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.
Kids grow up so fast. They move out (unofficially), they get involved in strange political movements, they rarely visit (and when they do it’s too emotional). They take over the basement (with their untrained pets), and they become psychically connected to a trans-dimensional eldritch shadow thing boring tunnels throughout town. Dig Dug, is all about growing up and getting out of town, whether that means visiting your mama or turning Upside Down.
Everything’s Happy Underground
Peter: Look at the big brain on Bob! And also the big heart. Not only is this guy totally willing to give Joyce her secret space to build an art attack, he is willingly conscripted into the search for Hopper with tragically little information on what the fuck is happening. I take back all those suspicious barbs I sent his way when he was dressed like a Dracula.
Susan: I told ya he wasn’t evil! Also it’s totally hilarious that he’s like, “Joyce this isn’t norma– Ah wait look at that itza map!”
Peter: Bob’s discovery that Will’s puzzle is a map of Hawkins doesn’t come as much surprise, given we know Hopper’s in one of the blue Upside Down tunnels, but I’m curious about the clue that gave it away. Do you think there’s some history associated with Lover’s Lake?
Susan: The heart shaped lake is the biggest clue for Bob (I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he’s never been there for a mack-sesh), but maybe there will be something that goes down there? The Brain gets so into solving the puzzle he’s genuinely surprised that it actually means something, and he’s really taking this all in stride considering his girlfriend’s child is obviously going through something really fucking weird right now. But I suppose love is full of suspending one’s disbelief. Speaking of which, I don’t really buy that Hop’s shirt sleeve is enough protection against the viney air poison, and then when Joyce and Bob are in the tunnel, they don’t even get sprayed! C’mon writers room, I’m not angry – just disappointed.
Peter: I hear you, but even little Will survived days in the Upside Down with zero protection. I think Joyce and Barb will be okay. But Hop… I guess we’ll see what being spore-sprayed does to his respiratory system. I actually thought he was dead. When the tentacular vines consumed him inches out of reach of his knife, I thought we had another Barb situation on our hands.
Susan: I think this might be some kind of venus fly trap type organism, where the victim is trapped and/or stunned and slowly digested, so theoretically Barb didn’t really die right away she just got et-to-death. Thankfully, the same won’t be said of Hop with Joyce being able to follow his cigarette bread crumb trail.
Open The Kingdom
Peter: I’m really impressed with how quickly Stranger Things 2 is moving. It’s always been a fast show, but I was surprised that the first we see of Eleven in Dig Dug is at her Mama’s house.
Susan: It was a sharp left in terms of her leaving the cabin again, but it does make sense she would go out and find her mother as soon as she found the Hawkins Lab files. It’s a desperately sad moment to see Eleven, who for the first time calls herself by the name Jane, realize her mother is not going to come back from her catatonic state, no matter how far she reaches for her.
Peter: For a show absolutely dripping in horror tropes and tributes, the psychic revelation of what Dr. Brenner’s Crew did to Terry Ives takes the high score. The child abduction and gaslighting were bad enough, but the electroshock memory erasure set to Philip Glass’ “Open The Kingdom” was one of those haunting scenes where aesthetic beauty underlines the terror.
The Terry mind erase scene is so upsetting to me because, in the weird fiction world of Stranger Things, horror is usually presented as an alien force. Her torture into stasis stands as the cruelest act of human-on-human violence the show has produced this far, and for it to be presented in such a stylistic manner just makes it stand out. I loved it, but it made me nauseous.
Susan: In the same vein of traumatizing mothers, poor Dusty’s mom. It’s usually the parent who protects the child from the truth about a dead pet, but Dustin’s had to grow up way faster than he should with this whole evil creature devouring Mews.
Although he did fuck up by keeping Dart a secret, he’s now seeing the error of his ways after his kitty gets killed. But once he gets it trapped in the underground cellar he needs his buddies to help him, but they are all busy at the moment, and Erika is no help at all. But when Steve shows up to apologize to Nancy, Dusty’s found a nail-filled baseball bat wielding ally.
Cheer Up Murray
Peter: This season has a few high profile additions to the cast, but I think Brett Gelman is the one that expands the Stranger-verse in the most exciting direction. Fueled by vodka and conspiracy theories, Gelman’s Murray is a one-man Lone Gunmen.
Susan: The watering down of the facts is a watershed moment for Nancy and Jonathan, who have struggled with how to get justice for their deceased friend. I agree Gelman is a great addition to the cast, I just hope his help is effective.
What’s proving to not be effective is the burn and slash methods of Hawkins Lab. Obviously the flamethrowing at the flesh portal has done exactly nothing to stem the flow of evil throughout the surrounding area. Last season, we saw the gang chased down by the Hawkins Lab vans, but out in the field it seems as though those in the hazmats are there to lend a helping hand. That is until they start burning the tunnel vines. Will’s become one as host of the shadow monster, and now it appears as though if the evil is hurt, then so is he. The episodes closing scene is truly terrifying with the young Will writhing on the ground and making the most terrible and other-worldly screams of agony.
Extra Things, Too
Peter: I am so excited for this Steve and Dustin team-up. But I wonder when Dusty learned about Steve’s spike-bat. Do you think everyone involved had a Christmas Time post-mortem of trauma bonding and war stories?
Susan: I bet he has it under his bed just in case. Another duo I am interested in meeting involves this 008 we were introduced to in the opening sequence of the season. In Eleven’s mother’s flashback we see what is obviously the young Jane with this mysterious girl (now grown woman/criminal). Will the two join forces to take down the facility that stole their childhoods?
Peter: My Billy-Threat-O-Meter is inching into the red. The mulleted menace is just a nexus of hatred, abuse, misguided eroticism, and racism. And I’m not sure how well it fits into the Stranger-verse.
Susan: I bet he gets eaten. And then what’s going to happen to Max? It was a delightfully meta moment when after Lucas explained the freaky happenings of the year before Max’s response is that it’s a “little derivative.” For a show that banks on nostalgia and icons from the past, it was a wink through the fourth wall.