15th Aug2019

Life is Strange 2: Awkward, Relatable and Open-Minded on Sexuality

by Xenia Grounds

WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Life is Strange 2 and Life is Strange.


I’ll cut straight to the chase. I think Life is Strange 2 explores sexuality and sex incredibly well to an almost painfully relatable degree. It’s so honest with its approach but still manages to be very touching in the way it handles the subject of sex and how it explores sexuality is so good. It’s not something that is often said about a video game but if you are looking for a realistic take on first-time sexual encounters and what it’s like to discover your sexual identity then Life is Strange 2 can offer you that in spades.

In Life is Strange, it goes without saying that the biggest selling point was Max and Chloe’s relationship. It was implied at first but made explicit by the finale. Yes, Max can be romantically involved with a guy depending on your choices but there’s always that romantic undertone with Max and Chloe. The two young women can kiss depending on choices the player makes but that’s it. Life is Strange 2 follows a very similar thread in its third episode but more on that later.
It’s no secret that I am really enjoying Life is Strange 2. Not many games would explore the issues in modern society like police brutality and racism like this series has done. It hasn’t been subtle, but I don’t think that was the point. It’s meant to horrify and shock you with how blatant and devastating these things can be by making you see it through Sean’s eyes. It has destroyed the carefree life he used to have and forced him into a role he never asked for. However, in the case of Episode 3, it focuses on two themes: Identity and Romance.

In ‘Wastelands’, it addresses the early budding stages of romance into its three-hour runtime. For practically the entire series, Sean hasn’t had the chance to have much fun or unwind because he’s so occupied with being a father figure to Daniel which is something that he’s finding hard to get right because he’s only sixteen. The two brothers are also on the move constantly so it’s hard to form any real long-lasting relationships because something inevitably will go wrong. However, Sean has been reunited with Cassidy and Finn and while he doesn’t know the two that well, you can see that if given the chance, his relationships with either of them could be something great. Sadly, Sean and Daniel will have to leave California after this episode is over and in very horrible circumstances regardless of choice. Since you’re aware of how happiness for the brothers is fleeting, you must seize those moments of freedom and joy when they happen because they’re rare.


Sean and Cassidy

This is the relationship I pursued in my original save file. After Episode 2, I had a very strong hunch that Cassidy would be back, that she would be a love interest for Sean and he would get the choice to sleep with her. In ‘Wastelands’, Sean can spend a lot of time with Cassidy. Cassidy is more world-wise and sexually experienced, but she’s never shamed for it. At first, it is just flirting and fun remarks between them but it does become something more when Cassidy asks Sean to join her for a skinny dip in the lake or even when she invites him to come inside her tent. Sean is young, inexperienced, shy and most importantly, very nervous. This episode makes it clear that you can let Sean back out at any point and Cassidy does ask to make sure that Sean is okay with going that extra step. I saw it as an important moment for Sean. To be blunt, Sean’s life has been completely and unjustly torn apart and he rarely gets to do anything for himself because he’s been forced to be the adult in tough situations when he’s still a child. He has matured enough to be a decent parental figure given his circumstances but among people his own age, it shows that he’s still a kid in many ways.

In Cassidy’s tent, it’s not two people who don’t seem to have any nerves about sleeping together. Cassidy knows Sean is, in her words ‘a slow player’ and he doesn’t know what to do in a romantic situation. Sean tries to say (mostly stutters) to her that he’s a virgin but Cassidy has realised and doesn’t think anything of it which encourages Sean to initiate.

Even the post-sex scene kept that relatability going. Sean turns incredibly quiet and only after Cassidy pushes him to open up, he apologises for not being the best sexual partner and is clearly embarrassed. I’m sure there are many people who have had that exact same experience in their lives. Physical intimacy isn’t seen in many games. It’s mostly just implied or happens off-screen. The only exceptions I can think of are Bioware Games like Dragon Age or Mass Effect where relationships can be a massive part of the experience. However, I’ve yet to see a video game capture the awkwardness and shyness that can happen with that kind of intimacy. Sex can be very romanticised in media because characters are always good at it (unless it’s played for comedy) and there are always smiles at the end of the act. However, Life is Strange 2 shows that some things in life can go the opposite of how we expect and this scene nails it.

