Warning: Full Spoilers for Episode 5 Ahead
Check out my spoiler-free technical review of Episode 1 here
I Know Why The Caged Crow Sings
The finale of Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us was a satisfying and thrilling conclusion to an excellent first season, however held back by some serious slow-down in the opening scene. I know that the Telltale engine isn’t the most concrete, but typically the framerate stutters aren’t so egregious so as to significantly detract from the experience. Unfortunately, in the opening scene of episode 5, I encountered frozen frames that lasted upwards of 10 to 15 seconds, which was incredibly frustrating as I was in the middle of the intense quick-time event brawl in the Crooked Man’s Lair.
The episode starts right where episode 4 left off, with Bigby smoking a cigarette in front of the Crooked Man and his thugs: the Jersey Devil, the Tweedles, Georgie Porgie and his main girl Vivian, and eventually, Bloody Mary. The Crooked Man tries to make peace with the sheriff by revealing that Georgie was the one who murdered the girls in the beginning of the season. As tensions rose higher and higher in the room, I did my best to choose the smartest answers I could so as to not provoke anyone, letting them make the first move. I chose to remain silent multiple times, and opted to try and bring in both Georgie and the Crooked Man.
Once Bloody Mary showed up, of course, things took a turn for the worse. Georgie wasn’t about to just let himself be thrown to the Wolf, and a fight breaks out. Georgie pulls out a knife, one of the Tweedles gets stabbed by accident, Georgie himself gets gutted and escapes with Vivian, and Bloody Mary makes off with the Crooked Man; all of them went through the same portal, and I followed right after.
Upon reaching the other side, I was treated to hands-down the most fun experience I’ve had in a Telltale game. Bigby sheds his Glamour and chases after the crooks in his werewolf form, as the game continues the quick-time event formula as you dodge and weave through (and over) traffic. There was a split decision to either land on the Crooked Man’s limo or Georgie Porgie’s car, but since I had been chasing Georgie the whole time, I didn’t realize that was the Crooked Man’s limo, so he got away without much effort. Georgie, on the other hand, was a different case.
I chased him and Vivian down to the Pudding & Pie where, back in human form, Bigby finds Georgie bleeding out from his wound. Vivian reveals that she’s the original source for the Pudding & Pie girls’ ribbons, and by removing her own, she’ll free them from the silencing spell. Turns out Vivian is that creepy ribbon girl fable, where upon removing her ribbon her freaking head falls off. She made the decision herself, so there really wasn’t much I could do to stop her. With Vivian gone, I decided to leave Georgie to suffer until his death. For all that he’s done, he didn’t deserve quick mercy.
With the Crooked Man’s location revealed to me in Bigby’s last interaction with the dying Georgie, I came across the aforementioned limo in a parking lot for Sheppard Metalworks. Inside, Bigby finds a bunch of silver bullets being crafted, and gets into a final showdown with Bloody Mary. She shows her true form, a possessed-looking demon with shards of glass sticking out all over her body. She winds up multiplying herself and overwhelms werewolf Bigby, forcing him to show his true self- the Big. Bad. Wolf.
This was an awesome moment, as Bigby turns into a wolf maybe five times the size of a direwolf. He’s simply massive and tears through the Bloody Mary copies with ease. They shatter into shards left and right as the Wolf tears through them with his teeth and claws. Ultimately, he huffs, and he puffs, and he blows them all into a wall, shattering the rest until he comes face to face with the original. She rips a shard of glass out of her head and dives onto the Wolf, intent on stabbing him in the eye, but the Wolf chews right through her, dispatching the Crooked Man’s top muscle once and for all.
Once back in human form, Bigby confronts the Crooked Man. He pulls a silver-loaded gun on Bigby, and attempts to make a deal. I promised Snow I’d take him in alive, so that’s what I did (although not before punching him square in the face). Once cuffed, Bigby brings him back to the Witching Well to be judged by the members of Fabletown.
This was an interesting moment, as I tried to be democratic and fair in dispensing justice. Even though the members of Fabletown were adamant about his punishment, I opted to let him speak his case. He reminded the Fables that in lieu of the Business Office’s lacking support, he was there to make sure they all made ends meet. It was a tense moment for me, as I had roughed up a few of the Fables in my pursuit of justice, and I was starting to lose the crowd.
Luckily, I was able to remind them that the Crooked Man’s best skill was manipulation, and that while things weren’t so great recently, we were going to do our best to make things better. They started to recognize that, and one by one they came back to my side until I had the whole of Fabletown standing behind me. Soon after, Nerissa, freed from her spell, showed up and provided the key evidence we needed to indict the Crooked Man, claiming it was he who gave Georgie the order to kill the girls. I was then given three options: throw him down the Witching Well, imprison him forever, or rip his head off. While I would have loved to have seen the last option, the Batman in me wouldn’t allow such vicious justice, so I decided to have him imprisoned forever via Aunty Greenleaf’s magic (good thing I didn’t burn her stupid tree).
At the episode’s conclusion, Bigby arrives at the Business Office to find Aunty Greenleaf carrying a birdcage holding a black crow, formerly the Crooked Man (ahh, the satisfaction of transfiguration). Snow looked a bit disheveled, but there was a line of Fables waiting to talk to her, so I didn’t get a chance to find out what was wrong. Outside, I met up with Toad and his son TJ as they packed up Flycatcher’s truck to head to the Farm. I felt bad, having said I’d give him another chance, but Snow’s the boss and Toad never took his Glamour seriously. TJ gave me a gift to give to Snow, and they took off.
Right after, Bigby has a final discussion with Nerissa about everything that had happened, where she reveals that she was the start of all the breadcrumbs that led Bigby on the investigation. As she walks away, she says, “You’re not as bad as everyone says you are,” the exact words Faith used before her murder in episode 1. A slew of quotes ran through Bigby’s head, making him (and me) uncertain about Nerissa’s true identity and motives. I opted to chase after her instead of letting her go, and the screen cut to black.
All in all, I was very satisfied with The Wolf Among Us. The characters were rich and interesting, the plot was intriguing, and the dialogue was engaging. Each episode brought something unique to the experience, and it was a great way to introduce me to the graphic novel world of Fabletown. Some technical hiccups popped up, notably at the beginning of episodes 4 and 5 (with 5 having some serious framerate stutter), but otherwise Telltale’s engine held up fine.
From a narrative perspective, I was rather disappointed with the amount of loose ends left at the end of the season, and especially with Bluebeard. He was in almost every episode, having an imposing and threatening presence, yet he literally never did anything. I had hoped he would have some grandiose reveal in episode 5, but all he ever did was bitch and moan about his money. The rest of the cast was great, though, and I really enjoyed my time playing as the Big Bad Wolf. Hopefully, with Telltale refining their engine for their upcoming Batman series, season 2 of The Wolf Among Us will build upon the fantastic foundation that has been created with season 1, without the technical limitations holding it back.
Congratulations, Telltale Games; you’ve managed to get a 24-year-old guy back into fairytales.