This episode begins with a Silkwood shower for Hopper, and emergency treatment for burns that aren’t externally visible for Will. At Hawkins Lab. Things are definitely different under Dr. Owens, as he moves from definitely willing to kill people/evil into a morally ambiguous gray area this episode. Brenner and his henchwoman Agent Frazier would have shot everyone at the Pumpkin Patch and left their bodies in the tunnels, without a second thought.
Dustin and Steve are still on the road to Dustin’s house, which moves around according to plot needs. Sometimes it’s a couple of doors down from Mike and Lucas, sometimes it’s a couple of miles.
Once it’s fully dark for maximum scary movie effect, they’re allowed to find Dustin’s driveway. Steve gets out his nail-studded bat, which feels like it needs a name. ANYTHING BUT LUCILLE, PLEASE. Dustin sends Steve and his pal, the bat, into the basement. Steve doesn’t find anything unusual down there except the skin that Dart shed with this growth cycle. Dustin follows him down to look around more closely. Oops, Dart’s gotten a little stronger and has busted out through the cement basement wall.
The lab’s resident science goons invade the empty Byers home to take photos and samples of everything. At least Jonathan wasn’t home yet.
Joyce is interrogated by Owens and his team of supposed doctors. They question why she didn’t bring him in when he started showing new symptoms, and she questions why they’ve never done anything at all that’s helped. She wants to go to a real hospital, but they insist that Will needs to stay there. We all know what’s happened to most of the
inmates patients at the lab, and find this an ominous sign, Joyce included.
Nancy, Jonathan and Murray celebrate writing their version of the strange events in Hawkins, and finishing preparing the story to mail to major news outlets. Life was so tedious before the internet.
Murray offers everyone another round of vodka tonics, but they refuse, because they have to drive home. He insists they stay at his place, and offers the Conspiracy Barn’s guest room. Jonathan looks uncomfortable and says he’ll sleep on the pull out couch.
Murray is confused and wonders if they’ve had a fight, since it’s clear they should be a couple. He reads them both very accurately. They both are into each other and have all sorts of reasons to be together. But, Jonathan has trust issues thanks to his dad. Nancy is afraid of what would happen if she let go and was truly herself, so she keeps running back to the safety of Steve.
He encourages them to use the bed together. They end up in separate beds, but quickly gravitate toward each, have a chat, then head back to separate beds, then back toward each other, meeting at Nancy’s door. Jonathan goes for it and kisses her. That’s all they need to jump each other and make it into the bedroom.
In the morning, Murray makes everyone breakfast, then asks Jonathan, “How was the pull out?” Jonathan and Nancy try to look innocent. Murray doesn’t.
Nancy phones home, and tells Jonathan that Mike slept over at the Byers. Jonathan is worried because no one is answering at his house. They hope that the family has gone to a movie.
Hopper’s still vomiting from the toxins in the tunnels when Owens offers him a hazmat suit and a lab sanctioned trip into the belly of the beast. They take an elevator down into a cavernous chamber, leading off into multiple tunnels.
Joyce tells the whole story to Bob. They had to sign dozens of documents including strict confidentiality agreements. Bob tries to take it all in, but his devotion to the family doesn’t waver for a minute.
Lucas discovers that Erika turned off his walkie-talkie when there was a Code Red. Also that she’s turning his He-man action figure soft with too much kissing and romance, but he’s not going to dwell on that. Dustin says to meet him and Steve at the old junk yard and bring the weapons and survivalist gear, because Dart’s a baby demogorgon.
Lucas gives Billy his racist, abusive scene of the day by riding his bike down the long country road to invite Max to the demogorgon killing. She agrees to go, since this will serve as proof that his outrageous, derivative, life-threatening story is true. She sneaks out her bedroom window so that Billy doesn’t do anything to her or Lucas. Billy sniffs around the front yard like a mean old dog.
