The Walking Dead Season 3 - A New Frontier: Episode 5 - From The Gallows Review
PCAlso available on Android, iPad, iPhone, Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One
Spoilers for previous episodes of Walking Dead Season 3 may be found ahead!
The final episode of A New Frontier is at least consistent with this season as a whole, in the sense of ending in an unsatisfactory manner, and cementing the series status as the weakest to date.
Thicker Than Water saw Javier, David, Gabe and Clem trying to flee in the aftermath of Joan’s “pick a victim” charade, while Kate crashed their truck (and escape route) into a barrier, where it consequently exploded. From The Gallows picks up exactly where episode four left off, with a routine dispatching of zombies crawling through the barrier, and a surprising lack of resistance from the townsfolk who were previously baying for blood. Indeed, the number of zombies compared to residents seems disproportionate given the undead’s lack of mobility, but it at least allows the plot to move forward somewhat.
After an unnecessary fake-out about a character’s status, you’re pushed from human confrontation to zombie confrontation, barely having time to register the dialogue, the quality of which has nose-dived since the first episode. As you churn through such gems as “Fear is the coffee of emotions!” and “Fuck the helicopter!”, figures from previous chapters appear and disappear in predictably disposable format — either dead or alive. It feels like the writers’ approach to tying up loose ends is to reintroduce familiar faces before bidding them farewell with all the emotional impact of a political news report. The banality of the unnatural conversations, riddled with clichés and overwrought sentiment, is the nail in this episode’s coffin.
Much of the blame can be laid at the feet of the Garcia family, a brotherly feud that never manages to move beyond predictable tropes. Javier remains an unsympathetic character mainly due to his complete lack of personality, despite wielding a bat like a sub-par Casey Jones. His brother David is even worse, a chameleonic ball of rage who suffers from bouts of hellish wrath, regardless of the dialogue choices you make. Gabe is a whiny brat whose sole purpose appears to be a similarly aged foil for Clem. None of the family is likeable, and even Kate — David’s abandoned wife, and the most developed character throughout the whole season — fails to make an impact here.
Also at fault is the plot itself which, after almost ten hours of gameplay, ends up going nowhere. After wrecking the livelihood of both Prescott and Richmond through his actions, the driving force of Javier’s time in this episode is to wipe out a swarm of marauding walkers and help save Richmond. Why? It isn’t made clear. Nor does the game elaborate on why the townsfolk would accept help from outsiders who upset their way of life and got many of their friends and family killed — which is explicitly covered in a scene with one of the inhabitants. The contradictions and plot holes mount up to the point where playing it at all feels almost pointless, since the actions you take fail to do anything other than contribute to an increasingly confusing storyline. One major character disappeared completely from our playthrough, and even though it was entirely possible for them to have died in a previous episode, the fact that they aren’t even touched upon here is an unforgivable oversight.
Even the quick time events fail to shine. A succession of identical button presses to splatter the brains of walkers with your assault rifle do nothing other than break up monotonous scenes where you’re driving a mechanical digger very slowly through a swarm. A scene where you need to use a helicopter’s rotor to span a cliff lacks any sort of tension, and when you’re forced to make a couple of big decisions towards the end, the outcomes fall flat because there is so little investment in either choice. When yet another character from earlier in the series popped up near the end, it made a complete mockery of their previous appearance. Clementine is wasted here, as she has been for the whole season, undoing the strength of character she has built up in two full seasons just as quickly as you can say “AJ”.
It’s unlikely you’ll have come this far into the story to not complete From The Gallows, and you obviously won’t be starting the season at episode five — so this finale, like in previous seasons, had a duty to end on a satisfactory note. Other than a blatant plug for another instalment, it’s unlikely you’ll come out of this happy. But then, this is The Walking Dead… so maybe Telltale got something right in that respect, after all.