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STRANGER THINGS 2: CHAPTER SIX: THE SPY
Man, I always thought this stuff happened in movies and comic books. – Bob Newby
This was a great Stranger Things episode, which (spoiler alert) precedes a really bad one, but had we spent the entire hour with the newest babysitter/buddy cop comedy/drama, “Harrington and Henderson,” I’d be handing the Duffer Brothers Emmy Awards right now. Steve and Dustin hanging out, talking about lizards, life, and love was magic. The hijinks continued back at the Henderson family cellar, where Dustin decided to keep watch in case Dart tried to escape. Sure. We buy that.
Luckily for him, Steve didn’t entirely believe it was anything more than a little reptile that Dustin was blowing out of proportion. He even considered the idea it was a prank, and pledged to crush his little pal if that proved to be true.
It wasn’t, and it didn’t.
In the cellar, the two find out that Dart has departed, but not through the cellar door. This creature dug a hole straight through the concrete wall and darted (pun absolutely intended) for freedom. It also left a gigantic skin behind, revealing that the baby demogorgon is much less baby at this stage than it is demogorgon. He’s gone…but he ain’t gone.
Will is still feeling the effects of the flamethrower from a distance, and he’s acting even more erratically than ever before. “Can anybody tell me what’s wrong with him,” Joyce asks Owens and his team of doctors. “What is wrong with my boy?!” I hate to tell you this lady, but he’s been possessed by an evil monster, and the nefarious spirit is literally now inside the boy’s body. I’m suggesting homicide to get out of this. I know you’ll miss him, but you’ll be dead soon if you don’t handle your kid.
Owens was wrong that the issues were psychosomatic with Will, but in his defense, what else would he expect? Unlike Brenner, he hasn’t seen the worst of it for himself, at least as far as we’ve seen. I keep waiting to meet Malevolent Paul Reiser, alternate timeline Paul Reiser, but I now believe he’s going to turn out to be rather normal, despite his job. He’s certainly not a villain, and credit to the Duffer siblings for not just rehashing the same storyline from the first season.
It took Brett Gelman’s Murray Bauman to finally get through to Nancy and Jonathan that they might be in love, and that they should give it up, stay in the guest room together, and enjoy the night. After much arguing and attempts to avoid it, they end up doing just that, and Gelman’s smile as he watches them try to eat the post-coitus breakfast was hilarious. Brett is so good in spots like this, and he’s one of those performers that you know is going to deliver. He makes the most of what he’s given.
“You like Steve…but you don’t love Steve.” We know, Murray, and maybe she does as well. Outside of the sexual tension that bubbles over (which was incredible 1980s stuff), they send copies of the audio tape to various publications, including the Chicago Sun-Times. Whether the media will actually pick up on the story is yet to be determined, but there’s still a lot of National Enquirer to the tale.
It’s amazing to me that so few people EVEN IN HAWKINS know what’s happened to Will Byers, Barb, and everyone else. Those demogorgons sure know how to stay under the radar. That might be the biggest benefit to the Upside Down. It’s a tremendous hiding spot.
Good news, Hopper is alive and he can walk. He puts on the hazmat suit and descends with Owens to see the world’s scariest gate. “Pretty impressive isn’t it?” I mean I guess? But in general, I’m too worried about it swallowing me or spitting out a dark army to be in awe of its existence. My first question would be, “Can we stop it, or should be bow to our new overlords?” If the demogorgons will leave me be if I join them, I’ll put on the “I LOVE MONSTERS” hat right now.
The only one in more danger than Hopper and everyone in the facility right now may be Lucas, who inexplicably mans up and bikes to Max’s, despite her warnings about Billy. You see, he’s got proof that what he told her is real, and thanks to RATT, they’re able to get away before the walking pseudo bouffant can assault the two children. Lucas isn’t a Mormon though. Nonetheless, a decent excuse from the scarlet-haired zoomer.
Owens goes for broke with the blowtorches, which he deems an “odd” test for Will, but as soon as the guys move the fire closer to the organism they collected, Will feels a stinging sensation in his chest. And then, he begins to show signs of forgetfulness and amnesia. He remembers Mike, but he can’t remember much of the previous night, and no longer recognizes Hopper. That makes sense, considering the tentacled monster never exchanged pleasantries with the Chief, other than trying to strangle him to death.
