We gave it a B+
After class, Dustin brings the boys to the AV club room to show them his new discovery, Dart, who might be a new species. And, after confirming that he’ll get full credit for the discovery, Dustin brings Dart back to the classroom to show Mr. Clarke. But Will and Mike stop them just in time, saying it was a stupid prank. Locking Max out of the AV room, the boys talk about Will’s visions, confirming what we basically already knew: that Dart is from the Upside Down. The thing has already grown massively, with new limbs and two more legs that pop out of him as they watch. While they argue about whether to bring Dart to Hopper or not, Max forces the door open, and Dart escapes down the hallway.
And there’s trouble with the older kids in Hawkins, too — Nancy can’t understand why Steve didn’t pick her up for school, so he reminds her of what she said to him while drunk at the party and how Jonathan was the one who brought her home. And things get worse when Nancy can’t or won’t tell Steve she loves him. Wracked with guilt, mostly about Barb but probably also about her relationship, Nancy turns to Jonathan to come up with a plan to do…something. After a stop at Radio Shack, Nancy and Jonathan call Barb’s mother and tell her to meet them the next day in person.
Meanwhile, Hopper has to deal with two problems at once: He notices that the strange pumpkin blights around Hawkins have been happening in concentric circles, almost certainly related to the Upside Down. Once he tells Owens about it, the government official sends a crew to investigate and concludes that something strange is going on. But before Hopper can focus on that completely, he gets a call pertaining to rumors of a “Russian girl.” Eleven left the cabin and asked a very confused mother which way the school was. The mother spoke to the police about it, and Hopper knows immediately that their suspect is just a lonely little girl looking for her friends.
While the boys — and Max — separate to find Dart, Max confronts Mike in the gym about wanting to be part of the gang. Mike angrily deflects: They don’t need anyone else. Max asks about El, but Mike claims she was different. El was their mage. “I could be your zoomer,” Max offers, zooming around on her skateboard. “That’s not even a real thing!” Mike responds. The two do the awkward, teasing pseudo-flirting of people who wish they could be flirting for real, and of course, Eleven sees them. Jealous, she flings Max off her skateboard but disappears before Mike can chase her down.
Will finds Dart in the bathroom, but also finds his way back into the Upside Down, where the school is covered with vines and creeping smoke. He runs away until he’s outside the building and sees the massive monster from his nightmares. He tries to stand up to the smoke creature the way Bob taught him, but it does nothing: Smoke just fills his face and sneaks into his nose and mouth. Turns out Upside Down monsters are a little harder to deal with than Mr. Baldo the clown.
Most ’80s Moment: The Hopper and Eleven cleaning montage, the most ’80s of all TV tropes
“I need my paddles!” – Dustin, grabbing books from the library
“Why’s he gotta kick the door?” – about Hopper, dramatically leaving the sheriff’s office
“Hey kiddo, would you like a balloon?” – Bob doing his impression of Mr. Baldo, doing an impression of Pennywise