"Polarized" is the fifth and final episode of Life is Strange. The episode was released on October 20, 2015, almost 3 months after Episode 4: Dark Room. It is available on PC, Mac, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. Six teaser trailers and one final launch trailer were released before the episode went live to the public.
Max Caulfield learns that time is impossible to control and that her power carries many consequences as she moves inexorably towards the most agonizing decision of her life. Arcadia Bay, meanwhile, is preparing to weather a huge storm as Life is Strange comes to a gripping and gut-wrenching conclusion.
Max is held captive inside the bunker with Mark Jefferson, but by using her powers, she manages to escape into a photograph. Emerging back at the beginning in Jefferson's class, it is made possible for her to inform David Madsen of her kidnapper's identity - Jefferson is caught, Chloe Price is rescued, and Max is awarded the opportunity to go to San Francisco as the winner of the Everyday Heroes Photo Contest and see her photograph displayed in an art gallery. She calls Chloe from the event, realizing that in spite of all her efforts, the storm still exists and is heading towards Arcadia Bay. Max uses her powers to go back in time to the taking of her photo entry, which eventually leads her to sojourn alternative realities as they devolve into a dreamscape nightmare. By the story's end, Max arrives at the lighthouse with Chloe. They confront the fact that Max brought the approaching super storm into existence by availing herself of the advantage of time travel abilities and saving Chloe in the bathroom from the start. Max must make a final choice: sacrifice Chloe's life in order to save Arcadia Bay or sacrifice Arcadia Bay to prevent Chloe's demise.
- Dark Room
- Dark Room - 1st Focus
- Dark Room - After the Focus
- Dark Room - 2nd Focus
- Art Class - Focus
- Plane - Between Realities
- Art Gallery
- Max's Room - Focus
- Dark Room - Confrontation
- Jefferson's Car
- Parking Lot - Focus
- Nathan Prescott (Determinant) - Mark Jefferson mentions that he murdered Nathan and plans to pin his murders on him. However, this changes after Max warns Chloe in the past. He is arrested at the end for the murder of Chloe if Max chooses to sacrifice her in order to save Arcadia Bay. Alternatively, if she chooses to sacrifice the town instead, his fate is not altered, and he is still dead.
- Victoria Chase (Pre-Rewind) - If Max warns Victoria about Nathan in the previous episode, she will go to Mr. Jefferson who will capture her. Later, after Max returns to the dark room, Mr. Jefferson will reveal that he killed Victoria because he believes that she's where she should be. She is seen alive during Chloe's funeral if Max chooses to save Arcadia Bay's population.
- David Madsen (Pre-Rewind) - When David enters the Dark Room and is confronted with Jefferson, there are several instances in which he is seriously hurt and even shot.
- Mark Jefferson (Determinant) - In the original timeline if Max tells David that Mark murdered Chloe, David will execute him. However, this is changed after Max warns Chloe in the past.
- Trucker (Determinant) - If Max doesn't help the trucker out from under his truck he will remain crushed underneath it.
- Evan Harris (Determinant) - If Max waits too long, Evan will be too distracted by the storm and a metal visor will take him out.
- Alyssa Anderson (Determinant) - If Max did not save Alyssa in more than 3 episodes and Max talks to her, she will back away from Max and will fall into a hole in the floor of her apartment.
- R.J. MacReady (Determinant) - Max will accidentally electrocute the fisherman to death in order to get past the fire, and if Max leaves without rewinding and warning him, he will stay that way.
- Officer Anderson Berry - Officer Berry can be seen crushed under a police car outside the diner.
- Homeless Woman (Determinant) - If Max chooses not to warn the homeless woman about the storm in Episode 3, she will be crushed by the dumpster.
- Chloe Price (Determinant) - If Max chooses to go back to the day she stopped Nathan from shooting Chloe and allow him to do so, Max will prevent the storm from happening and consequently will save Arcadia Bay's population.
- Warren Graham, Joyce Price, Frank Bowers, Pompidou and an unnamed man (Pre-Rewind) - They die in a gas explosion in the diner. Max needs to prevent that by rewinding so that she can get Warren's photo.
- Many of Arcadia Bay's people (Presumed, Determinant) - If Max chooses not to sacrifice Chloe, then the storm destroys Arcadia Bay and we can only see Max and Chloe alive after the storm.
