WARNING: MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW
Realistically speaking, every episode of The Walking Dead: Michonne is review proof: The Walking Dead is one of the hottest properties today; Telltale’s series based on said property is critically acclaimed and beloved and the main character in the mini-series is of the most popular of the cast. No matter what I say, if you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, you’ve already purchased the relatively low-priced at $15 mini-series. If you’re still with me though, The Walking Dead: Michonne season premier continues the downward trend of quality that I’ve been feeling since the phenomenal first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead. The main character is great and the action pieces are better implemented then they’ve ever been before, but this debut episode is too frustratingly similar to veteran fans of The Walking Dead to be an effective spin-off of the main series starring Clementine.
Episode One, titled In too Deep, does have a lot of good things going for it, especially starting out. I was skeptical somewhat of a three-part series as I felt l let down by the last season of The Walking Dead, but from the start of this chapter, I was hooked again, in part to the slick opening. The intro expertly cuts between Michonne in the past and the present, dispatching walkers in a way she only knows how: with a very, VERY big blade. The scene plays out like it does in other Telltale productions here and throughout the remainder of the episode, but what makes it feel so important is that you’re performing these actions as Michonne. Lee and Clementine are great characters, but they’re nowhere near the experienced walker slayer that Michonne is. While you’re still hitting big button prompts when they come up on-screen, or moving the analog stick up and down, there’s something to be said about doing so while watching a character who’s so eloquent and in control of their every action. The action scenes themselves are beautifully choreographed and are great to look at as well, which doesn’t hurt an iota.
Where In too Deep shines well is in its presentation. After the intense opening fight, there’s a short credits scene that I really loved that was like something out of a Bond film, splicing in shots of the in-game Michonne with backgrounds featuring panels from The Walking Dead comic featuring the character. It really gets you excited for what’s to come, even though what follows is pretty unspectacular, unfortunately.
Michonne is a great character, and one who wouldn’t have risen to the surface over the cast of dozens in The Walking Dead, both in the comic and the ongoing TV series, if she wasn’t. The character is excellently voiced by Orange is the new Black actress Samira Wiley who walks a great tightrope for Michonne as being a person you should be afraid of, but also a person who is very much broken by the events of their past. A great character is only as good as the characters surrounding them and it’s the supporting cast that is the first downfall of In too Deep. Season two of Telltale’s series suffered from characters that you didn’t really connect with, and I’m afraid to say that this also happens here. You have your optimistic character who wants to trust people; the pessimist who thinks the optimist is wasting their time and a villain who is just cartoonishly evil, just like the poorly developed big bad of season two, Carver. There’s a few others but other than their names, they aren’t really developed that much in this episode which will hopefully change in the remaining two episodes.
What’s more is that the situations the characters find themselves are also well-worn tropes for The Walking Dead. A quest to fix your boat with a fellow crew member turns into a misunderstanding over some stolen supplies, like the other two seasons, ending in what I’m sure is meant to be a tense showdown of words that doesn’t really pay off. Normally when playing these games I try to put myself into the character I’m playing a little and try to have a level head, but at points I was getting so bored and frustrated that my Michonne starting reflecting that in her dialogue choices. Even events that are meant to be shocking or inserted to stir some uncomfortable feelings, like a very early scene involving a gun, don’t hit in the way they should.
There’s some good ideas in the premier episode of The Walking Dead: Michonne and the casting of the title character is great, but this is a disappointing start to a short series that hopefully gets better in its second and third chapters. At a cost of $15 this mini-series is pretty inexpensive, but you might want to wait to hear what the word is on the other chapters before you spend your money on the entire series unless you’re a die-hard The Walking Dead fan which means you’ve already bought and played this. Michonne is an excellent choice for a Telltale mini-series, so here’s hoping that the rest of the series gives the game the character deserves.