Will wakes up and calls for Joyce, but doesn’t recognize Bob. He even seems suspicious of Bob. Owens examines Will. Turns out Will is experiencing some memory loss. He remembers Mike, but not Hopper or Owens.
His memory of the night before is fragmented. He gets creepy and intensely serious when he says that he remembers that the men burned the tunnels and they shouldn’t have done that.
Owens doesn’t see this for the warning that it is, and decides to try a test. 🤦🏻♀️ He brings in a severed tentacle and small torch, then has the tech burn the tentacle. Will and the tentacle scream and writhe in agony, as any idiot who was paying attention the night before could have predicted.
But these are the super-unobservant kind of patriarchal scientists who miss things that are right in front of them, because the obvious doesn’t fit their belief system. The kind of people who Murray rewrote the lab story for, and Brenner took advantage of for decades.
Owens pulls Hop and Joyce into the hall to give them an actual diagnosis beyond post traumatic stress. He thinks it’s a neurological disorder caused by a virus. The virus is hijacking Will’s body and brain. It’s intelligent and using a hive mind to communicate with its duplicates everywhere else somehow. They will continue to run tests and try to fnd a cure.
Dustin and Steve leave a trail of raw meat chunks as bait along the railroad tracks and talk about girls. Steve gives Dustin advice about attracting girls and hair care products. Faberge and Farrah Fawcett brands are the best, but don’t tell anyone.
Hopper sneaks out to his truck to try to contact El, who he thinks has been alone in the cabin for a day and a half following a huge fight. She doesn’t respond to morse code, so he uses the radio:
“Hey, a, it’s me. I know I’ve been gone too long, and, a, I just, I want you to know that it’s not about you and it’s not about our fight. Okay? Something came up and I will explain it all when I see you. I want you to know that I’m not mad. I’m just sorry about everything. I don’t want you to get hurt at all. And I don’t want to lose you. Just make sure you heat up some real food, okay, not just Eggos. And I want you to eat all the peas, even if they’re mushy and gross. I will be home, soon.”
This is why we can’t quit him, the big jerk. 😫
Owens and the other scientists meet to discuss Will’s case. His brain is showing significant changes since the Shadow Monster invaded his body, and it’s advancing rapidly. His limbic and paralimbic areas are affected. They have no idea what to do for Will, and most want to continue burning the monster to keep it from spreading into town. Even if it kills Will. They think he’ll be dead or overcome by the monster by the end of the day anyway. Owens refuses to take any action that will hurt Will. He leaves to think.
Joyce gets tired of waiting for more answers and tries to get in to see Owens. Watching her struggle, Will has a vision. Mike notices that something is happening with Will and startles him out of it. Will tells Mike that he saw a way to stop the Shadow Monster.
The scientists use their photos to create a smaller version of Will’s map at the lab. He studies it, then picks out the spot that the monster was trying to hide. The firemen suit up and set out through the tunnels to find the chamber Will pointed out.
Nancy and Jonathan get home to Jonathan’s house. They’re shocked to find the Shadow Monster tunnel map and evidence that someone’s used a polaroid camera.
Steve, Dustin, Lucas, and Max meet up at the old junkyard. They set up bait and traps for the demogorgon, including pouring gasoline on the ground that they’ll light up in order to burn her. They also reinforce the old school bus with scrap metal panels, and make a watch station on top out of tires.
As night falls again, Lucas keeps watch for Dart on top of the bus. Max sits with him and opens up. Her dad is still in California and she misses him. Her mom and stepdad moved to Hawkins for a fresh start. Everything in her life is worse now. Billy takes out his feelings on her. She knows she can be hard to get along with. She doesn’t want to be like Billy, ever. She guesses that she’s angry, too. She’s sorry for how she’s treated Lucas and the gang.
Lucas tells her that she’s nothing like her brother. She’s cool and different and smart. They agree that they like talking with each other.
Then the demogorgon shows up, but doesn’t take the bait. Steve decides to provide better bait, meaning himself. Dart is the size of a large dog now, and she’s brought some friends. They surround Steve and chase him into the apocalypse bus.
