The following is a list of all Theories and Speculations regarding the events and characters of Life is Strange, including the Dark Room events of Life is Strange: Season 1, the supernatural phenomena of Arcadia Bay and Max Caulfield's superpowers, and specific characters and their involvement and the outcome of the final episode, "Polarized".
You can comment on your own theories or additional ideas or add them directly to the list. You can also discuss your ideas and other theories on the discussion board.
This list still needs to be filled with theories from characters' theory and comment sections.
Life is Strange Edit
After "Polarized" Edit
- Main article: Episode 5: Polarized - Theories
Blue Butterfly Edit
- The blue butterfly at the end of Episode 5 is speculated to be Chloe Price's spirit animal, due to the fact that the blue butterfly appears at the start of Episode 1 where Chloe is shot by Nathan Prescott. The only entry in Max's nightmare journal features a drawing of a butterfly with Chloe's head, further foreshadowing the final choice. The texture file of that drawing is named Spirit_animal_Chloe, which reinforces the theory of the butterfly being Chloe's spirit animal. In the Sacrifice Chloe ending, a blue butterfly is landing on Chloe's coffin.
Blue Jay Edit
- There is also a strong symbolism associated with Chloe's spirit animal being the Blue Jay. The Native American roots of the Blue Jay spirit animal is vast and involves an ancient character named Blue-Jay who is ultimately good-natured and wants to help humanity, but cannot help but specialize in being mischievous. This is highly associated with Chloe's personality.
Blue Jay also travels to the land of the dead frequently, which makes sense as Chloe frequently dies and is heavily associated with death colors and motifs. Blue Jay is finally at peace with his death, appreciating the world of the dead only after he is finally gone. This could be symbolic of the end to Chloe's emotional suffering after her death, and possibly the end of her physical suffering in the alternative timeline. (This could also be a hint to the theory that Chloe is actually meant to die, disregarding Max's constantly saving her.) The Blue Jay in the game frequently dies, and Max is given the task of saving it. In Joyce's bedroom in Chrysalis, downstairs in the Madsen household in Chaos Theory, and again in Dark Room, we find a Blue Jay and are given the option to save it or not. This is hugely symbolic of Max's constant choice of whether to save or abandon Chloe.
- There are many theories surrounding the true meaning of the doe in the game. The first is that the doe is the spirit of Rachel Amber. This could be likely considering that it appears over her burial site, and again when the body of Rachel is discovered.
- The second likely theory is that the doe is simply Max's spirit animal sent to guide her through her time-travel ordeal. It leads her to the burial site days before the discovery of the body, and bows its head in peaceful reverence for the dead when Max and Chloe find the body. Max's personality traits fit far better with the doe spirit animal than that of Rachel, making it likely that it is her true spirit animal, or totem.
- It could also be that these two theories are linked and that the spirit of Rachel presents itself as a doe as Max's spirit guide.
Max's Powers Edit
- Some fans have suggested Max's original experience of the storm to be the actual reality point the game is based on. She would then be rewinding to the day in Jefferson's class right before all the strange events began that threw her life off the rails until the storm wiped out Arcadia Bay. Max might thus be trying to cope with survivor's guilt, hypothetically moving back and forth in her timeline experimenting what she could have done differently.
- There are some fans who suggest that the homeless lady is actually Max from an alternative timeline; there are similarities between the two that make it possible. She eats the same cereal as Max and Chloe do; it sits beside her. She has a gap between her lips when her face is at rest; the only other character in the game to do this is Max.
Infinite Universes Edit
- In this theory, rather than Max having the ability to rewind time, she in fact has the ability to warp to another universe where the events of what she tries to undo have not happened yet. This theory would explain why no one ever notices her teleporting, as the other universe would automatically provide a logical reason for her being in that particular place. This would mean that there should be at least one universe for every position Max could be in and every angle Max could be looking at.
- In "Polarized", Max has to stop Chloe from going to the End of the World Party. If she tells Chloe nothing when Chloe asks what she did, Max will go on to explain that she creates alternate realities every time she goes back in time (or at least through pictures), but Chloe tells her not to doubt herself. This comes up again in the nightmare sequence. Even if this is not true, Max herself is sure of it.
- It's unclear whether Max 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 Max would only decide which reality she preferred to live in. In other words, even if Max sacrificed Chloe, the tornado would still be going on, but in another reality that she left behind.
