Tales from the Borderlands has subverted many of my expectations about the Borderlands universe. I never thought I’d be so emotionally invested about Pandora’s most despicable characters. I never expected the universe could hold my attention without the staples of new guns and dirty jokes popping up every other minute that the original games established. And I never thought I’d get choked up while exploring Pandora. Then “Escape Plan Bravo” came along.
The fourth episode in what continues to shape up as Telltale Games’ most consistently great series had me laughing as much as it left me with a lump caught in my throat. Thanks to some surprising turns, a strange gunfight, and the continued excellence that is Gortys, “Bravo” offered another fantastic outing for the series.
Tales completely gives into its heist influences this time around, the Ocean’s Eleven and Reservoir Dogs motif in full effect for “Bravo.” The intro pulls off a hilarious pre-plan montage that culminates in Rhys and Fiona assembling the team as they make their way toward the Helios space station.
The undercover infiltration operation that follows may not deliver any of the tense moments its influencers are known for – I never sensed grave danger for the group – but that doesn’t stop it from offering a number of surprising sequences. It’s a mission that finds moments of absolute emotional resonance and pure silliness.
Those antics make for one of the most unique shootouts you’ll likely ever have in a Borderlands game on Rhys’ side of the story, and hilarious line after hilarious line from Gortys from Fiona’s half of the plan. Seriously, Ashley Johnson may have had the chance to show some of her comedic chops as Ellie in The Last of Us (in addition to all of the incredible dramatic work she also did), but here she and the writers have crafted one of the funniest video game characters I’ve come across in years.
But most of the core cast has the chance to shine. The game’s most interesting pairing, Troy Baker’s Rhys and Dameon Clarke’s Handsome Jack, deliver another great entry in one of gaming’s oddest couples. Laura Bailey’s Fiona has some fantastic moments in the episode’s early scenes, including one of my favorite scenes in any Telltale game, but it later gives way to Rhys and Jack taking center stage. Their fascinating push-and-pull of a relationship could be a spin-off itself, equal parts wacky sitcom and dark drama of ambition and lost power.
“Escape Plan Bravo” ends on a note that feels much like the conclusion to part one of a two-part finale – the Half-Blood Prince to The Deathly Hallows. Rhys and Fiona are both in perilous situations that could put the whole plan at risk, and the cliffhanger is one that makes me pine for an answer in the coming days, not weeks or months. Here’s hoping the finale can make good on the promise of these last four episodes