Wellington. Place of promise and redemption. Of peace and closure. At least for Kenny.
Kenny is one of the most significant characters in Telltale’s narrative point-and-click adaptation of the popular family series The Walking Dead. From the very first episode of the first season, life is not kind to Kenny. The death of his son and the subsequent suicide of his wife leave their expected marks, and those who play the game feel instantly responsible for this tormented man, but are constantly challenged by his irrational suggestions. I have always tried to maintain a good balance between sensible action and a trust relationship with Kenny and he really did not make it easy for me.
After a thrilling first season with a high-stakes finale, we meet Kenny again in season 2 as young Clementine. The delight about the reunion fades fast, as Kenny seems to have further degraded and his propositions are becoming increasingly useless. This makes the relationship with him even more difficult than in the first season. Throughout the game, he talks about Wellington obsessively. Wellington, he has been told, is a safe place of refuge. No zombies, no bandits. And he, Kenny, will see to it that the group and especially the not-so-little Clementine are taken there. It’s his mission and all he has left in life.
It remains unclear whether Wellington really exists and if it is safe there. Kenny chases the vague idea of a possible hope and is challenged constantly by the others who keep asking if this unconfirmed rumor is worth the long and dangerous trip there. And I, as a player, was in serious doubt about his plans after the brief joy of seeing a character from the old gang again. But just as he felt responsible for my Clementine, I felt responsible for his salvation. I wanted to help him help me. And Clementine wanted it, too, I’m sure.
After several bloody and horrible events, the two actually make it. All their companions are dead, but Kenny, Clementine and a small orphan baby reach a place that seems to be “Wellington”. After months of being ridiculed for his mirage and feared for his obsession, he reaches his destination.
But the game leaves open to interpretation what Wellington is. The word is written on one of the container walls, blocking the view of what lies behind it. Wellington is a wall. A barricade. Rocked down. Ugly. But Kenny’s eyes widen: “Holy shit. We did it, Clem!” And then, “That’s gotta be it.” As if he has to convince himself one last time that Wellington is real. A woman appears in an opening and Kenny begs her to let them in. But of course, it’s not that easy. There are already too many people there and the two are turned away. Kenny does not give up and waives his place. Only the children are to be admitted. “Please. I need them to be safe.” It’s about him. After a while of waiting, he is relieved: the kids get to stay. Kenny doesn’t. Kenny shows no sign of sorrow. It’s everything he wanted.
What’s so special for me about this moment is that at no point is it shown what is behind the wall. Earlier in the game, you were in a seemingly safe camp run by a tyrannical lunatic. Whether Clementine and the baby are safe is not known. Kenny asks the stranger to watch over them, but she shows no facial reaction to make him or the player feel that everything is really going to be okay. And it doesn’t matter. Clementine doesn’t need Kenny. But Kenny does need Clementine. It’s enough for him to believe he saved them. In the world of The Walking Dead, there are no safe places, but there is one for Kenny. It’s Wellington. Kenny leaves the place like a hero. All his hardships were not in vain. He can pat himself on the back because Clementine is now living a wonderful life. Most definitely.
I binged the first two seasons of The Walking Dead (2012, 2013) in quick succession. There are two more, but the end of the second season was so impressive in its open-ended conclusion that I never touched the series’ sequels. Like Kenny, I don’t really want to know what’s in Wellington. It can only disappoint me. If you still want to take the plunge, you can do so since September 2019 on PC, PS4 and Xbox ONE with the “Definitive Version”, containing all four seasons and two bonus games.
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