The Walking Dead EP16: Training Day

  By Shamus   Jan 13, 2013   206 comments


Link (YouTube)

While re-watching the episode prior to writing this post, I found myself getting that gut-punch feeling again. Notwithstanding our talking over it and making jokes, this is a powerful sequence. It’s wonderfully written and acted.

For those asking what interactivity adds to a story: The scene where you shoot Duck is a pretty good example. You have to point a gun at a kid and make it happen. Compare this to games where your character kills someone in a cutscene and the player doesn’t have any input. It’s the difference between:

Lee shot Duck.

and…

I shot Duck.

Despite my childish joking around in this scene during the episode, this was an emotionally grueling scene for me. (And I made Ken do it in my playthrough.) I did find myself wondering if the stereotypical gamer (the 24 year old single male) would have an easier time with this than me. I’m just a little older than Kenny, and my youngest is about the same age as Duck. I found Kenny’s freak-out in the train to be annoying but understandable. Something like this will overload anyone’s coping mechanisms.


A Hundred!A Hundred!6206 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?


  1. Talby says:

    Too bad he didn’t live up to his namesake.

  2. As a married thirty-year old male without kids, I shot Duck BECAUSE it was easier for me than Kenny. I also shot Duck because I thought it would be easier for Lee than Kenny. It was rough, but I couldn’t rationalize it being any easier for Kenny to do it himself.

    • Torsten says:

      I had pretty much the same reasoning. I felt that Kenny and Katja had gone through enough, and neither should have to put out their son.

      I really liked how their roles played through to the end. Katja was always the most sensible member of the group, and even here she doesn’t go in denial but understands and accepts what is going to happen.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        “Accepts” is perhaps the wrong word to use. If she was able to truly accept it, she would not have killed herself. Clearly the anguish was too much for her to truly accept and move on with.

        It’s something that I can understand.

        • Isy says:

          More than just losing her son, she’s already “lost” her husband. watch how Kenny treats her in the start of episode 2: he dumps a clearly hopeless kid on her to fix, and then when she can’t ave him does he comfort her? Does he say “I know you did you best” or “I’m sorry, Katja?” Nope, he throws a temper tantrum and storms off, and in’t there for her when she’s attacked because he’s sulking in a corner.

          Look at how horrified she is to hear about Kenny using a girl a zombie bait. She’s crushed if you tell her how Kenny murdered Larry. It’s like she said to Lee: “We have to have a line.”

          I wonder if she’d been thinking about it for a while. Think of how uncomfortable she was around guns.

      • Neruz says:

        There’s also another reason to take the responsibility yourself rather than make Kenny do it; If i was genuinely Kenny’s friend I would not under any circumstances want him to be forced to kill his own family with his own hands. I’d much rather he blames me than he blames himself because there’s a chance he might recover from the former.

    • Soylent Dave says:

      As a 32 year old man with a child ho is somewhat older than Duck, my reasoning was very similar.

      It was very powerful scene; even though I wasn’t particularly friendly with Kenny, the horror of seeing him outlive his child was bad enough without making him be the one who pulled the trigger.

      This for me was one of the moments when the game turned from ‘good’ to ‘great’ – when I realised the game was capable of evoking some pretty powerful emotions in me.

    • ehlijen says:

      As someone who’d seen Kenny’s grudges before, I couldn’t do it for him. I was actually afraid he’d blame me of murdering duck down the line if I did it.

      • Jenson says:

        Yeah, that was my thinking as well. I felt bad for Kenny, I really did, but I just had a feeling this would bite me in the ass in the future. Not sure if it does, haven’t done a second play-through yet.

        • ehlijen says:

          I didn’t mean it as I feared his revenge. I meant more, he struck me as the kind of guy who holds parents to a very high standard of caring for their kids. And to me, that’d include not letting anyone ever shoot them, even if some messed up reason meant that was actually the right thing.

          I honestly thought if I did it for Kenny, he would see it as me murdering his son, not as me saving his son. He was the only one who could save duck from being a zombie, all I could have done was take his son away from him. That meant I couldn’t help him. Or so I felt anyway.

          • Thomas says:

            I saw it like that, but I thought the hate of Lee would be more positive for him than the complete mind collapse that I figured he’d suffer otherwise

          • Abnaxis says:

            Spoiler (Ep…4 I think?): That’s very close to true. He does get upset that you are the one who shot Duck, but he gets depressed because he feels he failed as a parent, not angry because he thinks you murdered Duck.

    • ehlijen says:

      As someone who’d seen Kenny’s grudges before, I couldn’t do it for him. I was actually afraid he’d blame me for murdering duck down the line if I did it.

    • Sector 47 says:

      Having just recently reread Of Mice and Men, it took me a few moments to decide to shoot Duck myself, because the entire sequence I was thinking of the old man (Candy I believe) telling George that he should have shot the dog himself.

  3. Tobias says:

    What happens when you say nothing when the question is who shoots?

  4. Annikai says:

    I know it’s been said here before but the Lily in the game isn’t the Lily in the comic any more because of a series of prequel novels. Basically in the second one they introduce Lily and she has a completely different backstory. There are some weird elements with it where the writer seems like he’s vaguely aware of the game but it’s generally uninteresting stuff like giving a black character that she hangs around the middle name Lee.

    As for killing Duck, as a 20 something I honestly couldn’t bare the thought of having a father kill his young kid so I did it for him. It was still one of the saddest scenes in the game and made the next episode’s scene all the more poignant.

  5. newdarkcloud says:

    This was indeed one of the most powerful scenes I’ve seen in a video game. I will unashamably admit that I was bawling my eyes out watching it unfold.

    Rutskarn, I know you corrected yourself in the same breath, but I honestly don’t see killing Duck yourself as a “hardcore survivalist” decision. My logic going in was the no parent should ever have to kill their own kid. I should do my best to alleviate their suffering by taking on a bit of their heartache. That’s why I told Kenny I would do it both times.

