We’re back with the penultimate episode of Life is Strange, “Dark Room.” We are the seven percent!
This episode contains spoilers for Life is Strange. As such, this episode also contains discussion of ableism, abuse, and suicide as well as footage that may be sensitive for those with epilepsy.
JAYLEE: Hello and welcome back to the Push to Smart Water Cooler. This week we’re going to be talking about Life is Strange, Episode 4: The Dark Room. Dun-dun-dunnnn!
JAYLEE: At the end of the last episode, there was a reality-jumping kind of twist where Max went back in time and saved Chloe’s father, but in doing that, changed the course of history.
JAYLEE: So last week we ended our episode asking what you thought of the twist, and we got a lot of kind of mixed responses, but the major takeaway that it seemed that you guys wanted to make sure did not happen, is that this didn’t take away from the Rachel Amber mystery.
STACEY: Mhmm. Which we were definitely in that camp as well.
JAYLEE: I was kind of torn playing that introductory sequence with Chloe and Max. It got me emotional and it got me invested in a way, but at the same time, at the end of the sequence I was kind of like, well what’s the point? So I’m hoping that they kind of weave it in in some way with the final episode so it doesn’t just feel like an aside that kind of didn’t really go anywhere.
STACEY: Right, there were some thematic threads that I wasn’t…. I think that they were tying in, but I wasn’t sure how to interpret them. For instance, the very last choice of the sequence is whether or not you will assist Chloe in her suicide, and there’s a point if you decline to do so, Max will argue that she was able to talk Kate down, if in fact she was. And I really wasn’t sure what that was supposed to do as far as doubling those two incidents. Especially because for me, I apparently misinterpreted it, because looking at the choices it looks like you could either agree to or decline to help Chloe, and I thought when I declined, I thought it wouldn’t let me progress, so I rewound, and went ahead and did it for her, so my interpretation of that scene was: okay, well, the only way out of this situation is to do this, whereas I had these options with Kate, but maybe that’s not the case. So I’m really interested to hear what people think of that. One thing, though, that we’ve already had some commentary on: KironVB brought up in the comments that while you’re exploring Chloe’s bedroom, you find a note from the principal of Blackwell that the school isn’t accessible and offers some alternatives to Chloe, which is not cool, and probably not fully legal. (laughs) But KironVB makes the connection that this means that there was no money at Blackwell for the handicapped fund that you had the option of stealing in the last episode. Which we took that to be a very black and white choice: you either steal from the handicapped people, you burn down the orphanage… or you don’t. But a lot of people in the comments have suggested that that was a cover for some other elicit funds, possibly from the Prescotts.
JAYLEE: Which is great, because that had not even crossed my mind, but as soon as you guys brought it up, I was like, of course!
STACEY: (laughs) Which I still… When I first came across that letter, I still didn’t make the connection. (laughs)
STACEY: I was still thinking like, oh, well maybe that means we really shouldn’t have stolen the money because they don’t have that much. (laughs)
JAYLEE: (laughs) Well, later in the episode, outside the dorm, there’s a sign that mentions that they’re actually putting in a ramp.
STACEY: Oh! That’s interesting. I didn’t see that!
JAYLEE: So it appears that it was actually kind of being used. I mean, I don’t know if it’s like a money laundering thing… Who knows? But.
STACEY: That’s an interesting little detail, though.
STACEY: That’s probably one of the game’s strengths, even though I didn’t know what to make of some of these thematic threads. Connecting those little, seemingly unimportant dots between all the episodes, and the cohesion and consistency throughout the episodes has been really satisfying, I think.
JAYLEE: The alternate reality almost felt like a way for you to empathize with Chloe, had you and her been butting heads with her throughout the game. It really kind of highlighted their friendship. I never really had a problem with that. Chloe, whenever she bothers me, she bothers me In this very, you know… you’re-18, you’re-a-youngin’ kind of way.
STACEY: Mhmm. (laughs)
JAYLEE: (laughs) Which I don’t hold again her.
STACEY: Mhmm. It was kind establishing a status quo. It’s like, yes, your choices matter, but you need to understand this is the core of this relationship.
STACEY: Which, one of the choices I think that put us off before was when we chose to take Kate’s call in the diner a few episodes ago. Chloe got kind of in a huff that we were ignoring her. There is a scene after this where, since we saved Kate, we got to see Kate in the hospital and Chloe has a really great exchange with Max about how she understands where she was coming from and apologizes, which was a really great character moment as well.
JAYLEE: Yeah. That was such a great moment, and honestly that scene floored me. Just because the previous game I played was Game of Thrones, and it was like, nothing matters.
