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Diversity’s Not a Strength in the Zombie Apocalypse, Either:
The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Series

[1]3,028 words

Telltale may have gone bankrupt, but like a zombie rising from the grave, its The Walking Dead video game series is soon to be released on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in a new collection. It contains all four “seasons” of the game (some twenty “episodes” in all), the extra chapter 400 Days, and the abysmal miniseries based on Michonne (which they probably couldn’t give away if they tried). This version introduces a new graphic filter to impart a “stylish” high contrast look, which may or may not improve the visuals.

[2]Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Season Two

Season two benefits from improved writing and a more balanced approach to its characters compared to the first one [3], but is less interactive. Most player decisions yield only minor changes in dialogue and at best lead to a different angle of predetermined events. There are virtually no puzzles. It picks up with Clementine, now eleven, traveling with Omid and a pregnant Christa. The interracial couple is quickly disposed of, and Clementine is taken in by a new cast that ticks even more diversity boxes than the last.

The stoic, middle-aged Pete and the conventionally attractive Luke are a stark contrast to the negative portrayals of white men in season one. Back at their cabin, we’re introduced to the black couple Alvin and Rebecca – he looks like Fat Albert and she’s pregnant, of course and Pete’s twenty-something nephew Nick. We also meet the Mexican doctor Carlos and his ditsy daughter Sarah. They’re all on the run from a crazy white man named Carver and his gang.

Carver tracks them down and takes them prisoner. Back at his kingdom, a fortified hardware store, he summons Clementine into his office to describe his Darwinian worldview. Here, the designers slip in a rug with a Greek pattern containing subliminal swastikas [4], to subtly drive the point home. He states that Rebecca is carrying his child – implying he raped her – but why would a Nazi eugenicist obsessed with fitness impregnate an old black woman when there’s younger, more attractive white women to choose from? Surely he would have noticed that the races possess divergent aptitudes [5]?

Eventually they make their escape, with the survivors regrouping at a Civil War museum – seemingly just to inject some anti-racist messaging. It’s beginning to snow, so Clementine suggests they give Rebecca an old Confederate uniform for warmth. A black man named Mike stupidly objects to the idea, because the Confederate Army fought on the wrong side. In an unexpected twist, Rebecca kindly accepts the clothes and chastises Mike for thinking she’d care. She then gives birth to a black baby boy – proving it wasn’t Carver’s – and they name him Alvin Jr. (A. J.). With winter coming, the group is forced to keep moving or die.

On their way to the closest town, they’re ambushed by a group of Russians, and there’s a Mexican standoff. What are the odds? One of the Russians even sports an Iron Cross tattoo on the back of his head, suggesting he’s a neo-Nazi. Presumably the writers felt the need to vilify Russians generally – and this was made prior to Trump’s election! Oh, to be a fly on the wall of the writers’ room after that! Weakened by blood loss and starvation, Rebecca silently passes away and turns into a zombie with A. J. in her arms. Luke sees this happening and shoots her, which causes everyone to start firing. Much forced drama follows.

Considering these games are sold as interactive narratives, the second season leaves much to be desired. Characters are destined to die sooner or later, no matter what choices you make. To make up for this shortcoming, Telltale uses smoke and mirrors to fool gullible players into thinking their decisions will have major consequences down the road. When choosing a line of dialogue, the game always alerts you that “so-and-so will remember that,” but it rarely makes a difference beyond their immediate response to your selection, and at best leads to one throwaway line later. It’s never worthwhile to replay an episode just to see what else can happen. Yet each one begins by unscrupulously reassuring us that “[t]his game series adapts to the choices you make. The story is tailored by how you play.”

It’s clear that Telltale wasn’t up to the task of actually producing all the possibilities it introduces. By automatically truncating events that would’ve grown throughout the rest of the season, the player has no reason to ever replay it. The most weighty decision comes at the very end of the last episode, which only alters a flashback in season three. With so few impactful decisions, this could’ve simply been an animated show or a comic book instead. I suppose if you know this going into it, it’s a mildly entertaining time killer, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

[6]Telltale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier

After the first two seasons of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, I was ready to throw in the towel. My interest was piqued when I saw that Adam Esquenazi Douglas, one of the writers on the third and fourth seasons, literally has “Jew” for a middle name. Another writer is amusingly named Jason Latino, and the story of season three conspicuously stars the Garcias, a Hispanic Cuban family. To their credit, New Frontier has more realistic character motivation and interpersonal drama than the earlier seasons, but that’s not saying much.

The first episode begins with a flashback to the day of the zombie outbreak. Javier, an ex-professional baseball player, arrives home too late to say goodbye to his ailing father. His brother David is waiting for him on the front porch and greets him with a sock to the kisser. Their father has been dead for days, and that night he turns into a zombie. Caught completely off-guard, their mother is bitten in the chaos, and David rushes her to the hospital. When we flash forward, Javier is taking care of David’s son and daughter with his sister-in-law, as David never returned home.

