Life is Strange Episode 3: People are unpredictable, and so is the future.
Life is Strange Episode 3: Chaos Theory
Chloe and Max raid the principal’s office at Blackwell Academy to search for evidence on Nathan and his involvement in both Kate’s and Rachel Amber’s cases. Being teenagers, they also take the time to break into the school’s pool for a midnight dip and escape before David catches them. Max and Chloe search David’s personal files in the garage for any evidence he might have on Nathan. David and Chloe blow up on each other again, but this time it leads to a major change in the family. The duo break into Frank’s RV for more evidence, and discover he and Rachel were in a relationship. Chloe is hurt, and lays out all the pain she has felt ever since her dad died. Max then discovers a new aspect of her ability to control time, and uses a photo to travel back to the moment before Chloe’s dad, William, dies in the car accident. Max uses the opportunity to change the outcome, but she doesn’t find out just how much has changed until she returns to the present.
What I experienced:
The opening scene of this episode is Max alone in her room, either reeling from the rush of saving Kate’s life earlier that day, or reeling from the sadness of failing to save her close friend. The creators did a good job of making her reactions believable for either possibility, and they use the environment and some of Max’s inner dialogue to set the mood. An example would be when you look at Kate’s bunny that Max took in; the inner dialogue is either of hope that the bunny will be reunited with Kate after her hospital stay, or one of sadness that the bunny will never see her owner again. Also, the texts and social media posts are either praise for Max saving Kate, or condolences and reassurance that Max tried everything she could to save Kate. The tone for whichever outcome remains all throughout the rest of the game anytime Kate is mentioned, which I thought was a nice touch. It makes the experience consistent and changes the feel of the rest of the story in a meaningful way.
Max continues the investigation into Nathan’s involvement in the incidents, and breaks into Victoria’s room for any details she might have, but not much is revealed other than she knows of some of his family drama. Max and Chloe then overhear a conversation between Victoria and Mr. Jefferson where she makes a pass on him, and then threatens to blackmail him with a false accusation if he does not choose her for the winner of the contest. Mr. Jefferson brushes her off like a boss, and they continue on to break into the principal’s office with a little help from Warren via text instructions. Once inside they dig through some files on Nathan to find out he is having behavioral problems, and his wealthy father is threatening to withdraw donations from Blackwell Academy if they are not covered up. Money may be able to change what gets put down on paper, but it can never change the reality.
In Nathan’s file, they discover a really weird drawing with “Rachel in the Dark Room” scrawled all over it.
Seeing as how the next episode is titled “Dark Room,” you can guess that this piece of information will become very important to the story at a later time. I thought this was a nice piece of foreshadowing, as it reveals Nathan is definitely involved, but still not sure how or why.
While in the principal’s office you are given opportunities to snoop into other characters’ school records, which adds an extra layer of character development. You see Rachel Amber was on David’s radar for potential drug distribution (but then again with his paranoia who isn’t) and she was actually caught with some drugs on her. You learn about Chloe’s failing grades, Warren is good at science but not art, and Max is labeled as a loner with lots of artistic potential. It was interesting to see the “grown-up’s” perspective of all the characters.
Before leaving the office there is a choice to take an envelope of cash set aside for renovations for handicap accessibility, or leave it be. There isn’t really any major consequence tied to this, but I do like how in the next episode Max sort of flip-flops on her choice because of different information she gets regarding the fund.
Of course since two teenagers have the run of an empty school at night, they have to get into some kind of shenanigans. They break into the gym and Max gets an opportunity to be nosy and break into the side characters’ gym lockers. You get a few more character details like how Stella seems to have a crush on Warren, Hayden is a typical jock, Victoria is insecure, and a few other little things.
