Stranger Things 2 continues to move at a brisk pace with “Chapter Six: The Spy,” an episode that’s a little more focused — and, in turn, scarier — than what’s typical of the show, courtesy of one key but disconnected character’s absence.
We open in Hawkins Lab, where Will is being operated on after experiencing what appeared to be a full-body seizure at the end of last week’s episode. With Dr. Owens, Joyce, and Mike all by his side, he’s rushed through with an oxygen mask attached, as he continues to yelp in pain. Sheriff Hopper, on the other end, has just been rescued from the Upside Down, and is being rinsed and scrubbed by technicians. He later calls into his home radio to try communicating with Eleven, who’s long gone. “I know that I’ve been gone too long,” he says. “I want you to know that it’s not about you and it’s not about our fight. I want you to know that I’m not mad. I’m just sorry about everything.” It’s heartbreaking how much she’s come to mean to him.
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Joyce scolds Owens and his team for not dealing with the problem sooner. When they ask why she hadn’t been reporting Will’s behavior and visions previously, she responds angrily, “I have been bringing him in! And what have you done? Nothing. Nothing!” She says she wants her son transferred to a real hospital, but this isn’t realistic: Nobody outside could tell her what’s wrong with Will, either, and even if they could, it appears that Will is at a point of no return in terms of his connection to the shadow monster and the Upside Down.
Joyce at least has Bob by her side. He remains steadfastly supportive, saying Joyce needs only to worry about herself and Will — “Don’t worry about me,” he assures — and humorously reminding Joyce that she once told him that “this is not a normal family.” But Will, in a distressing turn of events, can’t remember her mother’s new beau when he finally wakes up. He assumes Bob is a doctor. Will says he’s never seen Dr. Owens in his life, either — and the same goes for Hopper. Overall, he only recognizes his mother and his best friend, Mike.
As for what happened the night before, Will is clearly more influenced by the monster than ever: “They hurt me,” he says he remembers, coldly referring to the lab’s technicians as “soldiers.” And after having another haunting “now memory,” Will alerts Joyce and Owens to a potential chance at killing the shadow monster. He indicates a spot where the creature is vulnerable and could perhaps be neutralized. It’s vague, but Owens bites: We see the doctor expressing a little more empathy than in previous episodes, noting that this thing from the Upside Down has been “spreading [and] growing beneath us like a cancer” and resisting his team’s suggestion that they burn it, which — given how Will feels pain inflicted upon the shadow monster — could kill Will as a consequence. Owens describes the situation as a virus attaching itself to Will, duplicating itself, and essentially hijacking him. Even more alarming: “The infected hosts seem to be communicating…It has some sort of a hive intelligence and it’s connecting all the hosts.”
“The Spy” does a good job of bringing a few of its characters and plots back together after feeling a bit disjointed in recent installments. Eleven, whose arc thus far has been entirely separate from the main story lines, is not in the episode, to its benefit. Instead, against the backdrop of Will in the hospital, we check in on three odd couples as they work toward the truth: Nancy and Jonathan, Dustin and Steve, and Lucas and Max.
Nancy and Jonathan are still hanging at Murray’s place, and the feeling — relative to the rest of the episode, anyway — is weirdly triumphant. They’ve hatched a plan to expose Hawkins Lab, and before long have sent off the damning recording of Owens admitting culpability to the Chicago Sun-Times. Murray invites them to stay overnight; Jonathan and Nancy initially insist on separate beds, despite Murray’s encouragement. In a smart bit of editing, however, they’re repeatedly pulled toward each other out of temptation. At long last, they succumb and kiss passionately. You can see that they feel alive in this moment: finally acting on their feelings, exposing corruption, and, yes, getting #JusticeForBarb. But things are not so joyous when they return home. Jonathan hadn’t been able to make contact with his family while back at Murray’s, and as he enters his house it quickly becomes clear why: With the house a disaster, maps spread across the wall, and nobody home, they know they’ve missed something serious. Jonathan also notices a Polaroid camera that isn’t his own in the house. “Someone else has been here,” he ominously warns. (Recap continues on page 2)
As for our younger Stranger Things heroes, Lucas’ sister finally tells him that Dustin was communicating a “code red” by radio some time ago. In a panic, Lucas immediately heads over to try to find him, and when the two friends finally make contact, Dustin gives Lucas the lay of the land: He’s with Steve (and his nail bat), trying to contain a rapidly enlarging Dart. (Yes, Lucas puts two and two together: Dustin was secretly hiding the “pet” while the rest of the party was still looking.) Lucas stops by Max’s and asks whether she’d like to join him in the hunt — telling her he finally has the proof she’d been asking for, after he’d previously revealed everything to her in the arcade and left her skeptical. Grudgingly, she goes along, jumping out her window so as to go unseen by her still-raging stepbrother.
