Stranger Things Season 2 Chapter Three: The Pollywog

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In this episode, things take a distinct turn for the worse, though, following in the tradition of horror shows, the characters don’t necessarily realize it yet. Dustin thinks he’s found a cute, cool new pet. It’s like he’s never seen a movie before. Bob thinks he’s helped Will face his fears. He’s clearly never read a Stephen King novel. Max thinks she’s made some quirky new friends with no complications. Mike thinks he feels El nearby, and hopes to find her soon. Everything in Hawkins is always more complicated than that, and soon is a very relative term.

We pick up moments after we left off in episode 2. Dustin is stealthily sneaking whatever was in the garbage can into his room. His mom is asking way too personal questions. The family cat doesn’t like what he’s carrying. And Yertle the Turtle is being kicked out of her home.

Dustin pulls out a handful-sized unidentifiable amphibian and puts it in Yertle’s aquarium. I start fearing for Yertle’s life. This is surely connected to the Upside Down. Possibly it’s the larva that Will coughed up last season. Dustin’s curiosity is engaged, so he’s blinded by science and love. He can’t see the danger. He looks at the three musketeers bar that he and the pollywog are sharing (Dustin’s favorite), and names it D’artagnan, after the most noble of the musketeers. Dart for short. THIS WON’T END WELL. It’s not okay to break Dustin’s heart, show.  Or Metamaiden’s.

In flashback, we see El watch Hopper put more food in the box in the woods. She reveals her presence before he can get back in his truck, looking scared that he’ll reject her or turn her in.

In the present day, Hopper is talking to El as she lays in bed, pretending to sleep. He says it’s okay if she won’t talk to him. He’ll eat the triple decker Eggo extravaganza (Eggos+whipped cream+candy) on his own. As he expected, that gets her up and moving.

Hopper asks El if she “visited” Mike last night, meaning she checked in on him using her mind the way the lab taught her to spy on people. She tells him yes, she did. Hopper lectures her that it’s not good for her or Mike, but mostly Mike, for her to do that. She’s supposedly the last thing Mike needs, even though we all just heard Mike tell El that he misses and needs her.

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El gets mad when Hopper tells her that she’ll be able to see Mike “soon”, when it’s safe. He says he thinks he’s making progress with the lab. I don’t know if he’s lying to himself or her, but that’s definitely a lie.

El knows it too, and flies into a rage. She’s been hearing “soon” for 326 days. How many hundreds more will it be? Hopper is shocked that she’s counting days like she’s a prisoner. Dude, you’ve got her locked away from the world, all alone, with almost nothing to do and no outside contact. She had more company and activity in the lab. The only improvements here are the furniture, clothing and Eggos. She is a prisoner.

I wouldn’t be surprised if she tries to contact her papa before long to negotiate a better deal as a lab subject so that she can get the h*ll out of that cabin.

Bob the Brain has stayed overnight for the first time at the Byers, and the boys are appalled at the uncoolness of it all. Parents are SO GROSS and SO LAME. He offers to give Will a ride to school in the Bobmobile. Okay, Jonathan might have a point. But, just wait until he carries Will and the One Ring up the final stretch to the fires of Mount Upside Down to kill the monsters, then you’ll appreciate him. Or through the deep muck of the sewers. Whatever.

Loyalty and betrayal are serious themes this season that I haven’t even gotten to. You don’t hire Samwise and have him play a character like Bob if he’s not going to either be very stalwart or the worst betrayer.

Dustin goes to the library to check out books to help him identify his new pet. The librarian won’t let him because he’s already checked out his limit. He tries the whole curiosity voyage schtick that worked last year with Mr Clark, but this is a librarian, who has a sacred duty to guard her books. And Dustin isn’t as adorable as he was a year ago. It doesn’t sway her, so Dustin turns to a life of crime and makes a run for it.

