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STRANGER THINGS 2: CHAPTER EIGHT: THE MIND FLAYER
From the official D&D website, here is the definition of a Mind Flayer.
Mind flayers, also called illithids, are the scourge of sentient creatures across countless worlds. Four tentacles snake from their octopus-like heads, flexing in hungry anticipation when thinking creatures come near.
In eons past, illithids controlled empires that spanned the planes. They subjugated and consequently warped whole races of humanoid slaves, including the githyanki and githzerai, the grimlocks, and the kuo-toa. Conjoined by a collective consciousness, the illithids hatch plots as far-reaching and evil as their fathomless minds can conceive.
Since the fall of their empires, illithid collectives on the Material Plane have resided in deep in the Underdark.
Okay, got it. So they’re generally not good then, that’s what I’m taking from this? Here’s a photo of the monster from the latest D&D editions:
I’m still thinking that’s not a good guy. Call me crazy. But I digress…
Ahhhhhh, sweet relief! After the seventh episode, it was fair to expect a resurgence back into the main story and a major jolt of energy back into the show. And, that’s exactly what we got in an awesomely entertaining hour that brought us a death that carried full redemption alongside it, showed the determination of this group of young people (and the few adults that care for them), and gave us an indication of how strongly this season has been bookended.
The season started well, got better, then struggled for 45 minutes, and is now back on track. Yes, Billy still exists, and he’s a complete drag, but we’ve come to expect that at this point. Before we talk about the good, let’s discuss Billy for just a bit, because even as we see what a hideous human being his father is, there’s still no rationale for why all of his vengeance turns on Max. This is simply a half-posteriored storyline that does a disservice to most of the show’s mythology. It feels immensely tacked on, and I continue to despise it.
We know Eleven is on the way, because we saw her depart Kali and the gang of idiots in the previous episode. But, in classic penultimate television fashion, the stakes were the highest and the somber tone found its apex in Chapter Eight. Bob Newby proved he was a man of love and integrity, both for Joyce and for the friends of her sons, as he put his life on the line, and lost it in order to allow for their escape from Hawkins Lab.
I said in an earlier review that Newby was initially unlikable, because we’re conditioned to desire a Joyce-Hopper relationship. The second portion of my assertion may well still be true, but the first part absolutely is not. He succeeds in giving those he cares about a real chance at safety, but is devoured by the horde of monsters in the process. He died serving others, and did so with no regard for himself. I never got a sense of ego in his choice, but expertise. He knew only he had the technical and engineering knowledge necessary to efficiently handle the job. Had Hopper tried it, it would have increased time, and Jim would almost assuredly have died BEFORE it was completed.
Finally, we’ve put the entire cast together in one spot, sans one person, whose arrival will be an immediate highlight of the season, and is perfect season finale material. In numbers, not only were they stronger physically as a defense, but they were able to rely on each other’s brains to determine Will is under the control of the Shadow Monster, AKA The Mind Flayer, and that it’s a hive mind mentality. Yes, there are many monsters potentially set to destroy the town, but if they can simply cut off the head of the snake, they might all die with it.
To do it, they take the drastic step of tying Will down in the tool shed, almost like an exorcism, with light utilized to make it impossible for the young boy, whose eyes are now the Shadow Monster’s, to comprehend where he is. If the monster can’t figure out his location, he can’t then transmit that information to the demodogs. Not only was this logically intelligent, it also made for one hell of a dramatic climax.
And, as Stranger Things has told us over and over, these kids are never hopeless, they’re never unable to grow in spirit and wisdom, and they love one another. Thus, even under the control of the Shadow Monster, Will is able to recover a few percent of himself, just enough to speak through Morse code. What’s special about this is how similar it is to his manner of speech in Season 1, where he used Christmas lights when his voice could no longer be heard or trusted. He found a way to speak to those that needed him.
Without going too far into theology, I will say that regardless of intention, there’s QUITE an allegory that can be found within this story, even down to the manipulation of the Shadow Monster, its inability to handle the light, and the revelation that many answers come in unexpected ways.
The other side of that story is that the monster is relentless, and will do whatever necessary to attack. Consider the phone ringing and the accidental verbalization of one of Will’s codes once it was discovered. “CLOSE GATE.” The Shadow Monster knows where he is, and thus knows where they are. Immediately we know his minions are on the way, and the question becomes a race between the only two absent parties (other than Dr. Owens, and unfortunately Billy) remaining in our story.
Will Jane get there before the demogorgons? What we know is her powers have never been stronger, because through all her problems, Kali did teach El how to channel her powers through emotions like anger…but we can surmise true love would be there as well, for it’s the most powerful feeling in the universe.
Therefore, we end Chapter Eight with the entire group huddling in the Byers house, which has always been the key location in this show, and preparing for what’s to come.
You know, I thought I would have so much more to write about this episode, but it was simple to explain and discuss. The story made complete sense, moved at a brisk pace, and was truly exceptional. Chapter Seven was an overall misstep, and a bit of a bummer, but it was short-lived disappointment. Chapter Eight was TERRIFIC.
Tomorrow, Chapter Nine. We’ll answer every question, we’ll evaluate the finish, and we’ll speculate about the future. Until then…
I’m @JMartOutkick. Close Gate.