On the season finale of Stranger Things, we are so thankful to start right where we left off, and get the reunion we’ve been patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for!

There is a reveal that Hopper has been hiding Eleven the entire time, and that Mike has been calling her the entire time, unanswered. Eleven reveals that she knew; but Hopper tells them he wouldn’t allow her to respond. Mike is obviously furious, and for rather clear reasons!

Mike loses his cool, screaming and eventually hitting Hopper. Hopper’s only concern is that Eleven is safe, and he explains why he wouldn’t allow her to contact the boys. It’s clear in Mike’s fit he is losing composure and reacting like the child he truly is. Despite Mike’s bravery and leader qualities, he is still a child, and his missing friend, lies told by trusted adults, and the reality they face is too much. He ends up crying on Hopper’s chest, seeking comfort despite how angry he is.

We return to Eleven’s reunion with Dustin and Lucas whom she embraces; noting they’ve missed each other. Dustin’s new teeth are noticed, and he is clearly happy to show off his “new pearls.” However, when Max comes up to Eleven, offering her a hand and introducing herself, Eleven ignores her, walking past her and completely dismissing poor Max, leading to an awkward silence between the friends while Eleven has an emotional reunion with Joyce, though Eleven wants to see Will right away.

Will is still sedated, Joyce knows he isn’t doing well, and Eleven says that she knows- that she saw. Will’s message to “CLOSE GATE” is shown, and Eleven knows she has opened it before. Joyce asks if she can close it if she goes back there, and Eleven doesn’t reply.

We cut to the red tinged tunnels that the gate resides in, complete with a veritable super pack of demo-dogs, all before the show’s intro rolls!

After the intro, we cut to  Mrs. Wheeler, reading a romance novel in the tub. The doorbell rings, and though she asks her husband to go get the door, he is asleep which forces her to get up and leave the bath all on her own. Surprise, it’s Billy! Who immediately starts flirting with Nancy’s mother, comparing her to a sister Nancy might have. He comes in for directions, and Mrs. Wheeler is clearly completely enthralled.

We cut back to our heros, where they are discussing the gate and how big it’s gotten. Hopper seems doubtful, considering how many demo-dogs there are. Eleven insists that she can, though Hopper doesn’t think she’s hears him. Mike brings up another point; closing the gate will likely kill Will. Joyce’s reaction as a mother is that of course there has to be some other way. She realizes suddenly that they keep giving the shadow monster what it wants, and for what?

They decide the best way to go about making Will uninhabitable for the virus-like monster, though they need to do it someplace Will doesn’t know. Hopper has the perfect solution in the cabin he and Eleven have shared, and sends Jonathan to the cabin, telling him to let him know the moment that monster is out of Will.

Steve and Nancy are getting some alone time, where Steve opens with the thought that Nancy should go with Jonathan. Steve tells Nancy it’s okay, and that he was a bad boyfriend, but a good babysitter. He leaves her alone after handing her a space heater, leaving Nancy to think.

Mike tells Eleven he can’t lose her again, and Eleven assures him that he won’t. They make a promise, and nearly have a kiss when Hopper interrupts. We see them get into cars and watch as Nancy goes with Jonathan.

Eleven looks back to see Steve, Mike, Dustin, Max and Lucas watching her depart- hopefully not for the last time.

We are then given some much needed Hopper and Eleven time, and the familial relationship they have. Hopper says she looks like a punk, then reassures her that he’s not mad, that he wants to know where she’s been. Eleven tells him she went to see her mother, and he seems shocked.  He’s not upset she went, but that she traveled via a stranger’s truck. Eleven says she shouldn’t have left, and Hopper says that no, he shouldn’t have left or lied to her. They have the reconciliation they desperately need.

Hopper describes himself as a black hole, and that he destroys everything. He tells Eleven that Sarah had a picture book about outer space and that she loved it. Eleven doesn’t know who she is, and Hopper tells her that Sarah is his daughter. He reveals to Eleven that Sarah left them, saying that the black hole he described himself as took her too. That he is afraid it will take Eleven too, and that he’s scared to lose her. He apologizes, and both are very emotional. Eleven holds his hand, apologizing for her own stupid actions.

There is a wonderful, light hearted moment where Hopper tells her that she looks kinda cool, and Eleven corrects him, telling him it looks “Bitchin’.” Hopper decides that’s okay, and they share a light, happy smile, before Hopper tries the word himself. It’s so great to see them having such a tender moment, despite the horrors that await them.

Meanwhile, dynamic duo Dustin and Steve are emptying Joyce’s refrigerator… to fit a dead demo-dog inside. Steve is unsure, but Dustin insists it is a ground breaking discovery and needs to be preserved. Steve tells Dustin he’s going to explain it to Mrs. Byers.

