Life is Strange - Episode 5: Polarized

Written by: Mark Duque

Games | Nov 12, 2015

episode 5 life is strange

True to its title, the final episode for Life is Strange has been polarizing. While the game has maintained its fantastical approach in time travel, it felt like a different game all together.

Previous episodes took their sweet time immersing players in its close to life pastel colored atmosphere, this episode however, moved into a breakneck speed from one end of the map to the other. And how can it not? While the first four episodes had been exposition and rising action, Polarized, is the climax and falling action. This is where things are settled - ground zero to set our hearts in a disturbing nightmare between impossible choices. 

The episode starts with Max tied to a chair, confronting the game's psychotic villain, as he starts to monologue his "master plan". An element that seemed relevant in every mystery genres. 

At this point, the plot is on its downward path of going from nostalgic melancholy to borderline cartoony. Though all of these cartoonish features were nothing but a façade-an illusion to lure us out that something good will ever happen here. We're talking about time travel. Since when did anything that had to do with time travel ended by riding toward the sunset with the euphoria of true happiness without compromising integrity.

Only Back to the Future can get away with all the fun stuff.

We see Max thrown from one point in the story to the next, in a roller coaster of events that was almost Lychian in its surreal approach. It becomes grittier and darker. Just when we think things are going to get better: They don't. It only worsens every passing moment, every choices Max has to make. And yet, we cannot blame her for whichever decision she makes - for one, the players make the choices, imposing a pre-destiny - whatever happens in between, the result will always be the same. The only way out, leads to something far worst.

There are two endings. Both are emotionally wrecking. That final choice seems to make all the decisions futile.

Again, we can't blame Max. She is human after all, and through polarizing emotions, she knows what is right and what is wrong. But either choice have both. It's a matter of weighing in the lesser evil. 

The final decision is Max's wardrobe portal from childhood to adulthood. It's not about the struggles of a Time Lord, wielding power over the masses. It's the struggle of a young girl trying to save her friend from being murdered, while correcting the mistakes she had made. It's complicated, difficult to follow sometimes, but that's all right. That's adult life. Bad things happen and we become totems of strength for our own fears and shortcomings. 

We might think Life is Strange has a message here. About the choices we make. That perhaps life is just an illusion, and whatever we decide in life, will only lead to the same conclusion. That isn't so. In life, death is following nearby. But living in between, choosing how to live: Seeking companionship, satisfying hunger, taking meds to banish sickness-all of these have struggles in defying death. And yet there is an urge to keep on going, to give life a meaning despite the inevitable erosion of the body. 

Life is just strange like that.

Life is Strange is all about story and character-development. It never bothered to explain Max's powers, or why her nose bleeds in certain events. Maybe just as well. We don't need to get sidetrack with whatever flimsy attempts they could make to ruin the whole narrative. By the time the credits roll, we are left with more questions unanswered. Which is just as well: We don't get all the answers in life anyway.

I may not be spending the weekend on a road trip to rethink my life, it surely got us thinking about the choices we made and how it's affecting us.

About the author: Mark Duque

Multimedia Editor. Mark is an avid player of games that his friends don't play. Happily in a relationship with a unicorn. Game development hobbyist and corporate art monkey by trade.

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