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Recap / Life is Strange Ep 05 "Polarized"

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Episode 5:

Polarized

The final episode begins with Max waking up in a chair again, but unfortunately she's tied up at the mercy of her Mad Artist photography teacher, and a storm's brewing outside. If she warned Victoria and she believed her, she'll also be here (turns out her backup plan was to go to Mr. Jefferson for help). Max manages to access one of the photos Jefferson took of her while she was out, but this only serves to make her relive the experience. After trying a few more times, she's able to coax Jefferson into letting her see her journal one last time, and uses the selfie she took in class back on Monday to jump back. In the past, Max quickly gets to work. She texts a warning to David about Jefferson before getting up, handing in her selfie and proceeding to make Jefferson squirm by hinting (but not giving away) that she knows his little secret. With that, she returns to the present, now in a jet liner with Principal Wells on the way to San Francisco as the winner of the contest.

On arriving at the gallery, Max proceeds to nervously mingle with the other guests, as Wells clears out the buffet. Her selfie is considered a strong entry, and there's much buzz about her as an up and coming artist (as well as shock at the arrest of Mark Jefferson). Unfortunately, when she gets to her own entry, she has another vision of the storm! Max checks her phone, finding multiple missed calls from Chloe. It turns out that the storm's still hit Arcadia Bay as scheduled, and her blue haired beau's in mortal danger! With no other options, she dives into her selfie (after being briefly distracted by the crowd) to return to the moment she took it, and tears it up.

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She returns to find herself back in the chair, only now Jefferson apparently burnt all her photos after discovering she destroyed her selfie (as well as killed Nathan, and Victoria if she came to him for help). He taunts her about his murder of Chloe (and Nathan's murder of Rachel), before going on a Motive Rant (apparently he gets off on photographing Break the Cutie moments, for which Max and Kate were perfect subjects) and preparing to inject her with a lethal dose. Luckily, David shows up just in the nick of time, having followed up on the girls' notes himself. Unluckily, Jefferson is able to ambush and overpower him. Luckily, Max still has her rewind power. She's able to strip him of the element of surprise by getting him to keep talking for a while, and then guiding David through the ensuing fight, finally tripping Jefferson over so he can be subdued. After helping David take down Jefferson, he frees her and asks where Chloe is, prompting an important choice. If Max tells him she's dead, he immediately shoots Jefferson dead and has a Heroic BSoD. If she lies, she'll claim Chloe left to smoke some dope after discovering Rachel's corpse, causing him to wryly comment that he's relieved she's a stoner, for once, and arrest Jefferson. Remembering the selfie Warren took of her, Max calls him, finding out that he's in the diner.

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"The Sense of Me" by Mud Flow plays as Max takes Jefferson's car back to the town. She listens to a voicemail Nathan left, apparently shortly before Jefferson killed him to tie up loose ends, apologising for everything he did and warning her that Jefferson will be after her next (both a little too late). On arriving back in town, Max meets several characters on the way that the player can choose to save. Eventually she arrives at the diner (which she prevents blowing up), and finds Joyce tending to Frank (if Chloe didn't kill him) and Warren. Finally telling Warren about her powers, he believes her immediately, but also delivers some bad news; it could be the cause of the storm. Depending on the player's choices (and Relationship Values), Max may hug or kiss Warren before jumping back to before the party.

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On jumping back, Max tries to convince Chloe (still in a bloody minded rage after discovering Rachel's corpse) to listen to her. She eventually calms her down by telling her about her attempt to save William and the resulting alternative reality, Chloe is...not angry. She tells Chloe to tip off David while they both wait in her room while he deals with Jefferson. When Chloe asks how to get Max to believe her, when her future self disappears, Max assures her that she will. Sure enough, Max returns to find herself on the beach with Chloe as the storm approaches. They share a moment, and prepare to head to the safety of the lighthouse...when Max passes out.

Max wakes up in class, once again, but things clearly aren't what they seem. Birds fly against the window, slowly coating it in blood until the room's dark. Speaking to Jefferson brings up speech options that are less than palatable to her (as she says herself). Proceeding through the nightmare, the player must avoid visions of all the other characters in the game as they stalk Max, experiences visions of all her friends appearing in the dark room to reject her, and there's a retread of the bottle puzzle from episode 2.

Finally, Max finds herself in the bathroom of the Two Whales Diner. On solving a keycode puzzle, she finds it full of every character in the game, and sat in the booth where she breakfasted with Chloe is...Max. This doppelgänger (claiming to be "one of the Maxes you left behind") taunts her, accusing Max of using her powers selfishly, and blindly doing what Chloe wants. Then Chloe herself shows up to defend Max. Max then follows a path surrounded by diorama style recaps of scenes the two of them shared throughout the game, before finally waking up with Chloe at the lighthouse.

As the two friends watch the storm, Chloe tries to convince Max to face the truth: the storm was caused by Max saving Chloe's life and interfering with the timeline. Chloe shows Max the photo she took of the butterfly (with Max's face reflected in the bucket) and once again trusts her to make the right choice.

It's now up the player to make the final decision of the game, which determines the ending.

Sacrifice Chloe: "Spanish Sahara" by Foals begins to play as Max takes the photo from Chloe. Chloe reassures Max that the last week really happened, and never to forget her, echoing her words if the player euthanised her alternative universe self. If the player made enough pro-Chloe choices, they'll share a passionate kiss. With that, Max returns to the ladies' room 4 days before, and sobs quietly in the corner as Nathan kills Chloe at the lowest point of her life. Subsequent photos show that David quickly subdues Nathan, who turns on Jefferson and blows the lid off the entire conspiracy. The last shot shows Max back in the present at Chloe's funeral, wearing her spiked wristband and accompanied by most of the main cast. A blue butterfly lands on Chloe's coffin, allowing Max to manage a slight smile.