Lucas and Max are cleaning up while Mike paces. Lucas snaps at Mike to stop pacing at which Mike reminds Lucas he wasn’t in the lab and has no idea how large the army of demogorgons has become. Dustin harps on the fact they are demo-dogs, and Steve tries to explain to Mike that they need to trust Hopper. Max pipes up that Eleven can handle it. Mike tells them they are benched, and Steve says he’s right, and there isn’t anything they can do. However, there is some way they can help- lure the demo-dogs away. Steve tells them that they could all die because of it, and Dustin says that’s a point. Mike says they can take the hole that Hopper dug, set the hub on fire, then leave, giving Eleven time to make it to the gate. Steve tells them that this plan is not happening; he was tasked to keep them safe and they are not to get in Eleven’s way. He asks if anyone understands, and Mike reminds him again that this isn’t a stupid sports game. Steve says “Does everybody understand that?” again and tells them they need a yes; the kids are silent, leaving a lovely moment for the well timed rev of a familiar engine.

It’s Billy! The Byers house is where he got directions to from Mrs Wheeler. Max panics, seeing the car lights, and says he can’t know that Max is there, saying that he’d kill her- and Lucas. Judging by the manhandling he’d received before, it’s likely Billy is feeling pretty pissed off, and for every reason would likely go out of his way to hurt Max at this point. Steve is given the chance to confront Billy, though he looks slightly afraid.

Steve meets Billy outside, and the stage is set for witty banter and the exchange that’s been brewing all season! Billy says that it’s odd he finds Max hanging out with Steve all day- that it has implications. Steve lies and tells Billy Max isn’t there, and Billy says he’s lying- pointing out Max and company are for some reason looking out the window. Billy shoves Steve to the ground, reminding him that he’d already told Steve to plant his feet before kicking the crap out of him.

Billy enters the house, confronting Max and the children. Billy tells Max that she disobeyed him by seeing Lucas, telling her that she knows what happens when she disobeys. He breaks things. He goes after Lucas, pinning him to the wall and snarling in his face to stay away from Maxine. Lucas kicks him where it counts, and Billy tells him he’s dead. Steve comes in, spinning Billy around and proceeds to punch Billy right in the face to everyone’s surprise.  Billy laughs before swinging on Steve. Steve ducks, hitting him again. To the jeers of Dustin, he continues to hit a laughing Billy who eventually grabs a dish, smashing it casually over Steve’s head before beginning to beat him senseless. He pins Steve to the ground, punching him over and over again.

In slow motion the children watch, Max the only one who knows what to do. She grabs the sedative and injects Billy with it to save Steve’s life from Billy beating him to death. Billy takes a few minutes to collapse, but once he does, Max exacts her revenge. She grabs Steve’s baseball bat full of nails, and threatens Billy to leave them alone. Billy tells her screw you, until Max hits the floor boards between his thighs. Suddenly, Billy seems to understand he will not be bothering Max and her friends again. Max drops the bat, grabbing Billy’s keys and tells the boys it’s time to get out of there. Max is living up to her Mad Max title!

Jonathan, Nancy, Joyce and Will arrive at Hopper’s cabin. They begin to set up the wood stove, and Will, who they strap down to the cot and surround with heaters. Jonathan is not sure if it’s a good idea, but Joyce has had enough of this monster’s control on her child- it’s time to get that creature out of him, by baking him alive it looks like!

Hopper and Eleven stop outside the gates to the lab, where they can hear the calling demo-dogs.  Eleven has not been back here since she escaped, and she is clearly afraid to go back inside. There is a flashback to the memories she has of Hawkins Lab, and you can tell she has every reason to be afraid. Facing her fears, Eleven enters the lab.

We cut to Lucas, Mike, Dustin and Max who now have Billy’s car. They’ve put Steve, who is very out of it after his beating, in the back. He likely has a concussion, his face busted. Steve realizes  Max is driving and begins to panic, causing Max to panic as well. Turns out she’s not a great driver under pressure.

We cut back to Will who is now waking from the sedative. The cabin is sweltering, and Will is sweating as is every other member of the cabin. As Will wakes, he begins to scream that the heat hurts. He begins to thrash while Joyce watches. Joyce has flashbacks of Bob, and begins to turn up the heat even more. Jonathan holds Nancy, unable to watch as Joyce tries to bake the monster out of her son.

