We’re back in Hawkins, and just in time for what’s sure to be a classic in the eyes of Vin Diesel. After a love-it-or-hate-it Eleven bottle episode, “The Mind Flayer” picks up where episode 6 left off — and it was worth the wait. Stranger Things 2‘s penultimate installment serves as a high point of the season, considering the entertaining mix of humor, sadness, horror, and action. But most importantly: What about Bob?
PREVIOUSLY: “Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister”
As mentioned above, “The Mind Flayer” begins where “The Spy” concluded, with Hopper staring down the emergence of what we will soon be referring to as “demodogs.” A few of Dart’s brothers show up and start beating on the glass, which Owens insists they can’t penetrate. Yeah, it’s not like any of these scientists have ever been wrong about anything before. To his credit, Owens quickly realizes his mistake and sets off the alarm. “We’re too late,” screams Mike, booking it back to Will — who, he tells Joyce, needs to be put to sleep since he’s a spy for the shadow monster.
While they debate that, let’s follow a few scientists who are rushing to an elevator as the demodogs head their way. Now back to the whole “put Will to sleep” thing. Joyce asks if her son if he knows who she is, and when he hesitates, she doesn’t delay in stabbing him with a needle (okay, “stab” is a tad aggressive, but needles are aggressive). Let’s check back in to see if those scientists are doing okay. Ugh, no, they’re dead. Thankfully, Hopper and Owens are still alive and come to grab the others so they can basically just move to a different room. At least this one has security cameras!
Elsewhere in Hawkins, things are equally scary for Billy. His dad and Max’s mom get home and are worried when they can’t find Max. Billy doesn’t know she snuck out since he’s too busy getting his swag level to 100 via hair products and putting cologne on his junk. He definitely is liking what he sees in the mirror. His good times end when his pissed off dad barges in and throws Billy against the wall. Jeez, this dad is no Danny Tanner. Neil orders his son to go find Max, like the “good, kind, respecting brother that he is.” That doesn’t sound like him.
Speaking of Max, she’s currently roaming the woods with Steve, Lucas, and Dustin, looking for Dart. So clearly her parents have nothing to worry about. An argument ensues between Lucas and Dustin. Lucas is mad that Dustin kept Dart, and Dustin is mad that Lucas told Max about everything. The fight ends when they follow the sounds they hear coming from the lab.
While Steve, a high school senior, is hanging out with a bunch of middle schoolers, his maybe-still girlfriend pulls up to the lab with her maybe-new boyfriend. Unable to get through the gate, Nancy and Jonathan head toward noises they hear coming from the woods. What could it be? Dart? Dart and his brothers? Nope, something even scarier — her maybe-still boyfriend. Steve and the kids walk out of the trees, but any chance for the group to catch up is thwarted as the sound of the demodogs grows louder.
Back inside the lab, which looks like something straight out of a horror movie, Owens is explaining the situation. The building is on complete lockdown and the only solution is to reset the breakers in the basement, then use a computer to unlock the doors. That last step is why Bob decides he’s going to be the one to do it. “It’s gonna be okay,” he assures Joyce as they hug. “Remember, Bob Newby: superhero.” Bob takes a walkie and gun, which Hopper shows him how to use (much be an easier lesson than Basic). “Don’t wait for me,” Bob tells Hopper, who promises to get everyone out.
Superhero Bob makes his way downstairs and quickly works his magic, getting the power on and doors unlocked, meaning the kids can now get through the front gate. And if that weren’t enough, he even directs a demodog away from their side of the building. As Hopper, Will, Mike, and Joyce make it to the lobby, Bob heads up to meet them. But that mission is going to be that much harder without the gun he just left behind. (Recap continues on page 2)
Luckily, Owens stayed behind and is guiding Bob out. Good to know that there are still some nice scientists around there. After temporarily hiding in a closet to avoid an incoming demodog, the coast seems to be clear — until Bob knocks over a broom as he leaves the closet, catching the demodog’s attention. “Run,” screams Owens. Bob books it as the demodog follows in hot pursuit. He makes it to the lobby and stops for a rest, which is an amateur move. Do you see Usain Bolt take a break a few feet from the finish line? And sadly, but predictably, Bob becomes demodog dinner. As the great Pete Campbell would say, “Not great, Bob. ” Joyce shrieks, Hopper shoots, but it’s too late, especially when more of Dart’s brothers show up. Hopper gets Joyce out of there just as Jonathan pulls up. Between his car and Hopper’s, they all load in and get out of there, and we get one final shot of Bob getting destroyed like he’s a turkey at Golden Corral on Thanksgiving.
