So, I want to make this very clear. If you have not seen or played Life Is Strange 2, you probably should not read this post. If you are currently playing it and haven’t reached Episode 2 yet- first of all, good choice in-game- go play that and then come back… after you’ve finished the game.
Are we good?
Okay, let’s go!
So, Mushroom. Poor, baby Mushroom. Daniel’s beloved pet quickly becomes a fan favourite in the game. We get her at the end of Episode 1, and by the start of Episode 2, we are in love already. Today, we are going to talk about the significance of Mushroom in relation to Daniel and the way he turns out, as well as how her fate foreshadows the ending.
Okay, seriously, if you do not know what happened to Mushroom by now, just look it up. I really do not want to be the one to tell you.
So, let’s just go way back to Episode 1 and talk about those events for a little bit. So, Sean and Daniel leave their hometown after the death of their beloved father. However, Daniel does not know that his dad is dead until the end of the episode. No one is exactly sure about what happened at this point, but as time progresses, it is clear that Daniel has some kind of mystical, kinaesthetic power. Now, we are going to pinpoint one bit of Episode 1 so that we are all on the same page: the gas station.
Daniel falls in love with Mushroom the second he sees her. To be honest, so did I. This scene sets up an evident dynamic, where Sean acts as the adult and Daniel is the child. This dynamic is vital to keep in mind. These boys have just lost their father, and Sean (almost automatically) steps up to look after Daniel. His prime goal is keeping Daniel safe. Their primary purpose of getting to Mexico is nothing is Daniel’s safety becomes jeopardised. We see this in Episode 2, when Sean gives in and goes to their grandparent’s house because Daniel is sick.
So, a big theme of Life Is Strange 2 is parenting. Mushroom is important here because she teaches Daniel responsibility. Mushroom is Daniel’s puppy, and therefore his responsibility. So, it is interesting that when Sean let’s Mushroom outside to do her business, she dies. Daniel does not blame Sean; he does not even ask about it. He just grieves. This is such a mature outcome. Most people are quick to blame when pets die, so when Daniel does not blame Sean, it shows a level of maturity that is very rarely seen from the young boy. Teaching Daniel to be responsible through the care of Mushroom is one thing, but teaching him to be mature throughout the grieving process is another.
The main action that has an effect on Daniel through the death of Mushroom is whether or not you let him kill the cat. I did. I was hurt, just as Daniel was. Emotions become overbearing, especially in moments like these when everything just moves so fast. Letting Daniel use his powers to express his heartbreak also means that Mushroom gets to a proper burial. This seems almost symbolic. They’re not just burying Mushroom; they’re burying their old life. Daniel now knows the truth about their father, and this burial is likely the closest thing to closure that he will get from that.
But what does all of this mean?
It means that whenever Daniel is happy, it gets taken away.
It means that Daniel can’t have everything he needs to make him happy.
It means that Daniel is responsible enough by himself, but when Sean is involved, that’s another story.
And this is reflected throughout the several endings. If Sean goes to the police to hand himself in, Daniel is pretty happy… but something that all the conclusions are missing is Daniel being 100% happy. None, and I mean none, of the endings, show Daniel being completely happy. Whether it’s because Sean isn’t there, or because life in Mexico is not what they dreamt of.
Similarly, having a puppy is not what Daniel imagined. Mushroom is in this game for such a short amount of time. She is there to have an emotional effect on the player. She is there to break our hearts, just like her death broke Daniel’s. She is there to foreshadow the fact that no matter what happens, that little boy will never be able to be completely happy because of these powers that he just so happens to have.
Daniel did not choose to have these powers. He chose Mushroom. Daniel did not choose for his father to die. He chose to stay with his brother. Daniel did not choose to end up in a cult. He chose a place to belong. Daniel did not choose to live a life on the run. He chose Mushroom. He chose Mushroom, an innocent little puppy, when he was on the run. He did not even know why he was on the run.
Daniel will always choose happiness, like everyone else. However, that happiness will never fully work out for him. And that, ladies and gentleman, is the significance of Mushroom in Life Is Strange 2.