Here is what I learned from the last two episodes of Stranger Things:
- Barb is definitely dead (boo!)
- Dustin likes chocolate pudding
- There’s hope for Steve after all
Obviously that’s a little tongue-in-cheek, but not too much. These last two episodes didn’t resolve much of anything. Let’s jump right in…
If you remember from last time, Chapter 6 ended with Lucas watching the government guys deploy toward Mike’s house to go after Eleven. Lucas frantically calls the boys on his walkie-talkie, and they’re just able to make out his message and go running.
They meet up on their bikes, and Eleven throws a van to block the other vans, and they all ride away, safe for now.
Winona and Hopper go to the police station, where Jonathan is being held for kicking Steve’s ass. The little bully kid from last week is there, his arm in a cast, to report Eleven for breaking it. He tells Hopper what happened, and who Eleven was with, and now he and Winona know they have to find Mike and the boys. Jonathan also tells his mom that he and Nancy believe her about everything (FINALLY), and I’m really glad she calls him out on not telling her sooner.
Back at the Byers’ place they use Will’s walkie-talkie to try to call the boys. They’re hiding out in a school bus at the junkyard, and after a lot of chatter they finally tell Hopper and the others where they are. The government guys get there first, but Hopp punches them (he was Iron Fist in another life) and takes the kids to the Byers’.
Eleven tries to contact Will in the Upside Down, but she isn’t able to do it. She tells them she could “in the bathtub,” so Dustin calls their science teacher to ask him how to build a sensory deprivation tank. They all head to the school to build one in the gym out of a kid’s swimming pool.
Winona is being Queen o’ the Moms, trying to comfort Eleven and assure her that she’ll be there to help her the whole time. While I hate that (once again) they’re using El for her powers, it’s good that someone finally gives a damn about her. It’s a strong contrast to Matthew Modine letting her scream inside the tank at the research lab.
She finds Will, but he’s dying. She talks to him, but she isn’t able to bring him back. Oh, she also finds poor dead Barb, with slugs crawling out of her mouth. Poor Barb.
Hopper and Winona head to the government research lab to use the gate Hopp found to cross to the Upside Down. I guess they figured it’d be an easy stroll, like Hopp had before, but of course the government guys catch them. Hopper makes some sort of deal with the devil, giving the guys El’s location in exchange for…what? I’m not sure. Access to the Upside Down so they can find Will, but the whole thing was very very shady.
Nancy and Jonathan decide that they can find both Will and the demogorgon on their own, so they leave the kids at the school and go to Jonathan’s house to set their trap. Left to their own devices, Will invites El to the winter dance with him, and Dustin and Lucas find a stash of chocolate pudding.
Steve, meanwhile, breaks up with his jerk of a best friend and his best friend’s jerk girlfriend and goes to Jonathan’s to apologize. He finds Nancy and Jonathan there with their demogorgon trap, and of course poor dumb Steve has no clue what’s going on. The creature attacks them, and Steve, after an initial freak-out, jumps right in to fight it with them. Aw, Steve. Good job.
The government guys show up at the school to get the kids. The most unrealistic part of the episode is Lucas and Dustin abandoning their entire stash of pudding without pocketing a single can. Anyway, they all run, but of course the soldier commando unit catches them.
And El makes their brains explode. Wow. Um. She killed like 6 dudes right then. Just rando soldiers trying to follow their rando soldier orders, and now their brains are liquid. Kay.
The demogorgon is attacking Nancy, Steve, and Jonathan, but abruptly it leaves. They follow its trail (one of them injured it), and they realize it’s heading for the school. The blood from the dead soldiers is attracting it.
It apparently eats Matthew Modine, but it’s seriously doubtful the series’ main villain died off-screen. The boys and El are hiding in a classroom when the creature attacks. El uses her powers to save the boys and…
Dissolves the monster, and apparently herself with it. Uh?? What happened to my daughter?!?!
Well so. After that there’s a time jump of a few months, and things seem relatively normal. Will is home, out of the hospital and mostly okay…oh, except for when he goes to the bathroom and throws up a slug that looks an awful lot like the one that was in Barb’s mouth. Hopper goes off with the government guys for reasons unknown, and at the end of the episode he leaves some food (including Eggos, El’s favorite) in a tree stump in the forest. The boys are back to their D&D sessions, and while it’s clear Mike misses El, the others seem to’ve moved on.
And that’s. Basically. Where we end up. El sucked to the Upside Down (maybe). Hopper in bed with the bad guys (maybe). Will throwing up slugs and keeping it from his family. Mike giving El’s former hidey-hole longing glances.
Obviously I’m glad they found Will, and seeing my nerdy sons back to their old nerdy ways made me happy, but wow the people in this town must be incredibly resilient. Like 8 people went missing, and everything seems more or less a-okay.
At one point in the episode as Hopper and Winona looked for Will, they intercut flashbacks to Hopper’s daughter’s fight with cancer. I thought…I guess it was just him remembering that he lost a child, but it was a little strange, structure-wise. It felt like his daughter’s death had something to do with the lab and the Upside Down, even though I think it didn’t at all. The flashback format just made it sort of seem like that at first glance. I don’t know; while it was interesting to learn more about how his daughter died, I thought the flashbacks were misplaced. They would have done better in earlier episodes, when the stakes about Will weren’t quite so high. It also made for a jarring mix of genres, as they explored this nasty monster place (sci-fi/horror) and then we flashed to a sick child in the hospital (tear-jerker drama).
I’ll talk more about the series’ overall treatment of El in my wrap-up next week, but to touch on these episodes briefly: again, I’m glad she finally had someone showing that they cared (Winona), and while I guess the argument could be made that El volunteered for the tank, she’s just a child. Going to the Upside Down and using her powers is the only way she got any affection or positive feedback from Matthew Modine, so to her volunteering wasn’t even an option. Especially since when she’d failed to use her powers “properly” for the boys before, they’d turned on her.
There’s also the issue of Winona and various supermom tropes, but again, I’ll save that for next week.
Overall the ending left me a little cold. Season 2 hasn’t officially been announced, but pretty much everyone at Netflix and all the actors involved (plus the Duffer bros.) want a season 2, so we’ll probably get it. They’re also promising “justice for Barb,” so WE’LL SEE. How about justice for my lost, abused, used sensitive daughter Eleven??
OH! I almost forgot. Nancy gives Jonathan a new camera for Christmas, a present that was apparently Steve’s idea. And Steve paid for it. Uh huh. OT3 much?
Which do you guys think is the most unrealistic part of the series: that their science teacher is apparently straight, or that Dustin and Lucas abandoned all their pudding?
Images curtesy of Netflix