- Main article: Polarized/Walkthrough
Unresolved Issues and Open Questions
There are many ideas developed throughout the season that weren't resolved in the final episode and a lot of questions remaining unanswered. This can partly be explained with the ambiguous or metaphorical ways of the game.
- Where did Max's powers come from?
- If there is a reason, for what exact purpose were they given to her? How long did she have them?
- If she had her powers her whole life, why is it that she couldn't use them earlier?
- Did her powers come from the blue butterfly?
- Did or how did the powers create the storm by messing with time, changing the course of everything and jumping into alternative realities, why did she get the powers in the first place unless to be with Chloe?
- If yes, why did Max's first vision happen before her first rewind?
- A possible explanation is that Max's powers were caused by the storm, a destiny that awaited her if she used them. In this way, her powers are a Pandora's Box of sorts, a disaster waiting to happen.
- Another explanation is that the storm was most likely caused by a 4th dimensional tearing in the space-time continuum, as Warren hinted in Episode 5.
- If yes, why did Max's first vision happen before her first rewind?
- Does the sacrifice of Chloe have consequences for the timeline?
- Time travel is usually not meant for saving lives and sacrificing Chloe prevented many deaths from happening. Would that affect the timeline in a good or bad way?
- Strangely, Chloe died many times throughout the game other than being shot by Nathan, but the unusual events are still happening.
- Does Max still have her time controlling ability after her final decision, especially in the Sacrifice Chloe ending?
- If yes, will she keep using it or stop using it altogether?
- What does the butterfly's appearance at the beginning of the game and in the Sacrifice Chloe ending signify? Does it encourage Max to try again, if it was the butterfly that gave here the rewinding powers?
- What was the true purpose of the butterfly? Is it a spirit animal?
- If yes, then it is Chloe's spirit animal, or Rachel's?
- What was the true purpose of the butterfly? Is it a spirit animal?
- What about the mystery surrounding Pan Estates and the allusions to Native Americans and their spiritual culture presented throughout?
- What about Samuel and his mysterious behavior, talking about spirit animals and a non-scientific explanation for the strange phenomena at Arcadia Bay?
- What is the purpose of the mystical, transparent doe that appears to Max throughout the episodes?
- Is it a spirit animal and is it connected to Max or Rachel?
- Who is the owner of the "Twilight Zone" number plate, and are they of any significance to the plot?
- What was the true purpose of the nightmare? Was it trying to tell Max something important or was it trying to deceive her?
- Do the other realities Max creates continue to run parallel to her current one after she leaves them, or are they destroyed? If not, do the other Maxes keep their powers, or are they only available to the primary Max in whichever reality she's currently in? Additionally, do the small adjustments Max makes create entirely new realities just to accommodate the change? Or is the current reality simply rewound for Max to resume from the point she desires?
- Can the toll Max's powers take on her actually be lethal? Or only wear her down to the point where she can't use them for a bit, as seen on the rooftop with Kate?
- Who really lived or died in the "Sacrifice Arcadia Bay" ending?[note 1]
- Main article: Soundtrack (Life is Strange)
- "The Sense of Me" by Mud Flow (Played when Max is driving to the Two Whales diner)
- "To All of You" by Syd Matters (reversed version: "uoY fo llA oT") (Played during Max's nightmare)
- "Spanish Sahara" by Foals (Played in the Sacrifice Chloe ending)
- "Obstacles" by Syd Matters (Played if Max sacrificed Arcadia Bay)
- Polarized has the highest rated Metascore of all episodes on Metacritic with a Metascore of 80/100 (on PS) to 83/100 (On Xbox) and a User Score of 8.6.
- IGN gave it 6.5 calling the darker plot twist unnecessary.
There are twelve achievements the player can earn on Steam, PlayStation or Xbox. The total number of achievements for all episodes that are collectible is 60.. For PlayStation consoles, a platinum trophy is also available.
