Now at the halfway point for the season, we are setting up for the climax and circling the drain on the honesty/liars theme we have this season, warning; spoilers ahead of course!
We open at a short recap of the last episode’s’ cliff hanger moment where Will is still under the influence of the shadow monster. The tension is high at this point while the gang and max seem bewildered and unsure what to do, Joyce continues to try to let her son know that she is there. We see it cut from the real world to the Upside Down where Will is still being assaulted by the shadow monster he tried so desperately to stand up to, thanks to Bob’s friendly advice. Will seems inextricably linked to the Upside Down; but has the Upside Down managed to sink its claws into him for good in the real world, now?
We are shown a touching vulnerable moment between Joyce and Will that further illustrates their bond and affection. Will explains what happened when Joyce coaxes him into it, and breaks down in tears for the first time we’ve seen since the start of the series, showing he is a child still. It showcases that Will is in fact a child still, despite some grown-up behavior on his part.
We cut to Eleven returning home after her escapade to find Hopper waiting on the porch anxiously smoking a cigarette. The scene is set for an explosive confrontation as she enters the cabin and tries to storm to her door. Hopper chases her, and a very parent-to-pre-teen argument begins. We return to our theme of liars and honesty, with Eleven accusing Hopper of lying to her about when she gets to leave the cabin. Hopper telling her that he protects, feeds and teaches her. We are shown the conflict between the safety of never leaving the cabin, or the life she gives up to stay safe. This classic trope is a good analogy of her life over all, having gone as an unwilling prisoner to Dr. Brenner aka “Papa” and now a captive of Hopper’s rules, though they are there for obvious (and excellent) reasons.
With almost a year of house arrest under her belt it is clear Eleven has had enough, culminating in the tremendous temper tantrum that results as a result of actions. Hopper tries to ground her from the television and when she refuses to allow him to move the television, he rips the cord out of it, breaking it. Eleven reacts by way of supernatural temper tantrum, resulting in all the windows being blown out of the cabin.
Meanwhile, Jonathan returns home to find all the lights out, with Joyce asleep embracing Will, who has some serious rapid-eye movement going on. Whatever is happening to him, it doesn’t seem to be giving him a chance to rest either. This moment illustrates once more that Jonathan is an outsider; even in his own family. Fortunately, he seems to have found a use as Nancy’s sidekick the next morning, so it looks like he still has a purpose!
Back at the Byers house, Joyce is starting to panic a little as she calls the police station to get a hold of Hopper with no luck. Will still hasn’t recovered from the day before, and says that he feels weird, as if hadn’t woken up. Joyce takes his temperature only to find that he doesn’t have a fever, but seems to have the start of Hypothermia. Despite this, she still wants to honor her promise of ‘no doctors’ (which seems like a real contrast to the over protective mother we’ve seen all season) and decides she’ll run him a bath instead.
This morning seems to be full of questionable decisions as we cut to Dustin, feeding Dart in the now homeless Yordle’s (Speaking of said turtle, where is he?!) terrarium. The pollywog for lack of a better term chirps happily as it is fed nougat, before Dustin covers the glass cage with a sheet presumably to keep the light off of the photosensitive baby abomination. Awww! Or something like it.
We follow Dustin to school only to find that despite Lucas and Mike’s bikes, we don’t see them waiting for Dustin. Following voices, he finds Lucas, Mike and Max digging through the trash. Confused, he asks why they are sorting through the trash when an angry Lucas reminds him they are still looking for Dart- the same Dart that Dustin took home and hid from his friends. We again touch on the honesty and lies motif of this episode.
Cut to Mr. Clark’s class where he is giving a lecture on the emotional and physical signs of fear, which continue as we cut to Will displaying quite a bit of fear at the sight of his warm bath. So much fear in fact, he has broken out in full body sweats. He finds his mother, who is again calling for Hopper (who continues not to answer) and let’s her know that the bath is too hot. When Joyce offers to cool it down a little, Will suddenly and very firmly says “No. He likes it cold.” before he retreats to his room. Who is the he Will is talking about? We can only assume the shadow monster.
We then find out what Hopper has been kept busy with- which is nailing boards over the windows after Eleven’s psionic temper-tantrum. As he turns around Eleven can be seen briefly before slamming the door to her room. Hopper goes to her door, and seems to contemplate apologizing for what he’s said. However, he seems to have a change of heart at the last moment and decides on the tough love route. Instead, he declares that the cabin is to be cleaned before he gets home and he may decide to fix the television. After hearing from his secretary he finally heads over to Joyce.