    Secondly, while I was really sold on that scene, it is also the scene that destroyed my illusion of choice. Anything I did involving Lilly, Katjaa, or Duck no longer matter past this point. That’s when I realized this was the game in the driver’s seat and doing things at the writer’s convenience, not me imparting my own spirit onto the world.

    • StashAugustine says:

      Agreed on both points. On the second one, I came to that realization after I’d finished the episode. From the buzz back during the ME3 season, I’d expected this game to be the second coming of Alpha Protocol, and I was a little disappointed. Then I played Episodes 4 and 5 and really didn’t care if it was railroading me, because it was just that good.

  6. Spammy says:

    There’s two things that endeared me to Kenny. The first is when you’re in the pharmacy in Episode 1 and he pulls Lee aside because he knows he let Hershel’s son die and it’s tearing him apart. To everyone who went, “Kenny’s a jerk for not trying to save him,” well Kenny knows that too. The second was in the conductor’s compartment, “There ain’t no way the world lets my son live when I helped put someone else’s in the ground.”

    And I chose to shoot Duck myself. Not because I’m totally hardcore zombie survivalist, but because… I can’t make a father shoot his kid. If I’m not physically incapable of it I’m mentally incapable.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      Kenny is that kind of jerkass that I can completely rationalize and understand. I understand why he doesn’t want to accept that his kid is dying. I understand why he feels guilty and can’t move on. This is all very human stuff and a sign of great writing.

  7. SlowShootinPete says:

    This is one of the few scenes in any game that brings genuine tears to my eyes.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I shot duck myself,but it wasnt easy at all.I did it because I saw what a wreck kenny was,and I wouldnt want him to go have to do it himself.Also my lee was the strong one in the group,the glue that holds everyone together,so all the tough choices were mine and mine alone.

  9. Wedge says:

    I know anecdotes aren’t data, but I’m a twenty-something single male who plans to never have kids and I found this scene heartbreaking. I shot duck to spare Kenny from having to do it, and I had to remind myself it was a game just to get through it.

    All the false choice notwithstanding, this is where the game really came together for me. No other videogame I have played has ever made me feel so terrible for doing the right thing.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      Yeah, I can’t help but take a bit of offense at the idea someone in their early twenties wouldn’t be fazed by a father having to put down their own son, or having to do the same in their stead.

      I was pretty certain Katjaa wasn’t coming back from those woods, either, but when it actually happened it still hit me really hard. Actually it hit me a lot harder than I would have expected after seeing it coming.

      I’ve really got to compliment Chuck’s character here, too. When I confronted him at the front of the train, I was angry and expecting to rightly call him out on being an asshole. Then he lays down some really good, hard advice, and I felt kind of ashamed of myself after being told off.

      • SlowShootinPete says:

        The fact that there are people who wouldn’t feel any empathy about a scene where a father has to kill his son after his wife commits suicide should be a big red flag that something is deeply wrong with our society.

        • Colin L. says:

          Not saying that such a person can’t exist, but isn’t that a bit of a straw man? I’m not sure what you’re trying to say, but the “wrong with society” comment sounded like a “kids these days” sort of thing, and I don’t think we actually have sufficient evidence to support it. Based on anecdote, it would seem that everyone on the internet who has played the game has been emotionally affected by it.

          • SlowShootinPete says:

            Man, friggin’ people my age these days, jeez.

            I guess what I meant to say was it seems so wrong that there could be people who feel nothing when presented with this scenario. I understand that some of the people who played this game had trouble feeling emotionally invested with it, and I don’t mean to sound like I’m condemning that because that’s more a failure on the game’s part for them.

            • Duneyrr says:

              Schizoid personality disorder, or any disorder which can cause apathy, can keep you from being emotionally moved by something like this. It doesn’t have to be sociopathy.

              I’ve been struggling for years to empathize with others. It simply doesn’t come naturally for me. Caring about something that is not another living, breathing human would take way too much effort.

              I have never been, and probably never will be emotionally invested in a video game character, but that does not affect my ability to be kind or courteous, it doesn’t keep me from developing a system of morals, it doesn’t keep me from understanding that OTHER people can be deeply moved and involved by these kinds of characters and scenarios, it doesn’t keep me from respecting other peoples’ personal rights and freedoms, it doesn’t affect my ability to make logical decisions, and it doesn’t keep me from acknowledging good art or writing.

              I do think that this game is brilliantly written since it has been able to move so many people to make decisions based on emotion instead of logic. THAT is an accomplishment rarely seen.

              Anyway, I feel that rampant intolerance and greed are what is ‘wrong with society’ rather than otherwise upstanding people who happen to be apathetic.

              What I’m trying to say is, please take care with your assumptions.

        • zob says:

          So if I don’t get to empathize with a video game character (due to what I consider shitty writing) I am a horrible horrible person and our society is doomed.

          Do I need point out how stupid that sounds?

          • StashAugustine says:

            I think he was trying to respond to the assertion that killing Duck yourself is the “hardcore survivalist” option.

          • decius says:

            Hell, if you don’t feel a little bit sad discussing the story, in the absence of the characters, you’re not the kind of person I want voting for legislators.

            • zob says:

              This is more stupid than the other comment. “You don’t respond to emotional manipulation the way I do so I don’t want you voting”.

              You may delude yourself into thinking that you are a better person than others simply by caring about a make believe story more than others. Let me hit you with reality here. This is entertainment, what you are doing is self indulgence.

              • LunaticFringe says:

                As someone who has been called a sociopath for not feeling bad for the kid in Mass Effect 3, I completely agree with this. Different tastes people, let’s not let our entertainment choices dictate how we judge real-world individual morality.

              • Dasick says:

                I generally agree with you that these kinds of stories aren’t a good indicator of character, but stories can be more than just ‘make believe indulgence’.

                A well crafted story can make people gain experience applicable to their lives and to deeply understand another human being (the writer). I don’t even mean the morality fables that have a MESSAGE, merely by holding up a mirror of sorts to reality the author can reveal subtle aspects we never considered, or a clearer understanding of muddled concepts.

                For example, consider what The Lord of the Rings has to say about the nature of power, simply by telling a fictional story.

