We return this week to discuss the latest in Telltale Games’ Walking Dead series. This episode left us with a lot to think about, but our biggest question would have to be: what’s with the screwdriver?
Full transcript after the cut!
This episode contains spoilers for Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series. As such, it contains scenes of violence and gore taken from the game.
JAYLEE: Hello and welcome back to the Push to Smart Water Cooler. This week we are back with Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series. This time we are taking control of Michonne for their first ever mini-series, which is only going to be three episodes long. So this episode we’re going to be talking about Episode 1: In Too Deep, that came out in… Last month. In…March?
STACEY: March? (laughs)
STACEY: What is time?
JAYLEE: That came out in February of 2016. After the second season of The Walking Dead, we were a little wary of more outings in the series, and we also didn’t really know where else the series was going to go. So I’m actually… Leading up to this episode I was actually pretty excited because, a) I love Michonne—I feel like she’s probably one of the best characters to come out of The Walking Dead—and because it’s not connected to Clementine’s story and it’s just a mini-series, I thought that it could probably do more interesting things with its characters instead of just killing them one episode—or not!—and then just saving them to die in the next episode. We shall see. (laughs)
STACEY: Yeah, I don’t know if it’ll necessarily— Because Game of Thrones has shown us, when they have an existing roster of characters, they don’t always know what to do with them.
STACEY: But I do feel like the three-episode structure might force them to really focus on the dramatic storytelling. As far as making it, for lack of a better word, “focused”… Whereas a lot of like The Walking Dead it felt— There was a real sense of, toward the end, like they don’t really know where they’re going with this, do they? (laughs)
STACEY: They’re making this up as they go along! Which one would hope that it not the case for the three episodes. But I have to ask you! I think you’ve read more of the comics than I have, and this is based on the comics, and you love Michonne so much. What was it like playing as Michonne?
JAYLEE: I was conflicted all the time. Instead of being, you know, what do I want to do? I was like, okay, what would Michonne do?
STACEY: That’s what I was wondering!
JAYLEE: I mean, because when we first talked about The Wolf Among Us, that was the big thing behind our decision-making a lot of the time, is what would Bigby do?
JAYLEE: And for this one, I feel like most of the choices kept in line with the character, so I didn’t feel like I had to think too hard about it.
STACEY: Hmm, that’s interesting. Yeah, this made me realize I didn’t really know anything about Michonne.
STACEY: Because at first I went in, I was like, I’m going to make decisions. And then I’m making my decisions, I’m like, I have no fucking idea what she would do here, because I don’t know her character other than the fact that she carries swords.
JAYLEE: You know, that is the thing. The like the main takeaway I get from the comic book series at least, is that she’s just extremely competent at survival, and so the interpersonal relationships bit I’m kind of like, uh….
STACEY: Well, I think part of that too is Robert Kirkman can’t write characters for shit. Especially women. So I would chalk that up to that. On the show, I haven’t watched it for a few seasons, but I feel like there were some scenes where they really tried to make her… To explore her interpersonal relationships with Carl and Rick and it was really nice that she had a sense of humor that I don’t remember from the comics that I read.
STACEY: So I try to think about that a little bit, but we didn’t really even get that much of a choice for that? (laughs)
JAYLEE: (laughs) Well that’s the thing is I was hoping the game character would be more informed of the TV show character. I haven’t watched the TV series that much. I watched the first few episodes and I just could not continue watching.
JAYLEE: But I hear that it gets better or at least more compelling. I don’t know. I hear Michonne is pretty great because she has that sense of humor and because she has these clearly defined relationships with the other characters it makes her more compelling and livelier. And that was probably one of my least favorite things about this, is that I felt like no matter what I said, it was going to be darkly delivered.
JAYLEE: Which is kind of unfortunate, because Samira Wiley who is the voice actress for Michonne in this game, plays Poussey in Orange is the New Black, and that is such a fantastic character and I know she can do so much more than just, you know, dark and broody, but I didn’t really get that in this game.
STACEY: Mhmm. As I was playing this game, there were three points of reference that I kept coming back to. One is the fact that—I think at this point, several years ago, holy crap, we did an episode on mothers in games.
