“About Ben…”

Spoiler Alert for The Walking Dead.  Don’t even bother to read any of this article if you don’t already know or don’t want to know any of this.

Telltale Games’ critically acclaimed episodic game, The Walking Dead has no shortage of memorable characters.  There’s Clementine, the cute little girl just trying to find her parents; Lee, the man with a mysterious past trying to keep her safe; Kenny, the family man who only wants to keep safe the only thing he has left in this world – Katjaa and Duck; Carly, Lilly and Doug.  Even Larry, whom many of us had no trouble introducing to a large salt-lick at the end of Episode 2 are all unique, special characters that have woven themselves a little place in our hearts.

And then there’s Ben.

Players were officially introduced to Ben back in Episode 2, Starved for Help.  He and his friend were out on a stroll with their teacher (…???) just outside of the motel, when Lee, Mark and Kenny heard their cries for help.  Upon finding the trio, they found the teacher snared in a bear strap, with the two boys desperately trying to free him.  Actually, they were just standing there, not doing much of anything.  The noise attracted some walkers, and they began to circle around, smelling the fresh meat and hearing the ring of the dinner bell.

However you manage to fare on your first gruesome choice of the game, Ben is the only one of the three from the field trip that makes it back in one piece.

At which point he started to fuck everything up. Starting with this perfectly good radio.

Very little is known about Ben, save for the fact that he’s a student at a school nearby.  It’s said in the game that he’s twenty-something, but by his appearance, he seems more in his late teens.  The red hair, the voice makes him sound like he’s just on the winning side of puberty and the distinct lack of any real facial hair gives the indication that even before the world turned to hell, Ben probably wasn’t Mr. Popularity.  The kid was hanging out with his teacher, for Christ’s sake!  There really aren’t that many endearing qualities about him and because of that, it’s hard to say that he’s really all that memorable at all.  That is, save for one small thing…

Ben is a colossal fuck up.

When Lilly first informed you that supplies were going missing, everyone in the group became a suspect.  When Lee removed the supplies in a vent on the outside walls of the motel, the bandits, accustomed to getting a free ride off of the survivors, attacked.  The altercation between the survivors and the bandits resulted in Duck being bitten by a walker and becoming infected.  It was a slow, bitter death, particularly because we’d gotten to know Duck pretty well, him being Dick Grayson to our Bruce Wayne and all.

There’s still the mystery of the missing supplies as well – who put them there?  Who was stealing medicine from the rest of the group and giving it to these savages?!  You press each and every one of them, and while Ben seems suspicious, he adamantly denies any wrongdoing.  At the roadside in the RV, Lilly’s conviction for keeping the group safe results in either Doug/Carly taking a bullet through the head.  Lilly insists that she was only trying to keep the group safe, that she was trying to look out for everyone.  And then she stole our goddamned RV.  Way to look out for everyone, bitch.

But of course, the one person we ‘want’ him to kill, he just doesn’t…

We don’t exactly find out who was responsible for the missing supplies until the end of Episode 3.  And it wasn’t because of our world-famous detective skills, either.  Ben, out of the blue, finally confesses.  It’s not until Kat and Duck are gone before he can hold his guilt no longer and he reveals his terrible secret.

There was no option to throw Ben from the train, so I took a deep breath and swallowed my rage.  Surely the game would give me the opportunity to exact my revenge on him later on down the line.  In the mean time, we advised him not to tell Kenny.  Who knows?  Maybe Ben would turn around and prove to be useful?

In Episode 4, Ben shows his utter incompetence as a survivor time and time again.  His cowardice almost gets Clementine killed at the hands of some walkers.  Chuck (the mysterious homeless man from Episode 3) rushes in to save her and beckons us to go on ahead, that he’d catch up with us later.  This being The Walking Dead and not Happy Funtime that Happens to Include Zombiez, that doesn’t happen.  Lee stumbles upon Chuck’s corpse later in the episode being munched on by some walkers.  Even though Chuck had actually shot himself, Ben’s failure to keep Clem safe and getting Chuck to do his dirty work adds another notch to his death count.

Look at this guy – he had this planned all along!

Shortly afterward, Ben and Kenny, working together, can’t seem to get a rather simple door open once we’re inside the walls of Crawford.  That alone wouldn’t have been so bad, because…well, clearly doors are major stumping points for everyone in this game.  Hell, Carly couldn’t even figure out what was wrong with a radio (it was the missing batteries, by the way – then the incorrectly inserted ones), so doing stupid things is not beneath anyone in this game.  However Ben’s removal of a hatchet holding a set of doors closed ended up getting a bit character of Episode 4 killed pretty gruesomely.

Goddammit Ben!  That’s five people all from the same damned team!  Our team!

