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.
Stranger Things season two has featured several disjointed groups working their way through the Hawkins horror, in this episode all roads to lead to the Lab and we finally get to see the players reunited against the growing evil virus threatening to take over this world.
Hold on to Your Butts
Susan: The demogorgon army is emerging from the mine shaft ready to slay all in their path. Exclamations of, “mother of god!” and “mother Mary of Jesus!” are pretty appropriate responses when meeting Dart & co. Apparently polycarbonate is not that fucking strong (note to self for future survival situations) and it’s no time before the creatures are maiming and killing every human in sight.
Peter: Despite everyone’s frantic prayers to Holy Mary, I think it’s safe to say what’s happening in Hawkins in “The Mind Flayer” is a pretty strong refutation of the basic tenets Catholic metaphysics. But hey, I guess an appeal to divine intervention is worth a shot.
Susan: Speaking of divine, good on Mike for jump starting the whole “let’s get outta here” thing, and thinking to drug Will-the-spy so he can’t give away their position. I feel as though Mike isn’t getting the credit he deserves for figuring out what Will’s now-memories really mean.
Peter: I totally agree. Mike, for all his broken-hearted foot dragging this season, has really taken a back seat these past few episodes despite major contributions to the Mind Flayer puzzle. I think it speaks to a larger adult problem in Hawkins, which is a general neglect of their kids. But at this point, I think it’s fair to say bad parenting is low on the list of critical concerns.
Susan: Yeah, there’s enough to worry about considering the power is out in the entire building filled with monsters and without it they are trapped. Does anyone else get a Jurassic Park vibe from this episode? I mean it’s not only that, but we have a hacker (Bob) who uses computer skills to reset the building system, and he follows directions via walkie talkie to turn the power back on ala Laura Dern’s Ellie Sattler.
Peter: All that was missing was a dramatic, “The phones are working.” Can a pop culture tribute be counted as anachronistic?
Susan: At first, I might have thought he was a little basic, but it’s his knowledge of Basic Coding has Bob saving the day. Not only that, but he was a brave, honest, and kind hearted man who rose to the occasion when he saw when others needed help. His ultimate demise plays out in a suspenseful and heart-wrenching manner. We first see him leave his gun in the basement (no!), followed by the monster being alerted to his whereabout because of his clumsiness (NO! – Also this would totally happen to me), then finally that deathly blow when we just thought he was safe with Joyce (NAOOOWWWW!!!!). There’s really no mercy coming from the Duffer Bros on this one, the extended shot of multiple demodogs feasting on his lifeless body just really leaves no room for hope.
Peter: Rest in peace, Bob “The Brain” Newby. I think it must be said that Bob’s quest to bring Hawkins Lab back online is the most suspenseful sequence Stranger Things has given us. It’s a credit to Astin’s charm that Bob became so lovable in such a short time that the risk of losing him felt so terrifying. My heart rate actually increased watching Bob hide in the closet.
Susan: Also, Peter, you know I hate to brag, but I TOLD YA SO. As soon as he said he hated scary movies, I knew it this dude was gonna kick the bucket. I just didn’t foresee how sad it would make me.
Peter: I feel like a chump for being so suspicious of Bob all season. But I maintain that the framing devices used to contextualize him in the Stranger-verse really seemed to be foreshadowing some kind of late-game reveal. I think it was the Dracula costume that did it for me. And given the last we saw him, Bob was feeling a chill, I wondered if the Mind Flayer had spread to a human body with a more powerful brain (which would have been a pretty cool villain turn for Astin). But in the end, it turned out Bob was just a hero. I’m sorry I ever doubted you, Bob. I’m sorry.
Susan: Also WHAT ABOUT THE DOCTOR? Are they just gonna leave him there?
Peter: Poor Papa 2.0. This whole visit to the lab really turned into just a giant mistake for all involved.
Making A Monster
Susan: The team returns to the Byers residence to decipher what the fuck is going on, and yet again the D&D playbook comes in handy to serve as the right metaphor — no analogy — for the otherworldly race wishing to destroy the world as we know it, just like the Germans (face palm Steve) er — the Nazi’s.
Peter: The Mind Flayer illustration is the most overt reference to this show’s Lovecraftian influence – the Monster Manual illustration is essentially a skinny Cthulhu in robes. I was pleased to see the D&D analogy return so late in the game. So many nameless horrors are occurring, it’s about time we get our nomenclature straight.
Susan: Billy is still a mystery to me in terms of what purpose he’s serving in this narrative. We see that Max and Billy do have parents (honestly it kind of seemed like they didn’t live there), and Billy’s dad is pissed Max is gone. Billy’s bullying ways become clear when we see the verbal and physical abuse he suffers at the hands of his father and limply witnessed by his stepmom (come on Susan, DO SOMETHING). Now humiliated and abused, Billy’s sent out to find his lil step-sis, and something tells me he’s going to take out whatever rage and impotence that was generated in him by his father on Max and whomever might be around her.
Peter: The domestic abuse scene served as instant sympathy for the boy villain. Nothing like a moment of severe humiliation to endear an evil force. That’s another strength of Stranger Things: it’s ability to manufacture sympathy for its monsters. Hell, I even felt bad for Dart when Dustin locked it in the cellar.
Susan: Dustin should apologize to EVERYONE for keeping Dart and basically contributing to a fucking full-on war and stop boo-hooing because Max likes Lucas and not him. My two cents.
More Things, Too
Susan: I feel like the ENTIRE purpose of Chapter 7 was to give El her badass makeover so she could make that entrance.
Peter: I will die defending Chapter Seven as more than an hour long makeover. But yes, Eleven’s entrance was made extra dramatic thanks to her bitchin’ duds.
Susan: The morse code obviously means “close THE gate” but where is this gate located?
Peter: In season one El confessed that she “opened the gate” so I think it’s safe to say it’s the wall scab. But even if that’s the case, that’s one big fucking gate to close.
Susan: I loved seeing Nancy step in when Hop asks Jonathan if he knows how to use a gun. We know it’s not his favourite thing, and we also know Nancy can be a badass.