On the drive to school, Bob figures out that Will had another nightmare the night before. He tells Will that he had nightmares for months when he was a kid after an encounter with a scary clown, Mr Baldo, at a carnival. Mr Baldo would come to him every night in his dreams for months. Every night in his dreams, Bob would run away. He’d make his mother stay with him until he fell asleep.

He finally got rid of the nightmares when he stopped running away. He stood his ground, looked at Mr Baldo in his stupid face and yelled, “Go away, go away,” at him. Just like that, the clown disappeared and the nightmares ended. Easy peasy.

My husband Mr Clarke tells the science class about the strange case of Phineas Gage, a 19th century railroad construction worker who had an iron rod pass completely through his skull and brain in an 1848 explosion, and lived to tell the tale. His left frontal lobe was damaged, and his personality changed to the point where his friends called him “No Longer Gage”.

We just saw Max and Lucas discuss why Will is called Zombie Boy, so that parallel is obvious, but other people have had behavior changes, and undoubtedly there are more to come. Gage’s personality change was also exaggerated in popular stories, so the Duffers may be trolling us here. Someone may appear crazy or evil, but they won’t be.

Hopper goes over the rot sites with Powell and Callahan. He realizes that Ground Zero is Hawkins lab. I’m shocked. Are you shocked?

In another flashback, El and Hopper enter the cabin for the first time. It’s filled with cobwebs, old furniture, and stored boxes. He tells El that they’ll clean it up and live there, just like his Granddad did. He puts on You Don’t Mess Around With Jim by Jim Croce while they clean, arrange furniture and set up security measures.

Hopper establishes three ground rules: 1- Always keep the curtains closed. 2- Only open the door if she hears his secret knock (2-1-3). 3- Don’t ever go out alone, especially not in the daylight. He calls them the Don’t Be Stupid Rules.

The flashback is interspersed with El breaking all three rules. She does step over the security trip wire, because she’s not stupid.

Nancy finds Steve to yell at him because he didn’t pick her up for school. She’s forgotten what happened the night before. Steve tells her the whole sad story of their bullsh*t romance, they argue for a minute, and he walks out. Nancy stands there in shock, a bit surprised at how many truths she accidentally told.

Dustin shows Dart to the gang in the AV room during lunch. He explains his inability to identify his potential new species. Will remembers the larva he coughed up.

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Over lunch, Bob tells Joyce that he watched the recording that Will made last night after noticing a few dings on the camera. He saw Will being bullied by older kids. Joyce is ready to kill the bullies. Bob loves her for her readiness to fight. He was more like Will in school, struggling with bullies. He thinks being bullies makes them feel more powerful. But it all works out in the end, because now he’s dating Joyce, who’s amazing. He wins.

Hopper confronts Owens with the evidence of the rot sites. Owens denies that the lab could have anything to do with it. Hopper insists that it does, and Owens needs to convince him otherwise. Hopper keeps the lab’s secrets, and the lab keeps its sh*t out of the town. Their deal is off if the town is getting contaminated. Owens is at least as creepy as Brenner would be in this situation.

Nancy and Jonathan talk about the night before, then move on to Barb and Will, and their guilt. Nancy says that Jonathan and Will’s situation isn’t as bad, because Will’s alive. Jonathan says that Will has changed. Things will never be the same again. He’s still guilty and angry, but all of the people who did this are dead.

Nancy asks if he really believes that. Ding, ding, ding!! Nancy wins the episode. She has an idea involving Radio Shack and skipping 4th period.

In flashback, Hopper reads from Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 5, to El. The specific lines that we hear are the lines about Ann’s mother, who died when she was 3 months old. El interrupts the reading to ask if she had a mother. Hopper says of course she did, she couldn’t have been born otherwise. You can see the sad wheels turning in El’s head. It’s a heartbreaking moment, when Hopper tells El that her mom is gone.

He continues reading the passage about Ann’s father’s death, as we fade to the present day. El has taken a long, long walk into town, if Hopper’s description of the cabin location is to be believed. She’s come upon a mother pushing her very young daughter on swings, and it reminds her that she’s never had that.