STACEY: And Michonne… Her status as a mother is front and center, and that is something you don’t see a lot in games. Usually, as we discussed in the episode we can link, motherhood is treated as a footnote, like color, that doesn’t actually reflect on anything you’re doing, or it’s a way to kind of get a character out of the action. But that’s if it shows up at all, because predominantly it is not in games at all. But this, a lot of the drama hinges on Michonne as a mother, to the point where when we find the photograph of the two children, I was like, oh my god, she’s going to get two Newts. It’s gonna happen here. We’re gonna finally get our Ripley!
JAYLEE: (laughs) You know, that is actually something that went through my head at the same time. I was like, oh, motherhood! Because like I was saying earlier, to me Michonne just stands out as a competent survivor. And it was really interesting in the very beginning segment how they kind of were able to merge her dramatic history with just a zombie fight scene. And so I thought it was a pretty good intro, but pretty soon after that it gets into the Telltale “ways,” I guess.
STACEY: In what way?
JAYLEE: Well, first off let me say that I did like the setting. I think a boat setting for a zombie apocalypse is really cool and it’s something that we haven’t seen a lot.
STACEY: It’s usually where it ends.
JAYLEE: Yeah. And so seeing in the open water, and seeing when they get to Norma’s place and the kind of almost claustrophobic interiors of that area, and also how they were able to show a new side of the zombie threat with the walkers coming up through the water.
STACEY: Mhmm. That was a pretty good set piece.
JAYLEE: Yeah. But… (sighs) The thing that just bothers me so much is I’m really sick of just “bad people doing bad things.”
STACEY: I know!
JAYLEE: I’m so sick of the whole, “Maybe humans are the real monsters!” I mean…
JAYLEE: We’ve had two seasons of The Walking Dead. We’ve had like 150 issues of the comic book and we have the TV series, and I really wanted there to be something more to it this time.
STACEY: Which that goes into another thing I was thinking about while playing this game was that— And I’m sure a lot of other people have written about this. The reference that crossed my mind was actually the Cracked podcast. But they were talking about how in real life apocalyptic situations where the government systems fail, people come together. You know, the Donner Party is the exception, not the rule, and yet in our apocalyptic fiction, especially our zombie fiction, it’s the people that are bad. And their theory was the fact that in a lot of these fictional settings, like the comic books, the main character is White Man. So in order to make him look good, you have to lower the bar for everybody else, because he already has a leg up on everybody by being a white dude. So it’s like, “Wow, Rick, you didn’t cannibalize your child. Great work!”
JAYLEE: “Gold star!”
STACEY: Yeah. But The Walking Dead games have somehow sidestepped that. Because they have starred a black man, a small black girl, and now a black woman. And yet they still play into that “we are the walking dead” thing. And it’s like, why? What does that mean? (laughs) And I don’t think I have an answer for that, but that was another thing that was kind of sitting in the back of my head while I was playing.
JAYLEE: And I think that probably the worst part about it is that it doesn’t add anything new to the conversation.
STACEY: Mhmm. We’ve seen this before a thousand times.
JAYLEE: Yeah. I was hoping that they were kind of setting up— Because you’re introduced to Sam and her brother, who’s name I forget and don’t really care to learn because he dies.
JAYLEE: And then you have Norma and Randall, who is, you know, just Evil Man #3.
STACEY: Can I say, I was all excited about the fact that Michonne wasn’t sexualized until Randall fucking winked at her, and I was like, are you kidding me? Are we going to do this?
JAYLEE: Oh, I didn’t even— I think I missed that part.
STACEY: It’s a very quick thing, he kind of winks at her. And maybe it’s not supposed to be that, but knowing the history of her character, it just pissed me off.
JAYLEE: I know, I was very wary. I was like, please, for the love of god, just don’t do that.
STACEY: Yeah. No Governor 2.0, please.
JAYLEE: Yeah. But what I was hoping would happen is that you have Sam and her brother and then you have Norma and Randall, and I wanted them to kind of show two separate stories that are both believable, and so you had no idea which of the two to trust. But instead Randall’s like, “I’m gonna kill you and beat you up!” and the kids are like, “Save us!”
JAYLEE: And so it was just very… It was just generic, which is… If you’re gonna do a generic zombie story, I just don’t see why you would do that, and I don’t see why you would waste a character like Michonne on that. So I’m hoping there’s more to it. I don’t know. This is just the first episode.
