Life Is Strange 2's most compelling moments revolve around the unconditional love between Sean and Daniel Diaz. The road from Seattle to Puerto Lobos has been a long one, but watching the brothers adapt and ultimately thrive together regardless of their circumstances is a satisfying constant within the series so far. Enter Episode 4, where Sean finds himself alone in a hospital bed just a day away from being sent to a juvenile detention facility for something he didn't do. While the central plot stumbles with some overwrought villains and an uninspiring environment to explore, Sean's genuine characterization and relationships with nuanced characters continue to elevate the narrative. His singular drive to find and rescue his brother propels him, and you, forward in the chaotic penultimate episode of Life Is Strange 2.
Reality comes crashing down right out the gate in stark contrast to last episode's trundling pace. The ramifications of the brothers' fatal encounter with a Seattle police officer have caught up with them, but the more pressing issue is Daniel's absence. This is as much a problem for Sean as it is for the dynamicity of the plot. With Daniel taking a backseat, his character development takes a hit, and the episode's interactivity suffers from your inability to use his powers. Additionally, there's less general decision-making, and there are only rare occasions where problem-solving is required, which is a shame for the puzzling-inclined.
As expected, Episode 4 pulls on the heartstrings just as much as its predecessors. One encounter features Sean facing off against an angry racist landowner, demanding to know why Sean is parked on his property. What transpires is unsettling and heartbreaking. Sean once again has to choose between his safety and his self-respect, and either decision will result in him screaming as he speeds away with tears streaming down his face. It's a heart-wrenching moment, made all the more painful by the consistently stellar voice acting of Gonzalo Martin.
This event is followed by one where you must make a choice: trust a truck driver to give you a ride or continue Sean's painful trek on foot. The choice is inevitably informed by Sean's fractured trust in people, which you find yourself sharing as a result of his immensely sympathetic character. Life Is Strange 2 continues its theme of the best and worst of humanity living side by side. The grander implications of racism, politics, and what's to be done about either aren't questions the game attempts to answer (nor should it)--but seeing the impact on someone trapped in a hostile and divided world continues to be an illuminating and empathy-inducing experience.
While these plot moments are strong, the central storyline revolves around an evangelical cult that Daniel has become caught up in. The figures who head up the church--a manipulative, science-averse Reverend and her brainwashed muscle--are irritating and two-dimensional. The cult plotpoint feels oddly out of place from the road trip you've been taking so far, and it's over almost as soon as it begins. Aside from serving as the impetus for some great character-building moments for Sean, it feels like a pitstop we didn't need to take, bringing the narrative progress to an unnecessary halt.
The episode shines brightest in its well-written interactions between fascinating characters. These explore themes of independence, family, religion, and fear with the deft touch we've come to expect from the series so far. While many lack context, these interactions are delivered beautifully, and what they inform about the central characters is worth the bizarre circumstances that brought them about. One hugely important character drops into the story suddenly and without any kind of foreshadowing, for example. They kick off an important emotional turning point for Sean, but it's borne out of such an absurd situation that the moment doesn't carry as much weight as it would have under more sensible circumstances. The result is a series of truly engrossing conversations without the interlocking threads to weave them seamlessly into an equally engrossing larger narrative.
Unlike from the villains, the new characters and their backstories are compelling and authentic. This is also because the impact of choice takes a backseat--there is only one major moment this episode that will change as a result of your decisions in the story so far. This is equally delightful and frustrating. While only be able to make choices within the framework of how Sean would act can be disappointing, it ultimately allows the characters and their personalities to shine more, and that makes for a better story overall.
Life Is Strange 2 illustrates how self-interest can trump family values, good people make bad choices, and no matter how you feel about someone, you can't control the person they are doomed or destined to be as a result of their choices. That goes not just for people around Sean, but Sean himself. It's a palpable and universal message that Life Is Strange 2 continues to convincingly deliver on a mechanical and thematic level.
The supernatural collides with reality under the guise of radical religion in a way that feels too cliche, but spending more time with Sean and his confidants remains a delight. Whether you're heading into the final episode in much the same place you were at the beginning--or under the chilling implications of a certain late game choice--watching Daniel wrap his arms around Sean in either circumstance exemplifies what makes the series work so well. Your Sean can be kind or standoffish, thieving or righteous, but your actions don't change the love and adoration between the Diaz brothers--and that love is still the heart and soul of Life Is Strange 2.