Chaos Theory reiterates one, what a skilled developer Dontnod is, and two, how much of a welcome surprise Life is Strange really is. With Chaos Theory, they’ve completely leveled the playing field, quite literally changing the game and everything we took for granted with it. This episode represents a commitment to both the drama and the superpowers aspect of Life is Strange and shows that Dontnod is ready to double down on both.
But let’s step back a bit first: the episode focuses on the core relationship that keeps the story developing and interesting, Max and Chloe. Almost the entire episode revolves around moments the two share, both intimate and aggressive, culminating in the massive evolution of one of them. It’s an unexpected twist that opens up the series from here to a ton of surprises and madness that can come in the forthcoming two episodes.
Dontnod continue to impress, mostly by diving deeper into the “superpowers” aspect of Life is Strange. It was played around with early in episode two, and then you’re introduced to a new power at the end of episode two, but Chaos Theory blatantly illustrates the dedication to making this feel like a superhero story. Especially with how Max herself changes from stumbling through whatever is happening to her really taking charge of her powers and decisions. Even though the majority of the episode has the same tone as the previous, Max has clearly changed, become more confident and willing to bend the rules.
The first half of the episode even comes off as a Batman-esque mystery as Max and Chloe search Blackwell for clues as to why these strange occurrences have begun. Dontnod less-than-subtly broaches the idea that a conspiracy is at play, and by the end you don’t know much more of what’s going on, but you feel like you’re at least moving in the right direction. Regardless, the result is Max getting the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Chloe, more than either episode before it, which is saying something. The time isn’t wasted, as emotions escalate quickly.
Instead of just talking and getting to know Chloe, the time is spent really digging into the deeper motivations of her character. She is illuminated as a human being and you have a better idea of the Chloe-Max relationship at the end of the episode than you did at the start. There’s history there, and proper time is spent exploring that history and showing how this relationship is vastly different than it was in the past. Much time is spent even hinting at the Chloe-Rachel relationship, something that was a complete mystery before the start of the episode.
The central point to Chaos theory is Chloe and Max and underestimating that relationship is a big misstep. That drives forward the plot in this episode, all the way to its conclusion. Dontnod proves that they are going “all in” with every aspect of Life is Strange, which includes the very superhero vibe they have begun to put together. Depending on what happened with you at the end of Episode 2, Out of Time, affects the tone you enter into Chaos Theory with drastically. It also changes whether or not Max thinks she can save other people, and whether or not she should.
Chaos Theory is far and away the best episode of Life is Strange yet, building intelligently on all aspects of the previous two. The turning point of this series, notoriously the weakest aspect of its Telltale competitors, represents the strongest components of Life is Strange; both its story and time mechanic, meeting in a synergetic and beautiful coalescence that is crippling and breathtaking, all at the same time.