“Life Is Strange: Before the Storm” Episode Three Is Such a Frustrating End to Such a Beautiful Thing

I have been writing a love letter in my heart to Life is Strange: Before the Storm for months. Since hopping trains with Rachel and trying to figure out exactly why she likes us. Since playing Therapist in a broken down truck with Rachel, trying to figure out exactly how she likes us. Since rewriting Shakespeare and then kissing under streetlights, stopping time without even needing Max’s superpowers. Or maybe just stopping my heart. I don’t know. I just know that the first two episodes of this game put an ache in me that nothing else I played or watched in 2017 even came close to.

But the question I asked after Episode One was always hovering, and it’s up to Episode Three to answer it: Is this story as doomed as it seems it has to be, and is that a story we should allow ourselves to get invested in? I super wish I could tell you that the day was saved and everybody is okay or, most of all, that the story honored itself to the very end. I wish a lot of things, let me tell you.

Chloe will follow Rachel anywhere and I will follow Chloe anywhere. Basically, we are doomed.

This article is going to contain heavy spoilers, right up to and including the end of the game. Because we need to talk about what happened here. It’s been out for two weeks, so I hope you’ve had enough time to play it by now, but if you haven’t: turn back now.

Episode Three picks up right where the previous episode let off: Chloe and Rachel have just learned that Rachel’s mother is not her birth mother, and her birth mother is, startlingly, the woman who looks exactly like Rachel who has been skulking around the edges of the game up until this point. We are immediately thrown into exactly not at all the kind of thing we play this game for: a flashback sequence from a man’s point of view. Rachel’s dad tells a weirdly detailed story about falling in love with Rachel’s birth mother in high school and the entire history of their relationship, in a sequence that seems to last one million years, culminating with the fact that Rachel’s birth mother is an addict and her dad kicked her out of their lives forever.

It’s a weird opening. Why are we getting the story fed to us by this man, when there has never been a trustworthy man in the entire history of this series? The story has never been the thing that matters, what matters is the way we see it. But then after this scene there is one of the tenderest scenes in the game, that made me hold my breath for an entire minute. And after that, a short perfect beat in the junkyard, where everything important always happens, and I forgot all about Rachel’s dumb dad and remembered why I love these games and especially why I love Chloe Price.

In which Chloe passes out because Rachel lightly touched her hair. Too Gay To Function.

And then everything goes terribly wrong. The plot becomes a tangled web of unlikely nonsense that wouldn’t work even if the pacing were at all reasonable, but it isn’t, so there you have it.

Do you want to know what happens in this game? I’m assuming you already know, but I’m going to tell you anyway because I have to let it out. Rachel decides she wants to meet her birth mother, who up until this point has been just sort of hanging out in the background of every scene so it shouldn’t be too much trouble, right? NOT RIGHT. Because The King Of All Drug Dealers gets mad about Rachel and Chloe “asking questions”, so Rachel hits him with a board? And then he stabs her? With a knife? And then Rachel is like “Wow, Chloe. Getting stabbed was a real wake up call. By which I mean, could you keep trying to do the thing that I just got myself stabbed for doing, one scant hour ago?” So Chloe goes to Rachel’s dad’s office and burns evidence because apparently he hired the drug dealer to kidnap Rachel’s birth mother for no good reason, which would be the most nonsense thing in the game except then a boy whose name I never bothered to even learn shows up and turns into a terrifying abusive monster, keeping Chloe hostage because Rachel Amber is apparently a bad person, according to this person right here right now causing a hostage situation. AND THEN. Chloe escapes, has a quick daydream about her dead father, then confronts the drug dealer who beats her up and doses Rachel’s birth mother with heroin, but not to kill her, just I guess to make her relapse? Which makes no sense because Rachel’s dad wants her out of the picture so why would he pay somebody to make her more unstable? (By the way, these three scenes in a row: finding out Rachel’s dad is a scumbag, dealing with Chloe’s stalker boy, and then the kingpin just being a comic book villain? I actually felt like this game was too mean to men! That is not a thing I have ever thought in my life. There are NO DECENT MEN IN ARCADIA BAY and it’s not even fun to joke about at this point.)

