Life is strange episode 5 Polarized has been out for a while now and did polarize people in many ways with some hating the whole series as a result of how the game ended and some still loving the overall theme despite how it ended, however many seem to have missed the possible explanations for why and how things have gone as crazy as they did in the final episode through the natural plot progression.

This review will contain heavy spoilers so I would advise simply buying the game and checking it out for yourself if you wish to avoid these spoilers, however if you have played and completed the game or don’t mind spoilers feel free to read on, in the meantime you can find the game at http://store.steampowered.com/sub/56692/

Episode 5 begins in a natural position captured by jefferson waking up from being drugged at the end of the last episode and attempting escape, it is worth noting how jefferson establishes that max has this way of staring blankly into space as though daydreaming perhaps as she always has and how under his drugged state allows her to fall into her daydreams feeling them to be real, and how the entire game has been max’s way of escaping what has really happened to her. There are many points in this episode where she “escapes” the dark room by focusing on photo’s to enter their timeline and enact changes allowing her to escape, however in a drug induced state these could easily be explained away as a daydream especially as in every instance within the game no matter what she ends up back in the dark room with jefferson even when reality had no way to establish her ending up there poorly explained as jefferson burning her photo album, however this was in a halted timeline so having escaped and not been his victim this should never have occurred unless she never escaped the room other than in her mind.

Max does initially manage to escape to a perfect possible reality in which she has won the everyday heroes competition, where the other entries in the gallery are more heroic themed photo’s like firefighter’s, people training for running, pets etc, however max’s wall of selfies somehow wins the competition perhaps simply for being award winning jefferson’s prize student, or as it is max’s delusion of true happiness of course she won the competition, however a nosebleed quickly reminds her that arcadia bay is doomed and she cannot stay in this reality. These nosebleeds continue in the darkroom with jefferson noting how it must be a result of using too high a dosage of the drugs to incapacitate her and leave her malleable. Don’t forget that in previous episodes in the rewind you can hear voices stating to “stay with me max” as though she is dying and attempted to be coaxed back to life.

To save chloe once more she rips up her prize winning photo, which she had always ripped up in the original timeline before “altering” thing’s with her powers in order to save chloe’s life in the first place, her childhood best friend who she had not had a chance to reconnect with since returning to town, who’s death in the original place may have lead her to investigate the situation in a similar manner to the main game plot but on her own and to investigate why nathan shot her and the unraveling plot from there leading to her inevitable kidnap by jefferson for snooping.

So why do I believe she is still in the dark room and always has been? There have been far too frequent opportunities throughout the entire game to “sit” at every opportunity as though it is a common theme that you’re always sat down in thought, and while jefferson was photographing you he kept the dose rather low, but at this scene just prior to “escaping” he notes how it will be the final time she will have to listen to one of his lectures knowing it will be the last time she is conscious and alive. It is at this point when she has the needle to her neck that miraculously she is saved by chloe’s stepdad cop, and being heavily induced by the sudden drug overdose she enters the storm itself attempting to save the residents of arcadia bay on the way to the diner to see warren in order to be able to save chloe, however altering the timeline on this occasion doesn’t result in escape or reality forming to her will instead she awakes back in the classroom again, with jefferson wanting her to say how chloe deserved to die, how her selfies are shit etc and max’s subconscious states how she doesn’t want to say any of the options provided however her drug induced compliant state means she has to make one of those options before she can leave the classroom which itself has reminders that max is in fact “dead” already, and after getting out of the classroom she enters the corridors of her dorm (and perhaps symbolic of her mind and memories) with kate talking like jefferson’s puppet stating how max was responsible for her death and everything that happened to her as though he is roleplaying her or saying these things to her on the floor as she slips away as jefferson had liked kate as his new muse and felt max’s interfering prevented him taking it further.

After a few crazy corridors with the facts of rachel, haunted memories of victoria and her own life and time’s flashing through as selfies on the wall the drugs overdose really starts to kick in with time flowing backwards while max moves forwards and everything being woozy before everything goes dark and she’s hiding from a plethora of jefferson’s coming to hunt her down and take her back to the dark room, now unfortunately she follows the symbolism that escaping the light is staying alive, perhaps as he flashes a flashlight across her eyes checking if she’s alive or even the possibility that someone has discovered her body perhaps on the side of the road where she begin’s the game attempting to revive her, but rather than go into the light and awake she hides from everyone and everything following the road to the lighthouse at the end of the tunnel, which if she was actually going into the light could be considered holding onto life but she does avoid it at every turn sticking to the dark. There is an optional bottle hunting mission here which can even be accidentally skipped without realizing, perhaps symbolic of your own torture trying to find that fifth bottle in the first place! However you once again return to the familiar seated position, where if you escaped and examined your chair you will note max “still feels the bind’s” as though she never escaped and was still tied up in that chair in that dark room.

