While the original season of Life is Strange did a good job of fleshing out the past stories of Max and Chloe, Deck Nine have found the dangling threads and ways to wrap them up in new and interesting ways for Before the Storm. There’s been pivotal moments and people that we know of from Dontnod’s story, and while stepping back in time and visiting earlier versions of these characters and Arcadia Bay wasn’t necessarily that important to do, it’s been an opportunity to explore these defining moments.
The bonus episode reunites Hannah Telle and Ashly Burch to play Max and Chloe together once more – Burch wasn’t able to reprise her role in the BTS mini-season because of the SAG-AFTRA strikes – and with Dontnod saying that they’d rather create new characters for a sequel, we have to assume that this is also our opportunity to say goodbye to the pair.
It makes the bonus episode’s title – Farewell – particularly fitting, and Deck Nine have again managed to find a particular point in time that feels natural to explore. Stepping back to even before Before the Storm, this is Max and Chloe just as they’ve started at High School and come into their teenage years, still enjoying the glow of their close friendship from childhood. All of that is about to change.
This is the end of the beginning for these characters, and it’s moments after blowing up some dolls in an effort to avoid cleaning up Chloe’s room that Max’s internal monologue returns to ponder whether this is the right time to say that she’s about to leave to Seattle. All the way through the episode, you’re playing and seeing this as Max does, that this is the end of an era. Does she ruin the moment by telling Chloe that she’s leaving? Or does she wait even longer to avoid ruining the day and the childhood adventure that they’re about to revisit?
We’ve all been there in one way or another. You don’t want to let go, you want to try and savour it instead of ruining the fun you could be having. In that way, the bonus episode grabs you and makes you empathise. I played along, going on a hunt for old pirate treasure that an even younger Max and Chloe had hidden away for themselves to try and find.
But it does all have to come to an end, there’s no escaping that fact. This bonus episode is barely an hour long, but the brief, fleeting story will hit fans of the original season hard. Saying goodbye is hard even at the best of times, and it’s made all the more difficult when we know how Max and Chloe drift apart – her empty promises of staying in touch and visiting really hurt to hear – and what Chloe goes through over the next few years.
It’s funny, in a way, that this is actually the end for these characters, when really it’s much more of a prologue to the stories that Life is Strange has told. We might be saying farewell, but for Max and Chloe’s story in Life is Strange, this is actually more of a beginning.