Dustin and Steve, meanwhile, are enjoying some unexpected bonding time. The pair had joined forces outside of Mike and Nancy’s house, where Steve was hoping to rekindle things with Nancy and where Dustin was searching desperately for Mike. They team up from there, forced to go about catching Dart alone. When Steve goes into the bunker where Dustin was hiding his pet, we see Dart has left a trail but has strengthened to the point where he managed to destroy a wall and escape. (Yikes.) Dustin and Steve then turn to more old-fashioned methods, dropping bait (chunks of beef) on the rail tracks, hoping to lure the hungry creature. But they’ve got time to kill and silence to break, and the topic of romance proves to be just the trick: Dustin confides his feelings for Max, to which Steve gives the potentially wrongheaded advice that “the key with a girl is acting like you don’t care.” Steve also bestows grooming and cologne tips. (Apparently, women in the ‘80s liked “Farrah Fawcett spray.” Who knew?) Their back-and-forth is unexpectedly sweet.
Finally, Dustin and Steve meet up with Lucas and Max at what looks to be the same field where they hid out in a bus last season. They hatch a plan to catch Dart while also protecting themselves. They lay more bait, pour gasoline on the field, and reconstruct the bus as a sort of hideout — where they can trap themselves inside, as well as fight from above. Even as night falls, it’s obvious the plan isn’t going to work without a little tinkering. Dart doesn’t show up, which means “cow” bait is no longer working. He might be in the mood for something a little more taboo — you know, human.
Steve figures this out and, nail bat in hand, leaves the bus and stands on the field alone. Max and Lucas connect in the interim, atop the bus: She reveals that her dad is still in California after her parents’ divorce and that she misses him, and he says she’s “cool and different and super smart.” They share compliments, agreeing they like talking to each other — a warning sign for Dustin, who’d earlier snapped at Max for expressing doubts about their plan, scolding, “Why are you even here if you don’t believe us?”
After some delay, we hear Dart chittering around in the starry night as Steve nervously positions himself to attack. Dart finally appears, and he’s enormous — fear overcomes Steve’s face, but he stands strong. But then another “Dart” appears. And then another. Before long, Steve and the kids are surrounded by Upside Down monsters. He’s attacked, and they all hide out in the bus together — not exactly a safe space to wait things out. The monsters jump to the roof. (In the midst of this terrifying ordeal, we catch Lucas and Max holding hands, which devastates Dustin.) But jut when it seems like the group is doomed to be consumed by the monster that Dustin had once treated as a cute baby pet, the creatures all mysteriously leave. Did Steve intimidate them? No, Steve assures. “They’re going somewhere.”
Turns out, that “somewhere” is connected to Will’s vision for how to defeat the shadow monster. The lab technicians go into the Upside Down, donning protective suits and with guns and flamethrowers, only to be led by Will into a familiar area. Hopper recognizes the location, for one: “That damn graveyard.” Just before the harrowing, thrilling final sequence of the episode kicks in, Will apologizes to his mother. “I’m sorry,” he says. “They made me do it.… I told you, they upset him.” Will, possessed by the monster, reveals what he’s just set in motion: a trap for Owens and the rest of Hawkins Lab to fall into.
Back in the Upside Down, we see a fog settle in — we know creatures are coming. The creatures, likely with Dart among them, promptly ambush the “soldiers” one by one, with the monitor back at the lab going static — as all those sent to kill the monster are killed themselves. Will may yet be too far gone. But, he warns, it’s only getting worse: “They’re almost here.” A creature’s slithery hand reaches above ground just before “The Spy” cuts to credits — a foreboding indication of what’s ahead.
Most ‘80s Moment: The metal band Ratt’s most popular song ever, the 1984 hit “Round-n-Round,” playing as Billy lifts weights while sporting his mullet.
Steve: “How do you know [Dart’s] not just a lizard?”
Dustin: “Because its face opened up and it ate my cat.”
“Commie bastards sure know how to make a spirit, am I right?” —Murray while drinking vodka
“Bunch o’ nerds” —Lucas’ sister Erica describing the Stranger Things gang
“I always thought stuff like this happened in movies and comic books” —Bob