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The Walking Dead: Michonne is a mini-series centered on one of the franchise’s most popular characters, a laconic katana-wielding woman who carries her bloody past with her wherever she goes in a land filled with the shambling undead. In Too Deep, the first of the three episodes, offers a mostly solid beginning, by letting the player dive deep into Michonne’s personality and explore the events that have made her who she is.
We don’t get to shape who Michonne is in the same way that we can determine what kind of person Commander Shepard is in Mass Effect, but it accomplishes something that might be even more impressive. Michonne is a deeply traumatized person who lashes out at the world and her fellow survivors in anger and despair because of that trauma. We get to choose just how cold and belligerent she is and, more importantly, the few occasions when she shows off a gentler, more human side by laughing at someone’s joke or failing to contain a smile. When the game is focusing on Michonne and letting us guide her toward or away from her deeply buried humanity is when it’s at its strongest.
Unfortunately, the first episode spends a lot of time focusing on people who are not Michonne and just aren’t that interesting to begin with. Other Telltale series flesh out the side characters by giving them little quirks and providing opportunities for them to shine. The supporting cast of Michonne is entirely forgettable so far. You have a man who says nasty things because he’s a jerk who feeds off causing chaos. You have that one guy who sees the worst in humanity and and tries to convince you that people are garbage, and another dude who’s always talking about how life isn’t worth living if we can’t trust the people around us. These characters aren’t so much people as they are flashing neon signs telling you the state of The Walking Dead’s world: miserable with only a little ray of hope shining in.
The Walking Dead: Michonne takes its time, for better or worse. Set between issues 126 and 139 of the comic book, Michonne and the group of sailors who have taken her in after she’s been separated from Rick’s group are trying to figure out why their boat isn’t moving and how to fix it. True to her character, Michonne isn’t that chatty, with players offered only a few, brief responses in conversations that range from “mildly sympathetic” to “Stop talking to me if you want to keep your limbs.”
Luckily, many of these dull segments are spiced up a bit by action sequences that rely on quick-time events. While they aren’t that different from similar sequences in The Wolf Among Us or the second season of The Walking Dead, they are violently satisfying, with Michonne lopping heads off in every direction and proving herself as one of the deadliest killers around. Samira Wiley (who plays Poussey Washington in Orange is the New Black) does a fantastic job voicing Michonne, filling nearly every line in or out of battle with a mixture of rage and sorrow that sells her characterization as a modern-day rōnin.
In its last half hour, the episode amps up the tension considerably with malice-packed conversations and a series of standoffs that test the fragile alliances you’ve built up over the first hour, so that you get at least a little payoff for your patience. These later scenes actually had me concerned for Michonne and what lies ahead for her, not because I’m afraid she’ll die. Instead I worry because my choices might result in whatever brief traces of humanity are left in her being snuffed out, giving way to a ruthless and miserable killing machine.
While this first episode is a bit rocky and uneven, it ends strong, raising the stakes and setting the stage for the other two episodes. The Walking Dead: Michonne still has time to hit its stride, make something out of its supporting cast, and creating a journey worthy of its fascinating protagonist.
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