JAYLEE: But in this one I got to see Kate again, she’s not just deterministic and locked away in a hospital for the rest of her life.
JAYLEE: And I don’t know, that just made me so happy.
STACEY: Yeah, it was a great scene and it really does set it apart from the Telltale formula where you have an expiration date the minute something determinable like the death in an episode come up. And I like the fact that Kate also was growing in that, so she becomes part of the Scooby Gang in solving this mystery.
STACEY: That was just wonderful. I’m really curious what happens if you don’t save her, if you have a scene there are all or you just skip on to the next thing. But that was really rewarding.
JAYLEE: But the bulk of the episode is spent finding clues.
JAYLEE: And that’s finding clues from Chloe’s stepfather.
STACEY: Which that scene was a bit weird for me, because he was still in the house. For you, you got him kicked out. So was he there?
JAYLEE: He was not.
STACEY: So he was there for mine, he was in the garage. And he kept saying, “Thanks for sticking up for me, Max!” And at one point he said something like, “This is my clubhouse! No girls allowed!” And I’m like, picking his lock.
STACEY: (laughs) And it was a really weird sequence.
JAYLEE: Did you use the crowbar on the lock?
JAYLEE: Oh, I was about to say, that totally would have given it away. (laughs)
JAYLEE: That’s what I did. Cause he wasn’t there, his car wasn’t there.
STACEY: Oh, that’s interesting! I had to cause a distraction on the other side of the garage. I looked at all his papers and figured out the code.
STACEY: And then I went and opened the locker.
JAYLEE: I just used a crowbar. (laughs)
STACEY: (laughs) Good job.
JAYLEE: You finally make it into Nathan’s room, which is kind of unsettling. And you end up finding his phone.
STACEY: Super-secret phone, hidden behind a sofa. Don’t know if we should talk now, before we get much further, about Warren and Nathan.
JAYLEE: Oh yeah! They got into a fight, which I almost forgot about again.
STACEY: There is an article that was just published on Vice which is an interview with the co-director of Life is Strange, which is about kind of where Warren is coming from. Warren has rubbed some of our viewers the wrong way. (laughs) And there was this really interesting observation in one of the previous episodes, where if you deny his advances, he’ll be kind of creepy, and kind of aggressive with Max in text messages. Which really interesting to me, this idea that you see completely different sides of these characters, and in fact almost completely different characters, depending on the decisions you make. This interview on Vice kind of tries to make sense of all the different signifiers that go into Warren, which part of it was the kind of troubling revelation that he’s based on Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
JAYLEE: Oh my.
STACEY: And Xander… There’s a lot of characters I like that are based on Xander. Like Alistair from Dragon Age is based on Xander. But Xander is kind of like the prototypical likeable guy who is written by men. (laughs)
STACEY: In what is thought of to be a progressive woman’s story. It’s sometimes the author’s way of inserting himself and how he thinks he’d be. So Xander, he’s the funny one, he’s supposed to be charming, but he also…
STACEY: …Comes across as kind of possessive of Buffy.
STACEY: In a way that’s not really appropriate. And that seems to be something that is largely written about by women who watch the show and largely ignored by men, including the writers. And so that was kind of eye-opening for me, that that connection was explicitly made.
JAYLEE: Interesting, yeah. You know, throughout the entire series I’ve been like, Warren’s a nice guy, he’s a cool guy, but this episode he creeped me out.
STACEY: Yeah, a little bit. I think we got to see a little bit of what everybody else was seeing. We just wanted to pinch his cheeks. (laughs)
JAYLEE: Yeah. (laughs) But yeah, there was the fight, which I ended up letting them fight.
JAYLEE: Because they take the gun away.
STACEY: [gasps] Oh! So now do you have two guns?
JAYLEE: Did you not even rewind?
STACEY: No, I just broke it up. I was like no. No, no.
JAYLEE: Yeah. (laughs)
STACEY: Warren, you are above this. (laughs)
JAYLEE: First I broke them up, but then I was like… But then I noticed that Nathan ran off with the gun so I was like, NO!
JAYLEE: So I rewound and he beats the shit out of him, and it’s kind of intense.
JAYLEE: And I felt really bad about not rewinding, because I didn’t feel like it was good for Nathan or Warren, because Warren just keeps hitting him and it’s kind of hard to watch, but at the end of the day Nathan doesn’t end up with the gun, so…
JAYLEE: And then from there you go to Frank, and this is where the game can get pretty intense.
JAYLEE: What happened in your playthrough?
