Stranger Things Season 2 Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer Recap

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Today, we say a tearful goodbye to Bob the Brain, founder of the Hawkins AV Club, mentor to my husband Mr Clark, electronics wizard, puzzle solver, surrogate dad, supportive boyfriend, and superhero. You will be missed, Bob. Your heroic nerd legacy lives on. Samwise would be proud.

But we have other things to do before the Demodogs have Bob for dinner.

The dogs have waited patiently at the top of the elevator shaft since the end of episode 6, but they’re done waiting. Owens assures Hopper that the glass is polycarbonate and won’t break, so of course the dogs break though in less than a minute. Owens really didn’t read the lab files closely, or talk to the survivors from last season, when he took this job.

Owens hits the alarm and everyone evacuates the elevator room just before the dogs break through. Mike realizes what the alarm means and races back to Will’s room. Hopper and Owens do as well.

Several of the lab techs from the elevator room also didn’t read the files from last year, because they decide to take the building elevator instead of the stairs. First, you should never use the elevator in an emergency. Always uae the stairs. Second, people never survive the elevator in a horror show. Third, they most especially never survive it on Stranger Things, as we all know.

Sure enough, the dogs get there just before the door closes, and it’s dinner time. One of the victims is the guy who was especially vocal about doubting the kids’ skills, so no big loss there.

Mike reaches Will’s room and pulls out a syringe of the knock out sedative. They need to put Will under so that he can’t pass along any more information to the Shadow Monster. Will reacts violently, and has to be held down.

Joyce tests how far Will’s possession has progressed by asking if he knows who she is. He still recognizes her, but takes too long to answer. She has Bob hold Will down while she injects the sedative. Hopper and Owens arrive just afterwards.

This is our Jurassic Park episode. The velociraptors demogorgon dogs have almost broken into the hall where Will’s room is. It’s time to make a run for it to a safer room. But, d*mn it, the lab’s electrical grid just went offline.

Hold that thought. It’s time for our gratuitous Billy abuse scene of the day. This time Billy is the receiver. A pick up truck pulls into the Hargrove/Mayfield driveway. The kids’ mysterious parents are home. Mom, who shares her daughter Max’s red hair, enters the house calling for them, but no one answers.

That’s because Max is still out monster hunting with Lucas & Co, and Billy’s in his room with the music turned up loud, perfecting his hair band look for a date. He’s got the full early 80’s Bon Jovi look going. It’s going to give me nightmares, because I’m not ashamed to say that I lurved Jon Bon Jovi and his hair back in the day as much as I loathe Billy now.

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It doesn’t take Susan and Neil long to discover that Max has snuck out her bedroom window, and to blame Billy for being a lousy babysitter. He hasn’t even noticed that she’s gone. They go to his room to demand answers, but he’s mouthy and makes it clear that he doesn’t know and doesn’t care about Max.

Neil finds Billy’s answers unacceptable. He throws in a homophobic slur, while Billy blames the parents for being late and Max for being young. Everyone is cramping his style. He’s already been watching Max all week.

Neil slams Billy against some shelves, hard. He slaps Billy, then humiliates him in front of Susan. Neil demands that Billy cancel his date and go find Max instead.

Steve, Max, Lucas and Dustin are walking back from the old junkyard along the railroad tracks, which just doesn’t seem like a safe place to be in the dark, what with the velociraptors and all. They are discussing Dart, who Dustin says has molted three times already. She’ll molt/shed her skin one more time, then be fully grown. Steve notes that a fully grown velociraptor demogorgon dog will eat a lot more than just cats.

Lucas is hearing about the cat food for the first time, and is shocked. Dustin’s lies about Dart are exposed. Lucas accuses him of breaking the rule of law. Dustin accuses Lucas back, since he told Max the truth. An argument breaks out.

Steve hears the dog pack in the distance, who make scary evil sounds, of course. He heads towards the lab and the noise. The boys follow, as Max questions their sanity. They realize that the dogs were going home.

Inside the lab, Owens explains where they are in relation to the exits, and what needs to be done in order to get the power back on, unlock the doors and override the security on the gates. Hopper is all set to throw himself into the job when Bob stops him. Hopper has no idea how to use the computer and actually accomplish the necessary tasks. Bob is the only one with the knowledge to tackle the job.

Bob really is a wizard, because BASIC is incomprehensible as far as I’m concerned.

Hopper helps Bob get a radio and a gun from a dead soldier. Bob says it will be easy peasy, and tells Hopper not to wait for him. Hopper agrees. As soon as Bob gets the doors open, he’ll get everyone out.

The return of Bob’s catch phrase, easy peasy, can’t be a good sign.