Literally no one ever asked you to be in this game, is how long.

After all that, Chloe wakes up and the drug dealers are gone but Rachel’s birth mother is still there and she for some reason makes it Chloe’s decision whether to tell Rachel that her father is evil trash. And then she just leaves. (Apparently you can get an ending where she doesnt leave, but I didn’t.)

The moral dilemma of that end choice feels so unearned and unrealistic. How would this ever be Chloe’s decision to make? In the first game, everything was Max’s fault so it made sense that she’s have to choose. But here, Chloe is just a kid being a kid. The only parent who has any business parenting Rachel is her adopted mother, who is completely forgotten in the drama of everything and whose voice actor for some reason sounded heavily sedated the few times she was actually allowed to speak in this episode.

In lieu of a picture of Plot, please enjoy this picture of Victoria Chase.

The plot was so rushed and unbelievable that I honestly thought the scene with Rachel’s birth mother was another dream sequence like with Chloe’s dad until it just ended and that was that. It felt like they realized that they forgot to have plot in the first two episodes so they had to give it to us all at once, but really I don’t think I’m alone when I say that we didn’t really ask for plot in the first place in this game? The weakest point in episode one was the end, when Rachel lit the entire forest on fire doing her best Kylo Ren temper tantrum impression because of Plot. And the weakest part of episode two was the end, when Rachel broke her dining room table doing her second best Kylo Ren temper tantrum impression because of Plot. The big dramatic beats have always been so much less powerful than the quiet drama of just the fact of being sixteen years old and alive in the world. And this episode abandoned that quiet halfway through.

I feel really guilty about how cold I feel about this episode. I felt guilty at the end, when they gave us a montage of Chloe and Rachel, just being young and together. It was the best part of the episode, these girls in love in the sunshine, teasing each other and comparing their first tattoos and being people at the beginning of their own stories. It was beautiful, and I felt so guilty for having doubted them. And if the game had just ended right there I really think I would have left it feeling so much more kindly toward it. But it didn’t end right there. It ended on a shot of Rachel’s phone, ringing off the hook with calls from Chloe, on the cold stone of the bunker where we already know she dies.

Turn the game off right here. That’s it. That’s the end.

I’m just so incredibly frustrated at this thing I love so much. That tag, completely unnecessary and unrelated to anything that happened in this game, changes the entire story. They were telling the story of Rachel and Chloe. A story of these very young people clawing their way to an imperfect life. They had dreams and wants and loves, and that’s the story that we needed and that’s the story that matters. This game was about Rachel Amber, a girl so alive that she basically brought Chloe Price back to life. This ending takes all of that person, all of that life, and reduces her back down to the Girl On The MIssing Person Posters. It makes her a prologue. And I’m so angry about it.

Yes she was.

This is a very bad ending to a very good game. Even this episode had great scenes. The scene in Rachel’s room, in Rachel’s bed. Chloe’s hair and Chloe’s truck. Another great Dungeons and Dragons game with characters who I really wish could be Chloe’s friends forever. The insult of the ending isn’t enough, for me, to overshadow the beautiful things that came before it, but damn if they didn’t do their best to burn it all down. Most of all it makes me want to go back and play the first game, now with a fuller understanding of who Rachel was to Chloe. And it makes me want to save Chloe even harder than before. And it makes me more comfortable than ever in shipping Max and Victoria because Chloe belongs with Rachel, but I am also willing to entertain any polyamorous solution in which everybody lives and goes on to punish all of the terrible men who will apparently be forever hell-bent on ruining their lives.


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Sarah lives in the Boston area and plays a lot of video games. Her interests are cats, bragging, and foods that can be eaten lying down. She has too many sneakers and not enough pants.

sarah has written 22 articles for us.