The moment of swimming with Chloe is more of a slice of life moment rather than contributing to the overall story. Slice of life is just that, a story that is meant to be a reflection of what happens in real life without having too much drama, action, or fantasy. It is all about portraying a moment that anyone can relate to. The scene in the pool is the two friends taking a moment to reflect on life; past, present, and future. Everyone has at least one moment during their adolescence where they thought about how much their life has changed since childhood, how their life is now, and what direction do they want to go in. The scene also gives a much needed break from some of the darker stuff that has passed and will soon come to pass for the characters.
David and another security guard break up the party and the duo barely manage to escape back to Chloe’s house. The next morning Chloe coaxes Max into being more confident in her abilities, not only with her time powers but also as an artist and as a person. Max’s experience with Kate, whether it was good or bad, has caused Max to view herself differently. She tries on some of Rachel Amber’s clothes she left behind at Chloe’s house, and has an attitude that she is willing to push herself into being more active in her own life and who she wants to be. Max is beginning her journey into adulthood, even if she herself has not realized it yet. Her conversation with Joyce also reinforces this idea, as she talks to Max about noticing a change and encouraging her to be more confident as well.
Chloe then enters the conversation and starts an argument with her mom as a distraction while Max digs into David’s files in the garage. His laptop is secured with a password, and Max digs through his personal belongings to try and figure it out. This segment reveals a lot about David’s character; what he has experienced and what he values. His service in the military shows he has a strong sense of duty, a thank you gift for saving someone’s life shows he experienced life threatening situations, and memorabilia of his first meeting with Joyce along with cards for Chloe show he really values his family.
Those revelations make, depending on the choice you make, the next scene kind of heart-wrenching. David returns grumpy from spending all night writing reports on the girls shenanigans, and Chloe decides it is the perfect time to reveal to Joyce about all the surveillance he has done on the students at Blackwell Academy, and in their own home. You are then given the choice to either side with Chloe or with David. All the character development you get about David right before is supposed to make you hesitate on putting David down; however for me since David wasn’t the one to reveal all those details to Max through his own words or actions, I felt it was not as impactful as it could have been. If you side with David, Joyce tells Chloe to take a step back as she talks with David about it. But if you side with Chloe Joyce asks David to move out of the house while she thinks about their relationship. I did not find it very realistic for Max to have so much influence over Joyce and I felt this was one of the more weaker storytelling moments of the game.
Regardless of what happens, the girls take their leave and set their sights on getting into Frank’s RV for more info. They track him down at the Two Whales diner, where he is throughly enjoying a plate of beans[link to clip if available] while his RV sits in the parking lot. Max is left with the task of obtaining the keys while Chloe finds a treat for his dog who was left inside the RV to guard it. Max takes the opportunity to exact revenge on Frank for threatening her and Chloe, such as spilling his plate of beans on the floor, spill water all over him, or just flat out insult him. She rewinds to take it all back, and has to get more information from either Nathan or a police officer to get Frank to at least converse long enough to take out his keys.
We get even more character development, this time on Frank and Nathan. Nathan lets loose that there is a lot of pressure from his family and he feels like he does not have the ability to make his own decisions; BUT he still manages to be a dick and insult Max at the end of every sentence. The police officer reveals Frank used to participate in dog fights, but then had a change of heart and freed all the dogs in whatever dog fight ring he was in. Frank’s current dog was actually one of the ones he rescued from that night. Max uses the information to ask about petting his dog, but Frank sees through it and tells her no, pulling his keys out to taunt her that she will not get what she wants; which of course she does once she snatches them and rewinds like it never happened.
The girls face the dog before going into the trailer, and there is a choice to either throw the treat into the parking lot or into the street. At the end of every episode it shows the statistics of what choices you make compared to everyone else, and 94% of people chose to keep the dog out of harms way by throwing it into the parking lot. Being a dog lover myself, that statistic gave me some hope for humanity. There’s a saying that a society can be judged on how it treats it’s prisoners, and it’s pets; thankfully Western society has respect for dogs. I know in some cultures it is normal for a dog to be considered food, but there are plenty of instances were people raise pigs or chickens as pets even though they are considered food in Western culture. However, on my second playthrough I (painfully) got the dog ran over to see if it had an impact on the story later on, and it actually does in the next episode.
