Well, that’s an image out of a horror movie, isn’t it. We get more clarity on El’s origin story this episode, as she finds her mother and aunt. She’s welcomed once they discover who she is, no monstrous acts required.
Back in Hawkins, Dr Owen’s quote from Sarton echoes through the episode, as decisions are made that will undoubtedly set us up for the eventual finale. Dustin finally understands that Dart is dangerous and seeks out help. Hopper is rescued from the tunnels, but the rescue exposes more problems than it solves. Bob the Brain helps Joyce, Lucas talks to Max, while Jonathan and Nancy talk to Murray Bauman, bringing the secret further into the world in different ways that may or may not be wise.
Joyce continues to work on the puzzle map, while Will explains his current experiences of the monster to Mike. Will sees what the monster sees and feels what he feels as the monster spreads further into Hawkins. The monster’s consciousness has gone from feeling like a barely remembered dream to an overwhelming presence in the front of his mind at all times.
Mike was born for intrigue and solving mysteries. He suggests that Will can act as a spy. Will is worried that the monster will spy back, but Mike promises not to let him.
Hopper is exploring the Upside Down tunnels. A mouth-like orifice shoots spores into his face. He’s been pollinated with demogorgon DNA. That should work out well long term.
Hopper continues to stumble around, having trouble breathing because of the spores and the toxic Upside Down air. After he’s pollinated a second time by a second orifice, he finally passes out on the floor of the tunnel as vines writhe around him and others close up the hole he used as a portal.
Jonathan and Nancy check into a cheap motel and get matching twin beds. Nancy wonders why they only hang out when the world is ending. They compare the palm scars left from slicing their hands to attract the demogorgon into their trap. Nancy’s is bigger. No surprise there for me or Jonathan.
The moment ends and Nancy asks what happened to them after the excitement ended. He tells her that Will needed him, and she was with Steve. Nancy says that she waited. Jonathan replies that she only waited like a month. Nancy turns her back and ends the conversation.
Geez, bud. She knew the secrets. You couldn’t give her a phone call, check in? And Nancy, you couldn’t stop by his house to check on Will, you just waited for him to make a move? Man up, people.
Will startles awake, having seen Hopper in the tunnels. He and Mike, who slept over, wake up Joyce to start the rescue operation. Hopper also wakes up, and discovers his exit is gone. He tears off a shirtsleeve and ties it around his face to breathe through as a filter. Next he drops a trail of cigarettes like Hansel and Gretel as he explores the tunnels.
Life is painfully normal at Lucas’ house. Over breakfast, Lucas asks his dad how he gets his mom to stop being mad. Dad answers that he apologizes, gives her what she wants, and accepts that she’s never wrong. Lucas has sufficient inspiration and leaves to find Max.
Dustin’s mom is still looking for her cat. He pretends that the cat’s been seen across town in Loch Nora, where the rich folk live (another water reference), and sends Mom over there to join the search so that he can move Dart.
Dustin puts on his hockey goalie pads and mask, gets his stick, and leaves a trail of lunchmeat through the house and yard to the metal storm doors to the basement. Then it’s go time. He releases the
Kracken demogorgon and makes a run for it to the backyard shed where he can see the end of Dart’s trail.
Dart looks like a small, muscular dinosaur dog, with a long tail and the distinctive flower petal face. She hesitates just before going down the basement stairs, sensing that there’s a much better meal in the shed. Dustin shows his true gonzo hobbit bravery by storming out of the shed roaring and brandishing the hockey stick. He takes a slapshot and Dart flies toward the basement doors. Once Dart is inside, Dustin throws himself on top, apologizing to Dart for the rough treatment. She ate the cat; she’s no longer an appropriate house pet.
El has hitchhiked to Terry Ives’ house and I am very disappointed in her and in Hopper’s parenting. Didn’t he leave her with some emergency cash or a credit card, in case something happened to him, like he died in an alien tunnel and wasn’t found for a few days, just to choose a random example? Hitchhiking is a terrible idea for any woman, but especially for a girl her age. The Duffers should have given her bus or cab fare like decent fathers. Or had her steal a bicycle, if they wanted her to be stupid. Sure, El can protect herself, but let’s not give other girls the idea that it’s okay.
She knocks on the door repeatedly, but her aunt yells for whoever it is to go away. El unlocks the chain with her mind and opens the door. She Wants To See Mama. Becky takes her to Terry, who is still sitting in the same place where we left her in season 1, in her rocking chair, in front of the TV, mumbling the same words and phrases over and over.
