Things take a turn for the truly dark in the third episode of season two with the group being shipped to Carver’s homestead of militants masquerading as civil engineers. The underlying themes of trust and innocence lost seen throughout the season step into the light at the end of In Harm’s Way, warts and all.
Mechanically this episode was spot on, with a collection of tense mini-games where I genuinely felt like my reactions could mess things up. Clementine’s small stature and sharp instincts make her a natural candidate for several covert objectives as the group tries to find a means to escape Carver’s compound. These missions vary from intelligence gathering, item retrieval and a few situations that even put her in the position to dictate some major decision-making to the rest of the group that doesn’t feel forced.
While a lot of the interactions are strong, I also felt shuffled around from place-to-place with little to no choices being given in the matter. The on-rails flow of the episode hindered the desperate feeling of the situation; as soon as I started getting involved with a conversation within a scene I’d be ripped away in what felt like an attempt to continuously propel the story forward. Perhaps because this episode revolved around something more static than being constantly on the move factored into the decision to keep things going at a swift pace. But I was hardly ever given a moment to poke around on my own which really detracted from any hope of immersion.
A new story angle that I thoroughly enjoyed was how Carver related to Clementine, even identified with her. His ruthless and hard-line attitude is a means to an end in his own eyes–he’s a survivor. In an eerie moment of reflection while alone with Clem, Carver explains his views about world they live in now. How it doesn’t have room for weakness or mistakes anymore and only the strong will endure, “People like you and me.” For a madman like Carver to see a reflection of himself in this 8-year old girl spoke volumes about both him and Clem on a multifaceted level.
The 1000-pound gorilla of an issue the group faced this episode resolves itself by the conclusion in a mostly tidy fashion. I can forgive this prompt and maybe too-neatly sewn up ending for the final decision Telltale puts in front of us. An utterly course-altering moment for Clementine as a character and a genuinely satisfying scene to be part of. Compared to the previous episodes In Harm’s Way might have had it’s missteps, but the course-correction was worth the wait and has unequivocally changed what is in my opinion one of the most interesting characters in video games forever.