The mother asks El if she’s okay, and where her parents are? El asks where the school is. She uses her powers to distract the woman for a moment while she escapes.

Joyce watches the video that Will made while trick or treating. She sees the bullying, then sees a strange ghost image in the sky that matches the monster Will drew a few days ago.

Dustin is about to show Dart to Mr Clark when Mike and Will bust into the classroom to stop him. Will told Mike that Dart is from the Upside Down. Mr Clark looks surprised, but doesn’t try to figure out what’s going on with his students.

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The four boys close themselves in the AV room again, shutting Max out. They discuss what to do about Dart if she is from the Upside Down. They think that Will may have developed true sight in the Upside Down, and what he’s seeing in his episodes is real. Mike wants to turn Dart over to Hopper, but Dustin won’t risk Dart’s life.

Dart becomes agitated in her tiny box, so they let her out. She makes a run for it as Mike gets scared and attacks her and Max picks the lock on the door and opens it. Dustin knocks Max down as he chases Dart, and yells at everyone else for threatening Dart’s safety. He’s unconcerned with the potential for Dart to grow up into a vicious killer, since they’ve bonded and Dart trusts him. Misguided loyalty at its best. Unless Dart=Gizmo, the one good, but still dangerous, Gremlin.

Jonathan and Nancy go over to Nancy’s house to work on their project. Karen is thrilled to see Jonathan. Still living in her own world.

Nancy calls Barb’s mom and invites her to meet them at a local park the next day. She has something to tell Barb’s mom about Barb, but she can’t tell her on the phone. It’s too dangerous. Hawkins Lab still has its surveillance infrastructure in place all over town. No problem recording that call.

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Dr Owens collects samples from the dead pumpkins and other plants. He promises Hopper that the lab will test the samples. Hopper gets a call from Powell letting him know that the psychic Russian spy girl has been seen again.

The boys split up and canvas the school looking for Dart, just as El gets to the school and wanders the halls looking for Mike. Mike finds Max in the boys room next to the gym and they have an argument. She follows him into the gym, and skateboards around him as the argument turns into just talking. El finds them and thinks they’re flirting. She stays hidden and uses her power to knock Max off the skateboard, then leaves before Mike sees her. He suspects El when Max tells him how falling off felt, and goes to look for her, but she’s already gone.

Cheap trick to get our hopes up but then continue keeping them apart, show. Does El hate all other females now, after being fascinated by them last season? Have the writers decided that she would act like she’s on a soap opera because she watches them all day? It’s ridiculous that she wouldn’t give Mike a chance after everything, just because she saw him talking to a girl. Jesus, this show needs more women in the writers room. I’ll be expecting more from episodes 5,6, and 7, the only three with credited female writer/director input.

Joyce finds out AV Club was cancelled and hurries to the school to pick up Will. Will finds Dart in the bathroom. Dart hisses at Will and he’s sent to the Upside Down again, another episode triggered in a bathroom and by emotional shock.

Dustin finds Dart and hides her on his head, under his cap, so that the others won’t hurt her. He’s unconcerned about Will’s location or safety when Mike asks where Will is.

The Shadow Monster rises again. It’s tentacles are huge. Will remembers what Bob told him and decides to try it. He turns around and yells, “Go away! Go away! Go away!” It doesn’t work, and seeing it again under these circumstances makes it feel like Bob was working for the monster and telling Will to go away. Very chilling.

Even more chilling is when the smoke tentacles catch up to Will and surround him. They appear to hold him captive as the smoke streams into all of his orifices. All Will can do is stand there, wide-eyed, frozen, and shaking.

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More time in bathrooms, more traps, water, and electronics this episode. Traps ranged from the Ghostbusters ghost trap, to Hopper’s mouse trap early warning system, to the Hawkins Lab surveillance system.

The chapter from Ann of Green Gables that Hopper reads is the one where Ann tells Marilla, her potential foster mother, about her history of being passed from family to family, unwanted and used only for the work she can provide. Marilla, who has been set on sending Ann back to where she came from because Marilla and her brother had requested a boy to work as a farmhand, realizes how unloved and abused 11 year old Ann has been for her entire life, and begins to consider keeping her.