                • zob says:

                  Yes, some people may get different insight from their source of entertainment. I don’t think I questioned that. What I criticized was something entirely different.

        • Dasick says:

          Depends on the strength of the storytelling and how it’s handled. I can totally picture this as some sort of a dark-humour type-skit. Or a scene that is supposed to be profound, but makes you want to rip the gun out of the dad’s hands and kill the kid yourself, and then the dad (*cough* Mass Effect *cough* dead child *cough*)

      • Shamus says:

        You’re offended at the notion that age and parenthood impact your behavior?

        I didn’t say it would be “easy”, I said, “an easier time”. As in: Less hard.

        Come back once you’ve got a 10 year old of your own and see if this still offends you.

        • Hitchmeister says:

          I would have tried to convince Kenny to do it himself and would have hoped the games writing supported the idea that by that point it wasn’t about killing Duck, but helping Kenny understand that Duck was dead no matter what and and his father he should want to be the one to help Duck not come back as a walker. The last thing a real man can do for his son.

          You laughed about Katjaa not shooting Duck before killing herself, but I was expecting Lee and Kenny to hear a second gunshot while standing at the train and then going to find that Katjaa killed herself because she couldn’t deal with shooting Duck. Then it becomes about Kenny losing both because he couldn’t man up and deal with the situation.

          I realize there’s a lot of macho BS in what I’m writing here, but it’s a kind of BS in keeping with Kenny’s character. He probably couldn’t live up to it or believe it in his heart, but it’s something he could tell himself after the fact to live with what he’d done.

          • The Rocketeer says:

            Pretty dead on. Your saying it reminded me, but I expected the exact same thing from Katjaa; I was certain she wasn’t making it out of those woods, but the scene as it happened managed to take me by surprise anyway, which is definitely the mindset you need while playing that scene.

            Also, I’ve always thought that was the key to Kenny’s character: he’s not a bad guy, but he’s always driven by his momentary feelings rather than any sort of principles. He always acts how he thinks is right at that very second and then fills in the rationale for it as he goes along.

            While making Kenny look past his extremely strong, extraordinarily well-justified (yet still incorrect) gut instincts, and make a difficult decision based on hard facts he’d rather ignore is certainly an opportunity for growth in Kenny’s character… I don’t think that’s what they did here, but I can’t rightly fault them for not doing that, both because they did a lot of other stuff very right with this scene and because I’m not certain I’m not just pulling this stuff out of the air.

            • Paul Spooner says:

              He always acts how he thinks is right at that very second and then fills in the rationale for it as he goes along.
              Don’t we all? Especially under pressure.

              • Dasick says:

                That’s also how we get to *really* know people, what they do when they’re forced to make a decision under pressure.

              • The Rocketeer says:

                Not at all, actually. Under duress, anyone is liable to act rashly, but a principled individual will at minimum be able to point out after the fact how they would have acted differently if they had had a clearer head.

                Kenny has none of this, and playing through can actually demonstrates it pretty well. If you’ve stuck by Kenny and he likes you well, you can tell him you’re a murderer and he will act as though it is such a trifling non-issue that you are silly for even feeling the need to breach the subject. If Kenny dislikes you, and Lily lets the cat out of the bag after offing one of your teammates, he will practically never trust you again. Alone, each might seem reasonable, but having seen both it’s obvious he just accepts or condemns people and their actions based primarily on whether they’re his bud or not. It bears out through a lot of other scenes, too: his dealings with Lily earlier on, his valuing his son in defiance or to the detriment of others, his utter single-mindedness about his genius plan from this point forward.

                Now, that’s not to say that he’s always unreasonable. His defense of his family is, in particular, perfectly identifiable. But I think it’s telling that his first notable action in the game, running off with Duck and leaving Hershel’s son to die, is so characteristic of Kenny’s major failing, and one so grand that even he acknowledges it nearly immediately, despite the bullheaded self-certitude he carries through the entire game.

                This is the reason so many people say that Kenny’s likable, or a good guy, despite doing so many things that are self-defeating, stupid, and downright wrong: any single thing he does can be rationalized, justified, or forgiven. But over a long enough span of time, it becomes obvious he has no fortitude of character and no moral compass.

                TL;DR Kenny is chaotic neutral, INT 8, CHA 12

          • carrigon says:

            This. Also, I’m a few months younger than Shamus, a Southerner with a 7yr old son so I couldn’t help but put myself in Kenny’s shoes. At the same time, my Lee saw that while it would be devastating for Kenny to pull the trigger in the short term, in the long term it would be better for Kenny if he did it himself.

            Regardless, a truly devastating scene and beautifully done. And yes, tears.

        • The Rocketeer says:

          Hey, now. No need for that. I just misunderstood what you meant.

          About once an episode you’ve (rightly) lambasted the idea of the callous “hardcore” mindset some people take into this game. I thought this was what you meant when you said “the stereotypical gamer.” Just didn’t like feeling lumped in with that lot.

        • Mersadeon says:

          I am 20, and I agree. For someone without kids and in my age, it probably is less hard. I actually shot Duck myself because of exactly that – because I thought that for me (and by extension, Lee) it would be slightly less traumatic than for Kenny, who would have to shoot his own son right after loosing Katjaa. I just couldn’t let the poor guy do it. I didn’t know what would happen if I let the timer run out. I thought he would take the gun out of my hand and do it, or that duck would get up and try to eat someone. If I had known, I probably would have walked away.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        I felt the same when I talked to Chuck after what he said to Clem. After he confronted me over having no plan and basically improvising the whole time, I had to admit that he was right and completely justified.

        • Deadyawn says:

          Chuck was absolutely right in that scene but as it is, that’s the main reason I don’t like it that much. For the most part Lee is pretty flexible in how he can approach any given situation and although there is little real lasting consequence it still gives the semblance of involvement. Here though, Lee is always going to be angry talking to chuck and he is always going to recant when he realizes Chuck was justified in calling him out on his lack of a plan.

