October 28, 2017 at 08:32 AM EDT

Stranger Things

TV Show
Drama, Horror, Thriller
run date
Winona Ryder, David Harbour
Current Status
In Season
We gave it an A-

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.

PREVIOUSLY: “Chapter Five: Dig Dug”

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)

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