Despite polarizing reviews, I recently picked up The Walking Dead: The New Frontier. This is the latest season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead series. Although it doesn’t quite hit the highs of the first season, there is still a lot to love here. This is particularly true in the way that The Walking Dead: The New Frontier and brotherhood coincide into personal conflict to drive its narrative forward.
While I generally try not to binge media anymore, in this case I felt the relationship between Javier and David to be compelling enough to play through the entire season in two days. As someone with a close personal relationship with my younger brother, I found their conflict to not only be realistic but also humanizing. That being said, my brother and I have a much more stable relationship than Javier and David do. But it’s realistic all the same.
First, Javier and David deal in contrasts. While Javier (depending on your playthrough) is kind and caring, David is bold and brash. Despite his accomplishments in the military, he feels inadequate next to Javier’s baseball career and feels beholden to these standards by his father. This is personified to David when Javier becomes involved with his wife when he is presumed to be dead. This leads to their ultimate confrontation, where the player can choose to leave David to his fate or save him and sacrifice his wife.
While brothers typically don’t hit each other with wrenches, they generally do fight. I can’t count how many times my brother and I have gotten into screaming or shoving matches. There was even the time I put a couch cushion on him and jumped on it (we were young and I was stupid). That doesn’t mean that those kinds of actions are okay. They never are. But what it does mean is that fighting and argument, especially in a masculine household, is an inevitable part of growing up with a close relationship with your brother.
This all comes to ahead with how Javier and David deal with their family. Despite David having been around longer, Javier seems to be favored as the wunderkind. Although he screwed up his baseball career, he seems to have brought his family legacy in a way that David never feels that he could have. This is why David only felt at home in the military. It’s where he felt he made a difference and had influence over his life. It’s where he felt like he could make a difference in other people’s lives. In his home life, David seemed to be a mess. He seems to suffer from PTSD, and doesn’t feel like he can relate to his wife and children. While Javier physically stepped up when David disappeared, he had emotionally stepped up long before that.
Obviously I’ve never dealt with this type of situation with my own brother. But it does seem to ring true to how this would play out. David is angry and emotionally distant. He may not be physically abusive (at least to his wife), but he is emotionally manipulative. Even before joining the Army he seems to have had unresolved anger issues. But while David may not be a good husband or father, he is a good brother. He cares about Javier in a hyper-masculine way, even if he can’t bear to show it.
However, there is one important instance where David confides in Javier. This is after David breaks the arm of a former ally when he thinks he sees her going for a gun. In reality, she is just frightened. But in David’s battle-hardened mind she is ready to kill. Only when David realizes that everyone is frightened of his soldier-persona does he run away from the group. When Javier follows him, David is standing out on the ledge. It looks like he is going to jump. But David just wants to talk. And this is the only way he knows how.
This is very much how brothers are. There’s a lot unspoken between close brothers that is often cloaked in a layer of masculinity. But within that is the most rewarding relationship you can possibly have. Brothers often have mirrored experiences growing up. And they also share the closest genetics. But that doesn’t mean they need to love – or even like – each other. In the case of David and Javier, that is determined within the game. If the player desires, Javier can leave David to die or ask him to leave his family forever. And he’ll do it.
But within my own relationship with my brother, I don’t feel like that would ever happen. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. I’ve seen plenty of brothers who either have an antagonistic relationship or lack a relationship altogether. It’s all too common. Some brothers have nothing in common. But when they do – when they are competing for the same things – that’s when it can get messy. And as The Walking Dead: The New Frontier shows, sometimes brotherhood is complicated.