Peter Counter and Susan Stover are back at you with recaps of season 2 of Stranger Things. They guided you through the Upside Down last season, and they’re ready to jump right back in.
Whether it’s a version of the truth, an apology, a confession, a resolution of long-running sexual tension, or the warfare tactics of a giant shadow monster, “The Spy” gets to the heart of the issue.
Up To Bat
Susan: So I was wrong about Jonathan and Nancy. I thought they would be stringing us along the line of will-they-won’t-there for at least the entire season. Their hookup is a delightful break in an episode where things get dark and scary. Murray gets real with the teens telling them they’ve got the hots for one another and they should just sleep in the same bed already. He really gets under their skin by calling bullshit, and wasn’t it drunk Nancy who was tired of all the BS? The morning after line from Murray at the breakfast table, “How was the pull out?” is a very, very solid joke.
Peter: I also loved Brett Gelman’s physical cringe comedy when he dropped his bit of food and tried to turn picking it up into a sexy innuendo. In fact, the night at Murray’s sequence had a lot of stylistic flair we’re not used to seeing in Stranger Things. From the drum solo during the mailing the tape sequence, to the quick back-and-forth between our young lovers in denial, I started to feel like I was watching Fargo for a minute.
Susan: Murray’s hospitality and matchmaking efforts have an expiry date and he sees off the duo with a bottle of vodka and metaphorical and literal mix before telling them to scam and slamming the door on their faces. Hopefully whatever tape they devised gets to the mainstream media, but for now they bid adieu to their saviour. I guess not all heroes wear capes.
Peter: The tape being sent off is going to have severe ramifications, and I think might be the catalyst that connects the Hawkins plot to the larger conspiracy involving 008. I’m kind of scared about it, because expanding beyond the safe narrative territory of the Greater Hawkins Area risks tainting Stranger Things’ strong sense of place, which is among the show’s greatest strengths. Then again, there’s an invasive species that’s also changing Hawkins from the inside out.
Susan: Steve and Dustin work on catching the Dart-ogorgon and have a little head-a-tete about girls. Steve spews vitriol about ignoring girls to get their attention to Dustin, fucking corrupting the youth with his negging tips. Ugh. I really hate this idea about “some girls being different” just treat ‘em all like human beings ya creep.
Susan: Although I’m not crazy the episode features Steve talk about girls the way he does, we at least gets some retribution when we see that when Lucas genuinely talks to Max and listens to her feelings, there’s a real relationship blooming there. But what exactly is Dustin’s problem? He says he now doesn’t care about Max? Because she’s been spending time with Lucas? There’s a fucking monster on the loose here people!
Peter: Ah, young love. I found the hunting party storyline this episode really endearing because of the emotional vulnerability on display. Yes, Steve is giving Dustin terrible, dehumanizing advice, and yes, Dustin is becoming sour and angry, but it’s nice to have time for real character development amidst the action-movie chaos. Characters are defined by their own and each other’s flaws, whether they be envy, mistrust, or basic boy misogyny.
Susan: Because I was mad at Steve I wasn’t so tense about him getting eaten up by the monster when he went all Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park and made himself bait. But their trap didn’t do the trick as we see there are more than one of these guys darting around.
Peter: Holy fuck! Demogorgons! With an S. The possibility was always there but I wasn’t sure the Duffers and Co would go full-on James Cameron with this sequel.
Susan: It looks like they all might be going the way of the housecat, until the monsters retreat without warning. Steve’s able to tell they’re not deterred by the counter attack, but rather something is summoning them.
He Doesn’t Like That
Susan: Will is the spy into the Shadow Monster’s motives, but it appears like he’s a double agent. As his hippocampus abnormalities grow, his own memories of people are being replaced by not only the “now memories” but he’s a slave to the evil’s bidding. Will says he’s sorry for sending in the Hawkins soldier to their slaughter and Mike goes full Admiral Ackbar screaming, “It’s a trap!”
Peter: The radar alight with bogeys spells game over, man, for the bad men. Using little dots on the display to show the surging demogorgon population was an elegant way of illustrating the stakes. But while the Shadow Thing fought back with its campaign of misinformation, one detail chilled me more than anything else: Bob’s shaking. As the doctor explained his eldritch virus theory it became clear as day that the Brain has been hijacked. I knew we had to watch out for that hobbit from the Radio Shack. I’ve got my eye on you, cold Sean Astin.
Extra Things, Too
Susan: It looks like we’ve got a full-blown war on ours hands here. Obviously El would be super useful, and maybe if 008 would come out of the woodwork? Perhaps they could combine their powers to destroy the viral infection overtaking Hawkins.
Peter: That’s definitely a possible conclusion. There’s certainly some action-horror sequel action happening here. Aliens and Tremors 2: Aftershocks were the movies I was reminded of most. And that’s a good thing.
Susan: Bob really is sweet and so understanding! It is a pretty cheeky moment when he says to Joyce how stupid it would have been to move to Maine. MAINE! This is a Stephen King-esque universe, Maine is the LAST PLACE YOU WANNA BE.
Peter: Yeah! Buddy, you have a fear of nightmare clowns! Though, if they make it to New Years 1985, and move to Derry, Maine, they still have three years before Pennywise awakens from his slumber. That’s three whole years of them having to wonder why the foul mouthed nerd Richie Tozier looks so much like Mike Wheeler.