Marilla keeps Ann, and loves her, but is gruff and strict while Ann is vivacious and free-spirited. They clash frequently for the rest of Ann’s childhood, while also balancing each other out. Just like the pair reading the story.

We are entering the Gremlins phase of our program. Fasten your seat belts. Hopper made a Santa Claus reference in episode 1, which I didn’t note and now realize I should have. In Gremlins, one character’s father died when he dressed as Santa Claus and got stuck in the family’s chimney.

This episode might as well be the beginning of Gremlins, with Dustin refusing to believe his pet is dangerous despite how steeped he is in the rules of fantasy and folklore, Hopper’s three rules for El’s safety vs the three rules for owning a gremlin, the bright light repelling the mogwai pollywog, and Mr Clark almost seeing the pollywog.

I’ve been worried that Mr Clarke might be one of the big deaths this season. The way that he never follows up on the kids’ strange behavior is still weird, when he’s such a concerned and enthusiastic teacher. Sooner or later he’s going to decide to investigate what they’re up to, and things will go horribly wrong. Or he’s got a parasite in him already, as I’ve already predicted.

The ongoing water motif may mean that when Dart gets wet he’ll either multiply, grow, or go through metamorphosis. There are no good options there.

Lets hope that Dustin naming his pet after a musketeer known for loyal friendship is ironic, and not a warning sign that D’artagnan will soon have fellow pollywogs for trusted companions. Also, Dart automatically gets a male name, of course.

The three rules for Gremlins, which must never be broken: don’t expose them to bright lights or sunlight which will kill them; don’t let them get wet, which will cause more Gremlins to emerge from their backs; and never feed them after midnight, which causes them to go into a cocoon and emerge as evil reptilian monster Gremlins.

Bob gives us a reference to Stephen King’s It with his scary clown dreams. He clearly has some fighting power of his own, if he was able to drive the monster away by himself as a child. But it’s latent and undeveloped. Will he develop the confidence and self-knowledge to use it? Will the kids realize that he’s a warrior in time to encourage him? Or is he the dad who’ll get stuck in the metaphorical chimney?

He’s already dressed up as a vampire for Halloween. Vampires are dead, but come back, changed, and not necessarily for the better, just like Will. That suggests that he won’t die and stay dead, but will have a life-altering, transformative experience, probably involving time in the Upside Down.

Besides his monster vanquishing power, Bob’s good with electronics, which are related to and essential for electric lights.

Now we understand why Will used electric lights as his communication method in S1. Upside Down creatures don’t like light. Does that extend to all electronics, which have the potential for fire, another motif this season? TVs, radios and walkie talkies of various kinds, multiple cameras, all of the lab equipment, the flame thrower, the ghostbuster equipment (which isn’t real, but which has been described in detail)- all are getting focus this season. El also uses electronics to increase the range of her powers. Bob’s video camera revealed the presence of the Shadow Monster, which might mean fewer trips to the Upside Down to find it.

Bob has been specifically shown to be a master of many types of electronics, and to have a sharp eye for detail. He works at Radio Shack, which means that he needs to understand how most consumer electronics work, so that he can advise customers. Radio Shack also sold electronics kits and components for building your own radios or whatever, so there’s good chance that Bob can be creative with electronic equipment, as well. That could definitely come in handy later.

Bob’s dreams also suggest that this isn’t the first time that the Upside Down has been opened. Thinking back, Brenner was awfully enthusiastic for El to go toward the Upside Down and the monster. That does suggest that it wasn’t the first time that he’d been exposed to it.

008, Kali, can put illusions into people’s minds, essentially dreams. Was Bob’s clown dream put there by Kali? Or Brenner? Is Brenner the clown? I was sure last season that he has psychic powers, with the way he would make sure to look straight into people’s eyes when he needed to convince them of something. Is Bob connected to Terry Ives’ group of study subjects? Did he help Kali escape from the lab? Did he tamper with the video camera to allow it to show the Shadow Monster?