During our daring escape from Crawford, up the bell tower, Ben is grabbed by a walker strapped to the bell.  The walker pulls him back and over the ledge as Ben pleads for his life.  Kenny looks back yet offers no assistance.  It’s clear that Ben has no place in the man’s heart.  Not after he finally learned that Ben was giving supplies to the bandits.  I however, couldn’t just let him fall.  As he hung there, as walkers ascended the staircase and circled all around us, Ben looked up at me with big, blue eyes and almost pleaded with me to let him go.

I didn’t.  I couldn’t.

Ben just may be a walking disaster, but everything he does, with small exception, he does with an open heart and good intentions.  With all of the people actively acting against us, I couldn’t let someone who had only our best interests in mind plummet to their death.  Even if his best attempts had some of the worst possible outcomes.

He does what, in all honesty, I probably would have done, or what I would have tried to do.  Clearly, if the bandits wanted to, they could have overtaken the motel in seconds, like they did.  Ben stayed that assault by bartering with them, by trying to reason with them.  They lied, saying that they had his friend, but he didn’t know that.  What he did know was that giving the bandits what they wanted would save the group.  He, in effect, took supplies out of his own cache too, for the sake of others. Who knows how long the little arrangement could have gone on for?  It was what Lilly was trying to do, without all of the paranoia and the itchy trigger finger.  Ben couldn’t have known that his actions would have resulted in the motel being overrun.  It was an unfortunate accident that Duck was infected, but not Ben’s fault. And how could he have possibly predicted that Kat would have shot herself as well?

Incidentally, since Lee was the one who broke the information about the dairy and killed everyone that lived there, it’s kind of his fault that the bandits turned their attention to the motel in the first place.  He also pulled the supplies from the vent, that resulted in the immediate assault on the motel.  As for Carly/Doug – well that was Lilly all the way.  Mind you, I probably would have changed my entire tune if Ben’s cowardice would have gotten Clem killed.  As I said in my review, anyone who poses any danger to her would soon have a blind date with the Grim Reaper.

No matter how you justify the recent deaths to him, if you can,  Ben feels that he is responsible for those deaths and the guilt eats away at him, bit by bit.  Who among us wouldn’t feel the same way?  It compels him to do the right thing – to confess to his friend Kenny, even if Kenny would kill him for it.  He knows he’s screwed up – he feels as if he is a constant burden on the group.  We didn’t exactly make him feel very welcome when he first joined it, either.  Larry almost blew a gasket for bringing more people into the motel, and Kenny was very open about him being a useless kid (says the man who can’t get a simple door open).

Ben is the epitome of what happens when you have too big a heart in a very cold world.

It’s the zombie apocalypse – you meet up with a bunch of strangers and decide that you’re going to try to survive together.  Everyone knows that someone has to lead.  Expectation: we’re Lee, making the tough calls, trying to be fair, trying to do what’s best for the group as a whole.  Reality: we’re Ben – we try hard, but everything we try to do ends in failure.

Krista and Kenny wanted to leave him for dead, but as Lee had said, I’d seen enough of Crawford to know that turning on each other now is the beginning of the end.  I didn’t let go, Ben.  Going into the final episode, please don’t make me regret that decision.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gasperantauer Gašper Antauer

    great article. I only yet realized how important and thought-provoking character he really is. especially as somebody who represents ‘my’ generation. it’s amazing how well they manage to blur they lines of “good” and “bad” in the game. all though Ben is such a fuck-up, he still tries hard to do good (except that with Clementine, that was pure cowardliness). and I have a feeling he will try too hard to prove himself and end tragically… I wonder if there is some deeper background to his story or he’s just a kid who doesn’t know how to take care of himself and others. or might he be somebody who can show great potential for survival once he is driven to his limits?

    • http://www.facebook.com/polley2 Mark Polley

      I never forgave him for leaving Clem that one time….Which is why ultimatlely I let him die, Which now I regret.

  • Zaril

    Nice article.

    I saved Ben as well…hopefully that doesn’t lead to any more deaths. I can see it one of two ways, either we find Clementine and Ben saves her, leaving those that didn’t save Ben to see Clementine die….or Ben fucks up massively, letting Clementine die, and those that let him die see her live.

    Either way, this is the first game in a long time to come around and make people feel emotionally responsible for these characters, the actions they take, the decisions they make. As long as episode 5 is as good as the last few, this is a GOTY contender for me.

  • http://twitter.com/WWE_DoctorWoo Lee Byrne

    I let him die.
    And it felt good, man.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.spackman Chris Spackman

    I didn’t shoot the zombie that had hold of him.
    All i did was watch him die(To save shotty shells)
    No hard feelings but he over stepped the mark when he left Clem.
    And great article!