STACEY: Yeah, Which kind of brings me to the third thing I had in the back of my mind while I was playing this game. So, you have a scene where Michonne, she’s being questioned by Norma. And you have to choose whether or not to tell the truth. Either way she’s going to not believe you. And this is rather reminiscent of Game of Thrones, which we hated.
JAYLEE: Yeah. (laughs)
STACEY: But also Walking Dead, Season 2, Episode 1, when Clementine is bit and she has to convince everyone that she’s not. And I was trying to think, why did that scene work for me? Was it just because I was naïve and didn’t know any better? Or was there something special? And I think, if I remember correctly, part of that scene is, there’s someone on her side; it’s not just her versus somebody else, and her saying “I’m not bit” and them saying “No.”
STACEY: There’s a third party like, “Hey, no, I think she’s telling the truth.” And then the compromise is to lock her in the shed. And it’s like here, there’s no… It’s that Game of Thrones problem where it’s, “Did you do this?” “No.” “I don’t believe you.”
STACEY: End of discussion, it’s over.
JAYLEE: And I also didn’t like how… I felt like, you know when it comes up with like “X person will remember that.” Or “X person thinks you’re lying.” Those were starting to get a little too long. It’s like “X person thought you lied and now they’re going to be angry.”
STACEY: Yeah, and there was one person… Yeah, you told the truth, but it doesn’t sound too good and it’s like, wait, what? What does that mean? I don’t know what to do with that!
JAYLEE: Yeah. I… (sighs) I want to have faith… (laughs)
STACEY: There were some cool segments, some very tense scenes here that I think were missing from a lot of the recent games.
JAYLEE: Like what?
STACEY: So, I think we were talking earlier; you went in through the window, right? Of the ship?
STACEY: Did you have to unlock any doors, or how did you discover—or did you discover?—the party of just slaughtered people?
JAYLEE: You know, you walk in there and you turn your flashlight on and then you get attacked by zombies.
STACEY: Oh, that’s different! Okay.
JAYLEE: Yeah. Then pretty much you get to take a look around and see the slaughtered people, and then also the zombie that was holding the door closed.
STACEY: Okay, so I went up the ladder, so I had to sneak in. And to do that, you have to like break open the door, reach in through the window and unlock it. And the way you have to inch her hand down, and as you’re inching her hand down, she can’t see but you can see there is a hand of a dead person handcuffed to the doorknob. (laughs) And so as soon as you see it you’re like, oh shit! You stop pressing the button. But it’s like, but I have to go! I have to go! (laughs) So there’s this real tension like you don’t want to go forward by you have to.
JAYLEE: Oh, that’s awesome!
STACEY: That was a genuinely really good scene! And it gave me— I wouldn’t say “hope” for the rest of it, but it was really good! And I didn’t understand why the kids were lying, because I felt like it was supposed to be a big decision. Like, are you going to go along with the kids’ story? But it’s like, I don’t know these kids, I don’t understand what’s happening. I know I just got an exposition dump, but it was generic as fuck! And so I didn’t care. And I didn’t feel the urgency that I think it wanted me to feel.
JAYLEE: Mhmm. That’s the thing, is like, there’s not enough grey area in the game yet. And that’s where I feel like these zombie stories… If you’re going to focus on, you know, “humanity’s the real monster,” you have to have a lot of ambiguity and grey area instead of “Sam and her brother seem okay!” “These people are obviously assholes who are tying you up and punching you and making this guy piss himself.” Like, there’s no ambiguity there. It’s just kind of, been there, done that.
STACEY: You can’t say “humans are the real monsters” if there’s no humans.
JAYLEE: Yes. That’s great. Put that on a bumper sticker. (laughs)
JAYLEE: Or not. Nobody will understand. (laughs)
STACEY: (laughs) I don’t know, there’s some pretty weird bumper stickers in my apartment complex.
JAYLEE: Somebody will stop you in traffic and be like, “That’s deep, man.”
STACEY: Yeah! (laughs)
JAYLEE: The great thing about it being a mini-series is that it’s not going to take us long to see how bad or good it’s going to be, and it also is not as much of a commitment as being like two episodes into Game of Thrones and being like, oh my god, there are four left!
