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Episode 5: Polarized - Theories

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This page lists Theories and Speculations that tie on the two endings of Life is Strange's last episode, "Polarized", as well Interpretation of the final choice and its significance for the game. You are welcome to comment and discuss your ideas in the comment section, but you are also allowed to add your ideas theories to this list if they're reasonable.

Theories and Speculation Edit

Main article: Theories and Speculations

Sacrifice Arcadia Bay Ending Edit

  • It's not explicitly shown, but highly likely that most, if not all those in the Two Whales Diner, being Warren, Joyce, Frank (determinant) and Pompidou (determinant), are dead in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending when the full force of the storm had hit the town. Another thing to mention is that in the other timeline, the diner also exploded without Max's intervention, which was due to a gas fire from Frank's RV. But that could also depend on whether Chloe killed Frank in the previous episode.
  • While it is never explicitly stated whether or not anyone other than Max and Chloe survived the storm in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending, it should be noted that the Two Whales Diner is seen still standing after the storm, much like it was when Max was there before she saved Chloe using Warren's photo. Even though we don't see any survivors, it is entirely possible that Joyce, Warren, Frank and Pompidou were able to survive the storm, staying sheltered in the diner, especially considering the butterfly effect Max's last interference with time might have caused.
  • David may have also survived the storm if Chloe is spared by the player, as during the storm he tracks down Jefferson in the Dark Room (with or without policemen). So he may have survived, being safe in the Dark Room underground, which is also described as a "storm bunker". However, that also means that Jefferson likely survived the storm as well if David didn't kill him after learning the former killed Chloe. But it's also likely that David was killed by Jefferson as he wasn't able to overpower him without Max's help.
  • There is a chance that Kate didn't survive the storm in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending either, as she stated to Max that her parents were merely coming to visit her at the hospital, nothing was explicitly stated about them picking her up and taking her out of town on Friday. However, there is also a chance that Kate survived the storm, since the hospital is a solid brick building that could have been able to withstand the storm as opposed to the destroyed wooden buildings that are shown in this ending. Also, hospitals usually have underground storm shelters.
  • It's possible that Victoria is safe and sound with principal Wells in San Francisco in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending, because if not Max, she would be the winner of the Everyday Heroes Photo Contest. However, this depends on whether or not the player warned Victoria, or on the butterfly effect, if Jefferson kidnapped her anyway.
  • It's unknown if all the residents of Arcadia Bay died in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending, although we have seen a lot of deaths that are likely determined without Max's intervention. A document in the Prescott Barn[1] indicates that there are a lot of bunkers all over the town, but whether any of the residents actually knew about the bunkers or managed to make it to some of them isn't revealed.
  • It is only shown in the game that the street by the Two Whales Diner was mostly destroyed by the storm in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending, as most of the buildings there are made of wood. It's not shown if Blackwell Academy, a brick building, had been completely destroyed by the storm as well.
  • As we know, the Bigfoots football game was supposed to take place on the day of the tornado, and the tornado probably postponed or interrupted it. Regarding the fact that Evan, Alyssa and Warren (people who aren't bothered by sports) aren't in Blackwell, maybe it was taking place but everyone watching or playing the game was killed on the field. Otherwise, they would've seeked shelter in the school which is a solid brick building that likely withstood the storm and so most likely survived.

Sacrifice Chloe Ending Edit

N/A

Max and Chloe's Fate Edit

  • It's unclear whether Max just changes reality or creates new timelines that run and exist parallel to each other for each time she rewinds and alters the past. If the second was confirmed, the end would not boil down to "save the city or save Chloe", but you only would decide which reality you prefer to live in. In other words, even when you sacrifice Chloe, the tornado is still going on, but in another reality that you left behind.
    • If this is the case and it may also explain the strange weather phenomenon experienced throughout the game. It's possible that Max has the ability to create alternate "branches" in the timeline, however these branches are fundamentally unstable, meaning the entire game has been taking place in some alternate "side branch", in a universe that is slowly breaking down. It's only by returning to the "main branch" that Max can continue to exist in life normally.
  • It's possible that fate may attempt to correct Chloe's death once again after Max and Chloe leaving town in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending, as Chloe was meant to die from the beginning, and the storm destroying Arcadia Bay was just the first big anomaly to face through sparing Chloe.
  • There is a high probability that Max, in case she still has her time controlling ability after her final choice, won't ever be able to redo her decision on whether to Sacrifice Chloe or Arcadia Bay, as in both timelines she lost the possibility to prevent Chloe's death on Monday (she tore the blue butterfly photo in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending and even if she tried to save Chloe again in the Sacrifice Chloe ending, she would likely end in the same present since she would do everything the same as the last time from that point on).