          None of it is unreasonable but I felt that, unlike most of the game, I didn’t really have the full range of options which kind of drew me out a bit. Not because “You’re Choices Matter” but because I didn’t even really have the choice in a game where I usually did. Even just giving Lee a way to be more curious than angry about what Chuck said would have been enough.

          It’s nothing major but it seemed a bit incongruous.

          • silver Harloe says:

            actually, I wanted a way to remain angry at him. My response would’ve been, “You think I don’t have a plan? Tell ME that. Don’t go telling her she’s gonna die.”

    • Jokerman says:

      I Will admit to not finding this scene as tough as others in the game, i was much more affected by the end of ep.5. I have no kids, didn’t really feel a huge connection with Duck. I felt much more sorry for Kenny, it was like a friends kid was about to die – i shot duck, had too…..could not let Kenny do it. A few decisions in this game i made really fast without a second thought….this was one, leaving Lilly on the side of the road was another.

  10. The Rocketeer says:

    Fun Fact: When Rutskarn made his comment at ~10:30, I was eating a bag of M&M’s from an MRE.

  11. zob says:

    Game developers try not to include scenes that ends up with player shooting a kid. And when then try, publishers usually rein them back. Telltale managed to pull “a kid died” successfully (for more people). Kudos to them.

    Personally I wasn’t caring about characters or story at this point. So I can’t agree with “great emotional moment when it comes to games” comment.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      If you do not mind my asking, can you explain exactly what took you out of game and out of the scene? I am curious.

      • zob says:

        To be honest it’s not a single moment. But the last straw was the woman outside the pharmacy. She died in such a stupid way, (and to a invisible ninja zombie hiding under the car no less) just to provide a “difficult moral dilemma”. I was out.

        After that Duck started hanging around Lee. I saw it as his death sentence. Because thats what hack writers do. When they suddenly flesh out a previously unimportant/unmentioned NPC in a distinctly positive way you can be pretty sure the guy in the question is going to kick the bucket. Then came the stupid shootout and madness of Lilly.

        Later I choose to do it myself when the question arose. Kat and Ken went to the forest to say their goodbyes. Then Kat killed herself in front of Ken and Duck. Sheer stupidity of the scene put me out. I’m not arguing about Kat’s suicide, I can understand that. But Duck was alive at that point. Duck’s last memory of life is his mother exploding her brains in front of him. No loving mother would do that to her child.

        • newdarkcloud says:

          Y’know, I can understand that. As I have been saying for awhile, Episode 3 for me in its totality is where the illusion of choice and narrative broke for me. It’s when I began to see how the writers were engineering events.

          I don’t dislike it as much as you seem to, although I can totally understand where you are coming from.

          I will say that this kind of writing is still worlds better than a certain other game we were talking about last season.

          • Dasick says:

            It’s when I began to see how the writers were engineering events.

            Telling a great story is a long and an expensive, and incredibly difficult task by itself. Is it really realistic expecting a product to have several of such stories, distinct if similar, available to you based on your choices?

            • StashAugustine says:

              As I said above, my only real complaint (aside from episode 2 being really stupid and Kenny dying for no good reason my only complaint was that during the ME3 season, everyone was claiming this as the second coming of Alpha Protocol. What I got was Mass Effect: Absurdly Dark And Better Written Edition: Also, Zombies. Given that I liked Mass Effect, I can live with that, but it’s not how I was sold on it, and given the “story is tailored to how you play” notice, it’s not how the devs sold it either.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    About the train startup:
    Consider that there is only one body,probably of the conductor himself.And the paper with the actual instructions was torn off.So logically he wrote those down for someone with less skill.Maybe his son or someone like that.

  13. X2-Eliah says:

    Hm. Soo… I guess Kenny will die / leave in the next or second-next SW episode? I really can’t see him hanging on to this group for longer, when everyone reminded him of Duck’s death.
    “Why couldn’t it be clementine and not my son?”
    “Why didn’t lee do a better job of keeping the Z’s away?”
    “Why did that creepy teen strike the damn deal with the bandits and cause all this?”

    On a lighter note, soon the repeat season of F3 SW with little lamlight should arrive. A kid doesn’t die there, but all the hosts are very vocally advocating that they should be able to kill him. Just a nice juxtaposition between that and this, imo.

  14. silver Harloe says:

    To be fair about the meta-gaming rant of Rutskarn’s – Duckpocalypse is mentioned by the developers as an easter egg, and only about 5% of players encountered it on their own… for all practical purposes it “always” takes Duck a while longer to die.

    I “fought” Kenny, too, sorta. I let him punch me until he was bored of it. I didn’t know I could talk him down, and I figured maybe he needed a release.

    • Colin L. says:

      Yeah, I can understand the frustration, but personally I didn’t feel cheated watching the Duck as a Zombie sequence here. To me it seems like a quick way to represent the consequences of not dealing with Kenny’s denial, rather than a realistic scenario which would happen in a normal play through.

      • Thomas says:

        I thought Kenny would hold it against me later on and throw it back in my face if I shot his son. Whatever the case, I don’t know if you can ever really be true friends again with a person who did that to someone of yours, no matter how irrational, because it will always hang between you.

        But I figured I could take Kenny’s hate and sacrifice his friendship if that was what was required to stop him going through something as painful as this

        EDIT: Came up in the wrong place -_-

      • Viktor says:

        They could have done it better, though. Lee comes back, “He won’t stop the train”, convo with Katja, some lines with Clem, Katja borrows your gun, shoots herself, you walk over, look at her body, Duck bites your neck. You could draw it out without much effort if you wanted to.

        • Thomas says:

          Or just have a time skip cut. Kenny locks you out, cut to everyone in the carriage looking nervous, Katja clutching Duck and then he turns and stop there.

          But it’s a lot of effort for a non-standard game over thats very hard to get non deliberately and really is just a bit of fun

    • krellen says:

      I kind of wish there was a third option represented, to differentiate between “fought Kenny” and “let Kenny beat Lee up” (I also just let him punch.)

  15. MrGuy says:

    Don’t worry, Shamus. I’m sure we can find some more puns.

    We’ve been training with Rutskarn for some time now.