Chloe Price Edit
- A likely theory which ties the game together was that Max would need to rewind using the butterfly photo she took in the Blackwell bathroom before Chloe was shot by Nathan. Going back to the beginning of the game, Max would need to let Chloe die in order to correct the timeline and put a halt to the eco-disaster befalling Arcadia Bay. On the other hand, it seemed contradictory that the eco-disaster still exists despite Chloe's death in the alternative timeline.
- Another discussed scenario was that Max would step in on this moment and calm Nathan's rage in order to save Chloe and placate Nathan. However, this would be less likely, as Chloe's death is predicted symbolically in the game, and keeping her alive would not correct the wrongs in time; she was originally meant to die.
- Another theory was that the cause of the upcoming disastrous tornado was caused by Chloe's wrath toward her miserable destiny, such as the loss of her father and Rachel Amber. Considering the scene at the end of"Chrysalis", when Max falls into her premonition of the storm right after Chloe curses Arcadia Bay, it is possible that Chloe could be a destructive power against the world, and Max's duty is to save the world and Chloe.
David Madsen Edit
- David Madsen has a taxidermy mount of a deer, which he displays in the garage. There is also a picture in the Madsen household in the living room depicting him hunting a deer. Since Max's spirit animal is speculated to be a doe, it was theorized that Max might be victimized in some way by David in the future. On the other hand, "hunting the deer" was also interpreted as him investigating the mysteries that are connected to the doe spirit.
- It was speculated that David was not just onto the culprit of the Dark Room events, but also tried breaking into the barn, but failed. In the barn, prior to entering the Dark Room in Episode 4, Max makes a remark that the padlock is new, but judging from the partly faded button numbers in the Dark Room's armored door (thus, guessing the password), it can be assumed that the password hasn't been changed for a long time, hinting that someone must have broken into the Dark Room before Max and Chloe, destroying the padlock (thus explaining the new padlock) but failed to open the armored door (explaining the unchanged password). David Madsen has surveillance data that shows Jefferson and Nathan went to the barn and he is the only known person besides Max and Chloe who was aware of Jefferson and Nathan's activities and was searching for evidence.
Homeless Lady Edit
- There are some fans who suggest that this woman is actually Max from an alternative timeline, since there are similarities between the two that make it possible; she eats the same cereal (sitting beside her) as Max and Chloe do and she has a gap between her lips when her face is at rest; the only other character in the game to have this consistently is Max.
- It is theorized that the woman is an oracle and physical embodiment of Arcadia Bay, standing sentry over the town. The town has grown old and is no longer prosperous. This lady could be a metaphor for the town: eventually the town will get so old that it will die too. Max can save both the town and the homeless lady based on a single decision. This is hugely symbolic of the butterfly effect.
Note: These are theories developed prior to the release of Episode 5: Polarized.
Darkroom Events Edit
There were some theories about Jefferson being responsible in some way for the disappearance of Rachel Amber, and possibly the drugging of Kate Marsh before he was officially confirmed to be the orchestrator of the Dark Room events. His black and white photography focuses on sexualized young ladies at the height of their innocence; highly suspicious. His work focuses on innocence, but is similar to the tortured black and white images in Nathan's room, as well as in the Prescott Bunker. His words from Episode 1, "Seriously though, I could frame any one of you in a dark corner, and capture you in a moment of desperation.", also seem to be a clear foreshadowing of him primarily being involved in the dark room events.
His profession's association with "Dark Rooms", used to develop photographs, fed the theory that Nathan's drawing of "Rachel in the Dark Room" from "Chaos Theory", is related to him in some way. This combined with the rumor about Jefferson and Rachel engaging in sexual relations, all led to Jefferson being involved in the suspicious incidents at Blackwell. It also was speculated that unrequited feelings of love could be involved.
After it was clear that Kate Marsh was drugged, and dragged to the underground photography studio bunker in order for her photograph to be taken in compromising and vulnerable positions, it was highly implied that Jefferson is in part responsible for this; as well as being responsible for the photographing of many other victims, as well as the photographing and death of Rachel Amber. This was supported by his behavior towards Kate when she was crying to him and asking him for help and he told her to knock off the "martyr act" and blamed her for what has happened. He was rumored to have slept with Rachel, and he claimed "Kate was nothing like Rachel" in a vaguely sinister manner while talking to Max.
