Push to Smart Water Cooler: Life is Strange Finale

This week say goodbye to Arcadia Bay and the cast of Life is Strange. Will there be blood? Will there be tears? Only one thing is certain: there’s always a lighthouse.

Transcript under the cut!

STACEY: This episode contains spoilers for Life is Strange episodes 1-5.

JAYLEE: Hello and welcome back to the Push to Smart Water Cooler. This week we are talking about the last episode of Season 1 of Life is Strange. At the end of episode 4, the mystery had been revealed, and Chloe was shot, Max was captured, and Jefferson was the killer.

STACEY: Like we all knew. (laughs)

JAYLEE: Yeah. So this episode picked up right where it left off. Max is in the Dark Room, and the end unfolds. So what did you think of the finale?

STACEY: Really quick, I think I liked it a lot.

JAYLEE: You did?

STACEY: That was my initial gut instinct was, wow, that was pretty good.

JAYLEE: Mhmm.

STACEY: I guess you did not. (laughs)

JAYLEE: I know this is going to sound really harsh, but I hated it!

STACEY: Really?

JAYLEE: Yeah.

STACEY: Let’s dig into that then.

JAYLEE: Okay.

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: I really liked this episode in the beginning, but as it went on and as it looped and as it brought back weird parts of the gameplay from previous episodes, it kind of started to fall apart, I think. And then the ending I just cannot stand.

STACEY: It was definitely… It’s kind of in this lighthouses thesis…

JAYLEE: That’s exactly what I was thinking of.

STACEY: But for some reason, and maybe it’s just the sheen hasn’t worn off for me yet. Because I remember my initial reaction to Bioshock Infinite’s lighthouses reveal was “That ws pretty clever!” And then a few days later it was like, no…

JAYLEE: That was racist. (laughs)

STACEY: That was awful.

JAYLEE: Yeah, I know.

STACEY: And it didn’t work. But right now, my instinct is that I liked it. It’s kind of the whole thesis laid bare. But I actually didn’t like the beginning as much.

JAYLEE: I think this episode… I don’t know why, but it feels like the dialog was bad this episode for the most part. Because Jefferson is suddenly like a cartoonish villain. It’s kind of like Josh in Until Dawn. Suddenly there’s the reveal and he’s just laying it on thick. His dialog is very…

STACEY: He was monologuing.

JAYLEE: He was.

STACEY: Yeah. That’s why I didn’t like the beginning part, because I feel like this game has tried to really balance these true experiences that people go through and try to treat those respectfully with the supernatural element, and I felt that was a bit too far. Because the people that do those horrible things don’t monologue. And I felt like it was almost disrespectful in a weird way. (laughs) But then once it started laying out the superhero thesis at the end, it was like, okay that contextualized it a little bit for me.

JAYLEE: Yeah, and Jefferson’s dialog is not so subtly rape allusion-y.

STACEY: Mhmm. Which is interesting, because later you read an article about it and they make a point to say there was no evidence of sexual abuse on the victims.

JAYLEE: Yeah.

STACEY: So it’s like, I think they knew that, and they were like, “We better spell this out.” But it still was very much sexualized in the dialog.

JAYLEE: And I liked how you were jumping through the photographs, and I like when they started having the bleed-in overexposure bits that kept you from going or seeing too much, but a lot of that seems like what’s the point? A lot of the “all in your head” bit near the end, I was just like, why is this necessary? Because for me the entire series every time you made a big decision, Max was questioning it, and I don’t think you needed at this end this big long, almost Evangelion-esque inner battle with Max. For me, it didn’t really fit with what had come previously.

STACEY: See, for me it kind of refocused that a little bit. Because I feel like there is a way to be dismissed as very game-y, the way it doesn’t immediately moralize the decisions. Like, “Oh, maybe I should go back and see the other ones.” Where I felt like this put it more in the context of the world, and the in context of someone who is still in a lot of ways a kid, and is battling all of these insecurities, and how they manifest in these weird ways in her superpowers. And then her way of eventually dealing with it is basically letting everything go, and stopping trying to control everything.

JAYLEE: Back to Jefferson. Back to Jefferson and the Dark Room.

STACEY: Okay.

JAYLEE: So you’re in the Dark Room, and Victoria’s there, and you can actually have one last conversation with her. Which I kind of liked it.

STACEY: I don’t think I had a conversation with her.

JAYLEE: Oh you didn’t?