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Its a shame larry isnt here to see that we so would shoot a child if they were bitten.That would shut him up for good.

    • MrGuy says:

      Apparently you’ve never met Larry.

      “So, the Macon killer strikes again, huh?” or
      “Well, you took your sweet time about it” or
      “So, you did it, huh. I wasn’t sure you could handle a little boy.”

      Larry is insufferability incarnate.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        No no no no no no no. You have it all wrong!

        This would be the part where Larry grows a conscience (for exactly one scene) and goes: “WHY THE FUCK DID YOU KILL THE KID!? YOU FUCKING MURDERER! I KNEW I SHOULD HAVE KILLED YOU WHEN I HAD THE CHANCE!”

        Because he’s an idiot like that.

    • The Nick says:

      Saltlicks also will shut him up for good.

  17. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    1.) I thought the manual being hand-written was a stretch, but the existence of a checklist for starting the train strikes me as entirely reasonable.

    2.) “Internet tough guys” aside, there is the “Old Yeller” argument: a man shoots his own dog -or in this case, son.

    3.) Yeah, I can’t quite understand why Katjaa would make such a point of going into the woods this way and then not shooting Duck before killing herself.

    • MrGuy says:

      I think 3 is pretty understandable. She’d spent the past hours preparing herself for this moment. She knew the score, knew what had to be done, and had prety much already made up her own mind that she’d do it herself. She was intellectually prepared.

      Them she got out in the woods, put the gun to her son’s head, and couldn’t bring herself to do it. She couldn’t accept it. Couldn’t deal with.

      It’s in a way similar to (and considerably less creepy than) (ep 5) the stranger cutting off his walker-fied wife’s head and carrying it around in a bowling bag. You can know what the zombie virus does intellectually and not be prepared to do what’s necessary emotionally.

    • silver Harloe says:

      I could’ve sworn “a man’s gotta shoot his own dog” was from Of Mice and Men rather than Old Yeller, and specifically the scene both provided the moral lesson to George so he could make the hard decision later, and foreshadowed the ending to the readers. I remember completely missing the point of the dog in when reading the book in high school, but when I saw Sinise’s movie version, immediately getting the connection between shooting the dog and the ending. Though, admittedly, I don’t remember a thing from Old Yeller and he may have also been shot.

      edit: according to wikipedia, he was, indeed, also shot. Lesson learned, though I still think the Of Mice and Men dog shooting is more applicable to this game because of the specific lead-up of someone volunteering to shoot him, and the owner regretting not taking it upon himself. Like Kenny should have done with Duck.

      • StashAugustine says:

        “The MI takes care of its own.”

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          I debated citing Starship Troopers as well, but went with Old Yeller because rabies seemed the better comparison to the zombie virus, and shooting is different from hanging.

          Nonetheless, it is the same sentiment.

      • Thomas says:

        I disagree with the sentiment though. Its a powerful idea, but I think it’s one the doesn’t work in real life. I’m thinking particularly about that time sf-debris was doing that episode where the Star Trek Doctor had a virtual son who had a terminal illness (Star Trek hey) and he chose not to run the program rather than see the son die. And people felt he should have played it out to the end because it was his son and it would make it complete, sort of his duty to see it through.

        And then the sf-debris guy told the story about how for a second he’d thought one of his children had died in hospital, and actually it was just a pain no-one should have to go through and if there was anyway to avoid it then that was the right answer

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          I remember the episode and was unpersuaded -at least in part.

          Yes, it is better to avoid such pains in real life, but in real life you can’t turn off the program. In the case of the doctor, the question is whether turning off the program is just turning off the program, or is it more analagous to refusing to watch a loved one die because it is too hard, regardless of the obligations to the dying. This is analagous to the arguments here about whether “turning off the game” is a legitimate response to Spec Ops: The Line, or if it is a cop-out by the developers.

          In this case, as turning off the program is not an option for Kenny, the question is whether Kenny has an obligation to do it himself. Duck must be shot to be rendered harmless and to put him out of his misery. Does Kenny have a responsibility as his father to do it himself, or is this simply a task that must be done and anyone can do it? Could Kenny legitimately delegate any other parental duty simply on the grounds that it’s difficult? Or is it not his responsibility?

          Compare and contrast Ned Stark from Game of Thrones.

          • Thomas says:

            It happens anyway, the result is the same. I think unless you really see the level of pain it’s easier to form these high concepts and weigh them.

            Like how we’ve got sayings like ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ and have the idea of character building moments and then when it happens you realise what doesn’t kill you really hurts and leaves you weak and scarred.

            I was one of the people who thought the doctor should have seen it through to make it real but I completely u-turned when I heard sf-debris guy’s (chuck?) comments

          • Dasick says:

            This is analagous to the arguments here about whether “turning off the game” is a legitimate response to Spec Ops: The Line

            Given that Spec Ops gives you no other option rather than do the things it will condemn you for, the only right thing to do, by the game’s set of morals anyways, is not to play.

            Which is rather dishonest/hypocritical for a game that costs $60.

    • decius says:

      A checklist for starting the train wouldn’t just be reasonable, it would be accurate to life.

      • anaphysik says:

        A checklist? Yes, absolutely. A *pictographic* one, written out on a notepad (rather than, say, printed in a manual)? That’s just kind of silly.

        • Zombie says:

          Maybe this guy thought the manual was dry and boring, and instead of having to go through like a hundred pages to to figure how to start his train he wrote down just what he needed. That’s what I would do

        • Duneyrr says:

          I make pictographs for myself when I have to perform a series of tasks. When I do dramatic readings, for instance, I draw little dynamic stick figures (as if the characters are acting on my script) to help with the inflection.
          Also, if I’m playing puzzle games, I usually have a notepad with little diagrams sketched out.

    • Isy says:

      Oddly enough, in my playthrough, she didn’t. She and Ken went together, and then Lee heard a shot and ran up to find Katja dead and Kenny sobbing. I have no idea what I did differently to cause that.

      I once read an article noting that the most impulsive means of suicide – gunshots, jumping, etc – are also the most lethal. It took, at most, one second for Katjaa to put the gun to her head and pull the trigger. One second of despair.