Jonathan and Nancy arrive at Murray Bauman’s Conspiracy Barn, home of cheap drinks and wild theories. Once Murray has identified them using his super tight security system, he lets them in and shows them his ultra accurate murder board, sure they can’t tell him anything he doesn’t already know.
He barely finishes speaking before Nancy shoots him down. Friends don’t lie.
Lucas has set up a private meeting with MadMax at the arcade. He had to promise Keith the date with Nancy that Mike refused to pimp her out for in episode 1. He also had Keith lie about why she was going to the back room. Max isn’t impressed. Neither am I.
I know his heart is in the right place regarding Max, but pimping out Nancy is sh*tty. I’ll be surprised if the narrative ever addresses the obnoxiousness of what he did. He treated Nancy like she was a possession that he owns, and like a sex object. Sure it seems harmless at their age. How do you think people who commit worse violations get started?
Moving on, Lucas explains the risks involved with the story he’s about to tell her, and asks if she accepts the risk. After a few protests, she accepts. He tells her the story of season 1.
Joyce, Will and Mike use a new picture that Will has drawn to figure out where Hopper is on Will’s diagram. They find the relative location, but they still don’t know how it relates to the real world. Hopper didn’t tell them anything before he left. He just said something about vines. Joyce doesn’t know about the pumpkin patches, so she’s lost.
Bob shows up with games and puzzles for Will while he’s sick. Joyce tries to send him away, but then figures that the input of Bob the Brain might be useful right now. They ask him to figure out the map without asking questions. He balks, but then notices similarities to the local geography. It’s a map of Hawkins. Remembering that treasure map he found when he was a kid, he asks if this is a treasure map too. Not even remotely.
Bob used the outlines of the water features around town to figure it out. The tunnels don’t cross water. The Upside Down monsters don’t like water, as has been hinted at all season. That’s a weakness that no one has exploited yet. Maybe the answer lies in flooding the tunnels and spraying water at the demogorgon(s). It’s much easier for humans to use than fire.
Hopper’s still hanging out in the slime with the tentacles. He’s reached a boneyard, and a potential gate. Using his hands, lighter, and whatever else he can find, he tries to tear through the membrane to escape.
Dustin gets a Code Shut Your Mouth in response to his Code Red as he’s cleaning up the remains of his cat. Erika is not amused by the constant chatter on Lucas’ walkie and turns it off. Everyone else in the party is busy with their own adventures, and Dustin is left on his own to deal with a fast growing juvenile demogorgon. This is why exotic pets are illegal, kids. One day it’s a cute little lizard, the next day it’s an 8 foot alligator, and your mom won’t let you keep it in the pool.
Becky and El talk over lunch. Becky is concerned about where El’s been for so many years. El asks about Terry’s condition. Becky says that Terry’s stuck, like she’s in a long dream. She won’t get better, but she isn’t in pain. She always believed that El would come home.
Becky shows El her room, still set up to be ready for her to come home from the hospital when she was born. It means everything to El to finally see that she was a wanted, loved child, not just an experiment or a monster. Millie Bobby’s understated performance is perfect, as usual. She lets her eyes and face say it all, filling with sadness and longing for what was irrevocably lost.
El goes to the crib and holds her Teddy bear. Becky offers to get her a real bed so that she can stay there with them. El agrees. Becky’s one condition is that El will eventually have to tell her the truth about where she’s been. El says okay.
The lights in the hall flicker in sequence, leading El to Terry. Becky thinks it’s just old wiring, but when Terry changes the TV to a blank channel without touching it, El explains that Terry wants to talk.
The Byers plus Mike have been busily working up a conversion scale between Will’s tunnel map and the standard town map. My nerd heart sings, watching this process. Bob figures out a rough conversion ratio and location for Hopper, based on Will’s premonition. They all jump in the car and rush to rescue him, while Bob is still surprised at how fast everything is happening. He hasn’t even had second breakfast or elevensies yet.
Karen Wheeler has been on the phone for 2 hours, talking about Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of Great Britain at the time. Is she talking about Maggie’s hair, her fashion, her conservative policies? We’ll never know.
Dustin rings the Wheeler’s doorbell looking for Mike or Nancy’s help with Dart, but they aren’t home. He meets Steve on his way out, showing up on this stop of his apology tour ‘017. Dustin commandeers Steve and his spiked baseball bat to help with Dart.
