The Walking Dead and the Evolution of Clementine

This Walking Dead article accommodates spoilers. 

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Much has occurred since Telltale’s The Walking Dead, an episodic journey game based mostly on Robert Kirkman’s hit comedian e-book sequence, first launched in 2012. Not solely did the success of the primary game spawn a number of follow-up seasons, nevertheless it additionally allowed developer Telltale Games to department out to different franchises, akin to Game of Thrones, Batman, Borderlands, and Minecraft. But in 2018, halfway by means of growth of the game’s last season, Telltale closed its doorways, and it was Kirkman’s personal leisure label, Skybound, which saved the sequence from being left unfinished. After seven years, The Walking Dead lastly got here to an finish in March. 

Through all of these trials and tribulations, there was one fixed: Clementine as The Walking Dead‘s badass protagonist. We first meet Clem on the very begin of the zombie outbreak. At simply 8-years-old, she loses her dad and mom and is compelled to do issues no baby her age ought to ever must do to outlive. From her first zombie kill to a last showdown with an outdated nemesis, we observe Clem all the best way to maturity, watching her evolve from helpless baby to a mentor and protector to little AJ. It’s a narrative we do not see sufficient of in a universe the place youngsters and teenagers are too typically reduce down by a zombie horde or enemy faction.

Clem does not survive The Walking Dead unscathed, although. She is bitten within the leg whereas attempting to save lots of AJ from a walker horde within the last episode — mirroring choices Clem’s personal guardian, Lee, needed to make within the first season. But when AJ has to decide on between ending Clem’s life or letting her flip, he decides not out there to the heartbroken gamers who have been compelled to place down an contaminated Lee years earlier than: he amputates her leg, saving her life and permitting her the possibility for a contented ending. 

Both Telltale’s The Walking Dead and the comedian e-book sequence got here to an finish this yr, however with the discharge of the complete assortment — that includes each episode of the game — we’re wanting again at Clem’s journey with the good voice actress who introduced Clementine to life along with her pitch-perfect efficiency. Melissa Hutchison spoke to us on the telephone again in March, across the time of the game’s gorgeous finale, and shared her ideas on the tip of the sequence and Telltale Games in addition to what it was wish to play Clem for nearly a decade.

“I feel very fortunate. To actually grow and age with a character, it’s become such a huge part of my life,” Hutchison says. “I should say it was an interesting twist because it started off as a Telltale Games adventure. No foreseeing what was ultimately going to happen with Telltale Games shutting their doors out of the blue.”

Telltale’s disastrous closure started in Sept. 2018 when 250 staff have been let go with out warning (and with out severance) and given 30 minutes to exit the constructing. Hutchison nonetheless had about an hour’s value of strains to report when the studio shut its doorways.

“Basically being almost done recording the game, and then to have it yanked away and then have Skybound come through and save it. It’s definitely a very interesting end to Clementine’s journey,” Hutchison says. “I didn’t know how I was gonna feel when the episode released. And I didn’t know what kind of emotions were gonna come out. But ultimately, I just feel so completely satisfied and so happy for the fans. It’s been quite the ride.”

Fortunately, when Skybound took the reins of the ultimate two episodes, the studio employed again a lot of the Telltale group to complete the story. It was “like coming home,” in line with Hutchison, who felt the shock of Telltale’s demise not simply as a performer however as a fan of the video games. 

Being each the voice of Clem and a gamer, Hutchison has had lots of time to consider many of the sequence’ greatest moments and choices, such because the destiny of the unstable Kenny, whom she selected to spare in her playthrough.

“Yes, he was batshit crazy, but he was this last remnant of season one,” Hutchison says. “So I was actually shocked when I saw that most people actually chose either go on their own or kill Kenny. But no it was very irresponsible of me. At least of my Clementine.”

But Hutchison does not actually linger on her choices within the game: “The tales are so nailed down that I have never ever had moments the place I’ve been like, ‘Eh, I would not have accomplished this,’ or ‘I do not know why they selected to do that or go away this in right here or take this out or kill this individual.’ I simply really feel like they nailed that story down so properly. I have never actually skilled feeling like I’d do something in a different way.”

For Clem, one of the moments that linger along with her all through the sequence is the loss of life of Lee, which continues to be regarded by some followers as Telltale’s The Walking Dead‘s most surprising scenes. 