      More generally, suicidal people aren’t really known for their rational thinking.

  18. Bentusi16 says:

    Unrelated to the main thing:

    I saw banang! Banaaaaang!

    In the cup holder of the RV.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvbtcCpWf-w For those who don’t know.

  19. Thomas says:

    Okay laugh at my naivety, but through the entirety of the game I thought Chuck was the train conductor (or a train driver or engineer). Even when he says that he doesn’t have a home and likes to move around a lot, I chose to read that as why he decide to become a train conductor =D

    As Shamus said, it’s the apocalypse, I didn’t think scruffy clothes were remarkable

  20. Jokerman says:

    You are getting through this game real quick, much faster than i did.

  21. HiEv says:

    OMG, you guys let so many perfectly good puns go to waste!

    Zom-bees!

    Shamus saying of the train engineer, “I’m sure he had training.”

    Rutskarn using train puns to “condition Jabar to a certain kind of behavior.” He was trying to train him.

    And you didn’t even make a “dead Duck” or “Duck hunt” joke? That’s comedy gold right there!

  22. Even says:

    If you ask me, 18 is still barely an adult. The legal definitions don’t really count for individual maturity. Most may be well enough to be able to take care of themselves in a civilized world, but I doubt most others his age would be much better off in a zombie apocalypse where all of their friends and family are dead (as it is with Ben in all likelyhood and as far as he’s concerned). The key difference between an 18-year-old soldier and an 18-year-old civilian is that the soldier is conditioned and trained to deal with the emotional baggage.

    Another issue is of course that you’d think that he and most other characters would have had the time to come to terms with the nature of the apocalypse and maybe shift into a more survival-oriented outlook during the three months at the motel. If you’d rather not learn through personal experience, then be taught by someone with experience. Failing to see the obvious things about Ben during those three months is a lot bigger failing by the group leader(s) than any of his.

    Edit: Duh, forgot that he was there only a few weeks. Still, that should be more than enough time to get the basic picture of his character. Unless he just lied to them and was able to maintain a constant air of competence off-screen, it just seems really weird that all his fumblings come as a surprise to the group.

    • Thomas says:

      It was one week I believe. And during that time his main responsibility was to sit on a chair and keep look out. Even then Kenny didn’t think highly of him “You might as well put up a sign saying ‘the men are gone'”

      And then after a week everything with Lilly happens and we’re straight the way to here

    • ehlijen says:

      And yet, before we got this fancy modern civilisation, people were considered adults by their mid teens.

      It’s not a question of age or even personality, but of upbringing. If you have no choice but to grow up, you do. In today’s world, you are given every opportunity to remain immature. That also makes live more pleasant, so good or bad, take your pick.

  23. Cannibalguppy says:

    I just finished The walking dead and its my game of the year for 2012. I have never cried from a game before but the ending made me cry alot. Wow. I want more of this!

  24. Thomas says:

    Also The Walking Dead wasn’t banned in Germany. At least not in the same way Saints Row 3 unedited is, because I could download it over Steam whilst in the country

  25. LunaticFringe says:

    I killed Duck because I was still under the ‘your choices matter’ illusion and thought that having to kill his own son might drive Kenny over the edge a la Katjaa. I had mercy-killed at every opportunity previously as well. The Clementine scene is great as well, I really enjoyed how the game makes you justify your behaviour to Clementine, almost like it’s trying to see if you’ll conform to specific social and moral standards because of her. Someone mentioned in a previous comments section that most people stop punching Danny on the farm once people are watching, and I think that perfectly sums up how the game attempts to use social interaction and group behaviour to affect your choices.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      That’s a strange reasoning to me because, as I said above, this scene was enough to shatter the illusion that my choices mattered when combined with the previous scene regarding Lilly and the pharmacy survivor. Basically all of the original cast sans Kenny and Clem are removed from the story at this point and its a whole new ball game. We are essentially beginning anew.

      That realization broke the illusion for me.

      • LunaticFringe says:

        I had actually thought that the death of Carley/Doug (Dougley?) was the result of my previous choices. I assumed that Lily had become paranoid because I had helped kill Larry, and if I hadn’t helped Kenny she would’ve been more stable. When she killed Dougley because she saw them as a threat to the group I saw it as the game attempting to draw a parallel to how I killed Larry for similar reasons. I was basically giving the game way too much credit at that point and only figured out the illusion in Episode 4.

  26. Ateius says:

    You know what’s amazing about this scene? Some kid died.

    And we CARED.

    Take notes, Bioware.

    • Spammy says:

      It wasn’t Some Kidd, it was Duck.

      • Jenson says:

        Indeed. We actually bonded with Duck (he thought I was super awesome :'() and got time to know him. They didn’t just drop some kid(tm) in and expect us to care based on the sole fact he’s a kid.

        • ehlijen says:

          Too bad that in episode 5, duck comes back as a psychic projection of the zombie overmind to offer Lee three poorly explained choices of how to merge humanity and zombiekind into one glorious hybrid species. But it doesn’t matter because either choice will make all train stations explode

      • newdarkcloud says:

        That’s the difference here. Some Kidd (I am glad people are using that) is an artificial construct pulled from Bioware’s collective asshole. We spend only a few moments with him and those moments are filled with a cryptic, ultimately irrelevant exchange that only nobody cared about, yet marked the story henceforth.

        Duck is Kenny’s kid that we have come to know over the course of 4-5 hours. He has a personality and character of his own. Also, he know him not just by out bond with him but by the bond he has with his parents, whom we have also come to know. This kid isn’t a construct, but a person with a life. He even became our Dick Grayson for a time to solve a case of disappearing supplies. This makes his life being cut tragically short all the more painful and hard to bear.

        • Zombie says:

          Really, just giving Duck a nickname with a back story behind it is better than what Bioware did with Some Kidd. I understood that Duck wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but his parents loved him, and it was gut rending when you have to kill him, because you know that Kenny’s family is now in some forest, just lying there, waiting for zombies to eat them. Happy thought for the day right there.

