Let it be known that before I even started reading, I knew exactly what I was getting into. Maybe I’m a masochist at heart, but with the recent teaser of Telltale’s sequel to their acclaimed The Walking Dead game, I was feeling some zombie fic something fierce. No, that’s a lie. I was feeling some Clementine-and-Lee-family fic something fierce. If you’ve played or watched through the game, you already know that’s a recipe for tears.
[Spoilers beneath the cut]
Telltale’s Walking Dead game, for those of you who haven’t played, is a story completely reliant on the players’ choices and changes depending on said choices. Players experience the plot through Lee Everett, an ex-con with a heart of gold, but arguably the most important part of the game is not outwitting zombies; it’s the relationship Lee forms with Clementine, the nine year-old girl looking for her parents. The bond they forge is strong and unbreakable: a very sweet father-daughter type deal. Which is great, until Clementine is forced to kill Lee at the very end. Even though it’s completely logical—Lee was unfortunately bitten by a zombie—it still wrecks you because now Clementine is alone in a world full of zombies. Not so strangely enough, that’s where the second game picks up.
I’m not about that today, though. Today I’m looking at a set of fics I found that explore the relationship between Clementine and her various parent figures—but mostly Lee. None of these are AU (technically), so if you’re expecting them to be happy, you’re living in the same deluded world I was.
First is Fairy Tale by Khantael. If you wanted to see a perfect replication of Lee and Clementine’s relationship without playing the game, then this is the story for you. Although Fairy Tale, in simple terms, is almost a word for word record of the dialogue from the game, it adds a bit more depth to it. Instead of seeing events unfold from Lee’s point of view, we are instead treated to Clementine’s view of things. And while it may not be entirely different, it does add a new perspective on a lot of events, especially her mysterious walkie-talkie friend. Khantael does a great job at keeping Clementine’s intelligence as well as making sure the audience remembers that yes, she still is a child. Her fear has never been more palpable than it is in this story.
stolen thing by mavnificent seems completely based on one image from the new Walking Dead game—maybe it’s based on the first installment, but I could place the image right away. Clementine is facing the world alone now. The audience isn’t told how long she’s been running solo, but it’s clear that she’s still holding onto some of her childishness. The story is about her thoughts of an idyllic life with Lee, and just how much Lee has influenced her life, even taking over Clementine’s thoughts of her own parents. As much as I love Lee, in the end he’s not her real father and the fact that Clementine can’t even imagine her own father worrying about her is the true tragedy of this story.
Lastly, Life Signs by eponymous_rose: a story that has nothing at all to do with Lee. In this story, Clementine, now twelve, is found by Omid and Christa, a couple that the group runs into during the game. Christa always had a soft spot for the young girl, so insofar as that, it makes sense that they’d take her in. Whereas the other two stories were heart wrenching in Clementine’s desperate attempt to hold onto the things she was losing, Life Signs is tragic in that Clementine no longer tries to hold onto anything as she loses more and more while she slowly grows to the ripe old age of twenty-one. It’s not some tough girl act, nor is it a mischaracterization—the leap from weepy nine year old to disenchanted, product-of-her-time eighteen year old is not a difficult leap to make in the slightest. Death no longer fazes her, nor do the zombies. And while Clementine feels okay with this growth, the audience is left wondering if this really was the best outcome for her. It’s a difficult question that deals in the greys of human morality, and though the story ends on a bittersweet note, it’s up to the reader to decide how much is bitter and how much is sweet.
Although all three stories are different in their approach, what they all share is adding a new level of depth to one of the most complex child characters—I would even fathom to say one of the most complex female characters—we’ve had in the video game scene for a long while. While I loved her and Lee’s relationship, I’m excited to see how Clementine has grown leading up to Season Two of the games and how she’ll change during it. If these stories are any indication, I think we have a lot to look forward to.