At the midpoint of the season, The Walking Dead 2: In Harm’s Way stands as a bleak reminder of how quickly things can go wrong. The happy reunion between Clementine and Kenny turned into a horrible bloodbath in the blink of an eye, and Clem and her friends are now at the mercy of a power-hungry madman. Episode three continues down this path and turns out to be the most depressing entry in the series so far. Unfortunately, this episode also serves as a turning point in the series’ momentum. After a strong and intense second episode, In Harm’s Way slows things down to a crawl. The episode stretches on for what feels like an eternity, until suddenly picking up speed just in time for the gut-wrenching ending.

Between the episode’s ominous beginning and its brutal end, there are a lot of dull moments. Being stuck inside a place that can only be described as a prison camp, Clementine spends most of her time walking from one place to the next, talking to different people. Yes, that means we get to meet some new characters, and learn more about the ones from previous episodes, but it’s also quite boring. The few action pieces peppered throughout the hour and a half of gameplay feel extremely out of place, and only serve to highlight how little there is actually going on.

Carver is the sort of villain we've seen countless times in other post-apocalyptic stories.

In Harm’s Way is probably the shortest episode in the season, but it feels like the longest. It could be the long conversations or the crushing sense of doom that envelops the entire experience, but by the time something actually happens you’ll feel like you’ve been playing for hours.

Even so, the game’s narrative and atmosphere still manage to suck you in at the appropriate moments to keep you going just a little bit further. The player feels just as helpless and as miserable as Clementine undoubtedly feels, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. However, just when you think you had enough, the episode serves you a curveball. It can be a tiny glimmer of hope you must pursue, or a scene so horrible and violent you just have to see what happens next. The Walking Dead series is anything but predictable, and In Harm’s Way is a great example of that. Even when it feels like the game has settled into a depressing routine, it reminds you that anything can (and will) change in a second.

This unpredictability is mostly thanks to the series’ cast of characters (though the zombies help as well). While the ragtag group of survivors Clem joined up with are relatively stable, the same cannot be said for the characters introduced only recently. Clem’s longtime friend Kenny and Carver, villain du jour, can both be extremely hot-tempered, and there’s bound to be blood whenever the two clash. Carver is every bit as cold-blooded as he appeared to be in the previous episode, though his motives turn out to be a bit banal. He is the sort of villain we’ve seen countless times in other post-apocalyptic stories. Fortunately, actor Michael Madsen manages to bring new life to what could have been a tired cliché.

Things get a lot better towards the end, but by that time it's too little too late.

We also get to meet a few new characters, some are interesting and some not so much, and by the end of the episode every character is exactly where it’s supposed to be for the story to neatly move on. Actually, the entire episode feels like a self-contained story that has little to do with the overall plot of the season. Sure, the events right near the end will carry on to the next episode, but everything until the very final sequence feels almost irrelevant. So not only is In Harm’s Way boring at times, it ultimately feels unnecessary.

After a great second episode, The Walking Dead 2: In Harm’s Way takes the season a step back when it comes to pace and excitement. True, quiet moments between set-pieces are a good way to establish tension and let the player get to know the characters around Clem, but too much quiet can get boring, fast. Things get a lot better towards the end, but by that time it’s too little too late. The ending is the best we’ve seen so far in the season, and it does leave you wanting more, but playing through the entire episode just for a few intense minutes isn’t all that fun. In Harm’s Way marks a low point for the season, albeit one that hints at greater things to come.

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