  27. For some reason, when the hobo appeared, my first thought was “whoa, it’s Harlan Ellison!”

  28. Zombie says:

    I always assumed Ben was like a Freshmen in college or something. Which made me really disappointed with him until he demanded that he be sacrificed for the rest of the group in Crawford. After that I like him in a sorta little brother who consistently messes up sorta way.

  29. John the Savage says:

    On the interactivity: Metal Gear Solid 3 has a similar scene. As much flak as Kojima gets for the heavy emphasis on cutscenes, he knows when interactivity is crucial to his stories.

    Also, you mentioned the cinematography of these games. So many MOVIES can’t even get that kind of cinematography going. I am a diehard Les Mis fan, but HATED the recent movie, because it was all shot in that terrible shot/reverse shot style. Even when characters are singing to each other. Even when one of those characters is dying in the others arms. Even when there was a third character who also required focus, and going shot/reverse shot would have required an incredibly awkward rotation of close-ups between three stationary characters. The director Tom Hooper was fresh off his Oscar win for The King’s Speech and couldn’t figure out how to fit TWO WHOLE ACTORS onto the same screen.

  30. Spencer Petersen says:

    At 1:14
    BANAAAANG!
    and Ben is 18, he says so if you remain silent after Chuck refers to him as a kid.

    And I’m surprised Rutskarn or someone else didn’t yell that Some Kid died

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Presumably because there’s really no comparison to be made. They are orders of magnitude apart in terms of pathos.

      • Dasick says:

        Here’s the question I want to ask, what sets the two apart?

        Would it be better if there was an equally ham-fisted sequence where you have to kill or make a choice that effectively dooms Some Kidd, not just watch him die?

        • AyeGill says:

          It would be better if you actually interacted with Some Kidd in any way beyond a thirty-second exchange in the first mission. If the game had done ANYTHING to make you care about him.

          • Dasick says:

            Well, that was more of application of Shamus’ statement up top, and an attempt to dissect a similar case.

            What is it that makes Duck’s case sympathetic, yet Mr. Kidd is an annoyingly obvious attempt at manipulating the audience? What element, or combination of elements, is the core that makes TWD work? Would it work just as well in ME3 if that element was incorporated there?

            In the previous threads someone suggested that it was the interactivity that makes it work, hence the question – would ME3’s attempt be improved simply by the virtue that it was asking the player to kill, or cause the death of, Some Kidd?

            • Flock Of Panthers says:

              I know we’re focussing on the high concept here -interactivity and choice- but I really feel it comes down to which game actually made a Character, and which made a transparent and clumsy plot device.

              Duck is a character we have seen around for nearly 3 full episodes. They ratcheted up the emotional attatchment pretty severely earlier in this episode, but he was a character who was present -with a name, personality, family and history- for almost all of the game so far.

              Comparatively, Some Kidd was a plot device slapped in front of us for one scene. No character, no name, no history, no emotional attatchment.

              I feel that the difference between the two instances has a lot more to do with basic storytelling (and would work the same in prose, film, theatre) than anything specific to the interactive medium.

              The Duck scene is enhanced by the medium, but the largest difference between that and Some Kidd is really just effort on the part of the writers.

  31. czhah says:

    02:30 Maybe the train was being operated by an intern, with no previous job experience. “Have you ever driven one of these things before? Well, we don’t have time to teach you, so we left you a note. Hope you skimmed through the orientation packet!”

  32. Gruhunchously says:

    I would say that the whole Duck scene was very tastefully done, far more so than…pretty much anything in Mass Effect. It was all very understated; no overbearing orchestral music trying desperately to yank your heartstrings, no artificial emotional cues, nothing. It’s like the developers realized that the scene’s content was heavy enough to stand on it’s own, and that the audience didn’t need to be told when it was time to be sad by outside means. And it just feels so much more ‘real’ as a result.

  33. The Nick says:

    It turns out saltlicks shut him up for good, too.

  34. anaphysik says:

    @Campster: Staying silent also leads to certain death during the bandit attack at the beginning of Ep3 (you have to keep them talking or they’ll just execute Lee). The big difference here is that “Duckpocalypse” is an intentional (& goofy) easter egg. The bandit attack is just a straight-up ‘you get shot in the head’ failure state.

  35. anaphysik says:

    In defense of the ‘why can’t we use a melee weapon to kill Duck’… (E4) Episode 4 totally lets Lee do that, with the kid-walker in the attic that reminds Kenny of Duck (& causes Kenny to shut down), where once again there’s the option of Kenny kills/Lee kills (& presumably you leave them there, in which it’s unclear if he’s killed or not, perhaps even by Christa). You can shoot him, use your train-tool on him, or stomp his head.

  36. Gordon says:

    A touch that I really liked from a metagame perspective was how in the same shot where we first meet Chuck, the game autosaves. Even subconsciously, that puts people playing this game in the “Oh snap danger” mode, which is exactly right for what Lee would be feeling. excellent use of medium.

    • Abnaxis says:

      You know, I was looking at that scene in the video and wondering why the heck my danger sense went up in that seen in retrospect. I think you might be on to something, here…

  37. Thomas says:

    One of the curious features about this whole segment is Duck never speaks (I think) and barely anyone speaks to Duck

    • newdarkcloud says:

      Keep in mind that Duck is seriously ill. I doubt he even has the strength to speak.

      • Thomas says:

        Yeah I didn’t mean as ‘this doesn’t make sense’ just that thats how they chose to use the bite. Contrast with the lady who was bitten in Ep 1. They had free reign for how they wanted to do it and they chose to do it like this.

        People not talking to Duck is even more interesting to that. I’m not sure but I don’t think theres a moment where someone speaks to him either.

        It’s not wrong, it’s just different. There were a lot of ways they could have written it and they chose this one

    • anaphysik says:

      However, I’m pretty sure Duck does make /sound/. Hoarse breathing, etc, driving in the fact that Duck is not well. Not well at all.

