The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier Episode 4: ‘Thicker Than Water’ Review

As its name suggests, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier’s fourth episode, “Thicker Than Water,” confronts Javi with the ideas of whether the bonds of blood or friendship are more important to him. Unfortunately, the path getting to those decisions before the strong ending is far less enjoyable than much of this season has been so far.

“Thicker Than Water” hurtles forward with the mistaken idea that Joan, the villain introduced in episode 3, is a force to be reckoned with. She remains so undeveloped that her big moments at the start and end of the episode paint her as little more than the standard Walking Dead caricature of a villain. She essentially exists as a plot device to reflect some of Javi’s choices in the last few episodes. Considering the back and forth of Javi’s antagonistic relationship with his brother David, Joan’s instant rise to prominence in the plot feels much less natural in its incorporation.

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Another area in which this episode fell short of my expectations was in how we’re allowed to shape and develop Javi’s close relationships. A New Frontier has been successful with its depiction until now, especially with David. But the bonds that have mattered most to me, both of blood and of water, are the least emphasized in episode 4. Javi and Kate get great moments together, building off of three episodes of romantic buildup between the two, but she’s practically nonexistent for two-thirds of “Thicker Than Water.” At one point a character has to go to another room to call her in, and I almost laughed at the realization that she’d been absent for such a mundane stretch.

The same goes for Javi and Clementine’s bond. The two share comparably so little screentime in the episode, with Clem’s flashback once again being one of the most superfluous moments of any given episode. I love their dynamic, but with an episode light on tense sequences, their main interaction in “Thicker Than Water” doesn’t quite live up to the bond that’s been built in the last three episodes.

Some of that disappointment stems from the episode’s poor pacing. “Thicker Than Water” starts on another strong Javi flashback, this one giving some dimension to his and his brother David’s combative relationship before the walker apocalypse set in. I now understand their tempers, and though I wish the present-day story offered more interaction between the two beyond an early scene, I’m glad to finally have a deeper knowledge of such a key piece of Javi’s life.

I wished more time could have been spent with Clem and Kate.

The episode largely dips from there, though, kicking off with a boring environmental puzzle and only briefly touching upon the more interesting characters in Javi’s life, like Kate and Clem. Instead, “Thicker Than Water” spends much more time than necessary on the continually unlikeable Gabe. While I’ve cared about Javi in his role as surrogate parent, I’ve consistently found Gabe to fit snugly in the annoying teen stereotype found on nearly every TV drama. Unfortunately, an extended period with him and Javi only exacerbates the problem of his presence. The episode also gives time over to Ava, Tripp, and Eleanor, who, while fine secondary characters in their own right, feel more like diversions from what’s really working this season rather than complementary aspects. Every time I was in a scene with them I wished it could have been used to better explore Javi and Clem’s partnership, or Javi and Kate’s roles as parents.

Luckily, the episode’s bombastic last third brings everything to a head, ramping up the tension and stress that much of the episode preceding it lacks. Richmond descends into chaos not because of walkers, but because of the people there. (Though a walker horde suddenly appearing outside the city’s walls is another element to the episode shoved in to make the plot move along properly.) That chaos is thrilling to navigate as destruction rains down upon Richmond and Javi’s life.

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier — Thicker Than Water
The third season of The Walking Dead game series, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier begins the tale of mysterious newcomer Javier, while also continuing the journey of young survivor Clementine.

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The Verdict

“Thicker Than Water,” other than its satisfying ending, is the season’s weakest episode yet. Little that precedes the action-packed conclusion feels like it has much, if any, weight to the ongoing story I’m invested in — namely Javi’s life and his relationships with Kate, Clem, and David. I’m absolutely on the hook for the season finale after that strong start and thrilling ending — I just wish everything before it hadn’t felt so thin.