This penultimate episode has a lot of the ingredients for something truly impressive, but never quite coalesces into anything of that sort. There are a number of good moments and it ends in an intriguing manner, but it isn’t as impressive as some previous entries. It feels like a definite mid step, a lead up into something else. As a self contained episode, it just doesn’t work as well as it could. A lot of the things it touches on could have been capitalised on a lot better, or just fleshed out. It covers some interesting territory, but doesn’t always take full advantage of it. It’s good, and is sometimes really good, but it doesn’t live up to the series’ pedigree.
Amid the Ruins focuses on the aftermath of the last episode. An escape has happened, or is happening, and we start to see how things worked out. The main narrative focus though is an imminent child birth, a fascinating plot point which could lead to all kinds of great content about what this could mean in the zombie apocalypse. However, the drama is more focused around how this birth is going to take place rather than whether or not it should – or what it means for the group. For a series that has thrived on putting you in tough or morally ambiguous scenarios, or at least presenting you with characters with very strong views, this does come as a slight disappointment. However, focusing elsewhere gives the game more time to concentrate on character.
It covers some interesting territory… but it doesn’t live up to the series’ pedigree
Character has been somewhat of a weakness this season, with the primary cast not matching up to the original’s. In Amid the Ruins we get a bit more down time and are able to get to know people a little better. This works wonders for some of the characters, as a returning character from the first season continues to shine and recent addition Jane starts to flourish. In the latter case though, not quite enough is done and some of the character building seems like ticking off bullet points (to cover story beats) rather than genuine development. Also, a few too many characters remain uninteresting. To top this off, there is even a section which is just dull, as you spend time walking lamely around a museum to see which of the numerous interactable objects is the only one you need. It’s an arbitrary process that slows the pace in an already comparatively slow episode.
There is some action and drama in Amid the Ruins, but a lot of the good stuff is kept towards the end. The stuff before it is all rather inconsequential, or not handled particularly well. There are even points later where story beats in the episode don’t quite add up, as the game turns an apparent choice into something of no real importance. It just doesn’t feel as tight or impactful as it should, even when the episode is running on all cylinders. It’s still enjoyable, but it’s by no means a stand out episode. There are a few really well handled moments, but I just couldn’t get over how the episode felt lacking. The whole thing feels somewhat directionless, with no real overhanging story bar an immediate concern that was always bound to get dealt with at the end of the episode. The end result is an episode which stands out as a relative low point for the season.