Spoilers incoming for the first episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm, the entire first season of the original Life is Strange game, Twin Peaks, Fire Walk with Me and Twin Peaks: The Return.
In its first season Life is Strange proved itself to be incredibly cineliterate. The episodic sci-fi teen drama contained references to numerous movies and tv shows, many obvious and some as easter eggs but the video game draws more inspiration from Twin Peaks than any other. While Life is Strange managed to tell its own funny, bizarre, emotional and relatable tale at its own pace, the influence of Twin Peaks was obvious. The setting of Arcadia Bay is similar to that of the titular town of the American television series, complete with comparable establishments and the narrative sandbox of the ‘small town with secrets’ trope. The disappearance, and then murder, of Rachel Amber is the catalyst that propels Life is Strange’s story forward and is very similar to the murder of Laura Palmer which began the dark and weird tale of Twin Peaks. Recently the first episode of a three-part prequel to Life is Strange was released, subtitled Before the Storm, and it strikes multiple similarities to Twin Peaks’ own prequel which was titled Fire Walk with Me. Let’s explore these similarities and how the series and film might yet influence the game.
While Chloe Price is the protagonist of Before the Storm, the series is putting a lot of focus of Rachel Amber whose name and spirit (almost literally) dominated Life is Strange but we never saw her, let alone get to know her. Now the series will spotlight her downfall from popular straight-A student to someone who is clearly disturbed, addicted to drugs and wanting to leave her life behind. Fire Walk with Me did this with the Twin Peaks mythos too, focusing on the last seven days of Laura Palmer’s life as the Homecoming Queen relied on drugs and her friend to survive a life spiraling out of control. In Twin Peaks everyone claimed to have known and loved Laura and had no idea who had murdered her and yet Fire Walk with Me showed a disturbed and isolated teenager and Before the Storm is showcasing the same. In Life is Strange pretty much everyone that lead character Max talked to knew Rachel and were fond of the apparently untroubled girl and now Before the Storm, like FWWM before it, is removing the gloss and studying the hard, sharp truths within.
Another similarity is that both Rachel Amber’s and Laura Palmer’s lives began to spiral out of control because of their fathers. Laura’s father Leland had been possessed by the spirit known only as BOB for many years and had been raping her since she was 12 years old with Laura only just discovering that BOB was her father during one such act. While Before the Storm doesn’t go that far, although I wouldn’t put it past the writers who go to some dark, supernatural places in the first game, Rachel’s father is seen to be acting strange and is then caught having an affair by Rachel and her only confidant Chloe. This discovery about her father seems to be the inciting incident to her depression although we know that her death is seemingly unrelated as Nathan Prescott, her eventual murderer (with Mr Jefferson), has his own motives although does appear in episode 1.
We don’t yet know how far in the timeline Before the Storm will go, and even if we don’t get to Rachel’s death the player still knows it’s coming adding a sense of eventual doom and a ticking clock element. The same can be said for Fire Walk with Me where everybody knew that the film was leading to Laura’s death; even those who had not seen the show knew because of how much of a popular culture soundbite “Who killed Laura Palmer?” was. Also, I can only imagine what audiences who hadn’t seen the TV show before watching the film would have thought. The film was much maligned upon its initial release but has since become seen by many, including myself, as a masterpiece of the genre. Despite being a prequel, it falls more into sequel territory at times because of the supernatural/metaphysical time-altering elements which make the film complicated even for the biggest fan, let alone people new to the series.
Just like in Fire Walk with Me, I’m guessing some of the information and character connections with Rachel Amber won’t be explored in Before the Storm in order to keep it focused on the relationship between her and Chloe. Side characters in Life is Strange who knew Rachel like Daniel DaCosta who used to draw pictures of her and jokingly referred to her as his muse probably won’t be in the prequel because it’s not relevant and for the interest of time. Laura Palmer used to look after Audrey Horne’s brother Johnny, worked in Horne’s Department Store and was a prostitute for a time at One Eyed Jacks but these either do not appear at all in the prequel film (or it’s copious amounts of deleted material known as The Missing Pieces) or are only mentioned passingly.
The writers of Before the Storm are very much aware of the connections with Twin Peaks and flaunt their homage to the series and film with some easter eggs and references. The opening minute of episode 1 makes reference to a band named ‘FireWalk’, a nod to the film’s title and the phrase it refers to, with the band being a relatively big part of the first episode. The band is playing at a location called ‘The Mill’ which is apparently close to the border and known for its openness to the vices. This sounds very much like ‘The Pink Room’ which features in Fire Walk with Me which is close to the Canadian border and filled with drugs and open sex. The Pink Room also features one of my favourite pieces of a film score ever, an ultra-sleazy number composed by Angelo Badalamenti. And let’s not forget that Chloe’s license plate in Life is Strange was TWNPKS.
A major focus of Fire Walk with Me was the expansion of the supernatural elements of the original show whether it be the green ring, the Woodsmen or Garmonbozia (don’t ask) and Before the Storm could follow suit and focus on the supernatural/metaphysical/spiritual/sci-fi elements of the original games. As far as we know there is no time travel in Before the Storm but we are already getting a lot of Lynchian dream logic including a raven which may or may not be supernatural and the ending seemed to suggest Rachel had some sort of control of the weather, or at least the wind. Don’t forget the deer from Life is Strange either. While it was implied to be Max’s spirit animal it was also almost definitely linked to, and representative of, Rachel. I’m almost certain we’ll see it again soon.
To conclude I’d like to float the possibility of, in a sense, re-writing Rachel’s role in the Life is Strange mythos. In the new season of Twin Peaks: The Return, Laura was revealed to have originated from the White Lodge and is implied to be a being of pure good to combat the unleashing of BOB (a being of pure evil) into the world. I’m not saying Before the Storm should get quite that weird with it but maybe Rachel could be revealed to be more important than just the missing girl who pushes plot forward. Maybe if she does indeed have some sort of weather power could Rachel have somehow created the almighty storm we see in the first game? It could be an interesting and bold direction to go.
Played Life is Strange: Before the Storm? Twin Peaks fan? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about TV, movies and videogames on Twitter @kylebrrtt.