The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, Episode 4 – Thicker Than Water Review (PC)
The latest season of Telltale Games' The Walking Dead has been a tightly wound story thus far, with new characters and locales providing a new perspective on the zombie apocalypse. Where previous seasons focused on found families, A New Frontier presented us with an actual family doing their best to make their way under duress. As strong as this season has been, the latest episode, "Thicker Than Water," did little to change the stakes or present new angles to its cast. Were it not for the final minutes, this episode may as well have been called "Treading Water."
Events of this episode pick up directly following the fateful meeting David and Javier had with Joan at the conclusion of episode three. The two brothers are locked up in the Richmond prison, though David is soon escorted out by Joan, leaving Javi to find a way out on his own. It's not a bad start, and alludes that there will be more drama than there actually is throughout the rest of the episode. Javi's escape and reunion with Kate and the other friendly survivors is a rather easy affair, and Telltale seems more concerned with tying up some plot threads in this penultimate episode rather than exploring the dangers of the situation much further.
The family dynamic between Javier, Kate and Gabriel takes a backseat to delivering plot points to get us to episode five, and the characterization suffers a bit for it. While Telltale does take time to explore Javi's patriarchal role, we don't actually learn much new about him that we didn't already know from previous episodes. Though the situations in which we learn about Javi's and Gabe's relationship may be different, not much else about their dynamic is altered. The same can be said of Javi's relationships with Clementine and Kate. As to Tripp and Eleanor, there are some shifts there, but the uneasy alliance between the family and those from Prescott doesn't change that drastically when all is said and done.
Even the additional backstory elements given to Clementine in another flashback don't stretch her character in any new directions. We already know she's been showcasing more of her maternal side during her quest to reunite with AJ, and that she's still a rather stubborn lone-wolf, even when others are often offering up help. Some slight differences in how she carries herself around Gabe can be noticed, but they're also potentially troubling given Telltale's history of unhappy endings.
For a penultimate episode, "Thicker Than Water" doesn't ramp up the stakes quite as much as some of Telltale's earlier efforts. With so little changing during the events of this fourth chapter in The New Frontier, it's hard not to be disappointed by the time seemingly squandered in this episode. Granted, the final moments accelerate things to a worthy climax, but save for those 10-15 minutes, everything that transpired in "Thicker Than Water" could easily have been folded in to the previous or upcoming episode. Hopefully Telltale was saving all the fireworks for the upcoming final chapter, as it would be a shame for A New Frontier's strong start to end with a whimper.
This review is based on a digital download of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, Episode 4 -"Thicker Than Water" provided by the publisher for PC.