Please don’t tell me that he’s been planted in the Byers household for nefarious purposes by the lab. Let me keep some of my innocence. I might be able to live with him being a plant who’s there to help and observe, who fell in love with Joyce and the kids, and is going above and beyond his mission directives for them. That would explain why he’s already talking about getting out of town and away from Will’s doctors.

The problem with Bob’s advice to Will is that it doesn’t play to Will’s strengths. Will is good at escaping, hiding, and being resourceful. He’s a shaper and bender who goes with the flow, rather than a warrior who stands his ground and fights, which helps explain his association with water. Bob is associated with electricity, which is fire, which makes him a warrior, as his method of getting rid of the clown would suggest. He doesn’t think of himself that way, and he has aspects of a mage as well, but despite appearances, he has the potential to be a fighter.

As long as we’re going down this winding path, let’s take another side trip and talk about the Hindu goddess Kali. First, I’d like to thank the Duffers for giving me the association straight out this time. Saves me some research time. Kali is the Hindu dark mother goddess. She is a fearsome warrior and destroyer of demons, which is a metaphor for her association with the spiritual quest to leave attachment to the body and ego behind, so that one can be liberated as a spiritual being. She is frequently misunderstood as being simply murderous. She doesn’t kill for pleasure, but only kills demons for specific goals. She is known as a devoted protector of her followers.

Perhaps important for our purposes, since it’s similar to the Gremlins mythology, is one of her most famous legends. She is asked to kill the demon Raktabija. When Raktabija is wounded, each drop of his blood becomes a deadly clone, springing up to continue fighting the battle. Kali wins the battle by catching the drops of blood on her tongue before they can hit the ground, then consuming Raktabija and his clones. Dark mothers take no prisoners. In fact, she then dances on the bodies of the dead.

This suggests that Kali will be essential to overcoming whatever threat Dart and his kind pose when/if they start reproducing uncontrollably. Possibly Bob will be as well, if he is associated with her. Possibly he’s her Shiva, the calming force to her destructive power. The way Kali overcame Raktabija by drinking his blood is suggestive of vampirism, coincidentally the costume Bob chose for Halloween, another hint that they are connected to each other and the monsters. Odds that Bob creates a way cool, laser beam-style flame thrower for maximum target destruction with minimal collateral damage?

Or possibly Terry will wake up and be Kali’s Parvati, the lighter female energy and warm, fertile mother to complement her dark female energy and fierce, destructive mother. I don’t believe for a minute that Terry’s mind is gone. She’s using the electronics in her house to travel in her mind. That TV was very pointedly on when Joyce and Hopper visited.

Now let’s go back and talk about Bob’s clown, much as I freakin’ loathe references to It. Pennywise wasn’t really a clown, that was his disguise, and Bob’s clown probably wasn’t really a clown either. Nothing is just a casual mention on this show. Pennywise also went by the name Bob Grey. THAT ONE IS A COINCIDENCE, D*MN YOU.

Pennywise lived underground, in the sewers and below, which is where I’ve been expecting to go since Will’s larva crawled down the drain last season. The kids and the adults they grow into all end up having terrible underground adventures, including the stupid, misogynistic gang rape. I will walk away from this show if they reenact that in any way.

We’ve also had slasher and Halloween references, and Bob was talking about controlling his dreams. We could be going in a dream warriors direction, since it’s been established that the test subjects can get into other people’s minds.

The missing test subjects could have been psychically linked all along and training together to take down Hawkins Lab. They could also have done some eavesdropping on the lab, though not enough to know about El, or at least they haven’t been able to rescue her.

They’ve shown Bob saying easy peasy so many times that it’s got to pay off some how, either when he makes an amazing kill or save for the good guys, does something to reveal he’s horribly evil, or he says it while he’s transformed into another creature to reveal that it’s him.

 

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