Life is Strange 2: Episode 5 Review — Brotherly Bonds
In its final chapter, Life is Strange 2 delivers a gripping finale that is unafraid to delve into some deep, politically-relevant issues.
Since the release of the series’ first episode in fall 2018, from the get-go Life is Strange 2 has made it clear that this series wouldn’t be afraid of being a “political” game. Throughout its five episodes, the series has delved into heavy topics that are all too familiar in today’s headlines, from race relations to police brutality, including the vast divide in current-day American politics. This gives Life is Strange 2 a sense of relevance that we don’t see very often in games. In fact, it’s made even more explicit in Episode 5 by finally bringing the Diaz brothers closer to their destination in Mexico to be reunited with their family and escape incarceration, up to the season’s more significant messages.
While Life is Strange 2 has been notable for addressing these contemporary themes and ideas, Episode 5 shows that the series also hasn’t let those topics overwhelm its storytelling, especially when it comes to Sean and Daniel Diaz. At the beginning of the series, the two brothers found themselves in a precarious situation that forced them into a journey across America. While that journey had some stumbles along the way, Episode 5 brings the brothers together for a final chapter that is heartfelt, poignant, and a fitting conclusion to the season as a whole.
Life is Strange 2’s fifth episode picks up a few months after the ending of Episode 4, where Sean and Daniel are living with their mother, Karen, in a makeshift community in the deserts of Arizona. The opening segments of the episode mainly leave the player to interact with the various members of the community, called Away. This includes giving time for Sean and Daniel to engage with Karen, shedding critical context for both her time away from the brothers and her motivations for her solitude.
While it’s a bit of a slow-paced opening that throws a lot of new characters to the player at once to catch up with, it’s a fitting introduction to the faster-paced and more emotionally intense second half of the episode. Given that Sean and Daniel have come such a long way from the suburbs of Seattle–both in distance and maturity–Episode 5 covers a lot of ground in character development in its first half.
However, while the episode’s first half provides warmth and comfort for the brothers in their new home in Arizona, the law that’s been pursuing them from the beginning rears its head and forces the brothers to leave. As their mother stays behind to face the impending law enforcement as a distraction, the Diaz brothers make their way out of Arizona towards their final destination in Mexico, Puerto Lobos.
As one might have expected, things don’t exactly go according to plan for Sean and Daniel. Once they do finally arrive near Mexico and come face to face with its massive border wall (seemingly the one built by President Trump), forcing Daniel to have to blow open a hole in the wall for the two to escape. While their escape is in sight, the two brothers wind up being compromised by a pair of vigilante border patrollers, leading to Sean and Daniel in the custody of the FBI and US Border Patrol.
I don’t want to delve too much deeper into the rest of the episode from there for the sake of spoilers, but I will say that Life is Strange 2 does end its season-long narrative on a high note, even if it isn’t necessarily a “high note” for the brothers. After playing through the ending of Episode 5 and looking up the rest of the endings for the chapter on YouTube, it was fascinating to see the divergent ways that the story could end for players based on their decisions. While I won’t say there is a truly “happy” ending for the brothers in Life is Strange 2, I commend Dontnod Entertainment for leaving so many possibilities and variables in the ending. Those scenarios really feel like they are a direct result of the player’s actions, especially when compared to the conclusion of the original Life is Strange.
This especially comes through the fact that the heart of this series has always been the core relationship between Sean and Daniel Diaz, and especially in how you, as the player, impact Daniel’s growth and morality through Sean’s actions. In that sense, Dontnod has delivered that message beautifully in Episode 5, as the ending of the series and the ways that it can branch out feel directly influenced by the decisions that you have been making along the way in the previous episodes. Based on how my own playthrough went, there was surely no easy way that this story could have played out for Sean and Daniel, but from a storytelling standpoint, Dontnod delivered on making each of these endings nuanced and complicated, as they should be in the brothers’ situation.
While Sean and Daniel’s journey wasn’t perfect in some places, Life is Strange 2 managed to cap off a profound road trip with a unique, heartfelt ending, and another worthy entry in the Life is Strange series as a whole. While it was a calculated risk to depart from fan-favorite characters like the original’s Max and Chloe, Life is Strange 2 found not only a unique voice with the debut of Sean and Daniel, but an important one that feels all too relatable in the social issues and events that continue to shape the modern-day United States. Though an old adage suggests that “it’s about the journey, not the destination,” the final chapter of Life is Strange 2 showed that the destination for Sean and Daniel could have just as much of an impact.