We gave it an A-
Stranger Things 2 may have started off slow, but now things are really kicking into gear. Plots really start to blow up in this episode, and we get a sense of where things might be going.
Having fallen into the Upside Down, Jim Hopper’s going to have a hell of a time getting out — especially after we see the vines re-forming to close the hole he came through. Luckily for him, the Byers family is hard at work trying to figure out where he went. Will is getting more and more panicked as he realizes the depth of his connection to the shadow monster, which he says is partly in the Upside Down but also here in Hawkins, and inside Will himself. Will sure has a lot to deal with this season, but at least this time he’s not alone. He has his friends around to help. He’s still scared of what’s happening to him, but now he has Mike close at hand to confidently declare how they’ll turn the tables on the shadow monster.
PREVIOUSLY: “Chapter Four: Will the Wise”
He also has Bob, who really gets a chance to shine in this episode. Having heard that Will’s feeling sick again, Bob helpfully shows up to the house with brain teasers, since those always used to help him deal with sickness as a kid. He ends up face-to-face with the biggest brain teaser of all: the Byers’ house filled with Will’s drawings strung together in an indecipherable pattern. Although Bob is worried that Will and Joyce seem mentally unwell, his love of brain teasers soon takes over. He solves the puzzle: When connected like this, the drawings form a map of Hawkins. So it’s just a matter of matching this map to real-world Hawkins in order to figure out where Hopper is. Credit to Sean Astin for making Bob seem like he’s been in Hawkins the whole time; he fits right in, while offering his own unique perspective.
Meanwhile, Jonathan and Nancy are on their way to bring their incriminating recording of the Hawkins Lab officials to Murray. But first, they have to make a stop in a motel for a night, where the receptionist becomes the latest adult to scoff at their desperate protests that they’re not in a relationship. When they hurriedly request a double-bed room instead of a single, the woman is able to convey the words “yeah, sure kids” just by slurping her drink.
It’s clear that all these shippers are starting to get in Jonathan and Nancy’s heads, however, because before bed they have a brief talk about where things stand between them. Nancy asks what happened to them and why they only hang out when there’s a supernatural crisis going on. On top of that, she admits she waited for him to approach her after the climactic events of last season — but whether because he needed to support Will or was too nervous or some combination of the two, Jonathan didn’t take her up on it, and now complains that she only waited a month — which is, um, well, not a great response, so they break off the conversation for the night.
The next day, they finally make contact with Murray. Like any good conspiracy theorist, he’s got a Carcosa wall of news clippings connected by red strings, but as Jonathan and Nancy inform him, he’s not quite on the mark. Eleven isn’t a Soviet agent, she’s an escapee from Hawkins Lab. After they play their recording of Owens, Murray takes time to process it, and then informs them that it’s too much — it reveals “the curtain behind the curtain” of American society, so to speak, and people don’t like looking behind the curtain (which we certainly see today in real life; some of the anger at President Donald Trump likely stems from the way his administration pulls back the veil on what American power actually entails). Murray’s fix for the story is the same as his fix for vodka: Water it down. They can still blame the lab for Barb’s death, but attribute it to toxins rather than an evil parallel dimension, to make it more palatable to the public. Now that sounds like a plan. (Recap continues on next page)