JAYLEE: But I’m still kind of hopeful. I don’t know why. I’ve been burned many times, but… (laughs)
STACEY: Yeah, I think I’m just a little burnt out on zombie apocalypse. Grimdark. I think this really kind of solidified my feelings from the Game of the Year episode, where it’s like, I really liked Assassin’s Creed and Splatoon. This made me realize that, yes, I really was correct to think that I’m done with grimdark for awhile. (laughs)
JAYLEE: Do you want to go to choices?
STACEY: I guess so!
JAYLEE: So the very first choice—which, I don’t know if it was really that much of a choice—but it was did you pull the trigger or lower the gun?
STACEY: Oh, I lowered the gun. I was mad at that scene.
JAYLEE: Me too. It didn’t…
STACEY: Like, are we doing this?
JAYLEE: It just didn’t fit! And it’s like, why…?
STACEY: She’s so good at what she does.
JAYLEE: Yeah, that was the thing. It’s like, this is Michonne, it doesn’t make sense for the character at all.
STACEY: Mhmm. The one thing that we know doesn’t make sense.
JAYLEE: Yeah. (laughs) It’s that she’s not going to give up.
JAYLEE: So that frustrated me. But, 69.3% of people lowered the gun, so… And then, did you enter the abandoned ferry through the stairs or through the window?
STACEY: Stairs, because as soon as they were like, “We’d be in close quarters,” I was like, of course I’m going with the stairs then.
JAYLEE: Honestly, I was like, you’re not even going to give me a counterpoint for why I should go in the window?
JAYLEE: 55.1% went through the stairs, and 44.9% went through the window.
STACEY: Oh, that’s surprising.
JAYLEE: And then I didn’t even kind of realize that this was an option, but did you ambush Randall in the storeroom?
STACEY: Oh, I did not.
JAYLEE: Neither did I. And that was 40% of players did not. I literally just played it this morning and I can’t even remember the option to do so.
STACEY: Well, yeah. It was like, the girl, Newt, she’s trying to tell you how bad he is and how you’ve gotta do this. And it’s like, these are stakes I’ve heard a thousand times to the point that they’re meaningless. Why am I going to risk this now? There’s clearly three more episodes! (laughs) Like, we have time.
JAYLEE: And then after that one, did you sell Greg out to Norma? For my game I kind of went back and forth because all I did was basically tell the truth, but at the end I was kind of relenting a bit like, I’m the one who lied, so for me it said I shared the blame with Greg, and that was 54.6% of players.
STACEY: The only thing I know I consciously lied about, which wasn’t totally a lie, was I told her there was nobody else with us, because as soon as the other girl has told me that they claim everything on the water, I didn’t want her to know that I had a boat. So I probably sold him out.
JAYLEE: But that would be 45.4% who did let him take the blame. And the last decision: did you let Sam shoot Zachary?
STACEY: No! That was a terrible decision.
JAYLEE: I know! Neither did I. And that was 83.5% of players who spared Zachary.
STACEY: Who probably thought the same thing, like, why is this a choice? (laughs)
JAYLEE: And that last scene, it felt very Game of Thrones in that there were a lot of different options, but I felt like ultimately I couldn’t do anything.
JAYLEE: I don’t know if I liked it or not, because it was really hectic and everybody’s yelling all at once and you’re just trying to calm them down.
STACEY: (laughs) Yeah. Can I say, I grabbed the length of pipe to kill Greg.
STACEY: I don’t know why I grabbed it. And then as soon as I got there to do it, I was like, this is… I should have gotten the screwdriver! This is going to be so gory! (laughs)
JAYLEE: (laughs) I’m sorry Sam.
JAYLEE: I actually chose the screwdriver.
STACEY: Yeah, I think that would have been the more humane way to do it.
JAYLEE: But it took like four stabs in his eye!
STACEY: Seriously? So it’s the same. It was the same.
JAYLEE: (laughs) Yeah.
STACEY: Because that was the whole point of the last thing? It was like that’s the kind of weapon that you want because it’s really easy, in-and-out, and it’s not going to get stuck.
STACEY: Have we learned nothing?
JAYLEE: So… I don’t even know. (laughs)
STACEY: (laughs) Fix your continuity, Telltale!
JAYLEE: I know! Is a screwdriver a good weapon, yes or no?
STACEY: (laughs) Let us know in the comments. (laughs)
JAYLEE: (laughs) And don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date with all of our latest episodes and Water Cooler discussions.