Catching up with Steve this episode, he continues to suffer with Billy’s arrival. The new guy owns him at keg stands, and continues to own him on the basketball court. He’s even arrogant enough to give Steve some advice on how to play the game, which almost seems like a friendly gesture until he drops Steve on the ground after offering to help him up. After the game, Steve is confronted by Billy in the showers and bullied by the other teen, who tease him about Nancy and Jonathan’s escapades together which it seems Steve is unaware of.
Speaking of the duo, we return to them sitting at a tranquil park, waiting for Barb’s mother. Nancy is set on telling her the truth, and Jonathan likes to follow after her like a lost puppy, so that is of course what he does! However their paranoia gets the better of them, and they decide to head to the car when Barb’s mother doesn’t show up. They return to Jonathan’s car only to find the car miraculously won’t start, and they are surrounded by four people blocking any chance of escape.
We return back to Will, to find Hopper and Joyce perplexed by his need to be cold, and his memories of times he cannot remember, or things are happening now. With some coaxing they convince him to draw pictures. He sits down with crayons and begins to draw though his crayons strangely seem ready and new each time. He draws sheets after sheets, perplexing both his mother and the sheriff. It’s only when something Will says occurs to Joyce does Hopper put together what it all really means.
Meanwhile, Eleven tries to turn the television on, and when her efforts are thwarted she is forced to clean, which leads her to a trap door in the floor. We see a few boxes containing information about Hopper’s life, including Sara’s box, and one for Vietnam. The only Eleven is interested in is one that pertains to the Hawkins Laboratory, which she pulls out. We know this can only mean trouble.
Then we get a chance to see Max, who has gone from audience crutch to unnecessary. We see her storming away from Lucas and refusing to speak to him. IT’s clear she is done feeling excluded and treated like garbage. She tells him that she doesn’t want to be in his stupid party, and returns to Billy’s car. She’s upset, and Billy tries to goad her into information. When he tries to probe into who Lucas is, there is an undertone that Billy may be particularly against Max’s friendship due to his race. In fact, Billy emphasizes trouble is the only thing that you get when messing with “those people.” Does he mean to emphasize Lucas’ race? His social standing? His economic standing?
Eleven is seen searching the box of files only to discover one on Terry Ives, complete with a photo of her with Dr. Brenner. From there, Eleven uses her psionic power to locate Terry Ives who she finds in an almost delirious state. However Terry seems to see Eleven too, because she calls her ‘Jane.’ There is a touching moment where Eleven says ‘Mama’ but like most things in Eleven’s life, it just doesn’t end well, with Terry suddenly fading away like a bad memory at the touch of her presumed daughter. Eleven is left crying for her mother and absolutely devastated.
Nancy and Jonathan are shown in a small interrogation room when Dr. Owens shows up to play the good guy. He treats the two to show of playing the amicable nice guy, and a stern disciplinarian as he tries to convince the teens they are doing something particularly stupid. They are then allowed to leave after vague threat. They find Jonathan’s car parked out front, and it turns over eerily easily. As the two drive away, Nancy’s RadioShack purchase is revealed while the two are seen driving away, leaving Hawkins behind them.
Dustin arrives home to the sight of his mother calling the cat Dustin mistook the Pollywog for just recently. The cat doesn’t come to call, but Dustin heads to his room to check on Dart. Upon whipping the sheet from the tank, we find that the tank is empty. After a tense few moments, Lucas finds Dart- and the cat, though the cliffhanger of course leaves us with a moment of shock and revulsion.
We close with Hopper, who has returned to the rotted pumpkin patch. He’s dug down deep into the soil, and finally encounters a thick, gooey substance. He digs down into a tunnel, , dropping into what appears to be the root system Will described in his “not-memory” drawings. He looks around, muttering an “Oh, Jesus” as he stands within a well developed tunnel.
We’ve gotten a great look now at the metamorphosis of what can only be described as the Demogorgon, and we’re finally figuring out where the pumpkins have come into play. However, with more answers we have only more questions. Will Dart recognize Dustin? Does the shadow monster have control of Will? Where are Nancy and Jonathan going? What will become of Max? What happened to Terry Ives? Where is Dustin’s pet turtle, Yordle?
Hopefully these questions are answered in episode five, “Dig Dug.”