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When episode one of Life is Strange 2 was first released last year, we had the impression that it would show the reality of a Mexican family living in Trump’s America. Other than a few small references here and there, we have not really seen a whole lot of this, until now. The penultimate episode of Life is Strange 2 has Sean venturing out on his own as the story takes an unexpected turn. With emotions running high and with Daniel out of the picture we get to see a new side of Sean and just how much the journey so far has taken a toll on him.
Episode four takes place around two months after the climax of the previous episode. Sean has recently awoken from a coma, is now blind in one eye, in police custody, and is mere days away from being sent to a juvenile detention facility. It seems that reality has finally come crashing down and to make matters worse, Daniel is nowhere to be found.
As soon as we take control of Sean, we get to see the physical impact that the Humboldt County events have left on him, which has been nicely tied into the plot. Blind in one eye, Sean’s field of view and depth perception have been affected which is shown through the drawing mechanic that takes place in each episode, as well as during an examination by the nurse. All games in the Life is Strange series are played from a third person perspective, so this does not have much of an impact on gameplay, but in the few moments where we do enter first-person, we get to experience Sean’s struggle.
Shortly after the game begins, a detective questions Sean on everything up to this point and informs him that he could be facing life in prison. How you respond to these questions is completely up to you and you can either take the blame yourself or blame it on the others. No one, including the police, know where Daniel is but after finding a note from Jacob in his sketchbook, he realises that Daniel is in Nevada. In case you’re struggling to remember, Jacob is a character from episode three who Sean briefly gets to know. The only real interaction Sean had with Jacob was one conversation in the camp, so it’s very easy to forget him. This episode makes a lot of references to the previous one so it might be worth refreshing your memory.
So far, Daniel has constantly been by Sean’s side and now that he has suddenly disappeared, the absence of this presence is huge and the episode has a much different and lonelier feel to it. However, saying that, over the past three episodes Daniel’s personality has changed a lot and in the last episode in particular Daniel was very bratty and unlikeable, so getting a chance to see Sean on his own and watch his character develop is refreshing.
The controversial ideas of present-day America have always loomed over Life is Strange 2 and this episode shows them in full colour. In a very unsettling scene, Sean is racially and physically abused, much like what happened at the gas station in episode one. There are different ways that this scene can play out but all of them result in Sean crying and screaming at the wheel of his car as he speeds away. There is limited time in which you can make your dialogue choices and in this scene that limit seems to have been cut. While this may result in Sean missing his chance to speak, it ties in very well with the heated situation as realistically if someone is about to assault you, they are not going to give you all the time in the world to talk.
When Sean finally catches up to Daniel, he discovers that his younger brother is now part of a religious cult who considers him a miracle. This plot line is very unexpected and seems a little out of place going by what the brothers have experienced so far but also does a great job at showing just how vulnerable Daniel is and how much he is longing for a real home. Depending on how Sean has reacted to Daniel’s powers so far, Daniel feeling welcome at the church could possibly be because he is finally getting the praise he desperately wanted but wasn’t getting from Sean. Since this episode is tacking controversial issues head on, this religious cult angle is also in place to put a focus on the representation of LGBT issues in religion.
Episode four is also when we get to finally meet Sean and Daniel’s absent mother. Considering she has not seen her sons in years, she is very relaxed about the whole situation but is possibly one of the best characters we have met. When Sean meets Karen, he has the opportunity to be sympathetic with her, ask questions, and allow her to explain herself. If this is the route he goes down, it’s a great way for the audience to get an understanding of Karen and why she left but contradicts Sean’s previous behaviour towards her. Despite us controlling Sean and choosing how he interacts with the world, he has so far been very dismissive of Karen, especially with Daniel so it does seem a bit strange that he suddenly acts this way. However, this point really does only apply to one particular play style.
The choices that can be made Episode four do not carry much consequence. The choices you make with Karen and the way in which Sean interacts with her are probably the most important but will probably not affect the path that the overall story takes. There is one dramatic choice toward the end of the episode, but both options will get the same result so this choice probably had more to do with Sean’s character development than story. Life Is Strange 2 is much more focused conversational decisions which affect how characters later interact with you rather than what happens with the plot, but Life is Strange is always surprising us so small insignificant choices may come back with huge results.
This episode was all about showing that the law is the least of Sean and Daniel’s troubles and that there are good people out there who you can put your faith into. This episode was one of the best in the series and in terms of content is similar to the series opener. With the brother’s reunited and Karen back in the picture, it will be interesting to see how she affects the boys’ choices and what impact this has on them reaching Mexico.