STACEY: At first I killed him, and the entire sequence I’m thinking, why is it doing this? I can rewind. Why is it doing this? And I rewound. But then Chloe did still wound Frank with a knife.
STACEY: How did you get out of that?
JAYLEE: I rewound a lot until I got the perfect thing and he was like, “Oh, do you like dogs? Come on in.”
STACEY: Oh! I wish I got that one! I like dogs!
JAYLEE: Yeah! I thought you were a shoo-in. But no, it was, you just had to pick all the right options. It was kind of… I can’t decide if I liked it or disliked it. But I don’t know. Either way you get his stuff and then you have this really… What I thought was this really cool scene where you’re compiling the clues.
STACEY: Yeah! It was very different. It didn’t really take advantage of the game’s main hook, which is the ability to rewind time, but it was still fun. Mhmm.
JAYLEE: But I liked that. You could use your skills of deduction to figure out that there’s this creepy barn.
JAYLEE: Once you’re at the barn, you discover there’s this really creepy room underneath that’s kind of like a bunker, and you guys finally find the red binders.
STACEY: Yes! That were flashed in the very first episode.
JAYLEE: Yeah. And what’s inside is terrifying.
STACEY: Mhmm. That was genuinely uncomfortable.
JAYLEE: Oh yeah! That was really uncomfortable.
JAYLEE: But yeah, you see Rachel’s binder, Kate’s binder, and an empty binder for Victoria.
STACEY: Mhmm. I think it’s significant too that they notice that there’s something very different that Rachel is posed versus Kate in that she looks completely, completely, completely out of it. So they have reason to believe that she’s not necessarily alive.
JAYLEE: And so they immediately rush over to the junkyard and they start digging and discover Rachel Amber’s body in a trash bag.
JAYLEE: But yeah. And this is when the episode for me kind of gets a little weird with its pacing.
JAYLEE: Because you have the big revelation that Rachel Amber is dead.
JAYLEE: And you guys rush to the Vortex Club party, and then you can stop and talk to random people, and just chit-chat them up and talk about things. And I was just kind of like, could you guys shut up right now? Rachel Amber is dead! I have a mystery to solve!
JAYLEE: And you get to meet up with Alyssa again. She gets pushed into the pool.
STACEY: (gasps) I love her!
JAYLEE: And you can save her and then she’ll recite some poetry.
STACEY: (laughs) The only poetry she can recite.
STACEY: I love her so much. I was so worried because I got to that point and I felt like, this is the end, this is where the cliffhanger’s gonna happen. I haven’t met Alyssa yet. Where is she? Where did I miss her? And then I saw her by the pool, I saw her fall in the pool in Max’s peripheral vision. It was like, whew! Got it! (laughs)
JAYLEE: Oh thank god! Alyssa fell in the pool; all is right in the world. Okay. But yeah, and then you get into the VIP area and you meet up with Victoria. And it felt very kind of Buffy-Cordelia, now that you mention Xander. (laughs)
STACEY: I liked it.
JAYLEE: I did too.
STACEY: I liked that they didn’t turn and around were like, “We’re best friends!” You know, that it was just kind of understanding, you know…
JAYLEE: We don’t have to be enemies.
STACEY: Yeah. (laughs)
JAYLEE: Yeah, that’s what I liked. That it wasn’t that they were immediately best friends, but they weren’t…
JAYLEE: They kind of realized they didn’t have to be opposing forces.
STACEY: Yeah, it’s kind of a moment of growth. You grow up thinking everything’s black or white—or sometimes you just feel this way, anyway, like everyone’s with you or against you. But it’s just like, no, we’re just two people.
STACEY: We can co-exist. (laughs)
STACEY: Did you warn her about Nathan?
JAYLEE: I did warn her.
STACEY: Okay. Me too. Me too.
JAYLEE: I’m not sure if she believed everything that I was saying, but she felt sufficiently warned.
STACEY: Mhmm. Which, I don’t know if it matters so much, because it turns out we were kind of wrong.
JAYLEE: But also kind of right.
STACEY: Well, I shouldn’t say “we.” Max and Chloe were kind of wrong, but also kind of right. We were so right! (laughs)
JAYLEE: (laughs) Another thing about the party that just threw me was Mr. Jefferson’s there and he’s like, “Hey guys! I’m a teacher at this party where everybody’s getting fucking plastered.”
STACEY: I know!
JAYLEE: “And doing drugs and everything’s okay, because I’m the cool teacher.”
STACEY: Seriously, the whole time I was sitting there like… I remember we read a letter about the Vortex Club party at the principal’s office, so it’s some kind of official school function. And yet there’s a VIP lounge, there was clearly alcohol present, and there was just this one teacher that’s like “Hey guys, I’m the cool teacher! It’s fine.”
