In less than 24 hours, we’ll finally know how Life Is Strange ends, but I’m worried I already know what trick the developers are going to pull in the finale.
The second a new Life Is Strange episode is released, I’m scrambling to hit play. Flaws ‘n all, I’ve come to genuinely enjoy the quirky and endearing world created by DONTNOD, and I’m totally invested in seeing how it all plays out.
The relationship between Chloe and Max is at the heart of Life Is Strange. Without them, it doesn’t work. The strained friendship, fraught with past mistakes and lingering resentment, sells the sci-fi craziness—and now, conspiracies—around them. It’s not often a game pins its ambitions to a non-romantic friendship between two women; it’s the reason I keep coming back.
(Yes, I’m aware of that moment from the third episode, but I suspect that was playful and nothing more. At least, I hope so. Please don’t go there, game! UPDATE: Following some questions about this, my reasoning is such: I’ve viewed this as a story about friendship. It’s possible to view Chloe and Max’s relationship in a different light, though, and that’s totally part of the fun.)
Shit got real in the surprisingly emotional fourth episode. After futzing with the past and accidentally putting Chloe into a wheelchair, Max decided to stick with the timeline she was used to, in which Chloe’s father is killed in a car accident. The two continued their investigation into the Prescott family, which lead them to a seemingly abandoned farm that was hiding a terrible secret: Nathan Prescott had been drugging women, taking them to a bunker, and killing them.
This included Rachel, whose disappearance has driven Chloe and Max’s quest since the start. Upon finding Rachel’s body, the two swear revenge, and quickly head to where Nathan should be: the Vortex Club’s “End of the World” party.
They don’t find Nathan, so they head back to Rachel’s body. This was a mistake.
At the end of the fourth episode, in a twist, Chloe is shot and killed. The game makes her fate abundantly clear by showing her head with a bullet through it.
Max was drugged just moments before, preventing her from using her powers to save Chloe. This moment is so powerful because the whole game was kicked into motion by Chloe dying and Max being able to change the course of events. To watch as things played out the exact same way, guns shots ‘n all, is tragic.
Despite being seemingly all-powerful, Chloe still died. Despite how far they’d come, Chloe still died. Despite saving her from the brink once, Chloe still died.
In my version of the game, Kate Marsh committed suicide. It’s possible to save her, but a few incorrect dialogue choices later, Kate stepped off the rooftop. This moment introduced the idea of real consequences into Life Is Strange in a way I figured it would’t play around with. I assumed Max could always save the day.
The episode ends on a particularly dark note, and though Chloe appears dead, I’m worried the game is about to destroy everything it’s been building to here.
Let’s back up a little bit.
When Chloe and Max arrive at the Vortex Club party, they run into Warren, aka the guy who’s clearly head over heels in love with Max and does a terrible time hiding it. Clearly drunk, he wants to take a picture of Max “for prosperity.”
And here’s where my theory comes in. The previous episode showed us Max is capable of entering the past through photographs, right? It’s not a stretch to imagine the shock of Chloe’s death will have Max racing to find Warren’s photograph, giving her an opportunity to change how things went down.
It would be a total bummer if, at the last second, Life Is Strange gets cold feet. The death of Chloe hit me like a ton of bricks, and despite my desire to see the two experience a happy ending, having her use the photograph seems cheap.
There are a couple of ways it could go down, though. When Max entered the last photograph, she changed the course of events in ways she could have never predicted. Perhaps that’s what Max will encounter in the finale, too. If she chooses to bring Chloe back from the dead—again—that means dealing with the butterfly effect. One ripple in time creates waves in many directions.
It’s also possible Chloe will be faced with the ultimate choice: in order to save the day, Chloe has to die. In some ways, this is a much worse fate. If Chloe is gunned down and there’s nothing she can do, that’s one thing. If Max has to watch Chloe die in order to do the right thing for everyone, that’s....god damn.
You can reach the author of this post at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.