STACEY: No. I don’t think I did.

JAYLEE: Oh. Well it was one of those things where I almost jumped into the picture, and then I looked around the room and I was like, oh, she’s on the floor, I should try speaking to her. But she feels really guilty, then Max kind of calms her down, and…. I don’t know, it felt like a continuation of that scene at the party in the previous episode, where you’re trying to explain to her that she’s in danger. And that you don’t have to hate each other or anything like that. Which I kind of liked. The scene when David finds Max…

STACEY: Yeah.

JAYLEE: Did you have trouble with that segment?

STACEY: In what way?

JAYLEE: For me, I rewound about 50 times to try and get it right. And the thing that bugged me was the room was so white that when there was an input to be pressed, to be found around the room, I could barely see it. So I basically just kept like swirling my head around and mashing the X button until it worked.

STACEY: Yeah, I did that too, but I felt like that was intentional and it worked. It’s like the panic of the moment. It’s another way of viewing these powers. It’s like, yeah, you don’t have time to think about it, but at the same time you kind of do if you remember you have the ability to rewind time. So you just go back, see a new option; go back, see a new option.

JAYLEE: Mhmm.

STACEY: I have a question from David. So you have a couple options here with the dialog with David. Which I’m interested because in your game you got him kicked out of his house, where I stood up for him, so that was part of the conversation for me, it’s like, “I’m so glad I stood up for you.” And you see more of his perspective having come back from war, having to adapt. But then you have the option to tell him whether or not Mr. Jefferson killed Chloe. And that leads to him either taking matters into his own hands and shooting Mr. Jefferson, or lying to him, saying Chloe’s just fine, and he just kind of hangs out there and waiting presumably for authorities to come. What did you do?

JAYLEE: So, since in this timeline Chloe’s dead, Nathan’s dead, and Victoria’s dead, all at the hands of Jefferson, I was kind of treating it like my Darkest Timeline.

STACEY: Okay. (laughs)

JAYLEE: Because I knew I was going to be able to get out of it somewhere, so I was like, “Yeah, he did it.” And then she shot him, and I was like, I’m not even going to rewind. This is the Darkest Timeline. (laughs)

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: But that kind of influenced the rest of my decisions. So once Arcadia Bay is basically burning and the storm is coming and you’re trying to get Warren so you can get the photo… Which everybody called in the comments, thank you. (laughs) So you’re going through and you have to switch on the power for the fire extinguisher to go off, and you kill a fisherman. And I was like, okay, whatever, Darkest Timeline. Because you can rewind and look at him and Max is just like, “I can’t get to him.” And I’m like, okay, if you’re not going to try, I’m not going to try.

STACEY: Well, you can save him.

JAYLEE: That’s what I learned after when there were choices. (laughs) How did you save him?

STACEY: You have to kill him first, walk into the room, rewind time while you’re standing in the room so that everything’s on fire again and he’s still alive, talk to him out of his stupor there, and then you can reach through the broken glass from inside the room to turn on the fuse box so that they can turn off the sprinkler and then you can both get out.

JAYLEE: Oh! Apparently I also like three other people that I don’t think I even noticed.

STACEY: Yeah. I saw on the list I lost a trucker and I did not see a trucker, so… (laughs)

JAYLEE: Yeah. But I did save Alyssa.

STACEY: Yes!

JAYLEE: And there was actually a wood plank involved, like you called.

STACEY: Yes!

JAYLEE: (laughs) Speaking of Alyssa, in the last episode and we were talking about how she needed to be a Time Cop, shoot Mr. Jefferson and save everybody and ride off on whales, and this amazing artist on Tumblr actually drew it!

STACEY: It is amazing! So Tumblr user scarlettheknight, she made this amazing piece of fanart depicting Alyssa, Chloe, and Max riding off on the whales to save the day. As disappointed as I am that that didn’t happen in the game, I feel like it’s okay because we have this piece of fanart.

JAYLEE: And they’re all wearing sunglasses, and—

STACEY: It’s amazing!

JAYLEE: —They’re pretty much exactly how I pictured them when I brought that up. (laughs)

STACEY: (laughs) It’s amazing! Thank you!

JAYLEE: I’m just going to use tht as my mental image for how episode 5 should have gone.

STACEY: Right?! (laughs) No wonder you’re disappointed! Everything is a disappointment after that.