Take optional photo #1 in Episode 5: Polarized
|Night Vision |
Take optional photo #2 in Episode 5: Polarized
Take optional photo #3 in Episode 5: Polarized
|Camera Obscura |
Take optional photo #4 in Episode 5: Polarized
Take optional photo #5 in Episode 5: Polarized
Take optional photo #6 in Episode 5: Polarized
Take optional photo #7 in Episode 5: Polarized
|On Display |
Take optional photo #8 in Episode 5: Polarized
|Light Meter |
Take optional photo #9 in Episode 5: Polarized
Take optional photo #10 in Episode 5: Polarized
|Selfie Awareness |
Take all optional photos in Episode 5: Polarized
Finish Episode 5: Polarized
|What if? |
Unlock all other trophies from Life Is Strange™
- The title "Polarized" is a clever reference to the final choice. If something is polarized, it means there are two massively conflicting points. In this case, it's the desire to save Chloe or to save the town. The two choices conflict the huge emotional bond the player (likely) formed with Chloe and the fact her survival will kill hundreds more.
- The title also can refer to a particular type of photography filter which refines light generally for the purpose of increasing contrast or reducing distractions like glare. This could be a metaphor for Max's maturing views on her power and her situation.
- The episode has been released on 20th October 2015, exactly 2 years after the date of the winner of the Everyday Heroes Photo Contest departs for San Francisco.
- The episode was released the day before "Back to the Future Day" (October 21, 2015), the date Marty McFly travels to in Back to the Future Part II.
- In the reversed Blackwell Academy sequence of Max's nightmare, you can hear and see things normally if Max uses her rewind in this scene.
- In the diner sequence of Max's nightmare, Max has to enter a code to exit the diner bathroom. If you enter the incorrect code 50 times, the door will open and Max will say, "I'm going to make the designers pay for all these bullshit code puzzles!"
- Voice actress Dani Knights provided the automated voice for Max's voicemail, heard when listening to Nathan's message (uncredited for it).
- DONTNOD originally intended to have an additional ending in which Chloe would have fallen into a coma instead of being killed (see "Hospital Ending").
- After the credits roll, DONTNOD give their thanks to the players and fans of Life is Strange: "Fans, thanks for your amazing support, art, gifts, passion, and crazy theories! It has been such a great honor to have you dwelling in Arcadia Bay with us."
- Artistic Director Michel Koch confirmed on Twitter that the team originally thought about a lot more variations in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending but the production reality and budget didn't make it possible. He also confirmed that this ending is intended to mark a new beginning for Chloe and Max and it's up to the players' imagination what happens next, as the most important message was shown. The sacrifice Max makes is meant to convey a message of enormous love; and the most important aspects in this ending for that purpose were that they are leaving together and that they promise each other to always be together, as well as their smiling in the pickup truck which is meant to be the key moment to induce what happens next. (reference needed.)
- Recording the lines for "Polarized" was very hard and very traumatic for Hannah Telle (voice actor for Max Caulfield). She also says that the recording session with Derek Phillips for the Dark Room lines (when Max is tied up on the floor) was "so creepy".
- There is a sequence of images during the 'Sacrifice Arcadia Bay' ending that appears meaningful. The first image shows three deer (one of which is initially standing some distance from the adult and fawn but skips over to join them to make three); after the deer, we see three birds flying up the same road, as if heading out of town; the final part of the sequence begins as a close-up on Chloe's three-bullet necklace as she drives out of town with Max (the camera slowly pans out from the necklace). The number 3 appears significant. Perhaps this is reminding us how this was a story about Max, Chloe, and Rachel. Three girls whose lives were entwined.
- Michel Koch and Raoul Barbet believe that a story's journey matters more than its outcome. Barbet in particular appreciates the importance of people being able to invest so deeply in a story that they can conclude it the way they want to in their minds if they are faced with an official ending they didn't want.
- It is revealed nearly four years after this event that the only other confirmed survivors are David and Victoria. Though Mark Jefferson is mentioned on Victoria's letter if this ending is chosen, his fate remains unknown. It is also revealed that Joyce died in the storm. Since Warren, Frank and Pompidou (if they weren't killed) are with her in the Two Whales Diner, it is presumed that they too didn't survive.
- 10 unanswered questions
- "Supernatural things merely metaphors" (Gamereactor, Jan 26, 2015)
- The officially licensed comic series by Titan Comics hints that the Prescott family survived the storm and are planning to rebuild Arcadia Bay. However, this story is just "one of many possibilities." See here for Comic series author Emma Vieceli's stance on the story. DONTNOD had no involvement with the series. (This entry was written based on information from Issue #1 which was the only issue released at the time of writing.)
- Steam achievements list
- Said during Dayeanne Hutton's Twitch live stream on August 1, 2017.
- From Chaos: The Aspirational Storytelling of Life is Strange (May 13, 2020).