This is a review of the fourth episode of The Wolf Among Us, and as such it contains spoilers for previous episodes.
Doors are pretty symbolic things, when you think about it. Part of a structure, but not really of the structure, they separate different states of being as well as different rooms. You are one thing before you walk through a door, but something else entirely once you've passed its threshold. The events of The Wolf Among Us have been leading to the fourth episode, "In Sheep's Clothing," and this door, this single door, which Bigby has passed through alone. His passage marks the beginning of the end. The culmination that he, Snow, and the rest of the Fables have unknowingly been racing toward this entire time. The meeting was inevitable. The outcome is not.
Gallery: The Wolf Among Us: Episode 4 (5/22/14) | 4 Photos
After coming out on the losing end of a confrontation with Bloody Mary, Bigby and Snow regroup in his apartment, trying to discern their next move. Their sole lead, Crane, is gone, the mirror is smashed and hope is in distressingly short supply. Snow speaks of rules and the "right way" to do things as shards of silver bullet are being pulled from Bigby's guts - her anguish and helplessness plain to see. Snow will always want law and order, but Bigby is the one who'll be taking the shots. They both know it. Just as they both know that following rules isn't going to find Faith and Lily's killer.
The tension created by Bigby's dual nature - his true nature as Wolf and his assumed nature of Sheriff - runs deep throughout Sheep's Clothing as he peels back another layer of Fabletown's lies and exposes the grimy truth beneath. Some of the Fables he encounters are worthy of his contempt, others his fear but most ... most are just trying to get by the only way they've managed to figure out how. This is the episode that most starkly makes you feel the plight of the have-nots in Fabletown, and just what kind of crosshairs that puts them in. Bigby's frustration grows throughout the investigation, though whether that's out of a sense of guilt, or just a growing annoyance that people keep blaming him for not helping the "real" citizens of Fabletown is up to the player's interpretation.
Whatever the source of his angst, it's not long before Bigby takes a swing at someone, with spectacular results. Quick Time Events frequently make you feel pushed out of the action, shoved aside and told to watch for button presses and stick wiggles while the real game goes on without you, but the fight scenes in Sheep's Clothing are genuinely exciting. I found myself catching my breath as Bigby braced for each move, scanning the room for my next maneuver, gauging which object I might bring to hand to do the most damage. I was pressing buttons and wiggling sticks, yet I felt very much in the fight as glass flew and blood splattered. The fact that the enemy in question was incredibly creepy didn't hurt the mood any, either.
Sheep's Clothing drops its few crumbs of information with precision, giving just enough of an idea to create a dozen suggestions, only one of which can be fact. The loss from choosing one investigation spot over another is felt most keenly, as clues vanish, leaving behind only whispers and half-ideas. It's an excellent balance that lets you experience the weight of your decision without feeling cheated.
The previous chapter of Wolf Among Us, "A Crooked Mile," set a metered pace, but you can feel the storm gathering around you as you make your way toward that fateful door. Forces are swirling, pushing Bigby in the only direction he can really go - towards the very people who keep trying to kill him. Bloody Mary returns, delivering another perfectly restrained performance. She could so easily have been a raving lunatic, a shrieking manifestation of childish fears made real, but instead she is velvet-voiced menace speaking with the certainty of her abilities. She is a Presence, owning every scene she's in - and even some she's not.
All the threads start coming together in Sheep's Clothing; all the facts, theories, clues, suggestions, they all start weaving together to create the true picture of what's been happening in Fabletown. But within the workings of the tapestry are threads of doubt and guilt, and questions about the difference between the law and justice. What Sheep does so elegantly is remind us that life is rarely as tidy as Snow's rules would allow, and that "right" is an ever-shifting concept. It gives us absurd characters like talking pigs and childhood boogeymen and makes them as real as we are, so that we ourselves feel like citizens of Fabletown, scraping to get by. Our eyes are open, the glitter of our storybooks long since vanished. Time to open the door.
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This review is based on a pre-release Xbox Live download of the Xbox 360 version of The Wolf Among Us: In Sheep's Clothes, provided by Telltale Games.
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