Back with Mad Max, they make it to the hole Hopper dug, and Max reminds them that she’s the Zoomer; perhaps not such a stupid title after all. Everyone exits the car, grabbing masks, goggles, and so on while Steve tries in vain to stop them. Dustin reminds Steve that he promised Nancy he would keep them safe, and that they need to do this for their friend. Steve agrees, and they follow him into the caverns of the demo-dogs.

Returning to Hopper and Eleven inside the building, Eleven is clearly afraid while Hopper takes the lead. They find Doctor Owens on the stairs, having been injured though suspiciously not ripped apart or consumed. Hopper tries to help him, introducing Doc Owens to Eleven and the fact that she will save their lives. He tells Doctor Owens that perhaps he can help her out after, so that she can live a normal life where she isn’t poked and prodded.

Hopper pats Doc Owens’ shoulder after binding his wound, and he and Eleven move on.

Steve is leading the way, intending to face any demo-dogs that attack the kids. Every step inside the tunnels is a freaky exploration into yet more of the infected Upside Down world. Dustin stops, seeing a valve in the ceiling that suddenly spits out what can only be suspected to be spores of some sort. Dustin freaks out, concerning all members though they all evaluate him as fine. They make it to the hub- and it’s time to light this puppy on fire! They cover the hub with gasoline.

Meanwhile Will is still panicking; his body thrashing in response to the heat. Jonathan steps in, trying to turn the heaters down because Joyce is killing him- the two grapple to turn the heat off or keep it on when Nancy intervenes; indicating Wills’ neck and face. The boy starts to seize, ripping the bindings off while Joyce physically restrains him. Will grabs her by the throat, blackened veins standing in high relief on his face!

Hopper and Eleven continue to make their way down, Hopper taking point as he intends to shoot the demo-dog. He tells Eleven to stay there while he moves ahead. Hopper can hear the sound of the demo-dogs, and he shuts his flashlight off as he nears them, intent to shoot them. He cleverly uses a knife to look and see the monsters around the corner. There are several, and Hopper is faced with a problem.

Meanwhile, Steve and company are ready to light it up!

Will continues to strangle Joyce while Jonathan tries to free his mother. Nancy grabs a hot poker, and taking her chances, stabs Will with it. It frees Joyce.

Hopper meanwhile enters the fray, shooting at the demo-dog, Joyce tells the shadow monster to get out of her son, and Steve throws the lighter into the hub all in one extremely dramatic moment!

The reactions are instantaneous, and explosive.

Suddenly Will is screaming, the demo-dogs disoriented, and the hub is set ablaze!

The kids run from the hub, back to where they came in as the demo dogs come swarming to the fire. The shadow is released from Will in a clearly visible monstrous swarm that heads into the sky, breaking up the doors. For the first time everyone can now see the shadow monster as Nancy follows it outside.

Inside, Joyce and Jonathan are focused on Will. Have they lost him? Will’s eyes open and he recognizes his mother for the first time. There is a moment of intense family reunion, as they’d thought Will would surely die.

Hopper can’t believe the demo-dogs are gone, and as he and Eleven watch the elevator, Jonathan radios in, telling them to close the gate now.

The two descend towards the gate, with Eleven getting her first look at just how immense the gate has become in the time since she’s been there last. She holds Hopper’s hand, clearly frightened.

Steve’s party run for their lives, desperately heading back towards where they came from when Mike is suddenly caught by a tendril.

Hopper holds Eleven’s hand, stopping the elevator before they hit the ground so that she can try to close the gate.

With the red, dramatic lighting illuminating her face, she does her best to close the gate- and the shadow monster’s silhouette is seen on the other side, pushing back.

Steve returns to save Mike, cutting the tendril with his nail bat. The group has to run – but are stopped by a familiar looking demo-dog. Dustin recognizes the demo-dog, and looks for a connection with the monster.  Dustin has a moment sharing nougat as Dart chomps and slurps on the candy. He is not interested in attacking the boys, and Dustin says goodbye.

Eleven tries to use her powers against the shadow monster, and calls on her anger as Kali had taught her. She begins to close the gate, feeding her anger into her powers.

Meanwhile Steve and company reach the rope with the demo-dogs hot on their tails. Max, Lucas and Mike are sent up the rope; Dustin and Steve below as the demo-dogs suddenly find them, and there is nowhere to run. Mike, Lucas and Max watch in horror as the demo dogs close in, helpless to stop them. However… the creatures seem to swarm past the two, only crashing into them when it’s inconvenient. They realize in horror that the demo-dogs are after Eleven; returning to try to stop her.