Jonathan and Nancy pull up to the lab’s security gates and find them closed and locked. The power is off there too. There’s not even any emergency power on anywhere, which seems strange. While Jonathan messes around in the guard booth, Nancy hears something.

She thinks there’s something in the woods. NO. WE ARE NOT ADDING A SLASHER MOVIE IN RIGHT NOW.

Okay. It’s just Steve and the kids. Steve hasn’t gone slasher yet, so he probably won’t. He’s the babysitter/big brother now instead, so if anything he has a target on his back.

They all wonder if Mike and Will are in the lab, since no one can find them. The group turns toward the facility as the dogs let out a loud moan, and we get a fantastic, spooky haunted castle in the mist shot.

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Good thing Bob’s a vampire, as he runs through the stair wells to the basement utility room. The utility room has become a haunted house in the dark, with only a flashlight, with steam/smoke outbursts, dead bodies, and strange protuberances sticking out from the walls that make creepy shadows. Bob makes it across the room and switches the power back on.

Then he goes to the computer and types in the code to open the security gate to the facility. When he’s done, he says, “Easy peasy.” Don’t say it, Bob, please don’t say it. It will bring about your doom.

Sure enough, a dog appears in the west stairwell. Bob thinks quickly and turns on the sprinklers in that stairwell. The dog runs away. More proof that they don’t like water, though that concept still isn’t taken any further. What they need is to invent the Super Soaker a few years early, instead of being so obsessed with firepower.

Owens says that he’ll stay behind to watch the surveillance cameras, so that he can guide everyone else out of the building. That way they can avoid the dogs. Bob and Hopper’s group make their moves.

Hopper gets Joyce and the kids out quickly. Joyce stands at the front doors, waiting for Bob. It’s a little more complicated for Bob. Owens takes him through a longer route, then tells him to hide in a broom closet when a dog can’t be avoided.

The dog sniffs at the closet door, but moves on. Owens tells Bob he can make it to the front door now. As Bob leaves the closet, he knocks a broom down, which alerts the dog to his presence. Bob runs for his life. He makes it through the reinforced doors that separate the lobby from the hall, but pauses when he sees Joyce. It’s enough time for a dog to jump him from the side and kill him. The rest of the pack burst through the hall doors.

Hopper has returned for Joyce, and tries shooting at the dogs, but, as always, it doesn’t work. He drags Joyce outside. Jonathan and Nancy pull up just in time, when the dogs are close to breaking through the front door. Hopper grabs his own truck, then picks up Steve and the other kids on the way out.

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RIP Bob the Brain. Getting into Heaven should be easy peasy.

Everyone regroups back at the Byers’ house. Hopper tries to call for military back up, but it seems unlikely from what we hear of his side of the phone call. Will is still passed out from the sedative.

Everyone mourns Bob. Mike tells the group that Bob was the founder of the AV Club. He petitioned the school to start it, then had a fund raiser to buy equipment. Mr Clark learned everything from him. Mike says they can’t let Bob die today, meaning his memory.

Dustin snaps at Mike, “Well, what do you want to do, Mike? The chief’s right on this. We can’t stop those demodogs on our own.”

Dustin the Bard christens the new species. Demogorgon+dogs=Demodogs.

Max doesn’t get what he means, so Dustin tries to explain how he came up with the compound word. At least it rolls off the tongue easier than velociraptor.

They think that if it was still just Dart, maybe they could stop her. But it’s not, it’s a whole army of demodogs. Mike has the sudden realization that the dogs are answering to the Shadow Monster, which is inside of Will, the Upside Down, the vines, the demodogs, everything. And, with a hive mind, whatever one part feels, they all feel.

He has to explain to the people who weren’t at the hospital that Owens said that the Shadow Monster is infecting organisms with a virus, then controlling everything it infects. Dustin connects that to the collective consciousness of the Mind Flayer, a D&D term.

The Mind Flayer, courtesy of Dustin the Bard: A monster from an unknown dimension. It’s so ancient that it doesn’t even know it’s true home. It enslaves races of other dimensions by taking over their brains using its highly developed psionic powers. It wants to conquer us. It believes it’s the master race. It views other races as inferior to itself. It wants to spread and take over other dimensions. We are talking about the destruction of our world as we know it. It’s like a brain that’s controlling everything that they’re fighting against. If they kill it, they kill everything else. To kill it, you summon an undead Zombie army, because they don’t have brains. The Mind Flayer likes brains.

Sounds like a job for Zombie Boy.

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Hopper can’t handle the metaphor of the whole thing. He wants to shoot at something, or at least throw a fireball at it, and gets angry and frustrated at his helplessness. Dustin says he thought they were waiting for Hopper’s military rescue. Hopper says they are.

