Heading into Escape Plan Bravo, Tales from the Borderlands was on track to becoming my favorite series Telltale has touched since the first season of The Walking Dead. The fantastic humor, tone, and energetic momentum that Telltale has so seamlessly capitalized upon throughout the first three episodes indicated nothing but the same for Tales’ penultimate episode. Escape Plan Bravo comes with some of those strong suits, but finds itself falling into the reoccurring episode four rut that has detracted from each Telltale series in recent memory. Episode four’s change of pace from the lively spirit of its predecessors slows the progression of the story and character development, and not for reasons that further the big picture narrative. Picking up right after the stellar ending of episode three, Escape Plan Bravo finds its characters stuck between a rock and a hard place. In order to eke out alive, the gang agrees to sneak into Hyperion’s headquarters to pull off the perfect heist. Tales from the Borderlands has gone above and beyond with taking textbook themes and putting a unique, stylistic coat on them. Escape Plan Bravo follows through with that track record, creatively encapsulating the essence of a heist with its own spin, proposing wacky scenarios and emotional twists, alike. However, Escape Plan Bravo is stronger in concept than in execution. Where Catch a Ride made the most out of its runtime, with exciting action sequences and captivating character moments, Escape Plan Bravo doesn’t spend its 90 minutes resourcefully.
Tales from the Borderlands’ strongest moments this season have stemmed from the interactions between the core cast of characters. The same can be said for Escape Plan Bravo, though less so in terms of quantity. Episode four noticeably adopts a change of pace and energy, and while neither are necessarily destructive, they struggle to fit the speedy momentum of the season’s past episodes. Scenes tend to come across as narrative padding, in place to ease players into the somewhat sudden change of pacing. Though many scenes dabble in a handful of plot threads, few end up contributing to the overarching story. Escape Plan Bravo feels as if the pressure to deliver a stunner of a finale got to its head.Rest assured Escape Plan Bravo isn’t without its highlights. The series’ signature humor and charming characters have enough time in the spotlight to make the episode worthwhile. A number of scenes standout, with emotional highs on both ends of the spectrum. A heartbreaking moment between some of the season’s biggest characters is handled with care and stands as one the series’ strongest emotional high points. There are also a good amount of well-written segments full of glimpses into comedy gold and entertaining player interaction. While Escape Plan Bravo avoids the opportunity for meaningful player impact in the form of choices, there’s plenty of Borderlands style scenarios to keep the player on edge. Controlling Rhys during an imaginary shootout is absolutely hilarious, and the preparation for the heist is full of humorous interactions, even if they do lack influence to the grander scope.
The episode’s strongest moments come from the back and forth between Rhys and Handsome Jack. Their relationship has been an interesting one from the jump, and Escape Plan Bravo makes the most of it. Where as Jack briefly popped in and out of previous episodes, his role here is far more prominent and the episode greatly benefits from it. Rhys and Fiona are at the forefront of Escape Plan Bravo, with the rest of the core cast drifting into the background. Where as prior episodes flourished in bringing characters together where they could feed off each other, Escape Plan Bravo splits them up. While it makes sense in the context of the story, it results in many characters being underutilized. All the more unfortunate, considering the strong performances that continue to impress throughout Escape Plan Bravo. The script is still flowing with humorous dialogue and emotional sequences that showoff Telltale’s ability to elevate characters; I just wish there would have been more.Conclusion: While Escape Plan Bravo has it’s moments, it’s easily the weakest episode of Tales from the Borderlands, yet. The few sightings of the game’s outstanding humor, excellent personality, and emotional moments go to outshine some of the episodes missteps, even if the lasting impression pales in comparison to its predecessors. If anything, Escape Plan Bravo serves as a solid setup for what should be an excellent finale to a memorable first season.
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