The following contains spoilers for 'Broken Toys,' the third episode in The Walking Dead: The Final Season. If you have not played this episode, turn back now.
It's been a week since The Walking Dead: The Final Season returned, resuming with its penultimate chapter. There was a lot to process in regards to Clementine's final journey, with players witnessing the fallout from the clash between the school and the raiders. There were casualties on both sides and the bloodshed didn't look like it was about to stop.
There's only one chapter remaining in The Final Season and one final chapter before The Walking Dead calls it a series. And as one might imagine, there are some major questions to think about heading into this climax. This one's slightly tougher than previous times we've done this feature, simply because The Walking Dead: The Final Season has a surprising number of variables. In particular, there's a lot that can change depending on Clementine's approaches to Violet and Louis. Nonetheless, Shacknews is here to put some burning questions forward as we prepare for the end, which is set to arrive on March 26.
Who survived the explosion?
In a bold attempt to rescue those who were kidnapped and prevent any future attacks, Clementine and the remaining kids created and planted an explosive that was set to go off as soon as the raiders started up their boat. While the rescue plan went belly up, Clementine was successful in planting the bomb. Unfortunately, everyone was still on the boat when it went off.
So that leaves the question of who survived the bomb blast. This one's tough to answer, because of the variables in place at the episode's end. If the player has AJ shoot Lily, then Lily's clearly dead. If the player has AJ stand down, Lily kills James and makes players pay for their mercy. Skybound and the remaining Telltale devs could surprise everyone and offer full-blown sequences with either Lily or James, depending on the ending chosen. However, it's a safer assumption that whichever character survived the end of the third episode will probably perish in the explosion.
Violet and Louis were both in captivity at the time of the explosion and this could be a case where survival depends on the player. Player choices could dictate that one survived while the other didn't. The storylines with Violet and Louis are where players will see the most variation, but the final episode will likely bring it all together and give them both a final fate. And if players opted for a romance option with either one, I hope they're ready to have their hearts ripped out. (I know, The Walking Dead delivering an emotional stomach punch? I'm shocked, too.)
The biggest question mark is Minnie. Minnie proved to be a turncoat by the end of the episode, having fallen in fully with the raiders and even admitting to murdering her sister at Lily's behest. If Lily's truly dead at the start of the final episode, there's a good chance that Minerva survived and a better chance that she'll be assuming leadership of the remaining raiders, leading to a final confrontation with Clementine.
No, seriously. What happened at the ranch?
This is a question that players may never get the answer to. 'Broken Toys' continued to allude to events at the ranch where Clementine reunited with AJ prior to The Final Season. When meeting up with James, Clem and AJ find a saltlick that reminds them of the ranch. At that point, Clem briefly broods over what happened there. Even Lee mentions the ranch during Clementine's dream.
And for the third straight episode, it begs the question of what did happen there? Whatever happened, it forced her and AJ to go out and brave the walker apocalypse on their own. And whatever it is, it's haunted Clementine throughout this game, going so far as to give her nightmares, which AJ revealed are common.
This feels like a major blank. It's something that's shaped Clementine to this point. So what happened?
Can nurture overcome nature?
One of the prevailing themes that The Walking Dead: The Final Season has touched on across every episode has been the role reversal from the first season. Clementine is now in the role that Lee was in when we first met her. Now she's acting as the surrogate parent. And if we've learned anything from the last three episodes, it's that she's terrible at it. That's not necessarily a knock against Clem, but it's more of a commentary on the situation. It's the walker apocalypse and Clementine is still in her early teenage years. Of course she's not going to be the ideal parent. Who would be in this scenario?
That's why James' words to Clementine regarding AJ have a significant impact. It's true that the more AJ kills, the more desensitized he becomes to it. There's more of a disconnect with the value of human life. Regardless of the hell they're living in, there's still something to be said about having a basic moral foundation. And it's a foundation that becomes shakier if AJ takes a human life.
Outside of survival, Clementine's greatest responsibility is to raise AJ the right way. It's to teach him to respect a person's life and the value of that life. It's to teach him that there's a difference between a walker (or a "monster" as AJ puts it) and a living person. (This despite James' assertion that there are still remnants of people in every walker, a point we'll touch on in just a second.)
So this question goes out to those who opted to have AJ kill Lily. If AJ pulled that trigger, is he too far gone? Is his moral compass now skewed to the point that he'll take a life whenever he feels justified? And if not, is the walker-infested world that surrounds him such a desolate place that he's bound to go down that path regardless?
Will Clementine die? And will AJ have to pull the trigger?
The biggest themes of The Walking Dead: The Final Season have been role reversal and the idea of everything coming full circle. The first three episodes, in fact, have subtly set up that AJ will eventually be put in the same position that Clementine was placed in at the end of Season 1. If the pattern holds true, AJ will be in a position where he'll have to decide what to do with a dying Clementine.
We've had a few moments that have foreshadowed this:
- There have been the various conversations between Clem and AJ regarding what happens in that exact scenario.
- There was the start of the third episode, where Clementine had to decide whether to mercy kill Abel or let him turn.
- There was the encounter with James, where he expressed his belief that people still reside in the husks of walkers.
This all seems to point to a telltale (no pun intended) moment in the final episode where AJ will have to make a fateful choice regarding Clementine. If Clementine is on death's door, what will AJ ultimately decide to do with her? Will players be confronted with the choice they made at the end of Season 1. And if so, will they go down the same road or will their time with AJ shape them differently.
For four seasons, there's always been a sense of dread that Clementine would not see this story through to the end. After all, this is what The Walking Dead does. Nobody is safe. Anybody can die. Even those we love the most. Heck, especially the ones we love the most. And with all the hints that have been sprinkled in throughout the story, it's hard to shake the sense that this story will end with Clementine's death.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season's third episode is available now, with the final episode set to hit on March 26. For more, be sure to check out our full impressions of Broken Toys.