After a bumpy season of action, betrayal, and secrets revealed, Telltale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier ends with the concluding fifth chapter From The Gallows. Truthfully, it’s not one of my favorites, but given that I’ve shambled through this entire season with an open mind I’m compelled to see things through. What I ended up with is a mixed bag of emotions on whether or not of walking away from the series might be in my best interest at this point.
Javi and the other survivors are left scattered after the events of last episode Thicker than Water. Kate has crashed a truck into wall of Richmond, allowing a herd of muertos – Spanish for ‘Dead’ – to enter the city. Left and right, the walking muertos are feasting on survivors as Javi attempts to sort through the horrors to get everyone back together.
There were a few survivors who lost their lives in the chaos following Joan’s betrayal and her big ‘reveal’ (spoiler) that Javi’s family are the real bad guys. Everyone regroups and starts to put a plan into action to seal the breach in Richmond’s wall. Kate feels responsible for her actions since she believes she was responsible for the muertos invading the city. They come up with a plan for their next move and being to execute it. Internal conflict is high as David starts to lose control of his anger which clashes with the rest of his family.
Initially, I found it hard to feel satisfied with From The Gallows, especially after playing through previous episodes in this season. There are examples of good writing and character development sprinkled throughout. These come in the form of small snippets before the outbreak where Javi and his family are living their everyday lives. The small flashbacks showed the emotional upheaval Javi’s family faced in the past and decisions in these ‘memories’ effect how things turn out in the present day.
While I wasn’t a fan of this style of narrative at first, it brought me around to where I eventually learned to appreciate what it was trying to do. Yes, it definitely felt different from the formula set by previous seasons of The Walking Dead, and I appreciated Telltale Games taking a chance.
So what’s wrong then? Well, the main issue is with pacing, and previous episodes are not excluded either. There are plenty of characters running around A New Frontier, and it’s hard to keep track of them all. This takes away from that emotional connection people can develop with the characters. While for the most part in they’re were well-rounded and thoughtful; there is barely a chance for them to develop and evolve over the course of the season.
During one sequence, Javi is along a ledge to scoot around a pile of cars. One of the cars behind him moves and almost knocks him off the overpass until one of his friends catches his hand to help him catch his balance. When the same person who helped him goes to get to the other side, a muerto pops out of the car like a jack-in-the-box. The character goes falling to their death and everyone moves on with their day after stopping briefly to look at their fallen comrade.
While I understand killing off characters is necessary for continuity reasons, sudden instances like these pulled me out of the moment. This happened again and again like Prescott invaded suddenly after Javi and Clementine just barely arrived. There are few moments to sit back and absorb information and let the story settle before we’re shifted – often violently – to the next explosion in the distance. There were a few times where I teared up a bit. Even my colleague Cory Galliher was shocked when Mariana – Javi’s niece – was shot and killed in the beginning episodes.
And Javi as the focus for the main protagonist? Honestly, out of all the characters introduced over the course of this season he seems the most boring. The point of a story is to watch a character change and develop over the course of the story. Javi never felt like he developed much at all, which comes off as too clean. Sure, he’s got the requisite ‘bad past’ which is mentioned often, but it’s never fully explored.
I found David’s character development more intriguing since he expresses his internal conflict when juggling his desire to be a soldier against the obligations of being a good father. Honestly, David seems to be flawed in ways that are easy to relate to, whereas Javi never felt like more than a caricature.
From The Gallows demonstrates that, too often, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier felt like it was trying to juggle too much, and this confusion is noticeable in the final product. It’s not a terrible season by any means, but it’s not a great one, either. There are a few heartfelt moments scattered throughout there I think hardcore Dead fans will like. Other than these, I’m hoping Clementine will be the main focus in a future installment of the series.