The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode Five: Under the Gallows Review

From the Gallows stumbles to its conclusion much like the walkers that finally appear in this concluding episode of Telltale Games’ A New Frontier. While this closing act ties all the dangling plotlines into a neat bow, the fiery promise of its predecessors sputters out due to some odd dramatic choices. Everything plays out too predictably and is too indulgent of Walking Dead franchise cliches to be particularly satisfying to those who have followed the travails of Javi Garcia and his erstwhile flame (and sister-in-law) Kate since Episode One arrived just before last Christmas.

Of course, it’s hard to properly critique From the Gallows without delving into the narrative that unfolds in this episode. The story picks up precisely where the last episode, Thicker Than Water, concluded. The fortress town of Richmond has just exploded into civil war with a gunfight on the streets. Kate has accidentally plowed a stolen truck into a wall, allowing a herd of zombies into the heart of the city–and apparently killing herself in the resulting explosion. In short, everything has gone completely to hell.

Or has it? Kate is soon seen none the worse for wear, despite riding an exploding truck into a wall that’s soon overrun by zombies. The wild gun battle abruptly ends as everyone runs away from the incoming walkers. Walking Dead and general action-movie cliches come fast and furiously. Your core group of survivors flee across rooftops in scenes that evoke moments from earlier Telltale seasons, as well as those from early episodes of the TV series. Javi uses zombie guts as camouflage to walk between zombies. The guy you think is going to die does die, almost immediately after a dialogue sequence that concludes any unfinished business hanging over the plot from the last episode. He might as well be wearing a red shirt and beaming down to a planet with Captain Kirk.

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Disappointingly, the big showdown between Javi and David is a huge letdown. These two hate each other, and they’re both in love with the same woman, so you expect fireworks. Instead, you get pretty much nothing. Even after it’s fully revealed that Kate is in love with Javi and wants nothing to do with her hothead hubby, the brothers do nothing more than get into a brawl that’s capped by David taking off in a truck with his son Gabe. You can’t help but be disappointed, especially if you take the high road and refuse to fight back, honoring the wishes expressed by your father in the opening prologue.

Even worse, David dies offscreen. The truck gets overwhelmed by zombies. David gets bitten. Gabe has to finish off his dad. All of this is recounted to you via a dialogue scene when Gabe returns–which, of course, ruins any sense of closure to the story between Javi and David that’s been the underpinning of this entire season. It’s all wrapped up by an oddly cold denouement. Javi and Kate go to David’s body, she pulls off his Army dog tags, and then buries them without a word of eulogy. She even leaves her wedding ring on the dirt. David was a complete jerk through all of A New Frontier, to the point that you were clearly meant to root for Javi and Kate to get together, but this ending comes off cold to the point of being cruel. For the first time in the season, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the guy.

This whole sequence may well change depending on a choice you make to either stay with Kate when she goes to help Richmond or go off in pursuit of David and Gabe–or if you chose earlier on to avoid any sort of commitment to Kate. Multiple replays are likely needed to unveil everything. But there’s no way that David should be allowed to die off-screen no matter what choices are made by the player. The feud between the brothers and the love triangle between them and Kate plays too big a part in this season for this to ever occur. And it’s pretty likely to happen to most players, given how much it makes sense for you to stay with Kate at the end considering the growing relationship–and how much the natural ending of the game is for Javi and Kate to wind up together.

With all that said, From the Gallows isn’t entirely frustrating. The happy ending with Javi and Kate will be really satisfying to shippers rooting for them all along, especially given how few of these moments occur in the Walking Dead universe. There’s a lot of action here too, mostly featuring Javi gunning down walkers. There isn’t much challenge involved, but it’s still nice to get more involved and to be directly threatened by a whole lot of undead for what’s really the first time this season.

Clementine is used reasonably well as a background character–which seems fitting, given that this isn’t her story. The writers do a great job of easing her into the supporting cast so that she remains a presence, but one that doesn’t overwhelm the real protagonists. The only oddity with Clem’s story comes at the very end, when she heads off into the sunset to find her lost surrogate son with no survival gear besides a pistol and a knife. All this conclusion needs is the sad piano music featured at the end of old episodes of The Incredible Hulk.

After a strong start, A New Frontier ends on a slightly weak note with From the Gallows. This season had its high points, and it remains well worth playing, especially if you’re a serious fan of the Walking Dead franchise, due to the generally superb dialogue, voice acting, and stylish comic-book visuals. But an overall lack of player interaction, too many cliches, and a lame, predictable climax that goes out with a whimper instead of a bang make the season much less memorable than it could’ve been.

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