Clementine is now 13, and though she’s supposed to be black, I still think she looks like a cross between a Latina and an Asian. It’s as if the artists were simply unwilling to depict her as truly black, or perhaps it was a marketing thing. This brings up an odd quirk in season three, where other characters have odd racial characteristics. A new character named Ava is supposedly black, but her facial features are much more Caucasian, so I assumed she was Pakistani. In the fortified town of Prescott, Javier meets a black man named Conrad who sports a pair of bright, blue eyes (which is incredibly rare, though not unheard of [7]). Conrad’s partner Francine is even weirder: She’s got nappy hair and caramel skin, but her facial structure looks more white than black, lacking the typical flat nasal bridge, broad nostrils, and prognathism. I guess they were going for a Wanda Sykes lookalike, but the effect is that of a white woman in bad make-up.


Three “black” characters in New Frontier.

As the season’s name implies, this is the zombie apocalypse presented as the Wild West. However, the gender politics are decidedly modern. There’s an eye-rolling “girl power” moment where the diminutive waif Ava knocks the brawny Tripp on his ass with a single punch. One of several fortified towns is involved in banditry, but it’s kept quiet by those involved for fear of upsetting its populace, and even a small number of women get their hands dirty.

Ironically, despite the Latino influence, season three is remarkably pro-wall. One of the characters accidentally punctures a hole in a perimeter fence with a large truck, which is immediately seized upon by hordes of invading zombies. Not a single inhabitant can be found holding up a “no one is illegal” sign. The bandits pull a similar stunt on another town’s defenses, which contradicts the liberal line that “walls are immoral [9]” and “walls don’t save lives [10].” Like the forts built by the settlers, walls are an absolute prerequisite to protect lives and resources, even in liberal propaganda like The Walking Dead.

As we’ve come to expect from Telltale, the game’s story isn’t as interactive as you might expect or want. There are times when your actions lead to a minor character’s demise, but it results in an instant “game over” screen rather than being worked into the plot! I thought the story was supposed to adapt to my decisions? As with the second season, the single most important choice comes at the very end of the last episode, which ends with one of two major characters dying. It’s serviceable, but not as satisfying or emotional as the end of season one. It’s worth noting that the other seasons focus on Clementine, so this one works best as a stand-alone story. If you’re interested in seeing what these games have to offer, New Frontier is the best one to start with.

[11]Telltale’s The Walking Dead, The Final Season

Telltale went bankrupt in the middle of the fourth season of The Walking Dead, but managed to limp across the finish line with the help of Skybound, the intellectual property owner. The final season contains more diversity propaganda than the last, but that’s probably not why the company went under. Gamers realized its stories were less interactive than they had been led to believe, so most of them simply stopped buying them, opting to watch them on YouTube instead.

Clementine has left the cast of New Frontier behind and rescued A. J., the black baby born in season two. He’s now around 5, and as his adoptive mother, she tries to teach him right from wrong. Despite the trials of the post-apocalypse and his tender age, A. J. is more literate than half of Detroit [12] and eighty percent of South African children twice his age [13], so she’s doing a pretty good job. After a zombie attack, the two wake up in an old boarding school, having been rescued by a group of troubled teens, but don’t expect anything approaching the drama of Lord of the Flies.

Clementine is now 16, and for the first time she’s surrounded by potential love interests. Louis is a clone of Jaden Smith, except he’s musically gifted. The scholarly Aasim, an Arab teen, dutifully records each day’s events and hunts game responsibly. However, he can’t be that bright, because he frees baby rabbits from his traps rather than taking them back to the school to start a rabbit breeding program, all while complaining about food shortages. The third love interest is Violet, a blonde negative Nancy who shows interest in Clementine during a private conversation where they stargaze together. Later, Clementine meets James, a mysterious, soft-spoken Asian loner who’s resourceful and compassionate. He lives in the wilderness but avoids the walkers by wearing a Leatherface-like mask, and keeps them as pets, earning Clementine’s respect.

In contrast, the two white boys are completely cucked by the writers. Marlon’s the sympathetic group leader, but he lacks charisma due to his obnoxious mullet and is revealed to be a coward and a liar. That night, Clementine eavesdrops on an argument between him and a girl named Brody, wherein we learn that he handed over a pair of girls to some raiders to make them go away. Brody is worried that a man they ran into earlier that day belongs to the same group and is back for more “recruits.” Marlon hears Clementine and demands that she show herself. When the two girls team up on him, Marlon gets angry and bashes Brody in the head, killing her. With Clementine’s life on the line, A. J. shoots Marlon in the back of the head.

Mitch is the other white bachelor, but he’s inevitably killed at the end of the next episode. The writers ensure neither of the white boys can win Clementine’s affections, and they don’t stick around long enough to develop much of a friendship with her. Anyway, Clementine and A. J. get kicked out of the school for killing Marlon and soon run into the gang that Brody was worried about. They warn the others, but the raiders come back and take several kids prisoner.