JAYLEE: That’s true. That is very true. But after you save Alyssa and she saves you back and you’re all fair and square, you have to go to the diner, and I had so much flipping trouble extinguishing that fire! I could not find the sand to save my life.

STACEY: I found it by accident. I rewound and I was like, oh, there’s something here. And I just click the button and she does it, and it’s figured it out, and I was like, okay, that’s convenient. Excellent.

JAYLEE: I was running everywhere. I was behind the diner, I was running along the edge of everything, and I couldn’t push anything— Oh god, it was a nightmare.

STACEY: I was really worried when I first saw it blow up. I was like, okay, I’m going to have to continuously rewind this and get all the information before it blows up, and then I happened to hit the sandbag. And it was like, okay. Phew.

JAYLEE: Once you get into the diner, my Darkest Timeline continued and I basically told everybody everything I could. I told Frank, “Everybody’s dead.” And I thought I had convinced Joyce to reconsider David, but at the end, it’s was like, “You didn’t convince her to change her mind.”

STACEY: Oh, I totally missed that conversation. I saw it in the choices at the end and I was like, oh, whoops. But I didn’t break them up anyway, so…

JAYLEE: So you’re good. You’re clean conscience.

STACEY: Yeah. I did tell Frank, though. That shew as dead. I thought he deserved to know that. And I figured he wouldn’t kill anybody. I forget the exact dialog options I chose, but I did tell Warren everything that was going on.

JAYLEE: Oh yeah. There was something weird about that conversation. Warren was just like, really….

STACEY: He bought into it immediately.

JAYLEE: He’s too understanding.

STACEY: Yeah. (laughs)

JAYLEE: And then at the end you can hug him or kiss him or leave, and I was really tempted to just leave.

STACEY: (laughs) Your Darkest Timeline.

JAYLEE: But I gave him a hug.

STACEY: Yeah. I kissed him.

JAYLEE: Aww.

STACEY: I liked the kind of reversal of what usually happens in action movies. Where the main guy gets a kiss from the girl “for luck” and that’s exactly what she says, but she’s the hero.

JAYLEE: Oh!

STACEY: So I enjoyed that kind of twist.

JAYLEE: That is pretty great.

STACEY: So you use this to go back to the night of the party, and you have to explain to Chloe right there why she can’t go to the party.

JAYLEE: And she takes a lot of convincing.

STACEY: Mhmm. More than Warren. (laughs)

JAYLEE: Oh yeah!. (laughs)

STACEY: I also talked to her at the scene about the timeline. I’d gone back to where her father survived.

JAYLEE: Oh yeah!

STACEY: And I liked the way it framed that. Because one of the things we worried about going into that was it was going to be “Your father dies, but then you’re not able-bodied! This is terrible!” And instead it’s framed more like, “I went back, I saved your father, but you were slowly dying.” And it focused more on the fact that she was dying, and that she’d asked Max in this timeline to help her die. And so I felt like it was good that they focused on that. (laughs)

JAYLEE: Yeah.

STACEY: Rather than “You were in a wheelchair!”

JAYLEE: I actually really did like that. And then you end up on the beach, and you kind of black out as the storm starts approaching. And that’s where the games gets, like I said, Evenagelion.

STACEY: Having not seen Evangelion, I’m going to say a bit “Bioshock Infinite.” (laughs)

JAYLEE: Yes, that too, very much. I hated trying to sneak past all the different Jeffersons. And the eventually Nathans and Franks. And then you could also collect bottles at the same time, and I was like, why are you reminding me of all these terrible scenes?!

STACEY: Oh, I didn’t know you could collect bottles! I clicked the one and she’s like, “Ugh, more bottles to collect here.” But I didn’t do it. So I assumed that was just kind of a joke.

JAYLEE: Yeah, if you collect all the bottles you can take a photograph of them or something.

STACEY: Oh. Blugh. Whatever.

JAYLEE: Yeah, exactly.

STACEY: But what didn’t you like about the flashlight scene?

JAYLEE: I don’t know, it just didn’t feel like that’s what the game was, or what the game was going toward. Because this series is all about that emotional connection and talking with people, and also like the quiet moments… And to turn it into this stealth section… It just didn’t ring true to me. Although I did like how you could sit down in the middle of it and have one of those quiet moments.

