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Tales from the Borderlands Episode Four “Escape Plan Bravo” Review
This review contains spoilers for previous episodes of Tales from the Borderlands. Release Date: August 18 Developer/Publisher: Telltale Games Available For: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Android, iOS
The penultimate episode of Tales from the Borderlands, titled “Escape Plan Bravo” finds itself in a rather peculiar position. It has to simultaneously payoff the build up from the previous episode while also building up the finale. To make a long story short, it does so magnificently. “Escape Plan Bravo” pulls together all the right elements and delivers the best episode of the season.
This episode has a the right balance of action, drama and humor with near perfect pacing. The only shortcoming is that the action lacks the same punch and scale of previous episodes. This hardly matters however, given how much this episode gets right.
For starters, this episode has a precise and straightforward structure. Having been captured by Vallory, Rhys and Fiona are forced at gunpoint to travel to the Hyperion headquarters of Helios and recover another piece of the Gortys Project, which is somewhere on the space station. It’s staged as a heist movie with an appropriate planning montage to kick off the episode. The goal is always in sight and the motivation is clear the player.
In a head-scratching move, Vallory is not only mostly absent but her role as the central villain is replaced by someone else by the time the credits roll. This is especially strange considering how much time episode three spent building her up as the primary antagonist. I personally don’t mind this but anyone who was looking forward to her being an effective villain will be disappointed.
“Escape Plan Bravo” wastes little time on Pandora; the crew is in space by the time the opening credits have finished. What follows is a balanced trifecta of sharp dialogue, a gut-bustingly funny action sequence and an intense emotional scene that hits you when you least expect it. Despite having quieter moments the story never loses momentum and the stakes keep climbing higher.
Rhys’s character development over the last four episodes receives a major payoff at the end of this episode. His relationship with Handsome Jack is fully explored and the final choice of the episode puts a lot of things in perspective, namely how I’ve been treating the dastardly villain up to that point.
The similarities between Jack and Rhys are explored in ways that makes sense. The backdrop of Elpis (the setting of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel which told Jack’s origin story) ties together this comparison. After allJack in his early days isn’t unlike Rhys; they’re both young, ambitious and in-over-their-head. One can only wonder if Rhys is headed down path that Jack ended up walking.
The juxtaposition of Rhys’s ambition against his friendship with Vaughn and possible romance with Sasha is perfectly presented. I quickly realized after making my final choice that I had traded one for the other. Telltale’s games are about consequence and whatever Rhys chooses at the end, he will be forced to deny an aspect of himself as consequence of that decision.
This dilemma also ties into the central theme of the series up to this point, which has been the struggle to survive in a world where the greedy and selfish are constantly rewarded. At one point Sasha poses this dilemma to her sister Fiona. They may have left Pandora, but will they ever truly escape it?
There’s an implication that at some point in the finale, Fiona will have to answer this question. It provides, among other things, something to look forward to. I’m more curious than ever to see how certain characters will react to the decisions I’ve made, something I haven’t felt for this series since the release of the first episode back in November.
What really makes this special is that going into the final episode, I truly feel that something is on the line. It’s satisfying to know that Telltale Games haven’t waited until the final episode to start paying off the character development and if that trend continues we’ll be in for something special when the finale rolls around a couple months from now.
While previous episodes rely on big set-pieces or guest appearances from notable characters from the Borderlands series, “Escape Plan Bravo” leans almost solely on the strength of storytelling and good writing to entertain the player.
My only fear going forward is that the final episode of this series won’t be able to top what Telltale have accomplished with this episode. There’s so little room for improvement because it’s difficult to imagine a better episode than this.