There was also a strong possibility that he was associated with Nathan Prescott, due to Nathan's link to drugs and his known involvement in the Vortex Club Parties. The bunker was clearly paid for by Sean Prescott, linking the family to the victims, as well as to Jefferson.
As of the end of Episode 4, Jefferson was already most likely responsible for kidnapping Rachel and Kate, along with various other students he keeps logged in files. It was not fully confirmed whether or not he and Nathan Prescott are working as a team, although the fact that these crimes took place on in a bunker owned by the Prescott family, made this a strong likelihood.
To convince victims to come to him, Jefferson could have stolen Nathan's phone and used it to message them, such as the text Chloe received from Nathan in the end of Episode 4. The text was well-written and literate, unlike any texts sent by Nathan earlier in the game. The game also seems to canonize that he sent the text and attempted to frame Nathan in other ways as well, including planting Victoria's bracelet.
While Mr. Jefferson has been revealed as the orchestrator of dark room events, many fans still speculated over his true motives. Many simply believed that he was using young women to his advantage in his photography in a deal with the Prescotts. Others believed that he had a much more complex and sophisticated role in the series and that not all was as it appeared to be. Fans continued to point out pieces of information which didn't seem to all add up to what Mr. Jefferson is doing in the dark room, for example:
- Why he kept and released Kate Marsh alive.
- Why he refused advances made on him by students (particularly Victoria).
- Why he has a very large amount of food and drink stored in the Dark Room.
Theories ranged from him knowing about the end of the world and aiming to prevent it, to being a psychopathic serial killer.
Nathan's Father Edit
A common flawed speculation was that Mr. Jefferson was actually Sean Prescott, Nathan's father. There are two major factors which proved against this theory. The first was the photograph of a young Nathan as a child with his father Sean which can be found in Nathan's dorm room. The second was that during the End of World Party Luke mentions that he met Nathan's father once and described him as a "Mean bastard" - if it was actually Jefferson then Luke would have instantly known.
Association With Time Travel Edit
Another popular theory was the belief that Mr. Jefferson, like Max, had time control powers and/or knew about Max's own abilities; hence why he chose to sedate her in order to prevent her from using her powers to rewind time at the end of Episode 4. This also was considered an explanation as to how he managed to get to the junkyard extremely quickly at the end of the episode, as Chloe and Max left the party Mr. Jefferson was still speaking on stage (this logic is flawed, as if he could rewind time and not do his speech, Max wouldn't see the speech.) although this has been dismissed merely as Mr. Jefferson driving a faster vehicle. Besides from Chloe, Mr. Jefferson was the only other character who is hinted to know about Max's powers throughout the game. Jefferson's very first line from Episode 1 makes a distinctive link between time and photography mentioning Alfred Hitchcock's "little pieces of time". His constant mentioning of Max's "gift" in Episode 1 could have implied that he somehow knew about her abilities, but it was just a foreshadowing to Max having such special abilities. Furthermore, it was speculated that he could aim especially for girls with those rewinding powers, and as Rachel could have also had those he killed her and now was trying to kill Max.
Jefferson's Phone CallEdit
There has been much debate on who called Jefferson in Episode 2, but it was never revealed. During the Square Enix charity livestream, when the fans asked about the identity of the caller, DONTNOD did not reply.
Discussed Theories Edit
Note: These are theories developed prior to the release of Episode 5.
- Nathan is suspected to be involved in Rachel Amber’s death, as well as her being drugged and photographed against her will. Jefferson claims Nathan accidentally overdosed Rachel, but in reality it is unclear to what extent Nathan is involved in the situation.
- Nathan's jacket's (determinant) presence in the bunker may confirm that he was there some time after seeing the girls at the dormitory. We know that his father was on the way to the dormitory before the girls left. It was speculated that perhaps his father was there with him in the bunker and could be connected to the events; considering there are survival supplies in the bunker, and that there are receipts for the construction of the place in Sean's name, it seemed possible that he would know about the activities there.
- Nathan may not be aware of Rachel’s death, due to his apparent surprise and elation when he sees Max wearing Rachel's clothes and mistakes her for Rachel at the Two Whales Diner. This could mean that Nathan was not informed and involved in her disappearance and it was all the work of Mark Jefferson. However, Nathan is also described by a psychiatrist as having mental disorders. This could also be escalated by his drug use, and could cause him to be detached from reality. He may have been in too much shock to process her death even if he did witness it. Alternatively, he may have thought he only sedated Rachel when Mark knew Rachel was already dead from Nathan's overdose and Mark hid the truth from Nathan to keep him around longer and keep him from turning himself in to the police.
