The following continues our impressions of Life is Strange 2. We're all caught up now, so come back after episode five, where we'll have a final cumulative score for the season as a whole.
To this point, Life is Strange 2 has touched on several major themes and elements, but none greater than the importance of family. Life is Strange 2 has largely been about brotherhood and what it means to be two brothers against the world. The game's fourth episode explores what happens when it's two brothers against something potentially bigger. Faith touches on the topic of religion, more specifically the exploitation of religion. It proves to be one of the season's more powerful episodes and puts forward some of Dontnod's strongest storytelling efforts.
Dontnod has changed up the formula over the course of the series. The first two episodes were about Sean and Daniel as brothers in the journey together, while the third episode was about them as part of a greater community. The fourth episode dives into what it means when the two brothers are separated.
The first half of Faith is about Sean at his lowest point, alone without his little brother. He's recovering from the events of episode three, dealing with the prospect of being arraigned for the murder of the Seattle police officer from the start of the series. Worse yet, he doesn't have any idea where to start looking for Daniel. While the previous episode focused on a multitude of characters, this episode was about diving into Sean's internal despair, his love for his brother, and how much it would kill him to lose his only remaining family. It's an idea that comes to a head at the episode's conclusion, with voice actor Gonzalo Martin delivering his most powerful performance to date.
Faith is also about Sean confronting something he hasn't faced before: the idea of religion. More specifically, the idea of religion used as a weapon. He finds Daniel in the hands of a cult and Sean's confrontation with him and Lisbeth starts to put a spotlight on what can happen when powerful people look to oppress others in the name of religion. The episode touches on abhorrent ideas like conversion therapy for gay people and withholding medicine from the sick in an effort to consolidate their own power. It calls into question what it means to be a truly good person and calls attention to religious extremism. If I have a qualm about this particular plot point, it's that it doesn't quite go far enough to juxtapose extremism with religion as it's meant to be. Religion can bring great hope, purpose, and strength, regardless of what faith one may practice. It's not always easy to distinguish true faith from zealotry and one weakness this episode has is that it can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that all religion is bad. While Faith makes it clear that Lisbeth is a power-mad zealot and her commune is nothing more than a cult, there's no real expression of the positive power of true religion.
Although that's not to say that certain positive tenets of religion aren't pushed forward in this episode. One of the other major plot points is the sudden arrival of Sean's mother, Karen. A key sequence tests the player's capability for forgiveness. Is Sean capable of forgiving someone who left him and his family? Can he accept her help now? Can he move past the pain she caused them all? The question of whether Sean can come to forgive his mother falls beautifully with the overarching theme of the episode. It doesn't take a church to be a good person and you don't necessarily need to believe in Jesus to live by His teachings.
One thing to note about Faith is that since Sean and Daniel spend almost the entirety of the episode separated, it doesn't really exercise Dontnod's tandem context actions. This plays out more like the original Life is Strange, in the sense that it's just the player making context choices for their own character. But once players are reunited with Daniel, they will start to feel the consequences for their various choices over the course of the series. The climax will see Daniel hit a major point of no return and whatever happens is ultimately determined by how good a role model Sean has been to this point. While Sean can talk Daniel down, whatever goes down happens because of Sean's actions to this point. To their credit, Dontnod ratchets up the tension well with this scene, with all hell ready to break loose, which is quite the coincidence given this episode's big theme.
Faith is a strong standalone tale, one that sets up the Life is Strange 2 finale nicely. I don't want to beat the dead horse of my reservations about the overarching plot and its undertones, but it's hard not to think about that with a sequence early in this episode where Sean is confronted by two racist dirtbags. And it's definitely hard not to think about it when there's a literal border wall staring me in the face during the episode five teaser. But for all of the positives that Life is Strange 2 has put together, Dontnod has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt and I anxiously await how this series will end.
These impressions are based on a PlayStation 4 code provided by the publisher. Life is Strange 2 is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch for $39.99 for all five episodes. The game is rated M. For more on Life is Strange 2, catch up on our impressions of Roads, Rules, and Wastelands.