In the corner of my office, sitting above the multimedia case in which I sequester my videogames, there is a dry erase board where I write down ideas I’d like to write about on Play Critically. For months I have agonized over the piece you are reading now, and this may be due to that whiteboard where I had scrawled the name “Carver” in black marker. It would be narratologically irresponsible to talk about The Walking Dead: Season Two without writing something about this character, but I couldn’t find the words. The list of ideas grew longer and longer, but I remained roadblocked by Carver’s name at the top. Finally I reached a precipice of despair and erased everything off the board. It’s a writer’s cliche to lament the tyranny of a blank medium, but in this case the tabula rasa proved cathartic. No longer locked into Carver by the oppressive whiteboard, I realized I needed to step back to see his role in a wider context.
Carver is essential to what I will write about today, but he is not the actual topic.
Lincoln was cribbing from the Gospel of Mark when he said “a house divided against itself cannot stand” in his unsuccessful campaign for an Illinois Senate seat, but it portended the events which the United States was already heading for, inscribing a lesson on the American psyche: Two fundamentally conflicting forces in a single construct will inevitably lead to destruction if they cannot be reconciled. This is a fatalistic appraisal of what happened to Clementine’s group in The Walking Dead: Season One, and are echoed in the schisms of her new Season Two group. But the events of “A House Divided” introduce more wrinkles as Season One characters return, forcing Clementine to choose between old and new friends.
CONTENT WARNING: This piece contains graphic images from Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season Two.
Through months of blood and betrayal, Clementine emerges from Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season One a survivor. Though just a child, she is prepared by her guardian, Lee Everett, to contend with the treacherous living and ravenous dead. But this comes with a price: Clementine’s group is shattered, Lee is dead, and she is left alone in a golden field. It’s a bittersweet victory; Clementine is alive and capable, but her future remains uncertain. This is emphasized by a pair of silhouettes that appear on the horizon. Clementine hesitates, clutching her handgun, but the season ends before we see who they are and what she does. It’s an indistinct moment, an ending that functions both as cliffhanger and conclusion: Clementine is a child no more, burdened with emotional maturity and expectation which belies her age. But in this new world, if she is to honor Lee’s sacrifice and continue to survive, then childhood must end.