Once inside the RV Max finds Frank’s accounting book, along with pictures and letters that show he and Rachel Amber were romantically involved, which is why he was wearing the bracelet the other day. Chloe feels betrayed that her new/old best friend would lie to her and feels betrayed by the only person she felt close to during those 5 years Max was gone.
She rants about how everyone in her life has betrayed her: Max for being gone and not keeping in touch, Rachel Amber for lying about Frank, her mom for asking for a ride from her dad, and her dad for dying in a car accident on his way to pick her up. She then cried about how everything in her life went bad after her dad died, and if he had stayed alive everything would be so much better.
That scene was actually very emotionally charged, not only because her situation was sad but it was also frustrating making the dialogue choices and still getting the same response. As an adult (well, I should say as an emotionally healthy adult since I have seen plenty of adults in my line of work who feel the same as Chloe), you learn that sometimes life just hands you a really bad situation that is outside of your control. In Zen Buddhism there is the concept that there are no good or bad events in life, there is just life. Chloe has clearly not learned this lesson and her anger stems from her resistance in accepting that fact.
Chloe dumps Max back at Blackwell so she can be alone for awhile, and Max sulks in her room after the emotional dump Chloe put on her. Max stares at a photo of her and Chloe taken right before William was killed in the car accident, and after a little focus she time leaps into her 13 year old self at the very moment the picture was taken.
The first thing I noticed was how much different Chloe acted when she was younger. Her voice was not only lighter from being younger, but also without the depressed/angry tone she had as an adult. The voice actor for Chloe did a pretty good job making that distinction, and she does the same with present day Chloe in the next episode.
Max decides to make her best friend’s life better and hides the car keys from William, forcing him to take the bus instead of drive and then all is well. Max returns to the alternate-timeline present and discovers she is part of the Vortex club, and she rushes to Chloe’s house to see the results of her handiwork. William answers the door, alive and well, and calls Chloe to the door. There, Max discovers her best friend is a quadriplegic in a wheelchair, ending the episode on that cliffhanger.
Max’s actions obviously had some unforeseen consequences. We don’t learn of the chain of events which led to Chloe being in a wheelchair until the next episode, but suffice to say it was all connected to the change Max did. The title of this episode is in reference to the very concept which led to the unforeseen consequence. Edward Lorenz, one of the mathematicians to develop Chaos Theory and coin the term “butterfly effect,” had this explanation for what Chaos Theory is:
“Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”
That’s basically a fancy way of saying everything in the present is the cause of what’s to come in the future, but there is no way to tell just exactly what that future will look like just by looking at the present. All of this assumes a complex system, much like the weather, or in Max’s case, time travel. For something simple, like say rolling a ball off a table, the future consequence is known: it will fall down. But in a complex situation, where there are a seemingly infinite amount of variables, there’s just no telling what will happen. For Max, she changed a huge variable by keeping William alive. There was one more person with free will running around and making whatever decisions they want, all of which effect other people and their own actions, so it all just spiraled out of control. The lesson is lfe is too complex a thing to control. Even with free will, humans are still at the mercy of the universe; the only thing free will can do in those situations is grant a person the ability to choose how to cope with it.
In conclusion, this episode had less life lessons and more storytelling elements. There was a lot of character development in this episode, not only for the “good” characters like Max and Chloe, but also for the “bad” characters like David, Frank and Nathan. This brought a pretty good balance to each of the characters, and you’re left with the impression that not everyone is as they seem to be. We are left with the thought that maybe, just maybe, good and evil are more subjective than people like to believe. I’ll leave you with this question for today: was there ever a time you tried to do something nice for someone and it completely backfired? I know for me that is a near daily occurrence. Let me know in the comments!