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.
Pet ownership is a big responsibility. It requires research, investment, care, and a gargantuan stash of Three Musketeers bars. In Chapter Three of Stranger Things 2, the entity Dustin caught in his functional ghost-trap is lodging in the former terrarium of Yertle the Turtle, as the storm in the Upside Down continues to brew and the adults start to realize it will take more than good parenting and heaps of denial to negate the effects of the flesh-portals and bad dreams they’ve been dealing with for the past year.
Peter: So, while there’s some serious E.T. vibes coming from Dustin’s relationship with D’Artagnan the Demogorgon (it’s just gotta be a baby demogorgon) there is nothing good that can come from rearing an otherworldly beast from the Upside Down that birthed itself from Will Byers’ esophagus. Right?
Susan: There is no way this thing is good news. I couldn’t help but think of Gremlin rules when Dustin tossed in that nougat, and lo and behold this Demonwog starts to grow exponentially. Dart is going to be an issue, especially if Dustin’s going keep a lid on its whereabouts by literally hiding it under his lid. Although, through our Curiosity Voyage, we’ve already learned this animal cannot stand light or heat. If this species is native to the Upside Down, one can perhaps glean light and heat is the way to vanquish the creatures who inhabit it?
Peter: I certainly, should play by the established rules of the Upside Down, but here’s the thing: we’re still learning what being from the Upside Down even means. I love that Stranger Things 2 is using such a cute 80s adventure movie trope (my best friend the monster) to deliver more information on the things that live in the Upside Down. This season, the mythology is getting heavy, and it’s a sign of quality that the show isn’t just having Dr. Badguy spew exposition. Using Dustin’s reptile and amphibian library research to understand Dart helps us as the audience see the creature firmly through human eyes, keeping an exciting element of the unknown in the proceedings, but still establishing rules to this dark fantasy.
Susan: We also get to know more about how El came to live in that cabin with Hop. Despite his dad dance moves and well intentions, Hop didn’t really consider the fact he was keeping a young woman essentially captive telling her it’s because of her own good after she spent her ENTIRE FUCKING LIFE essentially living the same kind of life (albeit worse considering the scary experiments, emotional abuse, tiny quarters, etc).
Peter: It looks like there’s a new Papa in town. Or, rather, just on the edge of town.
Susan: Also, El has a point. When WILL it be safe for her to go out into the real world? Hop says he’s making headway with “these people” but I don’t see it. OF COURSE El breaks all the rules and makes her way to Mike – he’s the only male who has never lied to her. Although, she didn’t have to be such a fucking creepo with that mum and her baby.
Peter: I’m still suspicious of Bob the Brain, but his little bonding moment with Will in the car was really endearing. Sean Astin is perfectly cast as the small town nerd all grown up and living vicariously through his girlfriend’s kids. I loved the advice he gave Will – to confront his own personal Mr. Baldo – because it was so abstract but appropriate (if eventually ineffectual).
Will’s Mr. Baldo, the Shadow Monster, is clearly real. I mean, this is Stranger Things we’re talking about. He can’t just stand up to it like Bob’s dollar-store knock off of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. But there’s a long tradition of God-like monsters that contact sensitive humans in their dreams. The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft and The House on The Borderlands by William Hope Hodgson being my favourite examples.
Susan: Bob had a dream about a clown; Will has the ability to see into another dimension where there are terrifying monsters that can actually fucking kill you. Bob’s easy peasy remedy is good advice for the normals, but this is a horse of a different colour. Or, I guess a monster of a different ability? Good on Will for trying to shout away his demons, but now there’s some kind of twister effect that’s infecting our poor young Will.
Peter: Sure, I’ll admit while Bob’s advice was sweet, it was totally terrible. But as far as calls to binge watch a show, that final shot of the Shadow over Hawkins going F5 on the Zombie Boy is as good as it gets.
Triple-Decker Eggo Sandwich
Susan: Speaking of infection, Hop realized the crop rot is coming from the power plant. How is it that he still trusts the people that work there? The good doctor promises that everything is fine, but it’s obvious the Upside Down is trying to turn Hawkins inside out.
Peter: Hop’s stubbornness is rotting him like the very blight he’s investigating. It reminds me how how much I’m reluctant to admit Stranger Things 2 – maybe my favourite show of the year – took its first misstep in The Pollywog. Max is a great addition to the show, and it annoys the heck out of me that she’s being leveraged into a Mike-centred love triangle. First off: do love triangles just run in the Wheeler family? And secondly, aren’t El and Max fleshed out enough as humans that we can forego the part where we have to define them in relation to a hormonal boy?
Susan: I agree. It would be understandable if Max and Mike were caught in a smooch, but all they were doing was talking for crying out loud. Hormones are just flying everywhere in this episode with Steve calling out Nancy for her drunken bullshittery. She doesn’t tell him she loves him when he demands it, and this might be because her intoxicated confession had a fleck of truth in it.
It’s odd Jonathan would lie to Nancy that Steve asked him to drive Nancy home. He should’ve told her how Steve stormed out and left her there in a vulnerable situation. I just don’t get why he would cover for Steve, it’s not like he overheard the conversation…gah… MEN.
Peter: We are truly the strangest things.
Susan: There is some truth coming to light (it seems) with Nancy and Jonathan’s TBA plan to tell Barb’s parent’s what happened to their daughter (or maybe not?)
Extra Things, Too
Peter: I love that Dustin’s functional ghost-trap played such an important role in the plot. The Ghostbusters aesthetic is really at home in the Stranger-verse.
Susan: What IS Max’s story? There’s def something weird with her and Billy, and now we know they aren’t siblings… So what brought them here from Cali?
Peter: I love that Joyce is being such a good mom, to the point where she can immediately see a giant monster in videotape static and recognize it from Will’s trauma drawing. And who can blame her for not knowing how to use a VHS-C tape?
Susan: She’s a crafty lady, will that whole Christmas light alphabet thing. Although if this monster attack has Will disappeared again we’re gonna be in for that trademark super crazy lady Winona acting.