“I remember they hurt me.” Who? Not the doctors. “The soldiers.” Then, the single most chilling lines ever spoken in an episode of Stranger Things. “You shouldn’t have done that. It upset him.” All right, now we need to murder Will Byers. There’s no more questioning to do. He’s not Will anymore. He’s the devil with a terrible haircut. Incidentally, I assume Satan has a perfect hairdo, because no one would be tempted by an ugly demon. Remember Liz Hurley in the Bedazzled remake?
Hopper calls El, who we know is nowhere near her new home, and leaves a message, apologizing to her for being gone and making sure she knows it wasn’t about her. “I don’t want you to get hurt at all, and I don’t want to lose you.” He tells her to heat up actual food and to avoid subsisting entirely on Eggos.
Meanwhile, Joyce is trying to get into a meeting the doctors and officials are having behind closed doors about Will. Her son has convinced Mike that he now knows how to stop the Shadow Monster. As that’s happening, Steve and Dustin have gotten to the old familiar setting from the past. Nothing good ever happens around that school bus, and sure enough, that’s the case here as well, except for one thing.
Steve Harrington is now the most unlikely hero on television. No one saw this coming, but once again, Stranger Things teaches a lesson on being too quick to judge, not believing in growth, and also about the perseverance and inner talents of its younger characters. The group, which now includes Max and Lucas, sets traps out and plans for the brawl with Dart. What they didn’t plan for, but should have, is Dart’s brothers and sisters.
Dustin, now believing Lucas and Max are a thing (as do we all), doesn’t like that she’s in the know or that she’s at all skeptical. He hasn’t been at his best these last few weeks, and needs to take Steve’s advice in a bit more of a tactful way if he wants it to pay dividends. Act like you don’t care, but don’t act like a jerk. Plus, Dustin didn’t know he was following Steve’s suggestions, although his older mentor thought he was.
Max and Lucas bond on top of the bus, talking about Billy and her parents, divorces, and again, mainly Billy. It bore mentioning twice, because he’s terrible. And so is Lucas’ sister, as I said on Friday, as she uses He-Man in a wedding ceremony. No good.
Lucas is the first to notice there’s more than one baby demogorgon approaching Steve, and it’s almost too late. I honestly think someone should have died in this scene. The one thing we haven’t gotten in Stranger Things is the KEY death. If one of the kids had died here, that would have had lasting impact. Yes, we want them all around, but that’s usually going to be the case. There need to be stakes. Constant near-death experiences that result in triumph begin to take the bite out of the antagonists just a bit.
That said, this is a 1980s love letter, and none of the Ghostbusters or the Goonies perished, so maybe I’m reacting based on the new, rather than the homage of Stranger Things.
Will’s suggestion as to how to kill the force inside him sends a fleet of soldiers into Hopper’s tunnel, where they reach a certain spot. We hear tons of screeching and a slow moving dense, white fog. “I’m sorry. He made me do it. I told you. They upset him. They shouldn’t have done that. They shouldn’t have upset him.” Damn. Those bruh’s are toast, aren’t they? We already know. They get annihilated as Hopper looks on in horror on the radar.
The traitorous Byers (I know, I know, not his fault) tells them it’s time for them to go. Hopper stares down into the gate. “They’re almost here.” We see a hand and a head pop up from the hole, and now hell has very literally arrived on earth in Hawkins, thanks to “The spy!”
This was a terrific finish. Will being corrupted from within, unable to fight off the spirit, and leading good people to their doom is a new layer of depth to the villainy. I still need to see a major character bite the dust, but this was strong stuff. I already said off the top Chapter Seven isn’t good. It has nothing whatsoever to do with any of this, and is basically a sidestory, specific to one character, and it’s a failure.
We’ll talk about it tomorrow, and then we’ll get to the final two eps of the season, which I quite enjoyed. The storm comes before the sunshine this time.
I’m @JMartOutkick. Totally tubular.