Review: The Walking Dead Episode 5: No Time Left
By: Jeff Rivera
Note: My reviews for Episodes One, Two, Three, and Four are spoiler free. This review contains major spoilers for all five episodes. Do not read this review until you've completed the series. It was impossible to avoid spoilers to properly discuss this episode.
Telltale Games has provided one of 2012's finest gaming experiences with the episodic releaes of The Walking Dead. Episode One introduced a new kind of adventure game where decisions would not only carry forward, but they'd have real weight and consequence to them. In subsequent episodes, Telltale made gamers confront the horrors of a collapsed society and the dark side of the human mind. Throughout the season, we also saw hope crushed and renewed through unthinkable scenarios. Now, with Episode Five, it all wraps up with a strong and emotional finale.
Episode 5 picks up immediately where Episode Four left off. Lee is in rough shape, and his fellow survivors are struggling to hold on, both mentally and physically, as they deal with the recent shock of Clementine being abducted. In my game, they're also just learning that Lee has been bitten by a zombie and that his time is limited. Basically, things could not be in a more desperate situation, and time is truly running out for Lee.
Early on in the episode, Lee starts suffering direct consequences of his bite. It's clear that he's infected and that if he's to save Clementine with a clear head and an able body, there's no time to waste. I found myself feeling hurried at every point, but still trying to be thorough. The way that Telltale manages to project the characters' feelings onto the player is downright stunning. Episode Five definitely gets your pulse pounding.
In my game, Ben, Omid, Christa, and Kenny were all Lee had to lean on for support. After an emotional reconciliation between Ben and Kenny, it was truly heartbreaking to see Kenny (seemingly) give his life to give Ben a quick and clean death. As Kenny finally acted in a truly selfless manner, Lee could only watch helplessly. The sending off was the perfect way for Kenny's story to wrap up, even if it was a gut punch to the audience.
When Lee finally confronts Clementine's kidnapper, there's a great call back to a previous episode and several more from the entire series. You're forced to look back on your decisions, and when they're shown back to you from another man's perspective, you can't help but feel damned by your choices; no matter how right you may have felt when you made them. The message is clear: your fight for survival comes at the expense of others, and from a different set of eyes, you're the monster in this horrible world.
Lee's reunion with Clementine is sweet, but it's obvious that it's going to be short lived. As Lee instructs Clementine one final time before his bite takes over, you have the option of allowing Clementine to leave you handcuffed or to shoot you to prevent you from turning into a walker. I didn't have the heart to ask Clementine to shoot Lee. I viewed it as one final sacrifice to help keep Clementine as pure as the world would allow her to be, despite relegating Lee to become a miserable undead creature.
Lee's final words, which I had more control over than I expected, were as bittersweet as you'll ever find in a video game. Watching him bid farewell to Clementine was devastating, and as a parent of a young child, it hit home real hard. I was heartbroken to see Clementine walking away from Lee with her tear-streaked face while he fades away into death. Episode Five: No Time Left hits you square in the chest with a hammer of emotion that sticks with you for days after it concludes. I've not seen one other game this entire year that even comes close to providing the same level of emotional impact as we see in the final moments of The Walking Dead. The post credit scene is vague, and you're unsure if you're left with a sense of hope or terror. It's truly a perfect execution of storytelling in a video game.
We know that a second season is coming, but we don't know any details about when that might be or whether or not it will be a direct continuation of Clementine's story. I'm unsure about whether or not I want to continue with Clementine or if I'd rather be forever left to speculate on her fate. What I do know is that any gamer who is looking for a strong story in their games needs to play through these episodes immediately. Telltale Games has made a solid case for game of the year with the Walking Dead, and I highly doubt I'm alone in feeling that way.
5 Stars out of 5