Nancy and Jonathan, as you might have guessed, are taken to Hawkins Labs, where they’re greeted by Dr. Owens, who seems to be amiable, even as he’s tacitly threatening them to keep their mouths shut. “Mistakes have been made,” Owens offers as his explanation for what happened to Will, and for Barb’s death. He shows them the source of what he calls “weeds” — the pulsing center of the Upside Down infiltrating the real world that men in Hazmat suits are going to contain “by whatever means necessary.” In this case, that means flamethrowers. Nancy and Jonathan make it out, amazingly, free and clear, and only when they’re far down the road does Nancy reveal what she bought at Radio Shack: a tape recorder. She had recovered the entire thing, including the part where Owens admitted Barb was dead. “Let’s burn that lab to the ground,” Nancy says.
Will, it should be said, has been scribbling this entire time, and Hopper and Joyce fail to make any meaning out of his random scratches, until Joyce realizes that they’re connected, meant to be linked together. She and Hopper cover her entire living room with Will’s drawings, revealing the image Will has been drawing: curling, sweeping tentacles, like a road “branching like lightning.” “Maybe it’s roots,” Joyce offers. But Hopper is less optimistic. Will said they were “killing.” They’re not roots: they’re vines. “He’s drawing vines,” Hopper declares dramatically, before leaving without saying goodbye.
While Hopper begins digging at the site of one of Hawkins’ mysterious occurrences, Eleven begins doing a little digging of her own. While cleaning up after her fight with Hopper, she notices some storage underneath the floorboards, and one box is labeled “Hawkins Lab.” Eleven opens the box and finds files related to her mother, Terry Ives, the woman who claimed the government stole her baby. Using what the boys call “truesight,” Eleven covers her eyes and tries to discover more about her mom from holding photograph close to her heart, and she makes it, to the all-black place with reflective water, where Terry is muttering and sitting in a rocking chair. Terry opens her eyes, sees Eleven and says “Jane,” but just as Eleven is reaching out to touch her hand, Terry disappears into smoke. Eleven is still in the cabin, alone.
The climax of the episode comes when Dustin goes home to Dart, and sees that it’s shed a slimy layer of skin and broken through the glass of the tank. Following a trail of dark slime and blood, he sees Dart consuming their pet cat. Dart turns, and shrieks, and its face splits open to reveal it’s basically a mini-Demogorgan.
Even scarier than a Demogorgan is the way Billy treats his step-sister, Max. When Billy, the mullet-ed teen who looks like he’s actually 45 years old, sees Max talking with Lucas, he blows up at her. It’s unclear whether he’s super racist, or whether they’re the Russian spies and she’s forbidden from interacting with other kids. But either way, Billy is not someone I’d want to be getting rides home from school with.
The episode ends back with Hopper who’s been digging, and finds his way into a deep, underground tunnel system. The camera rotates around and tells us what we already knew: he’s in the Upside Down. Aaaaaaand scene.
Most ’80s moment:
The few words we hear on the radio “….President Reagan…”
“Mistakes have been made.” – Owens.
“You act like you want me to be your friend and then you treat me like garbage.” – Max, with self-respect that every girl should have
“It’s about the shadow monster, isn’t it?” – Mike talking to Joyce Byers and getting straight to the point
NEXT: “Chapter Five: Dig Dug”