    • Adam says:

      They establish partway through Episode 1 that Quiet!Duck means something’s wrong. After he almost gets bitten he shuts up until the very end of the ep when you’re setting up shop in the motel. As soon as I saw him curled up in his mom’s arms as opposed to ricocheting off the walls of the RV, I knew something was wrong.

  38. Dasick says:

    The Duck situation reminds me of the Dead Island trailer.

  39. impassiveimperfect says:

    Hey, Shamus, I’m not hating or anything, and I’m still a fan of all the stuff here, but…as someone going through the game fairly slowly (other things to do at the moment), scrolling down the front page and seeing in big fat italics

    LEE/I KILLED DUCK

    kind of spoils things a bit for me down the (currently very long) road.

    Right now I mostly come to the site for the Fallout season (I didn’t see it the first time), and I was scrolling down to see if S3E4 had more comments, when I saw those lines.

    Can’t you do the page break after the first paragraph or something? Thanks :'(

  40. impassiveimperfect says:

    It’s cool :)

    When I checked the site again just now (because I check it…maybe more often than I really need to), I saw that the post as it appears on the front page had been changed, and I thought to myself “what a swell guy”.

    And I also saw the next episode of SW Fallout 3, so I’m pretending that it was posted early to make up for this.

    Off-topic, but I might not get the opportunity to say it elsewhere; I really enjoyed The Witch Watch and what exists of Fall From the Sky.

    Stay forever hip and with it,
    A fan

    (This turned out more email-like than I wanted.)

  41. Nytzschy says:

    I wasn’t following Chris’s point about getting turned around by the camera in the boxcar, but now that I’ve seen this episode I can see that it’s a serious point: apparently even Lee is affected, as he was completely surprised by a single zombie standing at the other end of an empty boxcar because of the camera angles.

  42. So one thing that bothers me in this game is the way the zombie virus works and how people react to it.

    Ben comes in Episode 2 and tells us it’s not he bite that gets people, it’s when you die, or after rather. In the end, scratched or no, we all turn. Okay, cool, I buy that. But then you have people like Duck who get bitten and suddenly everyone’s all “Oh crap, we have to kill them before they turn!” No, no, he’s not “turning”, he’s dying from blood loss and a putrid infection from a decaying, zombie maw. Technically in an ideal situation, that should be treatable (depending on the severity of the wound of course).

    Duck will be gone; the shell that is his body will reanimate. It’s not like you’re saving him from a fate worse than death because he’ll already be dead and gone from this world. Just put a bullet in the brain after he takes his last breath to keep the corpse from doing anything. Why put yourself through the anguish of actually killing him?

    • StashAugustine says:

      It’s a little fuzzy on how fast corpses reanimate, and it’s a little hard to tell when he’s definitively dead. Plus, Duck is probably only minutes away from death when he’s shot.

    • Steve C says:

      Mercy killing comes up in combat situations. The Geneva conventions are clear that mercy killing is wrong. I’m not so sure. I would say it is the “incorrect” thing to do which is significantly different from “wrong”.

      With Duck my choice would have been to stay with him until he died and then shoot his corpse; animate or inanimate. But that wasn’t an option. However I strongly disagree on the game’s stance that shooting the screaming woman outside of the drugstore was the compassionate thing to do.

      • Shamus says:

        An interesting wrinkle to the woman at the drugstore is that we’re assuming we have all the information. What if she’s not alone? Suppose the rest of her crew is inside, grabbing their gear to come out and rescue her. They’re about to come outside and *BLAM!* their lover / sister / mother / best friend since grade school / team surgeon / daughter is suddenly shot by a couple of dudes down the street who are looting the drugstore.

        Even if Lee explains that she was obviously bitten, and even if they accept the testimony from a guy who was two blocks away… maybe this other crew would have preferred to make that call themselves? Maybe they would have liked to say goodbye, or have her pass on a last few grains of knowledge?

        Making snap decisions about who lives or dies is a very dicey proposition.

        I get what the writers were trying to set up: Our safety vs. the pain and anguish of a doomed person. But like you said, shooting her wouldn’t necessarily be compassionate.

        • Dasick says:

          You don’t know. That’s what makes decisions interesting – you have a good idea of what the situation is, but you don’t know, and you can’t find out beforehand. Not a guess, but not solving a problem either.

        • Steve C says:

          Shamus said: …their lover / sister / mother / best friend since grade school / team surgeon / daughter is suddenly shot by a couple of dudes down the street who are looting the drugstore.

          I think you meant:
          “Shot by the notorious town murderer, disowned by his parents and returning to claim his family’s assets after finishing off his brother.”

          There ya go… fixed it for ya.

      • This is also why I would never have Clem kill Lee in Episode 5. There’s no reason to.

    • Abnaxis says:

      IMO it’s something of a hack, but in-universe a zombie bite is a death sentence because Walkers carry an incurable, 100% fatal “active” version of the disease that kills at the speed of plot.

  43. Shinan says:

    I remember when I shot duck I had that gun pointed at him for quite a while (see with the I… I guess it’s true!), I was kinda hoping… well… I guess I kinda hoped that I’d wait until he turned and then it would be sort of self-defense. I wasn’t killing Duck anymore at that point, or so my thinking went.

    But I guess I ran out of patience after a minute or so. (though Duck did stop breathing a bit before I pulled the trigger)

  44. PhantomRenegade says:

    I can’t believe i’m the one who has to do a “release the duck” joke.

  45. Andrew_C says:

    This episode of Walking Dead was gut-wrenching for me. Katya’s suicide and having to kill Duck had me crying. I’ve never cried at a video game before. I went from disliking Kenny almost as much as Larry to pitying him.

  46. Gilfareth says:

    I will admit, I had absolutely no qualms with making this decision of killing Duck myself. Partly it was because I’m not too old myself and haven’t had a chance to develop any instinct to protect kids (I assume that’s something you grow into), partly it’s because I’ve always had a problem with children and wish they could keep to themselves and leave me be, partly it’s because Duck was kind of annoying and relatively useless this whole time, and lastly because I’d already been put through this before and shed my tears (see: Metal Gear Solid 3).

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