“Playing With Fire”
The first season of Telltale’s six-part, episodic take on Game of Thrones hasn’t quite been up to snuff with the spectacular HBO show or Telltale’s other recent series. It hasn’t undergone a particularly bad episode yet, just a collection of somewhat passable offerings with enough importance to eek by. The penultimate episode, Nest of Vipers, finds itself in similar territory, as it transitions into the first season’s home stretch. It delivers on bringing together choices and characters that have manifested over the last few episodes, as well as some tense and consequential moments of its own. That said, A Nest of Vipers largely misses the mark, leaving an unsatisfying, lasting impression as the season draws to a close.The cliffhanger that concluded Sons of Winter, is where A Nest of Vipers’ story opens. The sadistic Ramsay Snow has yet again made himself welcome at Ironrath, cracking down on its residence with his signature brutality. Telltale hasn’t shied away from exploring the dark, twisted nature of Ramsay Snow, and A Nest of Vipers is no different. His villainess presence has added a lot to the series thus far, as his actions are the source of many characters’ driving motives. Ramsay’s frustratingly untouchable though, as his role in the Game of Thrones television series is far too definitive to be tampered with here. The predetermined outcome of the central story becomes a bit off-putting in this episode, as the small scale of the season has grown larger.
This episode spent a good chunk of time at Ironrath, reiterating the dyer state of House Forrester. Rodrick’s past decisions come back to haunt him in A Nest of Vipers, making for some fairly tumultuous internal altercations. Tying small choices together to form a nail-biting moment of truth is one of Telltale’s stronger suits. A Nest of Vipers looks to capitalize on that gift, yet fumbles, causing for interactions that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. In an effort to draw from characters’ prior actions, this episode seems to complicate things to an unnecessary degree, jumbling what really makes these characters, characters. Struggling to nail down the cast caused for some pretty substantial out-of-character behavior, lessing their impact when in the spotlight.The Forresters’ remaining contribution to the episode is somewhat sporadic in terms of quality, too. Mira’s role is small, but made interesting by way of a few story altering sequences. Mira finds her way stuck between Cersei and Tyrion Lannister, following the events of the “Purple Wedding” in the television show. It’s a tense environment to say the least, as Telltale did a great job bringing to light just how consequential this world and its characters can be. The series of interactions between Mira, Cersei, and Tyrion mean well and certainly move the narrative forth, but lack the punch Game of Thrones fans are now used to. The combination of excitement and dread that arises when Cersei or any other main character appears in the show are nowhere to be found here. The technical hiccups matched with the game’s all-round presentational awkwardness, finally came to a head in A Nest of Vipers, stealing away much of the narrative’s leverage as well as momentum.
Gared’s story on the other hand, makes little to no meaningful strides. While his segments encompass a fair action sequence, there’s not enough meat added to his story to make it feel worthwhile. In Meereen, Asher’s plot was able to pick up some of the episode’s slack, pushing the needle forward in some substantial ways. This isn’t to say there weren’t any hiccups; cliche attitudes and weak writing are afoot. Though even through its blunders, Asher’s contribution to the episode is much grander than his peers. His combat sequences, group members and choices are by far the most seamless the episode gets. All leads to a game-changing finale that strikes the perfect mix of emotions and player decision. Though strong, it left me questioning why the rest of the episode wasn’t able to capitalize upon the same notes. The final moments save A Nest of Vipers from becoming a completely dull episode, by giving an emotionally shattering glimpse into what lies ahead.Conclusion: Telltale’s Game of Thrones has the right intentions and ideas, but has once again failed to fully realize them. A Nest of Vipers is easily the season’s weakest episode, as it has noticeable trouble keeping up with everything its built thus far. I care enough about what’s going on with the characters and central Throne’s story to stay invested, but A Nest of Vipers does very little to expand upon that. What hope remains that the season finale may have some tricks up its sleeve, is fading, flickering at the fear of settling for anything less than greatness.
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