“I think a lot of the decisions that she makes and the direction she goes throughout all the seasons really represent what Lee would have also chosen to do,” says Hutchison, who does not assume Clem’s journey would have modified a lot had Lee survived the primary season. “I really feel like as a result of of how a lot she maintains of her connection and her relationship with Lee, I do not actually see it turning out too in a different way. I believe Lee can be very proud of her.”

That stated, Hutchison takes a guess at how the ultimate season might need modified had Lee nonetheless been among the many residing: “I do not know if he would have stayed at that boarding faculty. I believe he might need been like, ‘This is manner too many youngsters for me, I’m out.’ I do not assume Lee would have put himself in that scenario, as a result of that might have been youngsters, hormones, nightmare gas [for him].”

But for Clem, Ericson’s Boarding School for Troubled Youth means a house after years of looking out. It’s additionally a spot for Clem’s ward to lastly have some sort of childhood. Throughout the ultimate season, Clem has to information AJ by means of a sequence of harmful conditions in addition to choices that are not all the time so black and white. For instance, Clem should determine whether or not to permit AJ to kill or spare Lilly, a personality who first appeared within the first season and later returned because the antagonist of season 4. Whatever Clem chooses to inform AJ, it has an actual impact on him later within the story when he has to determine whether or not to kill another person.

Clem’s relationship with AJ reveals how her story has come full circle, in line with Hutchison, who compares Clem’s troublesome choices to those Lee needed to make when instructing the younger woman easy methods to use a gun and when to kill. But will AJ prove in addition to Clem did?

“The difference [is that] Clementine at least had a childhood in the normal world before the zombie shit hit the fan,” Hutchison says. “AJ only knows this hard, brutal world. And even though I think she’s done a really good job keeping him in check as far as the manners and his temper, she was still a kid raising a kid. It’s definitely a darker world for him, and she didn’t know how to teach him everything. He was just born into this world where the only thing you’re taught from the get go is how to survive. And that’s pretty brutal. [But] I think her influence is strong enough on him that he wouldn’t turn into the next Carver or Alpha.”

Clementine’s transition from the primary season to the final has been an fascinating evolution, not just for the character however for Hutchison as an actor. 

“Each Clementine is so distinctly different, but then the essence of her true being and spirit has been the same. To go from this innocent little girl who, you know, the whole point of season one was to protect this child. And then in season two, she’s kind of shell shocked, been through some shit. But she’s also building this strength.”

Hutchison says Clem’s evolution in season 3, titled A New Frontier, was particularly enjoyable for her: “It was kind of the Dirty Harry Clem. I think the relationship between her and Javi is really cool. But there’s no bond, there’s no connection, she’s just like, ‘I just wanna go get my fucking kid.’ This was definitely a season where she was just straight up no BS.”

The “Dirty Harry Clem” rogue part provides approach to Clem coming into her personal as a parental determine for AJ. Hutchison beloved with the ability to observe Clem to that degree of maturity within the last season. 

“She’s actually softened. Obviously, there’s those moments where she is just so badass. But she has to also maintain this nurturing mother personality. It was really cool to go from the most bitter we can possibly see Clementine in season three to evolving into this more nurturing relationship.”

At the tip of sequence, Clem has saved AJ, discovered a house on the boarding faculty, and earned a bit of peace. But what would Hutchison wish to see subsequent for the character?

“They finally get on a boat — an ode to Kenny. They sail off to the gulf of Florida or whatever,” Hutchison says. “This is why I’m not a writer.”

It’s not too typically that actors get to know a personality for so long as Hutchison has and she or he’s very grateful for the time she spent rising with Clementine. By the sequence’ finish her relationship with Clem had developed, too. Sitting right down to report her strains felt like assembly up with a superb buddy.

“It’s just been such a really cool, I’m gonna use this word again, but organic experience for me to grow with her. It’s not like when I went into the studio in between seasons, first day back wasn’t like, ‘Can you send me a reference file?’ Or you know, ‘What are we doing here?’ It was so easy to just be right back in place with Clementine.”

The Walking Dead Collection is out now.

John Saavedra is Games Editor at Den of Geek. Read extra of his work right here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9

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