He barely makes it. They slam the panels shut and struggle to keep them shut as the beasts try to break through. Max asks if the animals are rabid. One jumps on top of the bus and stalks to the skylight opening. Just as she puts her head in and opens her mouth, she pauses and turns her head as if listening. The entire pack stops attacking and runs off, leaving the gang confused but grateful.
Hopper and Owen watch the firemen’s progress on monitors. Hopper recognizes the place that Will sent them as the boneyard he was in, probably the demogorgons’ feeding grounds. Just as the firemen decide that there’s nothing there, a mist moves into the chamber.
Will is suddenly crying and apologizing for what he’s just done, saying he’s sorry, the monster made him do it. Joyce doesn’t understand, but Mike figures out that the monster has been using Will as a double agent. The firemen have walked into a trap. He tries to warn Owens, but the soldiers at the door won’t let him through. Bob runs after Mike and helps restrain him.
The firemen are attacked by the pack of demogorgons. The signal from the body camera is lost. In his Shadow Monster voice, Will tells Joyce, “You should go now. They’re almost here.”
Hopper looks down the elevator shaft and sees the pack of demogorgons climbing up. They are about to breach the lab at the top of the elevator shaft.
They made an apocalypse bus for MadMax the Road Warrior. That’s the best part of this entire lackluster episode. Steve and Dustin emerging as dorky hair care aficionados is the second best thing.
The worst part, besides the intentional torture of Will, and discussion about actually purposely killing him? Max apologizing for not being passive and nice all of the time. That was ridiculous. We haven’t seen her get unduly upset, ever. She’s not all sweetness and smiles, but she shouldn’t have to be. She’s allowed to have negative emotions, just like all of those argumentative boys. Why is she apologizing for them stalking her, then excluding her? She’s levelheaded and easygoing, but she’s a girl. So in the Duffers’ world, she has to be compliant and “feminine” (submissive) or she gets accused of resting bitch face and making the boys sad. Another feminist fail for this show. It’s fine for her to worry that she’ll end up like her brother, but apologizing for things she hasn’t done, when so far she’s been a character who at least went against some stereotypes, was not okay.
Paul Reiser gets to turn on his warm side, as Dr Owens shows sincere concern for Will, Hopper and the family. He finally drops his professional facade a bit, and considers the human ramifications of the lab’s work. He’s still not acting aggressively enough or creatively enough to solve the Upside Down issue before the town is consumed, but it’s nice to know that he’s incompetent rather than evil. That opens the door for him to consider other options when they are ultimately presented to him, and you know they will be. We aren’t collecting half the main cast together in the lab for nothing.
I’m probably slow on the uptake with this one, but I’m realizing that the flakes floating around in the tunnels and Upside Down are mostly demogorgon skins, with some pollen thrown in to keep it interesting.
The pack of demogorgon dogs sport mouths filled with rows of sharp triangular teeth, like shark’s teeth. The dogs are also very fast, agile, and muscular. They are meant to be extremely predatory.
The actor who plays Billy must have an amazing agent who got him an iron clad agreement that he would appear in every episode, even after they wanted to write the character out. Whatever they plan to eventually do with him, if anything, the build up we’ve seen so far could have been done in two episodes instead of six.
It would help Billy’s relevance if there were a reason for Max to be in the story other than as token girl in the party and young teen love interest. Billy is this season’s bully, but it’s hard to care about his bullying when I don’t care about the person on the receiving end. It’s just one more bad thing in a sea of bad things happening in Hawkins. He’s also so over the top horrible, to the point of caricature, that I just don’t want to watch him do anything, so I’m desensitized to his scenes. He’ll probably turn out to have a heart of gold within the next couple of episodes, since he’s played by a good looking actor.
Noah Schnapp is an amazing little actor. He’s adorable when he plays sweet and sensitive; heartwrenching when he’s tearfully emotional and desperate; and scary as h*ll when possessed by the monster.