- It was considered rather certain that Nathan drugged both Kate and Chloe, which is evident by their memories and the photo taken of Chloe found in Nathan's room, but that he probably would not be responsible for what happened to them eventually. It was speculated that Nathan was used by Mr. Jefferson to drug girls for his purposes.
- It is possible that Nathan was drugged for the photos in which he appears alongside Rachel in the junkyard, and after he realized the danger he was in, he requested protection and safety from his parents. This could explain both the thank-you letter from Nathan’s father to David Madsen and the fact that Officer Berry told Max at the diner that he watches over Nathan while he is at Blackwell as those were his orders from the Prescotts.
- It's also speculated that the twitch-causing side-effects of the Risperidone Nathan is on caused him to shoot Chloe by accident. It is shown after Nathan shoots Chloe, he immediately regrets it, saying, "Oh... Shit! No, no, no, no...", while he bends down and shakes Chloe. In Episode 5, if Max has chosen to sacrifice Chloe in order to fix the timeline, Nathan is seen repeatedly bending down to shake Chloe before he is later shown being arrested and confessing his actions to the police.
- Another theory was that Nathan even knew Rachel pretty well. The fact that Nathan became involved as a sort of protégée of Mr. Jefferson and knew about Rachel's posing for him could be why Jefferson also drugged Nathan and took photos of Nathan with Rachel and later killed her (she planned to leave the town anyway and Nathan is too important, killing him far to risky). The "Rachel in the Dark Room" drawing and his entire over-stressed, aggressive and unstable behavior could be a hint to him being traumatized by having experienced something horrible linked to Rachel and now having PTSD. Maybe he even tried to save Rachel and since then had been forced by Jefferson to help him by drugging girls. However, it was presumed that his unstable condition, including making those drawings, behaving unsustainable in lesson and visiting a therapist is all caused by that horrible experiences. That also was considered an explanation for him owning a gun and being under surveillance, regarding in what kind of danger he was. Given the principal would really be connected to the Dark Room events, then it could be that was also put under pressure by Jefferson or/and Nathan's father to hide all traces of Nathan's strange behavior, as Jefferson is as well an influential person at Arcadia Bay and especially Blackwell.
- It was also speculated that Jefferson stole Nathan's phone to text the girls in order to lure them to American Rust after killing Nathan to blame the past and following deaths on him, explaining why Nathan didn't even show up anywhere or even at the Vortex Club Party after encountering Max, Chloe and Warren in the boys' dormitories. This also would explain why the informal language Nathan generally uses in his texts is not present in the text Chloe shares with Max.
Current Theories Edit
- It's speculated that Nathan wasn't involved with Rachel's death and that Jefferson just tried to blame his fault on Nathan like he claimed Nathan would have shot Chloe earlier.
- Another theory, that is supported by unused audio files, is that Nathan knew about the coming storm. But how he could've known about the storm is unclear. It is possible that he experienced visions of the tornado as Max did. However, his mental instability and vocal proclamations that everyone is "gonna die" would likely lead to people passing off these visions as psychotic episodes.
- One of the game directors later confirmed in an interview that it was thought to be in Episode 5, but was scrapped pre-release because it didn't make enough sense story-wise and there weren't enough hints to this before the final episode. 
Nathan's Father Edit
- Some theorized that Mark Jefferson is Nathan's father, Sean Prescott, but this theory is largely flawed, mostly due to character eyewitness accounts saying they have met Sean Prescott and that he is a "mean bastard" and Mark Jefferson is widely loved and admired. Also, Evan has met both Jefferson and Sean separately; if they were the same person, he would have realized it. Luke Parker comments about him meeting Sean in person: "I met him once at a Bigfoots game... mean fucking bastard. Oh man, he explains Nathan." Due to Luke knowing both him and Jefferson, it becomes clear that they are two different people.
- It is possible that Sean does not know about the true purpose of the Dark Room. However, this is unlikely. The vast amount of money he spent creating the bunker gives the impression that it has a higher purpose. The notion that the Prescott family knew about the oncoming weather-related trauma is possible. If they knew, it would make sense that they would begin a "Storm shelter Boom", and have the bunker ready for the upcoming emergency situation.