JAYLEE: “Now for an announcement! Victoria wins!” And then we get back to the graveyard.
STACEY: Because Nathan has sent a text saying that there will be no evidence, so they have to rush back to make sure they can recover. And wouldn’t you know it, we were right.
JAYLEE: Yeah. (laughs)
STACEY: We are the 7%. We were so right! We called it! I was just on Cloud Nine after this. Even though it’s like, oh my god, this is terrible, but I was right! (laughs)
JAYLEE: “Chloe just got shot in the head, but I want everyone to know that I was right.” (laughs)
STACEY: Yeah. (laughs) Was it the head?
STACEY: Wow, I didn’t notice. I was so excited to be right, I didn’t even notice. (laughs)
JAYLEE: (laughs) You kind of zoned out.
JAYLEE: (laughs) And so she’s definitely dead. And so now I’m starting to wonder if they introduced the kind of…
STACEY: The alternate reality?
JAYLEE: So that she can come back from this.
STACEY: Right, that might be true.
JAYLEE: Because, I feel like if Chloe dies, and she stays dead, that’s like no, sorry, you’ve lost me.
STACEY: Yeah, I feel like this is going to end with her somehow reverting everything back to before, maybe so she doesn’t even reconnect with Chloe, but just reverts everything. Because we got dead whales too, guys. Something bigger is going on. We can’t forget that. So shit’s about to go down, we’ve got one more episode. What do we think is going to happen besides me being right? Alyssa in the tornado with the 4-by-4.
STACEY: Let me be right about that and I will… No complaints.
JAYLEE: Or Alyssa comes down into the bunker, shoots Jefferson in the head, and she’s like, “I’m a timecop.” (laughs)
STACEY: (laughs, claps) “That was all a test. You passed it.”
STACEY: “Come join me.”
JAYLEE: “Now I’m here to save you. Save you and the whales. And Chloe.”
JAYLEE: And then her, Max, and Chloe ride off on the whales.
JAYLEE: Okay, so if it’s anything other than that I’ll be disappointed. But something that was worrying us last episode was both the treatment of Nathan and his possible mental illness, as well as Chloe and her terminal condition.
STACEY: Which we didn’t know was terminal last episode.
JAYLEE: That’s true.
STACEY: That was something that was developed during this one. It was more Max’s shocked expression of seeing her friend, *gasp!* in a wheelchair?!
JAYLEE: I liked that they keep bringing up the fact that Nathan is not getting the help he needs. And, you know, there’s this really common trope where somebody’s mentally ill, so he’s a murderer!
STACEY: Yeah. “They’re off their meds!”
JAYLEE: Yeah. But I like that they’re actively pointing to the fact that Nathan is not getting the help, and everywhere he looks he’s being pushed away from the proper channels.
STACEY: Yeah. I really don’t feel qualified to talk about it, but I do wonder what the revelation of Mr. Jefferson being the person pulling all the strings will mean for that. Like what we’ve been uncovering. Yeah, so I guess jury’s still out.
JAYLEE: Do you wanna do choices?
STACEY: Sure! Oh, actually, I think we went over this one. Did you accept Chloe’s request?
JAYLEE: I rewound and did it all, but the one I struck with was saying “I don’t know,” and then Chloe kind of convincing you more, and then you going through with it.
STACEY:Yeah, I accepted it too, and that was 52% accepted, 48% refused, which I did both options and I thought that refuse ended the game, because it didn’t seem like there was anything else for me to do, but maybe I was just impatient. So next, you let Warren beat up Nathan, which when I played was 49%, but you’ve played later than me. Has that changed?
JAYLEE: No, it’s still 49%.
STACEY: Interesting! And I stopped Warren, which was 51%. So far, very close together, these percentages.
JAYLEE: Yeah. During the Frank confrontation, me and 66% of players got no one hurt.
STACEY: That is impressive. I got Frank wounded, which is 28%. I don’t know why you’d kill Frank. I guess just to see if there are any consequences. As soon as she shot the dog I was like, nope!
STACEY: We’re going back. (laughs)
STACEY: And then Victoria believed our warning, which 71% were able to build that relationship. 23%, though, she didn’t believe them. And then 6%, you heartless people! Didn’t warn Victoria!
JAYLEE: So thank you for watching our discussion for episode 4 of Life is Strange and now we want to know your finale predictions. Head to our comments section, let us know what you expect and don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on our latest episodes and water cooler discussions.
MAX: Good evening, Doctor Who.