SPOILER ALERT: Warning, this article contains spoilers from Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Proceed at your own risk.
With the second episode of Life is Strange prequel Life is Strange: Before the Storm out, it’s time to get back on the theory train. In episode one, “Awake,” we saw that the game’s use of William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest would offer clues to the roles and fates of several characters. In episode two, “Brave New World,” we get to see the characters actually perform The Tempest, as well as view several incidents surrounding the show that offer an explanation of the behavior of some of our favorites.
The episode focuses on the crumbling family lives of Chloe and Rachel, as well as a look at the equally complex and sometimes even more heartbreaking situations of their fellow students and friends. It’s clear that no one at Blackwell Academy is living a perfectly happy life, and by looking at the difficulties these teenagers are dealing with, we can make some guesses about the paths they are headed down — and in some cases, the darkness they fall into in the original Life is Strange.
Fire, Walk With Me
But before we dig back into The Tempest, let’s look at Chloe’s prophetic dreams. In episode one, Chloe begins having dreams about riding along with her father, William — who was brutally killed in a car accident several years earlier. In these dreams, William speaks cryptically and seems to be warning Chloe about something that is happening in her life. In episode one, it’s difficult to parse out what that is, exactly, unless you count a vision of Rachel on fire as an obvious metaphor.
But in episode two, Chloe and her father roast marshmallows over the burning carcass of his wrecked car. In the distance, fire ravages the Oregon countryside — the fire that Rachel Amber started by kicking over a burning trashcan at the end of the first episode. And as they sit, her father warns her about staring too long at the flames, lest they consume her:
William: “You’re so drawn to it, you don’t even see the danger. Fire blind us, just like darkness. But darkness blinds us with absence. With loss.”
Chloe: “What does fire blind us with?”
William: “Beauty. But sometimes there’s a great beauty yet to come. Fire is jealous, Chloe. It wants all the beauty for itself. That’s why you need to be careful.”
Chloe: “Careful of what?”
William: “Of getting burned.
In the previous episode, Chloe dreams that while sitting in her father’s car, Rachel walks up to the window, presses her hand against the glass, and immediately begins burning with hot, red fire. William’s metaphor couldn’t be more clear: Rachel is the fire, attracting Chloe to her and blinding her with her beauty. Rachel presents something Chloe with something she desperately wants: someone to love who loves her in return.
If you read Chloe’s journal in the pause menu, you see her writing letters to her estranged friend Max, and you can see how desperately she needed Max’s attention following the passing of her father and Max’s move to Seattle. Chloe’s home life is a mess, and she pushes her mother Joyce away as Joyce grows closer to her boyfriend, David. But whereas her mother and Max seemed like safe havens for Chloe, Rachel isn’t as safe; she is a young woman plagued by feelings of betrayal (seeing her father kiss someone other than her mother) and a desire to run away and find a new life.
Chloe is so entranced by Rachel’s irresistible complexity that she can’t see how playing into it can hurt her in the long run. Remember Rachel’s identity as “the fire” in this metaphor — it’s another element that ties her to her role in The Tempest, and in the overall Life is Strange lore.
Such Another Trick
In episode two, we see Blackwell Academy’s performance of The Tempest, and even get to guide Chloe through the role of Ariel. In The Tempest, Ariel is a mischievous spirit and the chief servant of Prospero. In Chloe’s life, she like Ariel is mischievous and witty, capricious and eager to graffiti walls and speak her mind. But she has also become Rachel’s chief servant of sorts; in the episode’s first scene, you can go along with her taking the blame for the pair skipping school, and in the previous episode, you aid in her scheme to steal wine from unsuspecting picnickers.
The Ariel costume in Blackwell’s The Tempest is meant to look like a raven. We’ve seen the raven used through Life is Strange: Before the Storm, appearing in Chloe’s dreams as William spins his cryptic prophecies. Historically, ravens symbolize ill omens, and their creepy status and tendency to feed on carrion have earned them a place of mysticism between the living and the dead. They can also be birds of prophecy, which would explain then showing up in Chloe’s dreams.
By dressing Chloe as a raven, the message is clear: Rachel may be the danger, burning brightly and destined to be put out, but it’s Chloe’s presence that heralds the beginning of the end. Chloe is the bringing of ill-tidings and bad news. It’s Chloe’s attendance at the Firewalk concert that brings Rachel into her life, and her continued partnership with Rachel bring trouble at every turn.
And in the original Life is Strange, it’s Chloe’s return to Max’s life that sets off the game’s chain of events. To save Chloe, Max nearly ruins everyone and everything else around her. Chloe is the harbinger of destruction, not Rachel. Chloe is the raven.
The Babe With the Power
Back to Rachel as Prospera, the gender-bent Prospero in Blackwell’s The Tempest. Prospero is a magician, and like Rachel, can compel the people around her to produce the results she wants. Rachel, you’ll remember, is “the fire.” And Life is Strange has always had a large vein of Twin Peaks inspiration running through it. If you wanted David Lynch’s weird masterpiece, you’ll remember this poem:
“Through the darkness of future’s past,
The magician longs to see.
One chants out between two worlds…
‘Fire… walk with me.’”
The name of the band Chloe and Rachel watch together in episode one is “Firewalk,” a direct life from this poem. “The darkness of future’s past” is the entirely of Life is Strange: Before the Storm, the prequel to Rachel’s death and Max and Chloe’s reunion. “The magician” is Rachel, yearning for a different life and desperate to run away after learning of her father’s infidelity shakes her to her core.
In the original Life is Strange, a ghostly doe can be seen leading Max along at points, and many fans believe that this doe is Rachel’s ghost. So the “two worlds” are the worlds Rachel will eventually straddle after she dies. And of course, “Fire…walk with me” is Rachel, becoming Chloe (and later, Max) to follow along with her.
But also, Chloe may be the one who has the actual powers — the power to give power to others. Rachel didn’t have powers until she met Chloe, that we know of. And Max didn’t have powers until Chloe was shot in front of her. Maybe Chloe is the person who passes on the power; her prophetic dreams do hint at something larger happening with her.
We will see Chloe or Rachel use their power in full force? Hopefully we’ll see something when the final episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm comes later this year.