Sacrifice Arcadia Bay: Max, refusing to let Chloe die, tears the photo in two and throws the pieces into the wind. "Obstacles" by Syd Matters plays as the girls take each other's hand and watch the storm lay waste to the town. An unspecified amount of time later, they pack up what they can in Chloe's flatbed and drive through the debris and corpse strewn streets, leaving Arcadia Bay behind.


Tropes featured in this episode of Life Is Strange:

  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: When David rescues Max, Jefferson ends up either restrained with his own duct tape or murdered while he's helpless, in the very same room he's been doing the same to several young women (and was about to do to Max). If David doesn't kill him, Max can take it a step further and photograph him in this pitiful state.
  • Badass Bookworm: Mr. Jefferson is a villainous version, as he's able to easily overpower David (a soldier who apparently managed at least one act of heroism in his career) with an ambush, quick thinking and (after those fail) a hidden gun, until Max intervenes.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Both endings are triumphant and depressing.
    • If you choose to sacrifice Chloe and save Arcadia Bay, Max and Chloe share a Last Kiss before Max goes back in time and lets Nathan kill her in the bathroom, the Chloe that Max knew and loved now wiped from the timeline. Everything that happened since that moment has ceased to exist with Max the only one who would remember it. You prevent the apocalyptic events that occur over the week and the storm never comes to wipe out Arcadia Bay and the people there. Nathan is sent to prison for the murder, and regardless of Max's intervention, Jefferson is found out as well and is brought to justice.
    • If you decide to not let Chloe die and let the storm happen, the entirety of Arcadia Bay is wiped out in the tornado. Chloe and Max the drive-off together for an uncertain future.
  • Black Bug Room: The Nightmare Sequence, which is basically a checklist of Max's doubts and fears. The only exception is the final segment, a peaceful reminder of the time she's spent with Chloe.
  • Book-Ends:
    • "Sacrifice Arcadia Bay" ends the game as the first episode did, with Max and Chloe on the cliffside, and a montage set to the same song.
    • "Sacrifice Chloe" ends the game by returning to the beginning of the first episode, where Max allows Chloe to die by Nathan's hand instead of saving her.
  • But Thou Must!: At the beginning of the Nightmare Sequence, Max talks with Mr. Jefferson in a dark parody of the first episode's beginning. Every choice in the dialogue tree Max is provided with are disturbing and deprecating bits that are implied to be from Jefferson's warped perspective:
    "I love you, Jefferson."
    "Our dark room."
    "My selfies are shit."
    "Thanks for killing Chloe."
  • Call-Back: Chloe's final words in the "Sacrifice Chloe" ending are the same as her alternative universe self's, if Max agreed to euthanise her.
  • Friend or Idol Decision: Twice in regards to Chloe. Max sacrifices her award winning selfie so she can be in Arcadia Bay to rescue her, and if you choose the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending, the "idol" ends up being the entire town.
  • Grew a Spine: Max demonstrates first hand that she's done this, by repeating the first scene of the game by going back with the selfie she took in the tutorial. She tips off David, reassures Kate and then proceeds to passive-aggressively taunt Mr. Jefferson in a way that she wouldn't have dared to before (let alone with the knowledge that he was a Serial Kidnapper). Downplayed, a little when the nightmare sequence makes it clear that her insecurities are still present.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Chloe encourages Max to choose the "sacrifice Chloe" ending, saying that she feels that her life is worth much less than everyone else's (naturally, Max wordlessly says she thinks otherwise if the player chooses the other ending).
  • Mugging the Monster: Once again, Jefferson accidentally subverts this by counteracting Max's power without realising (this time by burning her photos). Luckily, even tied to a chair, she's able to strip Jefferson of the element of surprise; the only advantage he has over David when he shows up.
  • The Power of Trust: Warren trusts Max enough to believe her instantly about the week's events, David trusts her and Chloe when they tell him about Jefferson, Chloe trusts that Max did the right thing in the alternative universe (and with the decision at the end of the game) and Max reassures Chloe that the past version of herself will trust Chloe when she relays the information. The only character Max seems to have a problem trusting...is herself (as revealed in the nightmare sequence, which is basically an extended hallucination of everyone turning on her for the various bad deeds she feels she's done).
  • Shrug of God: DONTNOD Entertainment have said that who did and didn't survive the storm is up to the player, and that both endings are canon (or rather "which ever one you chose"), although they did clarify that Max and Chloe are a couple in both endings (they just didn't think that having them kiss in the ruins of the Bay would be very tasteful).
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Nathan was apparently Killed Offscreen by Jefferson. His only presence is in a voicemail Max finds on her phone, where he basically begs for forgiveness and tries to warn her. For all the vile things he did, he's still a mentally ill teenager whose father figures used for their own ends.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: At first, it seems like Max is on the way to enjoying her new career, Chloe's ready to turn her life around and Jefferson and Nathan are behind bars for Rachel's murder. Then Max realises that the storm's still about to destroy the Bay.
 
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Mark Jefferson

When David rescues Max, Jefferson ends up either restrained with his own duct tape or murdered while he's helpless, in the very same room he's been doing the same to several young women (and was about to do to Max). If David doesn't kill him, Max can take it a step further and photograph him in this pitiful state.

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