STACEY: Mhmm. Yeah, I really liked that part too. I don’t know, it didn’t really bother me as much… You’re right, it doesn’t reflect all the episodes, I felt like it was making an effort to tie in that scene from episode 3, to kind of bring it back. But it was a way to tie that into everything else. Which I’m not totally convinced it worked particularly well, especially because it was sometimes hard to detect where I was in the space, and I would have liked more time to figure out what that space was, but it didn’t bother me necessarily as much as I think it bothered you. I did really enjoy the ability to just sit down on the bench and then that transports you and lets you have what’s usually a quiet, introspective scene, into a weird, forcibly out-of-body scene.

JAYLEE: Yeah.

STACEY: So I really liked that. It kind of turned it on its head and set the tone for the rest of the segment.

JAYLEE: And I actually do think this episode had really good sit-and-reflect moments. You have one when you’re in the art gallery, and you’re just taking in everything that you’ve accomplished. And you have one in the storm right before you can talk to Warren and everything. And the dog comes up and you can pet him.

STACEY: Oh! I missed that one!

JAYLEE: Oh no!

STACEY: I love dogs! (laughs)

JAYLEE: (laughs) And then you have that one where it turns into the snowglobe . Kind of in a way like when a dog wets on the floor and people rub their nose in it, like “Look what you did!”

STACEY: Max just peed all over the space-time continuum.

JAYLEE: Exactly. “Look what you did!”

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: I think because of how frustrated I was with the ending, it’s definitely colored everything else in the episode. So if I’m just like, “I don’t know why I didn’t like this segment,” it’s probably just because I hated the ending and that’s really tainted the rest of it.

STACEY: Okay, do we want to jump to the ending, then?

JAYLEE: Let’s!

STACEY: Okay!

JAYLEE: (sighs) So, at the end, you realize you’ve had these powers and now you have to pay for them. And your big final decision is do you sacrifice Chloe so that Arcadia Bay so it can remain and not be destroyed, or do you sacrifice Arcadia Bay so you and Chloe can be together? And that really bothered me! This game is for teenagers—or at least it’s about teenagers, and I really do feel like it’s aimed at a teenage audience. This entire series has been a beacon for queer representation, and being able to play as or with queer people. And then at the end it’s like every cliché, terrible queer story, where gay couples, and lesbians—women especially—do not get to have happy endings. And so if you sacrifice Chloe, then you do get that kiss. You get that kiss, but then she dies. And if you don’t sacrifice Chloe, then you guys end up driving off together, but her entire family is dead. Kate Marsh is dead. Everybody who isn’t Chloe that you cared for is dead. And that’s not a happy ending either. It started off with this progressive thing and then it just reverted to the worst trope for gay people.

STACEY: Yeah, I wasn’t viewing it in that context. I can definitely see then why that would make you angry.

JAYLEE: I don’t know. And I feel like it’s so important, especially when you’re talking to teenagers—who are in some of the most awkward and dark times of their life—to give them hope. Especially if they’re marginalized. And neither of these gave me hope. They didn’t really read as hopeful to me. It just read as “You have to sacrifice things because you have these powers that you didn’t ask for, and so you either lose your girlfriend or everybody else.” So that that’s what frustrated me. And I chose Chloe because I was like, okay, every timeline is Darkest Timeline. But I’m going to be with my girlfriend.

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: So what did you do?

STACEY: I chose to sacrifice Chloe. And I didn’t like the way that was worded necessarily. Especially if the whole narrative thrust of it is, “Well, she wasn’t supposed to be alive anyway.” So it was less like “I’m going to sacrifice” and more like “Let’s just not mess with stuff.”

JAYLEE: Oh yeah, let’s make it right by letting her die. (laughs)

STACEY: I wasn’t viewing it in that context, so for me that completely went over my head. So it wasn’t my ideal ending, but I didn’t mind it. And I did like the little details, like that this does lead to the arrest of Nathan and Mr. Jefferson, and then that also helps presumably Kate Marsh. We see Kate Marsh a lot at the funeral and things, so I’m kind of inserting the fact that Max is still able to use her knowledge to help her out and to support her. So I like the idea that Max is still able to take everything she’s learned and create these personal connections. And you see her with Joyce and David as well. So that was the takeaway I’d got from it was that she learned… Especially if the lead-up to the ending is framed to be more about Max, and Max growing up, that she’s kind of learned these things. So in that respect I was kind of okay with it. I wasn’t super into it, because there was no riding off with whales as Time Cops…

JAYLEE: Yeah.

STACEY: But it didn’t bother me as much when I played it.