Hopper has realized it too, and begins to shoot the creatures as they approach. He has to defend Eleven long enough that she can close the gate, though it is a slow process and clearly hurting her. As the shadow monster breaches the gate, reaching for Eleven, Hopper’s back is turned. Eleven comes off the ground, screaming in fury as she uses her power to thwart the shadow monster trying to invade the world, and her. Her memories of Kali’s warning in the guise of Dr Brenner return to her, and far away, Joyce’s party and Mike’s see the light of their cars and vehicles intensify as Eleven gives her all, closing the gate, the shadow monster inside.

She suddenly falls, and we are shown a view of the demo-dogs now lifeless, falling to the floor. The lights have dimmed at the car and Hopper’s cabin, leaving all of the party safe. We have shown a weakened Eleven embracing Hopper, and a slowly dying Dart, the last of the demo-dogs.

Hopper leaves off with a gentle “You did good kid, you did so good.” As the screen fades, leading us into the falling climax: the after affects of the Hawkins Lab incident. Just what’s changed? Will the lab re-open? Does anyone know what happened?

We open in a one month post-shadow monster world, where the military police are chaining the doors shut of Hawk’s Lab after Nancy’s Tape was released. The lab admitted fault in the death of Barbara, claiming it was the result of a gas leak. The residents of Hawkins claim that they never knew of any goings on, having believed that Hawkins was a safe town. We cut to Hopper walking into the diner, sitting with Doctor Owens, who gives Hopper a birth certificate for Teresa Ivers, and tells him to give it a year.

Hopper is obviously unhappy about telling Eleven they have to wait one more year before she can start living like a normal girl. Hopper asks for one night, and Doc Owens asks why it’s important, though Hopper doesn’t say.

Instead we cut to Hawkins Middle Snowball ‘86.  We are treated to each of the gang being primped for the big event. First we move to Will being taught to dance by Joyce, Christmas music playing gently in the background. Jonathan, in a tip of the hat to Bob, is filming the event and the three people seem happy. We cut to Lucas, who is practicing his pickup lines when his sister inevitably embarrassess him. Max’s mother does her hair, and she exchanges a look with Billy who is dressed rather presentably. We cut to Dustin to find that not only does he have a new cat, but can’t seem to find a package he’s been looking for- the Farrah Fawcett hair spray Steve suggested!

We are then treated to Dustin’s curls in a fabulous, foppish mess that strikes an ode to Steve, who drives him! This bromance is something we love, as it gives an awesome view of the bond these two have made. Steve gives him advice- and advises him not to care. With one last look in the mirror, Steve pep talks him out of the car and into the dance.

Steve catches sight of Nancy, who is dressed beautifully and it clearly strikes him. He drives away quickly.

Dustin enters the gym that has been decorated in balloons and streamers. We see Nancy exchange a look with Jonathan, who is taking pictures, the same time that Nancy is volunteering. Dustin greets his friends who tease him about the hair he worked hard to achieve, when suddenly the music changes to something slow. Lucas tries to ask Max to dance, and Max teases him but agrees.

Will is asked to dance by a pretty girl, leaving only Dustin- looking after Max with longing- while Will is also left behind. Dustin decides to make a move and be brave, asking Stacy, a pretty girl, to dance. When she denies him, he goes to ask another girl when they walk away.  He is left alone, looking for someone to dance with when Nancy spots him, looking lost. Dustin is sat at the sidelines when Nancy comes to dance with him, pulling him a little closer and teaches Dustin to dance. Nancy tells him he’s her favorite of her brother’s friends, and gives him a little pep talk that he needs as the girls watch. 

We cut to Joyce, waiting outside when Hopper shows up, sharing a cigarette with him.They speak about what happened with Bob, and their shared experience with loss.  Hopper puts his arm around her in a comforting gesture, and we watch as they listen to the music, which turns to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and showcases Eleven, walking through the doors of Hawkin’s Gym.

Of course, Eleven is beautiful with her hair curled, wearing a blue dress and red waist belt. Mike sees her, and they come together. Mike asks if she’d like to dance, and Eleven charmingly replies that she doesn’t know how, and that it’s alright. He asks if she wants to figure it out together, and she says yes. They move to the dance floor, where Mike places his hands on her waist, and her hands on his shoulders. Each of the group is truly enjoying themselves, and we are treated to an adorable kiss between Max and Lucas, and one between Mike and Eleven. Everything looks just as it should, and we pan out of the Snow Ball.

Outside, we pan away from the parking lot and are taken to the upside down view of Hawkins Middle School, and the monster looming heavily over the school, poised almost exactly over where the kids dance in the gym.

On this final, incredible scene we are left to wait until Stranger Things comes back with season three, which has already been confirmed, though looks to be slated for late 2018 at the very earliest. Keep your eyes on The Game Of Nerds as we go forward with our Stranger Things posts from here on out!