Playing new episodes of Telltale Games adventures "The Wolf Among Us" and "The Walking Dead" has become about as habit-forming as watching TV dramas.
As such, reviewing those episodes sooner or later starts to feel like recapping said dramas. You stop picking apart the form, and start picking apart the content.
That's because critiquing the form of Telltale's adventures is almost moot. By this point, you must know what you're getting: Point-and-click participation. Examining a desk's contents here, deciding your dialog there. Toss in a few quick-time event fight scenes, and there's your game. To expect anything else is to ask for disappointment.
With that out of the way, I'll explain why "The Wolf Among Us" hits another one out of the park with its third episode, "A Crooked Mile." But to do so, in the spirit of a TV recap, I will not skimp on spoilers. So if you'd rather not know what's next for Bigby, Snow and the rest of Fabletown, stop reading right now, and — I strongly encourage you — play this episode.
Even more than prior episodes "Faith" and "Smoke and Mirrors," "A Crooked Mile" takes on the feel of a crime procedural.
Bigby (the Big Bad Wolf) and Snow (White), fresh from eulogizing Lily, turn their attention to tracking down Ichabod Crane, whom they've fingered for killing her and Faith out of some demented fixation with Snow. Their hunt takes them first into the sights of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, who wind up spraying buckshot at Bigby and Lily's cousin, the gin-voiced bartender Holly, before the funeral can even end.
This startling first act helps the twins finally come off like fearsome mafioso goons instead of the bumbling mafioso goons they'd been. But they're still low on "A Crooked Mile's" ladder of villainy. The episode ends with the introduction of Bloody Mary, a vicious, darkly charismatic enforcer for her still-unseen boss, the Crooked Man. On top of that, Bloody Mary suggests that even he is subordinate to another fable when she ominously says, "Long live the Queen."
That's after Bloody Mary nearly kills wolf-form Bigby with a silver bullet and saunters into the New York City night with Crane just minutes after Bigby and Snow captured him. For her to be two notches down from the real evil in Fabletown is a frightening thought for Bigby and Snow.
Depending on your choices, Bigby and Snow may earn another enemy in "A Crooked Mile": Auntie Greenleaf, who concocted Crane's glamours.
In by far the most compelling player decision of the episode, Snow orders Bigby to destroy the family heirloom tree from which Greenleaf's glamours came. You can, prompting all manner of curses from the witch — or you can decline, which brings Greenleaf into the fold as an ally. Having recently burned Snow with a remark I can't even remember now, I obeyed her order. As Greenleaf wailed, calling Bigby and Snow "monsters," I regretted it. The scene reminded me once again that those pithy, spoked commands rarely prepare you for what comes next.
That's true of "A Crooked Mile" as a whole. Even with the teaser for the next episode — a dramatic TV trope if there ever was one — I'm at a loss to guess where Bigby and Snow go from here. There's Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Bloody Mary, the Crooked Man and possibly a Queen, with Crane in their captivity. There's the Woodsman, Grendel, Bluebeard and the other Fabletown frenemies.
And then there's the rest of Fabletown, a setting unique in its ability to shuffle in characters at once mysterious and mythologically familiar. Bloody Mary reminded "The Wolf Among Us" players of that. I'll certainly tune in to find out who does again next time.