JAYLEE: Yeah.

STACEY: We’ll see in a few days how I feel about it. (laughs)

JAYLEE: And another thing is the way that Chloe was talking about how she had this great week and they can’t take it away. But when you meet Chloe, she is alone. She doesn’t understand David at all, she doesn’t understand Joyce at all, she is just all about herself and her pain. Which is totally reasonable. But then you go back and you let her die at this moment where she is wholly alone and in this deep, dark place. And even if they had that week, she didn’t have that week, this Chloe that is dying.

STACEY: Yeah.

JAYLEE: And it just… (sighs) It just frustrated me.

STACEY: So do you think this will be a Telltale game where we get a Season 2? Or do you think this is it for Life is Strange?

JAYLEE: Honestly, I hope we don’t get a Season 2. Which sucks. I never expected that. I just wanted to have a nice, lovely ending. Because this had been such a lovely game. Even with all its subject matter, I felt like… I came into this and I just want to be moved or feel any emotion but anger, but that’s really all I came out with and that sucks.

STACEY: So how would you… What would be, besides riding off on the whales as Time Cops, what would be your dream ending?

JAYLEE: I’m just frustrated by the whole “You’ve got these powers that you had no power over to save your best friend, and now you must pay for that.”

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: And I kind of wish that the hurricane wasn’t even a factor, or that it cleared up when you got Jefferson.

STACEY: Yeah. I will say, I think the murder mystery here was structured much better than The Wolf Among Us and a lot of the other… Because I was thinking—and we’ll get to this in our Borderlands episode, too—Telltale Games, structuring arcs over several episodes, not their strong suit.

JAYLEE: Yeah. (laughs)

STACEY: I feel like Don’t Nod did a great job of that for the most part, and they really wove some stuff together, some of the loose ends I was worried about were kind of tied up at the end of this episode, even if there was a stumbling block at the very end. So I am interested to see Don’t Nod try to tackle other games, perhaps in this format.

JAYLEE: Last episode we asked you all what your finale predictions were. And user Not Here was spot on. And they said that they had a feeling that Jefferson’s motivation would involve his art, and it absolutely did in a… just creepy and weird way.

STACEY: A very on the nose way. (laughs)

JAYLEE: Exactly. A little too on the nose. (laughs) Madamminalost has this amazing idea that Joyce, David and the other girls you helped would end up saving Max…

STACEY: (gasps) Oh!!!

JAYLEE: That would have been fantastic.

STACEY: That’s an awesome idea!

JAYLEE: Right? That just would… That would have been so much better. And then just everybody coming together. I—I don’t know. Because I feel like throughout the series, it’s all about raising people up to a better place and bringing them together. And then the ending is just all about separating it.

STACEY: They also predicted that David would ultimately be the one to save Chloe because he’s military, which kind of happens with Max.

JAYLEE: Yeah.

STACEY: So I really like this idea of everybody uniting, using the evidence that Max and Chloe had gathered to help them in return. So I really like that.

JAYLEE: So please write a fanfiction that explains that ending.

STACEY: Yeah. I also really like their prediction that Jefferson’s doing some sort of virgin sacrifice thing to make the tornado, and that would also take care of your problem, where taking care of Jefferson would take care of the tornado.

JAYLEE: Exactly! (disgusted sigh) (laughs)

STACEY: Love it! (laughs) So Threefive Nine says “The story started in Jefferson’s room, so I’m pretty pleased how that arc is resolving that way. However, if Max is sedated and has to listen to him make a pretentious speech about photography, I don’t know if I can take that.”

JAYLEE: (laughs)

STACEY: Threefive Nine, how you doing? (laughs)

JAYLEE: (laughs) Yeah, I know.

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: We’ll send you a little care package. (laughs)

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: And then also there were a lot of people who mentioned that the photograph time travel would be a big part in the conclusion, especially with the photograph with Warren. So kudos to you guys, because when I played it, I didn’t even think about that.

STACEY: And that makes total sense and it worked beautifully.

JAYLEE: Yeah. And Linkhs says, “Literally all I want out of this series now is for Kate, Max, and Chloe to hop in Chloe’s truck and get out of Arcadia Bay as fast as humanly possible.” Two out of three. Womp-womp.

STACEY: (laughs)

JAYLEE: Yeah. So now we… I desperately want to hear what you guys thought about the ending. Please let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date with all of our latest episodes and Water Cooler discussions.

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