Life Is Strange 2: Episode 5 verdict-o-chat (the end!)
We've come to the end of the road
Alice Bee: I have performed the summoning ritual (the ritual is: sending an email) and called errant skate boy Brendy back for one last job before retirement. It is, after all, time for the last episode of Life Is Strange 2, a harrowing road trip game about two brothers trying to make it from Washington state to Mexico. And since we started the journey together, it seems only right we should finish it together. Reader, there will be spoilers ahead, so mind you don't step in them.
What a journey it has been, eh? Last time, Sean Diaz rescued his magical little brother from an abusive Chrstian cult, and they burned down a church with their mam. But this fifth episode, "Wolves", was probably the most saddest so far, I think. Brendy, would you agree?
Brendan: I didn’t cry, but I did have a very lumpy gullet.
Alice Bee: It's got a very hopeful start, though! When we rejoin the Fabulous Diaz Brothers, they've been living in a weird commune for adult hippies, called Away, in the middle of the desert.
Brendan: For seven weeks! One thing I’ve really enjoyed about the game, actually, is these big leaps across time. At the end, of course, they do a very big leap - but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. So, yes: the commune. It was like a grown-up version of the weed farm from way back. I thought of it as a bit of a re-hash, actually (hurr hurr). But at least the folks there seemed more mature. However, we don’t get long to know “sculptor with cancer”, or “gay couple” before the truck is loaded and we’re leaving. Did you build the sculptor’s statue correctly?
Alice Bee: I built it how Daniel suggested, because in fairness to him he was literally doing all the heavy lifting. I did expect to do more activities like that with the commune people. Maybe some cooking with the gay couple, or some gardening with mommy Karen. I do love, by the way, that you can discover Karen is making ends meet by being an agony aunt. Like, sure, this lady gives great relationship advice.
Brendan: I also found it hard to swallow that everyone here just shrugged at Daniel’s psychic party tricks. After a whole four episodes of trying to keep schtum, it’s a bit implausible that these hippies would be like “sure, whatever”.
Alice Bee: Well, at least one of the hippies has probably, maybe had some contact with supernatural powers before, eh? Wink, wink.
Brendan: Ah yes, David. I’ve only seen bits of Max and Chloe’s adventures in the first game, not the whole thing. But I think this appearance of Chloe’s stepdad (and the wee phone call he has with her off-screen) is quite a nice gesture to LiS loyalists.
Alice Bee: In mine his phone call was with Joyce, Chloe's mum and his ex-wife. Because in my version of the game, Chloe died to save Arcadia Bay. He and Joyce split up, and the tragedy made him grow a ponytail and stop being such an up-tight villain. I found a really heartbreaking letter to Joyce in his trailer where he'd crossed out stuff he wanted to say to her. Little choked up over here.
Brendan: Ramifications! See, this is what this series is all about. In mine, he was pretty chill. He had made up with Chloe and Max, and was still in touch. I am sorry to hear about your Sad Dave.
Alice Bee: Speaking of ramifications, I think this is the episode where what you, as Sean, have taught Daniel really actually matters. I didn't feel like it made much of a difference in the other episodes, but here it certainly did. But maybe I'm skipping ahead again.
Instead, cut to: the Diaz brothers making good their escape to the border, while Karen stays behind to stall the feds. The scene where they tear down a section of border wall was one of just a million billion moments that I felt were framed entirely for the potential screenshots.
Brendan: It was a very “this is symbolic” episode, and the most in-your-face with its PoLiTiCaL messaging. Lyla, your friend from yonks ago, has a pic on Facebook from a “save the families” campaign. Brody, your old bear-pal, laments “the state of the country”. You tear down the wall. And then you end up in a jail cell with two immigrants and two ultranationalist vigilantes, having a big old chat. It is relentless, and I sometimes felt like it could have benefitted from easing up on the gas pedal, ya know?
Alice Bee: It reminded me a bit of the first episode, when Brody basically looked down the camera and said "Everything is political" and Sean was chained up by a racist for the crime of buying food in a gas station. Although I suppose that's kind of how racists operate in real life. I knew something bad was going to happen in this episode when Daniel ripped down the wall and started listing all the fun things he wanted to do in Mexico. It was the ten-year-old kid equivalent of saying you're only one day from retirement. I didn't predict him getting shot by right wing patriot vigilante supremacists, though. By the way, after you all get taken to jail, you can choose to free the nice Mexican couple and the horrible racists. Did you?
Brendan: I left them all in their cells. Partly because I was like, "okay, let’s blow this concrete pig sty". But also, I was afraid that if I let the Mexican couple free, they would get into waaaay more trouble. I kinda wanted to psy-break the racists’ toes or something, but I don’t think the game is that flexible. C'mon, game: Just one little toe.
Alice Bee: I let them all out. I let the nice couple out because they were nice, and I let the racists out to make a point (even though I think in real life I would defs have left them there). The extremely bigoted woman was like "WAI? WAI ARE YEW DOIN' THIS?" and Sean said, "Because we're not assholes." Mic. Dropped. And then we were away to the border again - to an actual manned checkpoint, for some reason.