Hopper hasn’t made much progress with breaking out of the tunnel. He collapses on the floor of the tunnel to rest and smoke a cigarette. The vines decide they’ve waited long enough for him, and swarm. He’s quickly surrounded.
Lucas finishes telling Max his story. She tells him it’s good, but derivative. The references were on purpose, okay? It’s not derivative if it’s on purpose!!
But, for reals, she doesn’t believe a word of it. Who would? Max storms out into the arcade, yelling about super secret elements of the story, until Lucas gets really scared and impresses on her that they could be killed for talking about it. She decides she’ll consider believing him, but wants proof.
Billy the abusive racist with no other reason to live shows up to take her home. He catches a glimpse of Lucas and vaguely threatens Max, thus fulfilling his character’s reason for being in the episode.
Nancy finishes telling Murray their story and playing the recording of Owens. She asks Murray if he thinks they have enough to incriminate the lab. He has to think and drink and listen to jazz. Nancy is impatient. Murray’s drink is too strong. The story is too crazy for most people to believe, no matter what proof they have. The answer? Water down both the drink and the story. They’ll say the lab leaked toxins rather than psychic children and another dimension filled with monsters. That will be believable and still be enough to get the lab shut down.
Perfect. Take the real life situation that the scifi metaphor is portraying, and substitute reality for the metaphor. Drones like the Wheelers might care about the fate of their children long enough to get a court order.
The lab techs have discovered that their soil samples react together, as one, when only one of them is heated. They float and spin in the beakers. Hive mind or one giant organism?
El goes into the negative space where she communicates psychically. Terry is there. She grabs El’s hand. El sees what Terry wants her to see.
Terry is in labor with Jane. Becky is coaching her. She gives birth by C-section. Brenner is in the delivery room. She hears Jane cry when she’s born. When Terry wakes up from surgery, Becky tells her that Jane was stillborn. Terry becomes agitated, because she heard Jane cry. The nurses give her a strong sedative.
Terry opens a safe, reciting the combination to herself. She pulls out a handgun. She drives to Hawkins Lab, but is stopped by security on her way in. She shoots a guard and makes it to the door of the room with a rainbow on it. There are two little girls playing inside, one who is probably Jane and another who is a little older and could be Kali. Notably, both are fully clothed.
Before she can get to the girls Brenner has Terry dragged away and hooked up to an Electroconvulsive therapy machine. He tells them to set the dose at 450, which is presumably meant to be a toxic level.
When the ECT is done, the entire sequence runs through again, only faster, then continues to repeat until El pulls off her blindfold. The words Terry repeats make sense now. They are key words from this sequence of events that’s she’s stuck repeating endlessly.
The Byers drive around the farm area looking for signs of Hopper. Will tells them to turn right, based on his now-memories that are coming from the Shadow Monster. Bob is totally confused. They find Hopper’s truck, shovel and hole.
Joyce orders the boys to stay in the car. She and Bob go to the hole, which is full of giant slimy wormy vines. Joyce beats them back with the shovel and jumps down into the tunnels. Bob follows, asking a lot of questions. He realizes quickly that they are in Will’s map, but wonders how Will knew about the tunnels. He’s still having pleasant flashbacks to his days as a Goonie. This is going to be a shock for him.
Joyce finds a cigarette and follows the breadcrumbs to Hopper. At least nothing has eaten or smoked the cigarettes already. Bob and Joyce battle the vines to get Hopper free. He wakes up enough to tell them where his knife is and that turns the tide.
Once he’s free and upright, Joyce clutches his face and makes sure he’s okay. I thought sure she was going to kiss him for a second, but he was really slimy. The sex pollen couldn’t overcome that. Bob and Hop casually greet each other.
Several lab vehicles have arrived on the scene, because of course they know everything. The firemen have followed Joyce and Bob to Hopper, scaring the bejesus out of them. As soon as the area is cleared and the firemen start burning, Will collapses with an alien scream coming out of him. He’s feeling the fire too.
We’re not just doing Goonies this episode. We’re also doing the movie Signs, people. Pumpkin patches instead of crop circles. Monsters that hate water and baseball bats. An important coal chute. Breathing problems. Prophetic words from someone lingering between our world and the Underworld. “Tell Merrill to swing away.”
Metamaiden wants you all to know that she recognized the Signs connection first, because that movie gave her nightmares for years, YEARS after she saw it when she was a kid.
You have no idea how upset I am that the spores the Upside Down orifice shot into Hopper’s face didn’t turn out to be sex pollen. We could have had an episode or more of him goofing off and following Joyce around. Yes, that is an actual thing an actual revered, classic TV show did.