In my playthrough, it was great for Sean to have something like this because Episode 1 robbed him of so much including romance. If he doesn’t get the chance to have a relationship like that again then it feels more comforting knowing he got to experience something that he probably never thought he would get to have with a life on the run.


Sean and Finn

This is a relationship that not many people who have played the episode got to see. I think the stat has barely risen since my review so many months ago. However, it is another one that is worth examining in depth. Personally, I didn’t see the signs that Finn had a romantic interest in Sean. I did pick up on his flirtatious lines and pet names but I saw that as more of a character quirk than genuine attraction on Finn’s part. It’s a shame that you can only have the kiss with Finn if you agree to the heist because it’s a horrible idea. There has been some controversy surrounding the kiss because some see it as Finn manipulating Sean further into going along with the heist but I don’t agree with that.
In Episode 2, Sean and Finn have a very short meeting. At the time, it’s easy to assume that Finn’s wary of Sean because he doesn’t take his eyes off him. In retrospect, this was probably the first sign that Finn had an attraction to the older Diaz.

There have also been some comments that there weren’t any indications that Sean is bisexual but there have been a few hints prior to Episode 3. For example, when Claire asks Sean if he had a girlfriend, he answers that he almost started dating ‘this one person’. He doesn’t say ‘girl’ but instead uses a gender-neutral term. In Episode 3, before we are re-introduced to Finn, if you read Sean’s journal, you find out that the two have had a few moments together like watching a sunset and Sean describes Finn as and I quote: ‘the sweetest guy I’ve ever met’ which hint that Sean may have a crush.

The best discussion regarding sexuality comes if you choose to stay at the campfire for a haircut which reveals Finn to be pansexual and he is very quick to ask what Sean’s type is if Sean reveals he likes boys too. Sean’s sexuality is more directed by player input since you choose to sexualise him or not but there is an option which confirms that Sean is bicurious at the very least and he has had some level of attraction to other males in the past but he has never had a chance to act on it. There was something said from a source close to the writers about how Sean had always viewed himself as straight prior to life on the run. One of the few good things to come out of all this travelling and having more knowledge of the world and people means that Sean gets to learn about himself and who he really is. In the case of this episode, it leads him to start questioning his sexuality but since he’s surrounded by so many open-minded people, there’s no angst over it.

This brings me to the big moment which is the kiss. It’s an adorable moment to watch unfold. After agreeing to the heist, Finn admits that he feels a strong connection to Sean and Sean does have the choice to reciprocate those feelings. It’s understandable that people would come to the conclusion that there was an element of manipulation to the kiss but Finn was flirting shamelessly with Sean throughout ‘Wastelands’ and long before the heist idea was even formed. From Finn’s perspective, he’s not exactly been hiding his attraction to Sean but while they’ve had moments here and there, Sean hadn’t admitted to any returned feelings properly. The two sharing a kiss after they both realise they have feelings for each other is a normal thing to do. It’s two teenagers starting to fall in love and it’s as simple as that which is what makes it feel so pure. Some were disappointed that you only kiss Finn when you can sleep with Cassidy but it’s realistic that it wasn’t rushed given how Sean has only just started exploring his bisexuality. Sean is comfortable kissing another boy but he wouldn’t be ready to sleep with one yet. Sean is left swooning after the kiss and in his own loveable teenage way acknowledges that he wants to kiss Finn again. Sadly, the likelihood of that happening after the ending suggest he probably won’t have a chance to but it would be nice to be proven wrong.


As I said, I’m not sure if these relationships will continue past ‘Wastelands’. Some details surrounding Episode 4 (titled ‘Faith’) have been revealed now through official sources and some leaks. I assume there will be a time skip like there has been for prior episodes but given the cliffhanger ending of Episode 3, ‘Faith’ may start right where ‘Wastelands’ left off and we could be given a proper farewell to Cassidy and Finn before we jump forward to Nevada where Episode 4 has been heavily hinted to take place in. We’ll have to wait and see to find out.

Regardless, Life is Strange has always been great at handling sexuality and its second series continues that tradition. In my eyes, representation of sexuality isn’t something that is forced and neither is there a perfect way to do it because there’ll always be different perspectives and experiences. Life is Strange may have flaws in its narrative but it’s continuing to expand on having characters with different sexualities and by doing so, it may be possible for video games down the line to capture more multifaceted issues and characters relevant for the modern world.


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