The first episode of The Wolf Among Us was a well crafted affair with intrigue, deception and a steady build-up that left off on a razor-sharp cliffhanger. Smoke and Mirrors slows things down while attempting to deliver a second helping of the set-pieces that made Faith such a great experience. Much like a delicious meal reheated the day after, the result is a lukewarm reprise that is filling but predictable.
It’s understandable that a follow up to a premiere episode would have slightly less pop to it. When comparing this chronological slice to a season of a television show, it’s often an area tasked with establishing characters and plot devices without the benefit of having as many of those delicious moments intended to hook viewers the way a first episode does. Instead it exists to bridge the gap into meaty mid-season territory, where a lot of the narratives’ heavy lifting occurs. Rather than sleuthing for clues and feeling like a real detective, the theme of episode 2 seemed to center around getting answers and extracting information from people. Interrogations in one form or another take place at regular intervals throughout the roughly 2 hours it takes to finish the episode with very little crime scene investigation taking part during most of it. Collectively these encounters ranged from superb to sub-par, making it a mixed bag overall.
Much of this installment felt very ‘on-rails’ and linear in comparison to Faith and I found myself having less influence over how situations played out than before. I was more like a bystander than a gumshoe as clues were regularly served up to me with little need to reflect on how they fit into the grand jigsaw of the mystery. As the Telltale formula is already very light on game play, the overly hands-off approach this episode took didn’t sit well with me at all. Many of the locations were experienced through a single conversation piece before moving on to the next. I was quickly ushered to one scene after another, leaving few opportunities to interact with environments I would have swooned at exploring in detail. The episode definitely succeeds in moving the story forward at a good clip, with some very meaningful revelations being made that turn the entire case on it’s head. Unfortunately the way these secrets are discovered manages to keep the player feeling like an onlooker rather than the central character.
There were definitely some very good moments to be had, with the opening interrogation and morose autopsy scenes ranking among my favorites so far in the series. A trip to see the pimp/strip club proprietor Georgie Porgie was a successful hearken back to the more quality moments that made episode 1 shine so brightly. Several nods to faithful readers though character cameos were also made, including a very excellent rendition of Bluebeard voiced by Dave Fennoy (Lee from the Walking Dead season 1), the wise-cracking Jack and a seedy appearance by Ariel (aka the little mermaid) who I hope we’ll be seeing more of.
While coming back for round 2 with Bigby Wolf didn’t live up to my own internal hype, I have faith that smoke and mirrors is laying the groundwork for a much greater experience for the three remaining episodes to come.