Reality begins to unravel further as the drugs take further hold, as you find yourself escaping reality within the snowglobe sat on chloe’s mantelpiece seeing yourself perform the actions you had made in the past, although knocking off the snowglobe and shattering it would have been a fitting snap from this scene transition to the next it’s not essential as max passes onto a room trying to find the combination from a million possibilities carved into the walls. If you find the combination it leads to a diner filled with all of the people significant to max with an etheric reality outside of the diner filled with all of the other meaningless souls which may have passed.

The diner is a mirror of symbolism for judgement in death, filled with all the people you’ve helped in life and those you’ve wronged to sit in judgement over your eternal soul, and you can hear the voices echo out to you some questioning why you didn’t help them and others thanking you for saving them or helping them resolve issues in their life which leads me to wonder whether there might have been a perfect possible ending to the game hidden away in which you help absolutely everyone there and turn all of the voices positive and perhaps allowing you to leave the diner and escape back into the room and take down jefferson once and for all with him being in shock at you surviving the overdose. However instead you talk to yourself the only true judge over your soul as to whether you are deemed worthy of heaven or deserve eternal damnation in hell, this perhaps is mirrored in your actual decision at the end of the game as you move on from the diner to watch the last moments with chloe you shared flash by as though your life was flashing by in the last moments before death, heading into the lighthouse at the end of the road, of course you return to a reality within the storm with chloe to face the final decision as to who to save.

The end choice here is rather a silly one and does render the entire game pointless as regardless of who you saved and what you did in the game everything is the same if you choose to save arcadia bay, you get the happy ending with everyone alive and happy, even kate regardless of whether you saved her or not. This does fly by in a flash though, with flashes of photographs quickly explaining how jefferson was taken down somehow by simply not saving chloe this resulted in him being arrested and kate never jumping! Ending on chloe’s funeral without a word being uttered as life fades away, and focusing on max’s face looking into the light perhaps happy fading away to heaven, whereas if you choose to save chloe you have doomed arcadia bay and everyone in it to utter destruction and you know that no matter what you will always be fighting to save chloe over and over never learning from your mistake as the world and universe continues to rain down destruction wherever you go hurting the lives of everyone around you and destroying the entire world for the sake of one life who never should’ve lived, truly creating hell on earth and always being in danger and with something to lose which you would always have to protect.

I do feel the ending could have gone better but if it is explained as either passing away peacefully or continuing to defy the reality of the situation as the drugs rage through your system to an inevitable painful death the crazyness at the end can be explained away, and this is the only way it leaves room for a sequel season, as if you are max again following on with the time travel abilities she knows she can’t change anything for fear of causing catastrophe’s or she fights on in a universe falling apart keeping chloe alive and neither would make a good game, however a narrative where jefferson (or someone else) has kidnapped a new victim knowing or not knowing they were kidnapped and drugged trying to come to terms with it (perhaps realizing later and actually having a chance to escape depending upon the choices made and the information gathered) could make for a good second season, and jefferson noted himself he wanted to kidnap kate again, so perhaps season 2 could focus on kate having been retaken by jefferson trying to figure out what is going on and using time travel abilities to gather the facts and attempt to wake up and escape from her inevitable fate. This would make a compelling second season and allow for different narratives and timelines and different effects and influences, as max was influenced by the stormy weather for her dreams perhaps kate or whoever is the new victim would have other thing’s going on around their delusional state.

Those who have played season 1 would also for the most part be unaware of what was going on as they took the time travel ability for granted and didn’t question the possible natures of realities within the game, so a reveal that she is kidnapped later would be a good twist to the plot and this allows for a narrative world to be established without having to be fully influenced by the factors of the first game as for the most part it was all in the delusional state of max’s mind as she slipped away inside jefferson’s dark room. If the victim was kate obviously thing’s could take on a more biblical front as she is very religious and takes influence from her experiences and thought processes, and the game could even begin with her in the hospital recovering and perhaps believing she has been granted these powers by god to change things for the better and that her life was spared for this very purpose.

Of course I am expanding and theorizing heavily on what could be coming for season two as nothing is known but simply following max would not make a compelling game it does need to be a new protagonist and with a reasonable explanation for what is happening, and in my opinion max dying in that dark room from that final overdose is the only thing that explains why the walls of reality collapse as much as they do, and the symbology used within the game at the end fits the theme’s of dying and the end of life far too well for there to be any other explanation. Go play life is strange for yourself and explore the game and experience the plot and the emotions as that is the point of a narrative game such as this, and make up your own mind as to what is going on.

The full season of life is strange is available on steam at http://store.steampowered.com/sub/56692/