HERE BE SPOILERS.
And, of course, there's the whole of Episode 3, spent with Carver--and probably the best performance Michael Madsen's done in years, I might add--watching her friends get the shit kicked out of them, and then watching Kenny take his revenge Irreversible-style. There's a slew of new decisions Clem has to make after that that showcase someone harder, possibly vindictive. And yet, that's justified. Look who it's vindictive towards. Carver was a monster, and that whole situation at Howe's was gonna go Jim Jones in a heartbeat anyway. If you're truly a hard-ass, you could also leave Sarah in the trailer. I managed to coerce her to come out, and she's rendered utterly useless anyway, so screw it.
But Episode 5 is different than pretty much everything in the two games prior. Episode 5 is just downright UGLY. People worth caring for across the board all making terrible, terrible mistakes, a newborn stuck in the middle, Bonnie and Mike running off to who knows where, with (in my playthrough, anyway) Bonnie playing the Blame Game with Clementine about Luke despite HIS wishes, Jane playing a gambit to push an already broken Kenny over the edge, and everything that follows. Where Season 1 was simply about what people will do to survive, and banding together to do so, Season 2 is about the very strong possibility that it's impossible. Where Season 1 was about Lee finding enough faith in humanity to preserve the soul of a little girl, Season 2 is Clementine discovering Lee's faith to be misplaced.
It's why the dream at the end of the season, while a total fanservice excuse to see Lee again, works so damn well. It's Clementine remembering when there was a safety net for when things went wrong, having someone that knew just how to answer the muddy questions of how people treat one another here. There's no safety net when she wakes. Even with two stubborn fighters in the front seat of that truck, Clementine is alone the second she gets shot.
It's the reason I like my ending, where Clem puts Kenny out of his misery, and decides to go with Jane. I shocked myself with that decision, because in the same situation, there is no conceivable way I'd trust Jane further than I could toss her after that little play. And yet, two things made me go with her: The fact that Kenny was, indeed, a post-traumatic liability, just on the opposite side of the spectrum from Sarah, and the fact that Clementine alone, again, with a child, while kinda badass on some level, is the worst possible scenario.
And so, it's Clem and Jane back at Howe's for Season 3, whenever that happens, between the 87 things Telltale's writing now. I let the starving family in, noted the gun. The part that really hit was Clem's reaction to their kid. He has to be Clem's age, and is still polite enough to compliment her hat. But there's the rub. It's an 11-year old boy talking to a 40-year-old woman in that scene. It's an innocent talking to a survivor. And it's a scary and sad place to leave the story for now, and in terms of storytelling, might be one of the most haunting and brilliant.
It's what I liked about this season. There weren't as many jump out of seat crippling moments of sadness in this one, but as a character study of what it means to truly grow up in this situation, it's the better one. It's the terror of seeing a little girl's soul not go bad, per se, but certainly go cold. And being where Carver was, seeing how easy it's going to be to let her and Jane's new power corrupt, the next step for her is going to be a crucial one.