butterflies and pretty colours, but it’s not; it’s about fear and mistrust and loss.

Whilst we’re a bit distanced from the immediate threat of a walker attack, a very different kind of fear is overwhelmingly prevalent. There’s always those that like to play the role of authority and supremacy, and Carver masters this dominance over others in uncomfortable, painful ways. One scene springs to mind in which Sarah, the Doc’s timid child, chatters away in a childlike fancy instead of paying attention to Carver’s instruction. Her insolence is repaid forcefully as her father is made to hit her – a twisted request on the part of Carver, and also a visibly confusing and distressing experience for a young girl whose only remaining sense of safety resided in her dad.


Whilst the action largely plays out in this darkly-paced manner, we are still treated to an ever-present zombie-fighting sequence that feels even more fresh than usual; there is visible effort in shaking up the combat to prevent it from losing its manic fun. Telltale Games really are achieving this with the addition of alternative methods of attack and defence, calling for some hurried decision making – do I attempt to untangle Clementine from a snagged cable around her foot, or grab that blunt object for her to defend herself with?

I chose the former, and was treated to a fantastic show of true-horror convention as the floor lamp Clementine was caught on began to sway, flinging intense shadows and light across the ceiling whilst a walker attempted to ravage her face. This brilliant touch was a true highlight across the numerous scrambling encounters in both seasons, and an insight into the progressive nature of The Walking Dead‘s combat.


The events of In Harm’s Way are perhaps the most chilling to date, their poignancy empowered when seen through a child’s eyes looking out at an almost inevitable course of human reaction; Carver’s attempts to create a new, controlled system amongst chaos. The lack of awareness for danger that is often found in children make it ever more interesting, and come in to play with the group of captive’s plans of escape. The focus of this episode is almost solely focused here, which does leave little room for the unanswered questions littering the scene; what actually happened between Rebecca and Carver? Do the characters from 400 Days that we see actually support Carver’s regime?

And see them we do – at the 400 Days DLC’s finality Tavia leads willing survivors to a “growing settlement”. Whilst these characters inclusion is a brief nod to whomever you left with, it’s little more than that, with no interaction beyond a line of dialogue here and there. Aside from Bonnie, who makes a clear effort to interact and make up for her role in their capture, there’s no basis for further involvement from any other DLC characters. This leaves an element of disappointment that this promise of interlinking stories seems so weak.

It’s almost as if the significant characters make themselves known from the outset. When Jane speaks up about escape by smearing themselves with walker-guts, the player recalls that stomach-churning moment of Episode 5 when Lee and Clem do the very same thing to escape the Marsh House; and they are not alone in this recollection, as Clem comments on Lee’s use of this technique in saving her life. Too often in emotionally investing games do character deaths feel significant at the time, but easily forgotten as the game progresses; The Walking Dead doesn’t allow this to happen, and that’s why the execution of the story’s emotive power is done so well. Loved ones are carried with these main characters, just as they are carried with the player.

Bill Carver’s portrayal is a real blend of sadistic, unsettling villainy
Heart-pumping combat continuously feels spiced up
The plot tone takes an effectively darkening direction
The character development that was needed still feels impaired
The episode’s slower pace lacked as great impact as previous episodes

In terms of the story’s direction, In Harm’s Way was little more than expected; yet Bill Carver’s presence and frightening coldness definitely brought a whole new scale of quiet terror to The Walking Dead, one that felt much more mature and distressing. Down to a spread of characters, many of which feel only partly-developed, the final surprise of Episode 3 may not have had the same paining jolt as we’ve come to expect. Luckily, the peek provided of Episode 4 suggests room for exception with the introduction of Jane, and a likely continuation of the dashing action and darkening tone that is steadily reaching towards a satisfyingly anguishing Season 2‘s climax.

The review copy of this title was purchased by the author.
Official Game Site

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  1. Anon

    It was a moth, not a butterfly.

  2. Holly heck, if I only went and forgot that this episode was even out.
    Played though over the weekend and man my jaw dropped towards the end.

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