Clementine and A. J. try to find the gang’s hideout and run into James. Clementine asks him if he’d be willing to send his walkers in as a distraction, but he hesitates because his pets would inevitably suffer many casualties. He takes them to an old shed to prove to Clementine that walkers aren’t mindless monsters. Here, the writers’ progressive agenda jumps the shark: James tells Clementine to put on his zombie mask, walk into a horde of zombies, and ring a wind chime. She creeps past the zombies without arousing their appetite for human flesh, and gives the chime a jingle. The zombies turn to look at the chime in unison as cheesy, soaring music plays. Remember, kids, it’s okay to punch a Nazi, but try to see the humanity in the rotting undead!

The writers spend most of the last episode ginning up some pointless drama and throw in a simple puzzle. It seems they had the ending all worked out, but didn’t know what to do with the preceding forty minutes. Most likely budgetary concerns got in the way. I won’t spoil what happens, but it’s a pretty good way to end the series, even if it’s as emotionally manipulative as the conclusion to season one.

Telltale’s methods proved far less ambitious than those of Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human [14], which provides a roadmap for others to follow. Having gone bankrupt, Telltale’s former employees launched a class-action lawsuit alleging it violated labor laws after some 225 employees were reportedly booted out the door without any warning or severance. It’s terrible that so many lost their jobs, but on the plus side, there’s now one less company peddling anti-white garbage in the video game industry.

[15]Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Michonne

In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say. The ridiculous samurai sword-wielding negress Michonne must have fans, because Telltale produced a three-episode mini-series about her. It’s the lowest-rated of Telltale’s interactive zombie stories, and is shockingly linear even by their standards. I doubt any Counter-Currents readers are interested, but the anti-white critics never let a distinctly European game off the hook (see the kvetching about Kingdom Come: Deliverance [16]), so I see no reason not to return the favor.

It begins with Michonne hallucinating that she’s in her apartment on the day of the zombie outbreak, the first of many psychotic episodes that the writers rely on to impart vulnerability to an otherwise invincible character. The tactic is so overused it becomes frustrating, and I began to resent her for it. I suppose it’s mildly amusing that one of her key personality traits is her mental instability, given the large number of medicated feminists to whom her character presumably panders. Yet Telltale can’t even get that part right: It didn’t hire the actress from the show to play Michonne, so even diehard fans would likely be disappointed with this mess.

She wakes up aboard a ship run by a black guy named Pete, who picks up an SOS on the radio and wants to be a good Samaritan. Exploring a nearby ferry, they cross paths with Greg and Sam, twenty-something Mexican siblings who’ve managed to keep slim [17] thanks to the apocalypse. Luckily, Michonne is an absurd female power fantasy, as she makes quick work of the undead who attack. Do women actually buy these macho feminist characters when world-class athletes like Venus Williams lose to 15-year-old girls [18], and the US national women’s soccer team loses to 14-year-old boys [19]? If not for the glut of this stuff in superhero movies, a black female brute like Michonne might even be considered racist by the SJW crowd [20].

Shortly thereafter, they’re held at gunpoint by some mostly white strangers who accuse them of being thieves. Pete and Michonne profess their innocence, but they’re taken prisoner anyway. Even after civilization has collapsed, racial profiling still plagues minorities! The accusers are led by Randall and Norma, middle-aged white siblings who’ve organized a sprawling and seemingly thriving boat town called Monroe that Greg and Sam had burglarized. It’s the third Telltale zombie story where white dictators haven’t been deposed by their followers even though some clearly disavow their methods.

Norma’s doing her best bulldyke impression as an obese tyrant with short hair, and Randall might as well be a mustache-twirling villain out of the silent era. Michonne and Sam get the drop on their captors but Randall recovers and sounds an alarm. Sam warns Michonne that they’ll be hunted down as long as they live, but Michonne doesn’t kill their kidnappers or even snag Randall’s AK-47, striking a discordant note that would derail an orchestra! Sam suggests they kill anyone who gets in the way of their escape, but unicorn Pete offers to give himself up so that no one has to die. Luckily for him that isn’t necessary, and they escape on a speedboat while Monroe burns.

Sam admits she stole from Monroe when it was just getting started, but Norma let her go when she gave a sob story. So it turns out our “heroic” minorities are repeat offenders who deserve to be punished, but the writers don’t belabor the point. They wouldn’t want the audience to realize the Latino siblings personify illegal immigrants stealing [21] from white America. Randall shows up with some men and there’s an inevitable stand-off with Norma.

The third and final episode is artificially drawn out to reach the expected one hour running time. All of the annoying flashbacks we’ve endured have done nothing to cure Michonne’s affliction, underscoring how pointless the entire affair has been. Indeed, a prompt at the first dialogue choice reassures us “silence is always a valid option”, betraying how pointless our choices truly are. As Michonne lacks any puzzles and meaningful choices, there is absolutely no reason to play this game when you can just watch someone else play it on Youtube. Either way don’t waste your time, even if it’s included for free in this collection.