Brendan: This is when things get megasad, though, isn't it?
Alice Bee: Super megasad. And I did like how the game kept cat-and-mousing you in this episode. "Oooh, you've gotten away! Oooh, no you haven't! Haha!"
Brendan: We needed our showdown at the border, Alice! The finale sees the Diaz Duo facing a horde of po-po, below a sign saying “Bienvenido a Mexico”. You get one final choice: “surrender” or “cross the border”. It’s pretty clear, from what one policeman has told you earlier, what will happen in the surrender scenario. You'll be arrested and Daniel will live with your grandparents. But crossing the border is uncertain - it's the Danger Option. Did you put your hands up? Or blast on through?
Alice Bee: This is where the ramifications come back up. I decided, "this is it; here we go, let's blast through". And I got an ending that I totally wasn't expecting. Graham asked if it was satisfying and I said "No… but yes."
You see, I spent the whole game teaching Daniel not to hurt people. He didn't want to injure anyone. He got upset and, even though he cleared the police out of the way, he said "Don't come back for me!" and jumped out of the car! I was genuinely stunned. I wanted them to live together in Mexico! But, well, you reap what you sow, I guess? And I sowed a moral little boy.
Brendan: Well, I reaped 15 years in the state penitentiary. I surrendered. They cuff you and take Danny off to live with the grandparents. He grows up, goes to school, graduates, and eventually collects Sean on the day he's released from prison. A 15-year leap! He’s a beardy Sean now, with a long sad face. They go into the woods on a trip, to the glade where they stayed on their first night after the Dad disaster. And as Danny is describing some recollection, Sean breaks down into these huge sobs and has to hold on to his little brother, weeping. It’s brutal. Eventually, they drive off in different directions. Danny uses his power to open and close his car door, and it’s as if the game is saying: "this is what your bro went to prison for: so you can do a menial psychic door trick". Danny cries. Cut to credits. It’s TRAGIC.
Alice Bee: Oof. My ending was sad, but not as emotional. Six years after the events at the border, Daniel is still living with the grandparents - he's standing in the living room, on the phone to someone. There are hints he has been subtly using his power for good - stopping a school bus from crashing, and so on. Then Grandma comes in and takes the phone - you see they're talking to Karen, which is nice - and she hands Danny an envelope. It's photos from Seany! He's on a beach somewhere with uh… kissable hippy girl.
Brendan: Crusty Cassidy!
Alice Bee: Yeah, Crusty Cassidy! And they've sent Danny some sand. So like, everyone is happy, I guess, even though the brothers can never see each other again. At least, not until Daniel can travel on his own.
Brendan: I’ve watched some of the other endings too. And this seems to be a theme, that they are separated in some way. In my ending, it’s an emotional separation - that 15-year prison leap has created a rift between them. In other endings, Sean straight-up dies, pierced by a bullet in the escape sequence. Only one ending has them together, arm in arm, and it is the Dark Ending, where they both get through the blockade and become gothy criminals in Mexico. Weirdly, they are quite happy in that one.
Alice Bee: In one of them, Daniel is blonde. Blonde!
Brendan: The grimmest ending.
Alice Bee: Genuinely is, as well. This really was the pay off for all the "Daniel will learn how to behave from you." It's that ol' doing-what-is-right-isn't-always-doing-what-is-easy chestnut. But I really enjoyed it, because it did make what you'd done in the game matter. They'd tricked me! I thought it was like "oh no, Danny will think it's okay to steal chocolate bars", not "Danny will murder everyone."
Brendan: Even little things mattered. Do you remember some episodes back, when you could have called your old buddy Lyla? And I didn’t, because the police would have tracked it that. I wish I had. Because in one version of the “Sean goes to the clink” ending, Lyla is also waiting with Danny for you on release day. You have a friend! But I ghosted her way back, and I paid the price. Sniff.
Alice Bee: Eh, I didn't miss her. Wolf Brothers are more important. But yeah… being nice sucks for you, it turns out. It's still the right thing to do though, so whatever. I guess the point is that, if you do the right thing, Daniel has a good life.
Brendan: Yeah, Sean is the sacrifice. Now that it's all over, do you reckon it’s a good story as a whole? A good game? I think it has its ups and downs, right up to the end of this final act. It is... in no way a subtle tale. But the payoff was well-done. Like, my ending made sense. It felt right.
Alice Bee: Yeah, I think it is good. It was a slow burn for me, for sure. And I agree there were ups and downs, especially in the emotional pacing of the earlier episodes. But they really earned this ending.
Brendan: This sad, sad ending. Do you know what sound wolves make when they’re sad, Alice?
Alice Bee: No Brendy, what sound do wolves make when they're sad?
Brendan: [deep breath] … A-WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Alice Bee: A-woo, Brendy. A-woo.