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.
When you’re from a small town and you don’t fit in, nothing can be more liberating than a trip to the big city. In Stranger Things 2, Chapter Seven, Eleven takes the Greyhound to Chicago and finally finds her people in a divisive and divergent island episode.
Peter: The word ‘different’ is Chapter Seven’s constant refrain, and appropriately so. “The Lost Sister” diverges from Stranger Things’ well established episode structure to focus wholly on introducing what I can only assume is the first act as a much larger narrative we’ll see reemerge in coming seasons. The entire hour is spent with Eleven on her coming-of-age field trip to Chicago where she meets her titular sister, the mysterious Eight, and is tempted to go to the Dark Side with some fully blown Star Wars beats.
Susan: The punk Yoda of Pittsburgh was such a straight up reference that, coupled with the previous episode’s “It’s A Trap,” Star Wars is a contender to the most alluded-to 80’s pop culture in the series. Though, D&D might be the overall most used.
Peter: I loved this episode. Taking a break from Hawkins was a small price to pay for the levels of character development and thematic exploration delivered in Chapter Seven. Stranger Things is about outsiders – whether they’re othered by class, nerdiness, trauma, the eroto-bullying of Billy, or the MK Ultra program – and that’s what “The Lost Sister” is about. The fact is, Eleven needed more than Hawkins as a character, and this episode delivered it with panache.
Susan: I did not love this episode. I think it read more like a superhero story that focused more on an ethical message, than a good story. It did do three things though: 1) It showed us exactly how dangerous Eleven truly is (her ethics); 2) How she defines her home; and 3) Did I mention they talk a lot about what “home” really means? For El, it means not killing people in cold blood, I guess.
Peter: Fair enough, I will concede it wasn’t a perfect hour. “The Lost Sister” did make me lose my mind as a viewer in one respect, however. I have never been a fan of Stranger Things’ convention of flashing scenes from previous episodes in order to remind viewers of previous plot points. This first happened in season one – when Becky Ives told Hopper and Joyce about Jane and we got flashes of Eleven, who none of the on-screen characters had met at the point – and I disliked it because it felt too condescending and wasn’t anchored to any character memory. The Duffers and co. have since used this device regularly, and every time it’s been annoying, but in Chapter Seven it actually gets mixed up with legitimate character flashbacks, undercutting the emotional impact with needless in-episode recapping.
Susan: Personally, I feel like they should leave the recapping to us.
A Pat on the Back
Peter: Touching back to your point about killing in cold blood, this episode also finally addressed the fact that El is a mass murderer. I’ve always been a bit disturbed that in the season one finale Eleven psychically annihilated over a dozen human beings (albeit in self defense).
Susan: Mass murder is defined by the act of killing a number of people (more than four) in a single period of time, and in the same geographical vicinity, so I will give you that technically labelling her as a mass murderer is correct. But is she a serial killer? She really didn’t have to think about killing the men she did before because it was a necessity, but now that she’s joined these quirky killers she’s really gonna have to think about it.
Peter: Luckily for her, the whole vigilante justice via super-powered outcasts is kiddy-pool territory, ethically speaking, on top of which it’s a well worn cliche. What makes “The Lost Sister” work, in my opinion, is that I never got the impression my own ethics were being tested. This was all about finding out who Eleven is by way of Jedi training, convenient store heists, and an aborted force-strangle for the ages.
I Am Your Papa
Peter: But on to the big question of the episode: do we believe Ray? Is dDoctor Brenner as alive as Matthew Modine (who stealth guest starred in this episode)? And if so, is that a strong choice for the narrative? Personally, I never really liked the guy, and in terms of the show’s driving conflict I’m much more invested in the human-versus-shadow part than the human-versus-human.
Susan: I think Brenner probably has to be alive for Eleven to find any sort of inner peace, yeah? They’ll be the shadow monster and all that jazz, but I think Papa is the Big Boss.
Peter: In any case, now that Eleven has found her raison d’etre, she must confront the greatest horror of all: small talk with a stranger on a Greyhound bus.
Susan: Why do people think they can just do this???
Extra Things, Too
Peter: I got some serious X-Men vibes, in addition to the Star Wars stuff. It kept reminding me that Charlie Heaton (Jonathan Byers) is in the upcoming X-Film The New Mutants, which is definitely in the same vein as this specific storyline.
Susan: So do we think 008 is going to come back and actually serve some action-oriented purpose for being on this show?
Peter: Personally, I think Eight has to come back, but we won’t see her for the rest of Stranger Things 2. We’ve got at least three more seasons of this show, and I think they have plans for El’s titular sister. I also dug the non-super powered heist punks, and would be happy to see them help turn Hawkins right side up in a time of crisis.
Peter: I have to admit, I’m a big nerd for island episodes like “The Lost Sister”. Notable examples: LOST 308: Flashes Before Your Eyes, Fringe 216: Peter, and The Leftovers 208: International Assassin. How do you feel about these kind of episodes?
Susan: I have not seen any of these. Like I said I didn’t really care about this episode, so I probably won’t watch them. BUT I would love to hear more about why I should!