InterpretationEdit

  • Max's Nightmare represents her emotional reliving of all experiences in the last five days in an exaggerated form, including her fears and trauma regarding the Dark Room Investigation, her feelings of guilt regarding her actions throughout the game, the alternative reality with William alive and the fate of everyone at Arcadia Bay and self-doubts, as well as the moments she spent with Chloe, as depicted in a sequence of recollected memories from the few days they spent together. Click here to take a deeper look at Max's nightmare.
  • The final decision of either sacrificing Chloe or Arcadia Bay represents the popular ethical trolley dilemma, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." And that final situation is all about making the right decision in front of moral conflicts and own desires as depicted in Max's nightmare. That would make Life is Strange all about the morality and responsibility of time travel or rather life itself, and whether you can take responsibility for your decisions and bear the consequences, which is also an important part of growing up.
  • One theory holds a more relatable interpretation, stating that Max got her powers through the blue butterfly and the real purpose of that power is to let Max enjoy her time with Chloe and say everything she has to say before Chloe dies. It was not really intended for her to save lives nor change the course of the future. Life is Strange is about the human desire for reversing your mistakes and having a second chance, just a little bit more time; to make up for what you didn't do. It teaches us to treasure the people we love and to spend the time we have with them wisely before it could be too late, before we could be left filled with regret for the rest of our lives; like Max would've been after finding out her best friend she abandoned for five years had suddenly died and she never reached for her in that bathroom. Furthermore, it confronts us with the question: What are you willing to pay for the person you love? Would you really do anything, sacrifice everything for that person? It's through these questions that the game pushes you to that extent, from taking one risk after another, investing in everything, and finally taking the immense cost of hundreds of people dying just for the one person you love the most and would do anything for, or finally learning to let them go and move on, not exactly for just the greater good, but for a sense of acceptance.
    • Earlier in Polarized, Max reveals that she always wanted her life to be special, an adventure, but never without Chloe by her side. Tied in with this theory, it's possible that before Chloe died, Max was granted her childhood dream, and the adventure is what you make of it; running from death, keeping a doomed friend safe, saving the town, finding out what has happened to Rachel Amber and all the other girls. However, that adventure ended when Max fixed time by letting Chloe die, and so she probably also lost her powers in that moment.
  • Max (and the players) might actually have been deliberately tricked into sacrificing Chloe by the end of episode 5. A central theme of the early episodes was bullying, and basically Polarized pushes Max onto a guilt trip even though there is no reason for her getting the power if she was supposed to never use it. It is normal that she is having guilt at all the destruction she witnesses, but it is strange by how many and how often she is told that everything is her fault in the last episode. Also she has resolved nothing. The ending basically tells us that everything would have been fine (except for Chloe) if she had never started reversing time. Nathan and Jefferson would have been arrested and Rachel found. So if she was not supposed to do anything what was the point of it all?
  • The obvious answer is that all happened for Max to have made these "great" experiences. This interpretation is problematic though. Max, like any person, would be much more likely to develop severe psychological issues after the experiences she made. Seeing all that death and suffering, the experience of the dark room and the nightmare, letting her best friend die... It is hard to imagine her just brushing off all of that. Also Max would be fully aware that Chloe would not have had any of these experiences and the last thing she would hear in her life is that nobody would miss her.No one would know or believe Max's sacrifices or experiences. No one would know that Chloe was a key element to saving Arcadia Bay. But if, on the other hand, the point was to learn to live with the consequences of your actions it would mean to see this through to the end and save Chloe.
    • If you take this into account it might also be interesting to note how Max's shirt changes throughout the game. The first notable change is after Max takes back the decision to save William. The second time is right after her nightmare before the ending. This can be explained away by normal everyday routine, people change their clothing. But since this is a game it is certainly more of an artistic expression and becomes noteworthy. She changes from her pink Jane Doe shirt and Rachel outfit to the black Butterfly shirt after sacrificing William. An expression of her guilt. After the nightmare in Polarized her shirt is now red. This may be a reflection of Max's mental state and self image. In this interpretation Save Arcadia Bay could be viewed as the "bad" ending.

ReferencesEdit

  1. It says that that the Prescotts brought "a bomb shelter boom to town".

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