11 Comments

  1. This doesn’t surprise me at all sadly given that the original games had you choose between the endings of a) you get to stay with Chloe but you let the entire town get destroyed and presumably people die or have their lives ruined in the process or b) You save the town but Chloe has to die for some ~destiny~ reasons and this one’s way more heavily implied to be the Correct version

    I liked the original series right up to that finale when I couldn’t stand either choice, and when I heard they were going to be making the prequel, I decided not to play cause I didn’t want to get further involved in a series where the plot points are revolving around queer girls being dead. :\

    • You totally nailed it. I was so mad after I finished the original game. I mean, with all of the lead up to the ending, I had hoped that there would be an ending that wasn’t a tired rehash of “bury your guys”. Instead, it’s like you said – burn the town or let Chloe die. There seems to be a weird moral perspective intrinsic in even having to make such an absurd choice.

      When I heard about Before the Storm, I was struck by the memories of my frustration and decided to wait until an Autostraddle review was posted. I’m glad that I did. If I had played through this, I’m confident that I would have hurled my computer out of the window (after checking to make sure no one would be injured, first). What a disappointment. :/

  2. Episode 3 was most certainly lacking. I didn’t hate it, but I’d really enjoyed whatever cute/angsty queer teen drama they had in the first two eps, and this one just felt rushed and like there was way too much happening? In fact I actually enjoyed the very last scene with the phone, as it was the only thing that really made me have any serious feels in that ep.
    Also! The voice actors for the parents + a few other characters were.. weird, no? Like a lot of slight pauses, and very long, drawn out sentences. They sounded like robots. Did other people notice this or am I tripping?

  3. I think… this article rather accurately sums up my feelings. There was so much to love about the first two episodes of the game, and I just devoured them… even the BS plot drama at the end of the episodes I enjoyed. This last episode though… it just… idk, the magic wasn’t in it. The thing with Elliot was so damn random. The final ‘boss’ just being automated to being knocked out and then a convo after the fact was so criminally not cool.

    The mill scene should have ended with Backtalk. In fact, they should have just implemented Backtalk more. It was stressful, but it never was something I was afraid to do, and idk… it felt like a waste of a mechanic not to use it more. Especially at the end when that is so Chloe’s style.

    I loved the ending montage, it felt perfect… but that damn Dark Room scene just… it just took the good things about the episode and stomped on them. I don’t know what happened here. Deck Nine loved this game, they were passionate about it, they were listening to fans. Did they get pushed into these last minute changes by management? It seemed so out of character with their previous work in the other two episodes… so rushed.

    I’m almost afraid to play the bonus episode now. The entire game was still enjoyable, just sad they couldn’t stick the ending.

  4. I agree. It started so beautiful, emotional, the kiss under the street lamp! I thought the editing was rushed and the video and sound cut early in each scene… And where was the pair of adventurers doing stuff together? I’d even forgotten the ending.
    Is it crazy to think… In life is strange original… We did not positively ID Rachel in the uh.. grave.. so maybe she is alive? That’s what I’ve been going with anyway. Anyone have this hope also?

    • There was a theory based on the main premise of the original game, about Max messing up with time. Namely, her power wasn’t really about turning back in time, but rather about her consciousness jumping between versions of herself in alternative timelines. It was hinted by that two moons thing, and by the second Max in nightmare sequence during episode 5 telling her that she’s “one of many Maxes you’ve left behind”.

      So it means that each time she turned time back, the world she left behind didn’t disappear, time went by from that point on its own. Therefore, there were also timelines where Jefferson actually killed her and got away.

      And as for Before the Storm, it meant that this could be alternative timeline where the things went up differently, Rachel didn’t cheat with Frank and survived.

      Deck Nine devs definitely were aware of this theory and played fans hinting that this could be possible, since they allowed us to make choices that changed things that were described in the original game. For example, Rachel could no longer have her bracelet that she was supposed to give Frank.
      Even in episode 3, depending on our choice, she could no longer be at odds with her family, like it was described in the main game. But then suddenly, for maximum impact, that last scene hits us with the clear message from the devs: “you had hopes, don’t you, haha”.

