This page lists theories and speculations, that tie on the two endings of Life is Strange's final episode, "Polarized", as well as interpretations on the final choice and its significance for the game.
- You are welcome to comment and discuss your ideas in the comment section and to add your ideas and theories to this list if they're reasonable.
Theories and Speculation
- Main article: Theories and Speculations
Sacrifice Arcadia Bay Ending
It's been certainly confirmed by game-developers that 'the fate of other characters voluntarily left blurry'
- It's not explicitly shown, but highly likely that most, if not all those in the Two Whales Diner, being Warren Graham, Joyce Price, Frank Bowers, (determinant) and Pompidou (determinant), are dead in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending when the full force of the storm hit the town. Another thing to mention is that in the other timeline, the diner also exploded without Max Caulfield's intervention, which was due to a gas fire from Frank's RV. But that could also depend on whether Chloe killed Frank in the previous episode. You may even consider this as an inside joke by the developers, it is like Schrödinger's own Arcadia Bay, everybody is dead and alive until one or the other is asserted.
- This theory is highly presumed to be false since it is revealed that Joyce died in the storm in Life is Strange 2, leading to the conclusion that Frank, Pompidou, and Warren had died too.
- Although it's never explained what or who brings the storm into fruition, the fact that Max has vision of the storm before her power triggers may be indicative that Max's powers have no connection to the storm whatsoever, making the nature of the storm unavoidable, the nature of Max's first vision premonitory and the final decision might be all about letting Nature take its courses and wipe out Arcadia Bay, allowing Max to keep Chloe at her side or given the premonition, thwart destiny by making the ultimate sacrifice and allow Arcadia Bay to be spared.
- While it is never explicitly stated whether anyone other than Max and Chloe survived the storm in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending, it should be noted that the Two Whales Diner is seen still standing after the storm, much like it was when Max was there before she saved Chloe using Warren's photo. Even though we didn't see any survivors, it is entirely possible that Joyce, Warren, Frank, and Pompidou were able to survive the storm, staying sheltered in the diner, especially considering the butterfly effect Max's last interference with time might have caused.
- In Life is Strange 2, it is revealed that Joyce died in the storm, which means that Warren, Frank, and Pompidou may have died too, leading this theory to be proven false.
- David may have also survived the storm if Chloe is spared by the player, as during the storm he tracks down Mr. Jefferson in the Dark Room (with the help of policemen). So he may have survived and been safe in the Dark Room underground, which was also described as a "storm bunker". However, that also means that Jefferson is likely to survive the storm as well. Alternatively, it’s also possible that David was killed by Jefferson as he wasn't able to overpower him without Max's help.
- The former theory was proven to be correct in Life is Strange 2, although Jefferson's fate is still unknown.
- If the player managed to save Kate Marsh in Episode 2, there is a chance that she survived in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending. Although she told Max that her parents were merely coming to visit her at the hospital and never explicitly said that they would be picking her up and taking her out of town on Friday. The hospital is a solid brick building and it would have been able to withstand the storm as opposed to the destroyed wooden buildings that are shown in this ending. Also, hospitals usually have underground storm shelters. Additionally, in Arcadia Bay's main map, the hospital wasn't shown, which heavily also implies that the hospital was out of the town. However, this is speculation and Kate is widely presumed to be dead.
- In Life is Strange 2, David reveals that all the Arcadia Bay residents had died in the storm (leaving him, Max, Chloe, Victoria, and presumbly Jefferson the only survivors), meaning that Kate may be among them.
- It's possible that Victoria Chase is safe and sound with Principal Wells in San Francisco in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending, because if not Max, she would be the winner of the Everyday Heroes Photo Contest. However, this depends on whether the player warned Victoria, or on the butterfly effect, if Jefferson kidnapped her anyway.
- In Life is Strange 2, it is revealed that Victoria survived the storm because she was kidnapped by Jefferson and taken to the bunker. She was then rescued by David.
- It's unknown if all the residents of Arcadia Bay died in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending, although we have seen a lot of deaths that are likely determined without Max's intervention. A document in the Prescott barn indicates that there are a lot of bunkers all over the town, but whether any of the residents actually knew about the bunkers or managed to make it to some of them isn't revealed.
- It is only shown in the game that the street by the Two Whales Diner was mostly destroyed by the storm in the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending, as most of the buildings there are made of wood. It's not shown if Blackwell Academy, a brick building, had been completely destroyed by the storm as well.
- As we know, the Bigfoots football game was supposed to take place on the day of the storm, and the storm probably postponed or interrupted it. Regarding the fact that Evan Harris, Alyssa Anderson, and Warren (people who aren't bothered by sports) aren't in Blackwell, maybe it was taking place but everyone watching or playing the game was killed on the field. Otherwise, they would have sought shelter in the school - a solid brick building that likely withstood the storm - and perhaps survived.
Sacrifice Chloe Ending
Max and Chloe's Fate
- It's unclear whether Max just changes reality or creates new timelines that run and exist parallel to each other for each time she rewinds and alters the past. If the second was confirmed, the end would not boil down to "save the city or save Chloe", but you only would decide which reality you prefer to live in. In other words, even when you sacrifice Chloe, the storm is still occurring, but in another reality that you left behind. If this is the case and it may also explain the strange weather phenomenon experienced throughout the game. It's possible that Max has the ability to create alternate "branches" in the timeline, however, these branches are fundamentally unstable, meaning the entire game has been taking place in some alternate "side branch", in a universe that is slowly breaking down. It's only by returning to the "main branch" that Max can continue to exist in life normally.
