I shall number this list to attempt to give it coherence.
0.) Ah. The credits just finished and the percentages loaded. A 53% vs. 47% divide on the final decision. Interesting.
1.) I found out the episode was released by seeing “a safe space to talk about Life Is Strange” in my WordPress feed. All I saw was the title, so I slammed shut the app, threw my shit in my bag and high-tailed it for the bus to get home and download it, but even just by that title I figured not just that it’d be an upsetting ending–obviously–but that there’d be lots of trigger-y stuff. Again I guess somewhat obviously. But maybe I underestimated somewhat just how triggery it’d be.
2.) I didn’t like the voice acting of Jefferson when we first come to. Too practiced, too rehearsed, I thought. And of course the guy teaches photography, not rhetoric, so perhaps that is somewhat expected. Somewhat in-character. But I wasn’t getting the chills, you know? And I felt that I should. Even when we go back through the first photo and see him getting his “shots”…creepy, certainly, but predictably so. It wasn’t until we get sucked into the royal timefuck, right at the beginning of it when the birds are hurling themselves against the windows, and you find the balled-up note on the floor and read it and it’s from him, that my skin tried to crawl off my skeleton. It was that horrid little “XOXO” at the end. Not just that he has total power and complete control but that he’s taking these “cute” little jabs at you. That was stomach-curdling right there. The same with–
3.) –when you hear his voice when he’s trying to find you, later on in the timefuck dream thing. Not when he’s angry or calling out for you–when he just says “Max” in that awful, awful, purr. Horrifying. Because it wasn’t like a “aha!” moment, which would have been kitschy and Hollywood-y. Nor was it too patronizing–because again, you see that, or more correctly hear it, all the time, in any show, from any mouth. It was the genuine pleasure and anticipation in his shaping of your name that makes you want to vomit. Max. You want to sample that sound for every girl ever and tell her “if anyone ever says your name like this, you fucking run, okay?” Which brings me to–
4.) The realization, right after that scene, as the people hunting you multiply, in the junkyard dream, that it’s not just Jefferson hunting you, and it’s not everyone–it’s just men. In that scene. Even “good guys” like Warren. Which blew me away when I realized it. At first I thought “oh okay this is him messing with your head to make everyone hate/hunt you” which of course happens later, in the diner, but not then. Then, it’s just men. And I have so many questions about that. I am not a giant Warren fan; I don’t think we should like him just because he’s not an ass–that’s kind of a low bar to set. But would he be hunting you if you hadn’t kissed Chloe? That’s what I want to know. I want to know how they’re playing with your sexuality because–
5.) –I want to know how much they weight it. If you hadn’t kissed Chloe before, in her room, I assume you don’t kiss her at the end. You probably hug. She might say she loves you but a kiss would be awkward. And I want to know if they want that to hurt more–because it’s a bit…it expects less of us, if so, I think. Even though I had Max kiss her it was only because I thought maybe it would bring Chloe into admitting to herself if she hadn’t yet how she’d felt about Rachel before she was murdered. Their whole relationship, her and Max’s, I read as platonic, kiss notwithstanding. Or at least, there was the potential for sexual tension there but that it was taking, and should take, a backseat to their longer and more cemented status as friends. That was what mattered to me. It wouldn’t have mattered less if there were no kissing involved. That’s why I want to know how they’re playing with your sexuality here. Max will be sobbing into her hands in the bathroom whether or not she ever felt attraction to Chloe. The player should, ideally, be sobbing into her hands as that last scene plays. I certainly was. Whether or not you were losing a strictly-friend or would-be lover is immaterial. But I think they thought we might weigh that attraction more? And that feels a bit…like we are expected to be less than we are.
6.) Before we got to the Chloe-centric part of the dream, I was reminded strongly of The World Ends With You. Max even puts in headphones! And that whole scene in San Francisco seemed to be about getting her to be less shy. Which I wanted to explore, in comparison with TWEWY, again because of differences in gender but also culture. I played TWEWY while living in Tokyo. People present differently. Even loneliness–and god Tokyo has plenty–presents differently. Headphones aren’t the teenager’s shield against the world…they’re everyone’s. It’s not some “kid grow up and face life” situation. It applies to a broader swathe of society. So I faltered a little at the thought that they were going to take this a condescending route [as it would have been, in this culture] like that, with Max. And then they didn’t so all that musing wasn’t really worth pursuing anyway.
7.) Returning to point #5, do they want it to hurt more not just because it’s any sexual attraction but one with less common of a media portrayal and certainly, if the average shitty American high school experience is to be believed as the inspiration for this gameworld, one both harder to find and riskier to pursue? With greater stakes because there just aren’t that many young women who will respond to the advances of other young women positively, whether they’re aware of their own sexuality or not? Speaking from experience, having those advances rebuffed fucking sucks. Not only are you, you know, shut down, but now you walk around in constant fear that the disinterested object of your affections will out you and turn you into a pariah. High schools being pretty much universally shitty vis-a-vis social progressivism, nationwide. Do they want that to increase the gravitas of the Chloe situation? Because again…that seems wrong. A cheap shot. It shouldn’t matter. It should hurt as much either way. Whether you’ve kissed or not, you’re still losing someone your character spent most of the formative years of her life with. Which brings me to–
8.) –the 47% (as of Tuesday night) who decided to sacrifice the entire town for Chloe. THE ENTIRE TOWN?! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!
9.) I had such a Solas flashback when you’ve decided on saving the town and you and Chloe are crying and she says something like “No matter what, those moments we had were real.” And, as with Solas, I thought, “Well what the fuck does that mean then?!” Real? Real? Of course they were real! It isn’t going to be anything else! And those moments having happened and us remembering they happened doesn’t change a damn thing! The fuck kind of thing is that to say when you’re leaving forever? Real my ass. Real doesn’t help.
10.) I’m too tired for all these feels. I’m glad it wasn’t just about making Max open up because that’s important but shrinking it down to that would be ignoble. I’m glad David gets forgiven for his crazy, even if the crazy violent war vet on the far, far perimeter of my life is not so deserving of grace. The text messages Jefferson sends you (in the guise of others) in the timefuck are horrifying. It’s those little notes that are more upsetting than what people say. That said, it’s heartrending that he can’t bend Chloe to his bullshit; that even in the timefuck diner where everyone is trying to corrode Max’s self-worth Chloe remains herself and fights Jefferson’s corruption. That hurts. See? That’s why I don’t understand how we could expect it to hurt more if they kissed. Who cares if they could get physical when–when even as a friend Chloe is capable of standing up for you, against the dark parts of yourself? That’s worth crying for, sex or no.