Is what we’ve been thinking of as the Upside Down even actually the Upside Down any more? The tunnels and chambers that correspond to Will’s map and the Shadow Monster don’t seem to be another dimension. They seem to be one giant living being that’s expanding rapidly. But where does one end and the other begin, since the lab techs appear to be using the same gate that they were using last season? Is the male monster filling up the Upside Down, and also sending hollow tentacles/tunnels out into town and beyond? This explains why there was always a fleshy membrane between the Upside Down and our world, but I don’t think I understand it completely yet.
It really bugs me that EVERYONE refers to the demogorgon as he, or in some reviewer’s cases, it. She was very clearly depositing eggs or larvae into people to incubate last year. Now they’ve very clearly shown us spore puffers at face height, meant to fertilize ovum through the demogorgon’s flower petal face opening. She’s female. There’s no getting around her biology. It had better be the characters who haven’t realized it yet, and not the writers/producers.
I didn’t mention a reference to the Death Star in episode 2 or 3, when Mike says that of course Dart is evil if she’s from the Upside Down, just like of course someone’s evil if they’re on the Death Star. Mike also held his model of the Millennium Falcon. There have been so many mentions of bad smells, garbage, dumpsters, and garbage cans, and now we have slithery Upside Down tentacles and toxic gasses engulfing Hopper, and Barb’s death being blamed on toxins from the lab. It’s probably worth noting the Star Wars scene in the trash compactor with the tentacle monster that attacks Han, Luke and Leia after they’ve escaped through a garbage chute, and that the original Death Star was destroyed by firing into an exhaust vent to the main reactor- essential a garbage chute for toxic gasses.
If the tunnels get big enough, will they release excess gasses and waste into Hawkins? Is that what’s already happening in the pumpkin farms? How close are we to lethal saturation? Will’s map covered a huge area.
Bob is Bob the Brain, his superhero title that he owns and embraces that is the adult equivalent of Will the Wise. Will is now Will the Wise and Will the Spy. Max is MadMax, aka the Road Warrior, a curmudgeonly loner who helps people, then moves on, and fears getting close to anyone.
In an earlier episode, Mike explained to Max that there was no place for her in the kids’ “party”, because the important roles were already taken. I didn’t note the roles he listed at the time, but titles are becoming more important as the season goes on, so let’s look at them now. This article explains the D&D terms. [Warning- the last entry is a spoiler for a later episode. It’s also an episode title. I didn’t read the definition, but the Netflix title list is hard to avoid.]
Mike is the Paladin, a soldier and spellcaster who is committed to fighting evil. His wide range of abilities and strong commitment to his causes and friends make him the natural leader of the group. He frames the story during D&D campaigns and real life missions.
Will is the Cleric. Clerics are healers and have power over life and death. They can bring back the dead and control undead characters. He brought himself back from the dead last season, and brings Hop back in this episode. He is in a battle for control with the Shadow Monster. I’ve written already about the Upside Down as the Underworld.
Dustin is the Bard, using the arts to perform magic. While D&D bards apparently usually prefer music, real life bards are also storytellers, which is Dustin’s preferred form of magic. He’s able to make up a story and combine it with his natural charm to convince almost anyone to give him what he wants. He’s had trouble with his magic this season, such as with the librarian. It’s not clear yet why he’s blocked.
Lucas is the Ranger, a hunter, woodsman and warrior. Unlike the rest of the team, he has no supernatural abilities, but he makes up for it in practical skills and thinking. He’s the group’s scout, tracker, premier soldier, and skeptic. Lucas is the member who keeps them grounded when they get carried away and protects them from themselves and the outside world.
El is the Mage, wielder of powerful magic. Like Merlin, this sometimes takes her off on her own quests and makes her actions difficult to understand. Last season she was with the party for important moments. This season she was held like Rapunzel as a princess in a tower and jealously guarded. Now she’s on a journey of self discovery.
Does anyone else feel like Stranger Things and Riverdale are the same show sometimes? So much twisted darkness, so many cultural references, teenagers and schools, corrupt or useless adult institutions, misty, shadowy, late 20th century retro look, monsters who look like people, Barb/Ethel. Sometimes I forget which supposedly idyllic but actually scary small town we’re in.
I was so glad to see Erika using Mrs Butterworth’s syrup, instead of Blossom syrup. At least Riverdale’s drug problems haven’t come to Hawkins yet.