- There is a high probability that Max in case she still has her time controlling ability after her final choice, she can still go back into time in Sacrifice Chloe ending to prevent it. (considering in Sacrifice Town ending her certainty has shown after her tearing up the blue butterfly photo up, but in Sacrifice Chloe ending she didn't; and even if her autopilot self didn't take it, she still got the first selfie which she took in Jefferson's class) Though, if she tried to go back into time with one of those photos, she would likely end in the same present unless she leaves a warning message to her autopilot-self, since she would do everything the same as the last time from that point on ).
- Max's nightmare represents her emotional reliving of all experiences in the last five days in an exaggerated form, including her fears and trauma regarding the Dark Room investigation, her feelings of guilt regarding her actions throughout the game, the alternative reality with William Price alive, the fate of everyone at Arcadia Bay, her self-doubts as well as the moments she spent with Chloe (as depicted in a sequence of recollected memories from the few days they spent together). Click here to take a deeper look at Max's nightmare.
- Expanding from the above theory, it has been suggested that the game in its entirety is Max's way of coping with survivor's guilt: The first storm scene is the point Max is at when 'rewinding', i.e. going back through her recollections to find out what she could have done to prevent all the frightening events of the week from happening. Some fans have stressed that because the game's final choice (as well as previous crucial decisions) revolve around Chloe Price, Max is trying to cope with either having saved her or not having saved her. The game would be her thought-experiment or a power-fantasy trying to change what can, in the end, not be changed but only lived with. This would be the final lesson of the game for Max.
- The final decision of either sacrificing Chloe or Arcadia Bay represents the Utilitarian dilemma ("The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few") and that final situation is all about making the right decision in front of moral conflicts and own desires as depicted in Max's nightmare. That would make Life Is Strange all about the morality and responsibility of time travel or rather life itself, and whether you can take responsibility for your decisions and bear the consequences, which is also an important part of growing up.
- One theory holds a more relatable interpretation, stating that Max got her powers through the blue butterfly and the real purpose of that power is to let Max enjoy her time with Chloe and say everything she has to say before Chloe dies. It was not really intended for her to save lives nor change the course of the future. Life Is Strange is about the human desire for reversing your mistakes and having a second chance, just a little bit more time; to make up for what you didn't do. It teaches us to treasure the people we love and to spend the time we have with them wisely before it could be too late, before we could be left filled with regret for the rest of our lives; like Max would've been after finding out her best friend she abandoned for five years had suddenly died, and she never reached for her in that bathroom. Furthermore, it confronts us with the question: What are you willing to pay for the person you love? Would you really do anything, sacrifice everything for that person? It's through these questions that the game pushes you to that extent, from taking one risk after another, investing in everything, and finally taking the immense cost of hundreds of people dying just for the one person you love the most and would do anything for, or finally learning to let them go and move on, not exactly for just the greater good, but for a sense of acceptance.
- Earlier in Polarized, Max reveals that she always wanted her life to be special, an adventure, but never without Chloe by her side. Tied in with this theory, and considering Max's getting these powers just right when she could save Chloe's life in first place shows that universe (or maybe Rachel Amber's spirit, since she was guiding them throughout the whole story) gave them a chance to being together, but heavy consequences are waiting for them as price.
- Max (and the players) might actually have been deliberately tricked into sacrificing Chloe by the end of Episode 5. A central theme of the early episodes was bullying, and Polarized pushes Max onto a guilt trip even though there is no reason for her getting the power if she was supposed to never use it. It is normal that she is having guilt at all the destruction she witnesses, but it is strange by how many and how often she is told that everything is her fault in the last episode. Also, she has resolved nothing. The ending basically tells us that everything would have been fine (except for Chloe) if she had never started reversing time. Nathan Prescott and Jefferson would have been arrested and Rachel found. So if she was not supposed to do anything, what was the point of it all?
- The obvious answer is that it all happened for Max to have made these "great" experiences. This interpretation is problematic, though. Max, like any person, would be much more likely to develop severe psychological issues after the experiences and choices she made. Seeing all that death and suffering, the experience of the dark room and the nightmare, letting her best friend die... It is hard to imagine her just brushing off all of that. Also, Max would be fully aware that Chloe would not have had any of these experiences and the last thing she would hear in her life is that nobody would miss her. No one would know or believe Max's sacrifices or experiences. No one would know that Chloe was a key element to saving Arcadia Bay. But if, on the other hand, the point was to learn to live with the consequences of your actions it would mean to see this through to the end and save Chloe. If she sacrificed Arcadia Bay they will again, learn to live with these consequences and not going to look back.
- There is also speculation that, in Episode 5, Chloe and Max's clothes foreshadow some major events. The deer skull T-shirt Max wears is speculated to symbolize death and the destruction of Arcadia Bay. The Ouroboros on the T-shirt Chloe wears in this episode (a serpent eating its own tail) has long represented the endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth. It symbolizes self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself (the eternal return), similar to the mythical phoenix. It used to be thought that a snake about to die would shed its skin and revert to being young and healthy, and so by shedding the surroundings of Arcadia Bay and leaving with Max, Chloe can find new life. So, maybe the tornado was the first and the last (playable) scene in the game. Perhaps the story repeats itself and the town is destroyed. Maybe the ouroboros symbolizes that Chloe sacrificing herself for the town is impossible and will cause an endless loop in the future.