  5. Where episode 2 just was too sweet to believe, episode 3 was sadness. Pure and unfiltered. In some ways that foreshadowed what we all knew all along. Rachel will die, and Chloe’s heart will break over it (once again).

    Now, I agree 100% that the “small time Escobar” scene with Rachel’s mom at the end was straight out of a late 80s action series. I hated it with a passion. But I did not hate the ending shot in the dark room. In fact, with all the beautiful love-and-freedom shots preceding it, I already had the nagging feeling of enjoy-while-you-can.

    What hit me was that Eliot (the stalker), for all his sick presumption and entitled, domineering behavior, had some valid points. Rachel was not pure goodness. She destroyed almost everything she touched, from the forest fire to Chloe’s school career, all in flames because of Rachel. We even know Rachel cheats on Chloe with Frank! But she is so good for Chloe at the same time. Makes me think of some of my relationships, and how they tended to be both bad for me, but also what kept me going at the same time.

    • Yay, so this story has almost every homophobic trope about queer women. Cheating with a man? Checked. Bury your gays trope? Checked. Thanks Deck Nine devs for reminding us about that in the last scene of the game!

      It didn’t bother me that much in the original game since it wasn’t the main storyline or even about the character we’ve met, and also, it wasn’t really clear if Chloe and Rachel were a couple. I mean, Chloe never told Max anything that would clearly indicate they were a couple, and the only hints that could point to that were her very emotional reactions. TBH, it looked like she was just a queer girl in love with her straight friend.

      But the original game tried really hard to ‘hide ya gays’ to not offend straight sensibilities while trying to pander to queer fans a bit at the same time, so you must have that in mind while looking at the story presentation.
      Deck Nine offered the possibility to make it completely gay, and then slapped us in the face with this utterly cruel ending, put there for no other reason than to hurt the people who were emotionally invested in the romantic storyline of Chloe and Rachel.

      • Most of the tropes you cite are established by the Dontnod original, so I don’t think it is fair to bring these “charges” against Deck9. Was the last episode weaker than the preceeding? Absolutely. But the last shot, to me at least, was a reminder that BTS is part of a larger whole. Not a sadistic choice to twist the knife, but the necessary conclusion of a story that was going to end tragically from the opening moments onwards.

        Now, I am not sure if I would have been comfortable with an alternate ending where Rachel and Chloe do run away, the sun setting behind her derelict truck as they flip the bird to Arcadia Bay. It would have been sweet and hopeful. But I went into the series knowing it could not turn out well, and having that “unfolding tragedy” feeling subverted would have been a cop-out.

  6. Episode 3 felt like a slap in the face of queer fans. All the gay content has suddenly disappeared. Try playing it with Rachel and Chloe as being only friends, it’s virtually the same. The ending scenes don’t even show any affection between Chloe and Rachel that could be interpreted as something more than just friendship, and in line with that, their ending song is about being “BEST FRIENDS”.

    It really looks like devs didn’t try to bother to appeal to queer fans anymore since it was the last episode anyway, so they showed what they really think of us. Despite the fact 75% of the people who played this game chose the romantic route, devs put the “family friendly” straight outcome as the default.
    And then that last scene reminding us what cruel fate awaits Rachel apparently just to hurt people emotionally invested in the game, the ultimate “F*CK YOU queers for hoping for any positive representation, don’t forget this story ends with cheating with a man and dead queer tropes” memo from the writers.

  7. These are all very good points, I’d only like to add I *really* thought we were gonna steal Mustache’s car, because scraping the gunk off a truck that probably needs every rubber part and bit of wire and just, the whole transmission replaced and having it actually run was almost as unrealistic as paying 3 grand to fix it instead of a nice used Civic or whatever for 3 god-damned grand. Don’t get me wrong, truck, I love your aesthetic, but you really killed the immersion for me.

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