Principal Wells Edit
- There is the possibility of a link between Wells and Jefferson, as well as the Prescotts. Obviously, the Prescotts nearly own Blackwell and therefore Principal Wells must keep them happy in order to facilitate their continued funding of Blackwell.
- Nathan and Wells share meaningful looks in the office after Kate's incident, implying that Wells is in some way involved and must take Nathan's side in the situation. However, in the right scenarios he does suspend Nathan, which could indicate that he is actually uninvolved with the mysterious disappearances, and that he is simply a principal attempting to keep his school afloat.
- There is a bottle of whiskey in the Prescott Bunker which is a possible link to Wells, as he is a known alcoholic due to the stressful nature of his occupation. It is possible he is involved with the Prescotts in some way, in a deeper sense than just keeping them happy enough to retain funding for Blackwell. Keeping them happy may entail keeping quiet about their involvement in the disappearances, or possibly assisting them.
Rachel Amber Edit
Note: These are theories developed prior to the release of Episode 5: Polarized.
- There were many fan theories about Rachel and her whereabouts. Some even suggested that Rachel Amber was Max from an alternative timeline.
- One theory was also that Rachel wasn't actually dead, but rather working together with Jefferson, as it was rumored they had slept with each other and both had their affections for photography and modeling which could have hooked them up.
- In that case, it was assumed that the supposedly dead body of Rachel Amber that is buried on the junkyard could be a deer instead since there is a ghost of a deer that's always there.
- Another theory is that the Ghost Doe that disappears at the end of Episode 4 is the spirit of Rachel that moves on once her body is found by Max and Chloe. This theory has later been confirmed by the developers.
- Samuel has an array of fashion items that can be found in the janitorial shed, including sunglasses, a scarf, and magazines. It is possible that Samuel has an interest in fashion, and maybe even a desire to become a fashion photographer.
- From the beginning of the game, Samuel seems very mysterious and it is possible that he has some kind of connection to Arcadia Bay or Blackwell. This theory is furthered by his lecture about spirit animals and his heightened distress at the unusual occurrences that unfold throughout the week.
- When talking to Max about her spirit animal guiding her to Rachel, he uses the phrase "body", which indicates his possible knowledge about Rachel being dead.
- The Twilight Zone Theory
There is some speculation that Warren Graham's character actually has a darker side than is apparent at first sight. It suggests that Warren could possess a violent nature along with a strong desire for a sexual relationship with Max rather than a romantic one. It is based on the following observations:
- After you return the flash drive to him, Warren mentions a very disturbing movie called Cannibal Holocaust which portrays graphic brutality, sexual assault, and violence towards animals. Warren says that he "laughed his ass off" watching it.
- In a note that he leaves in Max's room he mentions another movie called Ultravixens, which is a film containing excessive pornography.
- In Episode 3, Max finds a developed photo of herself and Warren inside his locker in the boy's changing room at the swimming pool. Her surprised attitude could suggest that this photo is not one they have taken together, and instead this is a photo Warren edited and pieced together. This is backed up by the fact that Warren mentions he is good at using graphical editing software in response to discovering that Daniel had posted a portrait of Max online and she asks him if he can draw.
- The name "Katie" appears in Frank Bowers's client list (codenamed as "Chihuahua"). It was speculated that Kate may have bought drugs from Frank in her depressed state, as Chihuahua would be a fitting dog type for Kate and "Katie" bought a sleeping drug called green dream and a drug that causes death (both uses would be fitting for Kate in her sleepless and suicidal circumstances). It's more unlikely that Kate would use weed and acid (the other drugs under Katie's name in the book), and none of the transactions took place in Blackwell itself where she spends most of her time - Kate can't even say a swear word let alone become involved with Frank. However, it has been confirmed by the developers that the Katie on Frank's list is not Kate Marsh.
- It's very likely that Kate survived the storm in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending, 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 do usually have underground storm shelters, and Arcadia Bay is known to have a lot of bomb shelters.
- Additionally, Kate could have been released by the hospital after a 48 hour hold period, by which time her family would have visited (as she mentions they would during Max's visit). The storm would have been on its way by then, and Kate and her family would most likely have fled the town.