Mike jumps in says that even if the military come, they won’t be able to stop this. The boys list the facts of the situation:

  • Guns won’t work.
  • Everyone in the lab is dead.
  • The demodogs will molt again, and get bigger and stronger.
  • It’s only a matter of time before the tunnels reach town.

Joyce comes into the room, and agrees with the kids. The have to kill the Mind Flayer. She wants to kill it.

Hopper says okay, but how? They don’t know how to kill it. Mike says that Will does. If anyone knows the Mind Flayer’s weakness, it’ll be Will. Except waking him up is problematic, because he’s a spy.

He can’t spy if he doesn’t know where he is, so they clean out Joyce’s shed and hang stuff on the walls to make it unrecognizable. Clean up time gives everyone who’s been at odds a chance to talk. Lucas and Dustin, Nancy and Steve, Max and Mike. Nothing is resolved, but they all make some progress toward understanding.

We’ve been flirting with the demon-possessed child movie all season, but now we go further into The Exorcist territory. Will is sat in a chair, still in his hospital gown, tied to a pole, with bright lights shining in his eyes. Classic interrogation techniques. He screams “let me go!” over and over in his monster voice, and writhes with more strength than Will should have.

When he eventually calms down, Joyce tells him a story about one her favorite drawings of his. She loved it so much that she hung it up behind the counter at the drugstore where she works, where everyone who shopped at the store could see it. Jonathan tells the story of them building Castle Byers together in the rain, the night after their dad left home. Mike tells Will how they met in Kindergarten. They were each alone on the playground. Mike walked up to Will and asked if he wanted to be friends. Will said yes. Mike says it was the best thing he’s ever done. Will listens to each story with rapt attention.

Joyce asks Will to talk to them if he’s in there. The monster says, ‘Let me go.” Hopper notices that Will is tapping his fingers on the side of his chair in dash dot patterns. He’s tapping “here” over and over. They set up a system for Hopper to transmit Will’s taps to the other boys in the house to be decoded, while Joyce, Jonathan and Mike continue to tell stories.

Jonathan plays Should I Stay or Should I Go, the song Will sang in the Upside Down in season 1.

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They’ve just successfully decoded the message “Close Gate” when the phone rings. Will and the monster recognize the ringtone. He calls in the hellhounds. They get everyone into the house and away from the windows. Nancy grabs a gun.

Just as the demodogs arrive, there are terrible sounds from outside. A dead demodog flies into the house, through the window. The door unlocks and opens itself. Everyone aims their guns at the door. We see white sneakers and rolled up jeans slowly walk through the door. Dum-dum–dum dum……Hopper lowers his gun. It’s punk El.

We see everyone’s emotional faces, but mostly El and Mike’s. The camera alternates between their reactions, then cuts to black.

What kind of cliffhanger is that? You couldn’t let them hold hands for a second?


 

We’re probably supposed to feel sorry for Billy now that we know that he’s abused by his father, but I can only muster up so much sympathy. He’s passing the abuse on to Max, so she’s likely getting it from two directions. Not everyone who grows up being abused turns into an abuser. He has a choice.

The Mind Flayer discussion was hella fun, not least because Hopper had to accept the kids as equals and deal with the analogy. It was amusing to see how each person tried to wrap their minds around the concept a little differently. Nancy has been kept out of the warrior action all season, but at least she showed her strategic thinking here with an excellent question: What does the Mind Flayer want?

Notice Will is left in the hospital gown because they need to control the monster. They want to keep the monster helpless, and give us the impression that Will is sick and weak from his ordeal. Why would the lab keep a healthy child like El in one all the time? To control her and make her think she was too weak to survive on her own if she escaped.

El finally gets to join the party. She would have come sooner, had she known what was happening. You have to question what is the matter with Hopper. He left her alone for days, didn’t check on her even after she didn’t respond to his message, didn’t ask for her help with the situation in Hawkins. He once again sacrificed her needs for Will’s, and now she’s learned that she should also sacrifice herself to take care of the boys, instead of taking care of her own internal issues first, like Kali does.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that she’s back with the main group, for one whole episode out of nine, but I don’t like the implication that she would be bad, dark and selfish if she had decided to stay with, or go back to, Kali and avenge her mother and herself.

She owes Hopper a thank you, and Mike a visit, but beyond that, she doesn’t owe anyone in Hawkins anything. Hopper is taking care of her to heal his own wounds from losing his bio daughter and assuage his guilt from betraying El as much as he is because he actually cares about her. She and Mike are still very young. They shouldn’t be tying their every move to each other yet, no matter how much they feel like soulmates.

El deserves a chance to live her life on her own terms. She shouldn’t be held hostage to anyone’s expectations any more but her own.

 

 

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