[SPOILER ALERT: This will go deep into spoiler territory from start to finish, so if you haven’t played episode three yet, close the tab now. Otherwise, you read at your own risk.]
Thanks to Dontnod retweeing non-stop praise of the third episode just a few short hours after it released, much as I tried avoiding major spoilers for this episode after the events of episode two, I couldn’t avoid that one tweet that came up on my timeline that said it was a sad ending. I was a bit annoyed at that as I now had an expectation of what to expect from it. As a result of that, I thought I had that last scene figured out as everything started becoming clear towards the episode’s climax.
Not even close.
Episode three represented the biggest focus on Chloe yet since the series started, from near the start of the episode to its ending. The first two episodes of the season were about restablishing their friendship after Max’s five years away from Arcadia Bay, but episode three is the first time the two of them – in one form or another (I’ll get to what I mean by that in a second) – have take the big aim of an episode since the season started.
Of course, the episode starts a few hours after the events of episode two with Kate (whether you saved her or not will be a minor factor in talking to fellow students in the girls dorm or whether the tributes set up outside what was her room will be there). And it’s a minute or two after that – following a brief yet surprisingly decent stealth section – Chloe makes a bit of an insensitive entrance.
But even as secrets start to tumble out in regards to the disappearance of Rachel and the cause of Kate’s suicide, the friendship between Max and Chloe is ever more evident in a segment in the game’s first act where the two take a dip in Blackwell’s swimming pool, talking over their friendship and investigating Rachel’s disappearance.
And it’s the beginning of act two, following an encore of that surprisingly decent stealth mechanic I mentioned above, that provides a much needed breather ahead of what’s to come with the two together in Chloe’s bedroom chilling to Bright Eyes’ Lua. Though as act two wraps up, the pair are on icy terms.
We all know how much of a massive dick David is – with episode three backing him up as perhaps a contributor to Kate’s suicide even more – but this episode introduced perhaps the easiest choice I wlll ever make in a Life is Strange episode. The dick set me up last time, now he gets his what is duly his by having Chloe, Joyce and Max turn on him very quickly. Easy. And oh so satisfying.
But Life is Strange has an ongoing evolution and discovery of what Max’s powers hold as the series goes on. There’s the fact she stopped time long enough to get to the rooftop to Kate. Now, setting up the episode’s ending, she can go further way back than just a moment or two. Like, try five years, by looking at an aspect mentioned in passing but never really explored until now: William, Chloe’s real father, who died in a car accident.
The way the game takes you back to that day using Max’s rewind and a photo taken between Chloe and Max, given by Joyce before the earlier confrontation with David, sees you attempt to prevent William getting into his car to pick up Joyce from groceries. It’s here we see a much different Chloe.
Not the brash, in your face, blue-haired tomboy Chloe we’ve known for the past few episodes, but a teen Chloe hanging out with her dad making pancakes and reading tween girl magazines with Max who’s a lot more loving in her attitude. It gives a whole new view to her character and for the better, I add. Not that I had much issue with Chloe as is besides one or two bits of dialogue in the first episode.
Managing to hide William’s car keys may end the flashback section, but in the process, it changes Life is Strange in a massive way I never thought possible.
Which brings us to the consequences of said action, with events in a parallel world where Max has somehow ended up in the Vortex Club and friends with Victoria, Queen Bee of Blackwell (or is it Max who’s queen? Some of Victoria’s dialogue at the end was very needy towards her when apologising to Max for calling her ‘Maxine’). By the way, at the start of the episode, nice to see Victoria is still being a nasty shit after everything that happened following episode two.
And then we see Warren get together with Stella. Something’s not right. Then the realisation hits: Chloe. Get to the bus to see what has hap — wait, David is the bus driver?
(Side note: I’ve been waiting since the season started for Mogwai’s Kids Will Be Skeletons to be used for the season since I first heard it when the soundtrack was announced in January before episode one. I’ve always felt that was a perfect song to finish an episode on and I’m glad Dontnod went with that.)
You want more evidence things are fucked? In the real world that Life is Strange is (was?) set in, it was only birds acting mysterious, with some of them dying. In the parallel world, two whales beached on land. Surely that tells you the magnitude of how fucked something is. Eventually, we get to Chloe’s and, lo and behold, it worked: William’s alive.
But actions do not go without consequence. That was already evident. But not in the way I expected.
I mentioned at the top how Dontnod’s constant retweeting of praise for the third episode meant one of those tweets spoiling the fact it’d be a sad ending. My annoyance at having that ruined for me, as the ending was happening, I figured with William alive, something had to give. I expected that after being away for so long, I expected Max to walk to the door and ask William where Chloe is, only for William to say, ‘Max… Chloe died. She died ‘x’ years ago’. I thought I had it figured out.
Not even close.
The look on Max’s face told the entire story as it was evident was happening. With episode two ending on a heavy note with Kate and the ramifications of that, episode three’s ending with Chloe as a paraplegic was more than just a heavy ending, it was, after the past two episodes and the montages they gave, the bombshell that has changed the scope of Life is Strange in a big way. And leads to think — what’s next? I hope Max is still somehow holding onto that disability money from the Principal’s office at the start of the episode.
If episode two was intense through Kate’s story, episode three’s final act and its ending made sure it was emotional. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it’s the first time I’ve teared up and shed one or two of them at a game since The Last of Us. The perfect mix of some great performances, the excellent usage of the Mogwai track and the relationship built between by the player and the characters and world they inhabit.
I mentioned in my thoughts of episode two that I had a massive fear that Dontnod could just as easily see their stellar work on those episodes to date “could just as easily go down the drain.” And now that fear is only going to intensify for episode four. Because episode three sees Life is Strange ascend further to becoming something very special and thensome.
There’s still the whole lip sync thing and dialogue issues, but for the sum of its parts, the game is starting to become something more that those can start to be overlooked at this point. I’m honestly expecting it to calm down for episode four in mid-summer (going by the two month gap episodes two and three got) ahead of the season finale in the autumn the same way The Walking Dead’s first season calmed a bit with episode four following the traumatic episode three.
Then again, considering its nature to go heavy on lingeringly intense and emotional endings and their build-up to it, that wouldn’t be Life is Strange’s nature now, would it?
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