Our heroes all return to the Byers house, which seems to be a little obvious. Considering the Demogorgon’s history there, maybe try a new location. As Jonathan apologizes to his brother, who’s still out cold, Nancy comforts him and Steve jealously watches. Hopper’s plan is to stay and wait for help, even though whoever he called for backup didn’t sound very convinced of his story. He goes to check on Joyce, and the two sit in silence. I miss happy Joyce — it was so short-lived.
The kids are also sitting in silence until Mike delivers a nice little eulogy for Bob, who, it turns out, was the founding member of the Hawkins AV Club. “We can’t let him die in vain,” declares Mike. Yeah, Stranger Things surely doesn’t want #WhatAboutBob to start trending.
We do have two pieces of good news. First, Dustin shares his genius “demodogs” nickname with everyone else. Second, Mike kind of has a plan that involves Dungeons & Dragons. Mike and Dustin compare the shadow monster to the Mind Flayer, which prompts all the non-nerds to say, “What?!” Their explanation to all the older kids and adults is that the shadow monster and demodogs share a “collective consciousness,” so if they kill it, then “theoretically” they kill them all. For some reason, the mention of zombies is where they officially lose Hopper. But Joyce is all in. “They’re right, we have to kill it,” she says, emerging from her room. “I want to kill it.”
Mike believes that Will is the key. Since it’s been previously established that Will is a spy, the idea is to clear out Joyce’s shed and make it impossible for the monster to know where it is when they wake it up for questioning. During a disguise-the-shed montage, Steve and Nancy have a nice but awkward moment; Dustin, who’s jealous about Max, apologizes to Lucas; Max unsuccessfully tries to bond with Mike; and Joyce tells Jonathan that Will is “still in there.”
All right, it’s interrogation time. Joyce is playing good cop and Hopper is also playing good cop. Interesting tactic. “Why am I tied up?” Will repeatedly screams, going into full Exorcist mode. Joyce, Jonathan, and Mike do their best to reach him by sharing sweet stories. For Mike, it’s the first time they met. “I had no friends,” admits Mike, tearing up (Finn Wolfhard coming through with maybe his best work to date). “I just felt so alone and so scared.” They became friends that day in kindergarten, and the rest is scary and frightening history. It doesn’t seem to be working, but Hopper notices Will tapping under the chair. Rushing inside, he realizes Will signaled “here” through Morse code. Soon, he sends another message: “Close gate.”
It’s probably not a coincidence that the phone then starts to ring, which Will hears. Nancy shows some impressive strength and rips it from the wall. Back outside, the shadow monster has fully taken over Will, again. “It knows,” says Hopper as they put Will back to sleep (this can’t be healthy). As they all brace for what’s coming, a dead demodog flies through the window. This leaves everyone confused. They’re about to get some clarity when the door opens…and it’s Eleven! Bitchin’ timing. The episode’s final shots are of Mike and Eleven exchanging loving looks that are to die for.
Most ’80s Moment: I mean, the name of the episode is “The Mind Flayer.” But the tip of the hat to Aliens can’t be overlooked either, especially with the added touch of Paul Reiser’s presence.
“It’s going to be okay. Remember, Bob Newby: superhero” — Bob (sadly, falsely) promises Joyce
“We are talking about the destruction of our world as we know it” — Lucas tells everyone, definitely not underselling what they’re facing
“It’s going to work — it has to” — Joyce to Jonathan
NEXT: “Chapter Nine: The Gate”