"You know, you're not as bad as everyone says."
Words to those effect are said twice to Sheriff Bigby Wolf during "Cry Wolf," the final chapter of The Wolf Among Us. The first time, it's a sneer hurled across a room, dripping with derision. The second time, it's a salve for wounded feelings, delivered with knowing kindness. Both declarations are accurate, for Bigby is no longer just the Big Bad Wolf that once prowled the Homelands. He is now both larger and smaller – part of something more than merely himself, and as a result, confined to the restrictions of human life, where problems can't simply be solved with tooth and claw. Things were really so much easier when you could just rip someone's head off and be done with it.
Let's catch up really quickly: There have been a pair of murders in Fabletown, and Sheriff Bigby is trying to catch the culprit before the Mundies – that's mortal folk like you and me – catch whiff of the goings-on. His investigation has led him to discover the dark side of life as a Fable, marked by illegal magic, prostitution, poverty and desperation. Whereas his boss Snow White offers the (often ineffectual) assurances of government, law, and order, The Crooked Man provides the certainty of a place to sleep and a belly full of food – for a price, of course. Two opposing forces, neither one truly good nor wholly evil, with the fate of Fabletown squarely in between. This is how Cry Wolf begins and ends, with Bigby forced to make choices about what's best for his people and his town, because clearly, someone who used to blow down houses for giggles is qualified to make those kinds of decisions. Of course, that's the entire point of Cry Wolf – that Bigby is ill-equipped to handle the balancing act that his role as Sheriff requires, but that won't prevent him from trying.
There are plenty of hard choices to be made before the credits roll, but there's much excitement, too, including a frantic car chase, a brawl with The Crooked Man's minions, and an incredible showdown with Bloody Mary that won't let you forget Bigby's true name. As the episode winds down, events become quieter. Fabletown is at a crossroads, and your actions as Sheriff – how you handled Toad, what you did with Gren, whether you roughed up Beast – carry weight in the final moments. Those decisions that Bigby never gave that much thought are the very choices that give him power, or remove it, at the most important moment in the game. Not exactly a surprise, if you're at all familiar with how Telltale games play out, and yet it feels like a completely natural progression of events, rather than an algorithm tracking your moves and shifting around ones and zeroes.
Depending on how your choices went, however, Cry Wolf may end up feeling a little lopsided, with all the action up front and the back half filled with conversation. The amount of resistance Bigby faces from his fellow Fables depends largely on your previous choices, and if you made enough of the right decisions, you'll have a pretty smooth ride all the way to the finish. It can be a bit emotionally low-key, especially after the drama that led up to it. The ending also has what's clearly meant to be a big revelation for Bigby, and maybe I simply wasn't paying enough attention along the way, but I didn't know what it meant. It doesn't ruin anything, but it's a lone moment of confusion in an otherwise tidy – if not entirely uplifting – finale.
Taken as a whole, The Wolf Among Us is the perfect "Issue 0" – it lays the groundwork for the series that is (hopefully) to come, getting us invested in these pigs, these trolls, these witches, these toads, these people. Over the course of its five episodes, we learn of this new world of fairy tale refugees, looking into their magic mirror and seeing our dark reflection looking back. Yeah, it's about the guy who huffed and puffed and blew some houses down, but it's also about people trying to do the right thing without the benefit of any kind of yardstick for what "right" really means. What the Fables comics do, and what The Wolf Among Us continues, is to include just enough humanity in these storybook characters to make their lives feel like lives, not stories. And so we make our final choices based on the man we believe Bigby to be, whether that's Sheriff, Wolf, or somewhere in between.
The Wolf Among Us has been consistently excellent from start to finish, and its final chapter, Cry Wolf, is the well-told end of this well-told story. We've seen Bigby struggle with his role as a community leader, and grown with him as he's stretched to understand his place in this new world. We've seen what sharp claws he has, but never regretted their presence. We've seen what big teeth he has, and backed away uneasily from his smile.
He's really not as bad as everyone says, you know.
This review is based on a pre-release Xbox Live download of the Xbox 360 version of The Wolf Among Us: Cry Wolf, provided by Telltale Games. Images: Telltale Games.
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