Previously: BARBARA! YOU DESERVE BETTER!
Marines: Barbara lands on her back. She’s in what looks like a snowy nightmare version of a woods. I hate it. She gets up and looks around, calling out, calling for Nancy. Behind her, an Unidentified Creature with Alien Sound Effects [UCASE] growls. She screams and turns to run.
We jump cut to Steve! No! and Nancy in bed, still making out. Back to Barb, desperately grabbing at whatever plant roots or web-tentacles are around her. Back to Steve, taking off his shirt. Back to Barb, being pulled by the creature and screaming Nancy’s name. Nancy is temporarily distracted, so that you almost think she heard or felt something, but she promptly returns to making out. Barb finds a ladder and starts climbing so that we see she’s in an empty pool, in a warped, other dimension version of Steve’s backyard. Steve call Nancy beautiful and grabs her hand while Barb grabs the pool ladder for dear life. The UCASE pulls Barb back into the emptied pool and her screams give way to silence.
Samantha: Welcome to the spot that I bailed at during my first watch. Please, enter my Blanket Fort of Fear.
Dani: Hey, it’s cozy in here! Did anyone bring s’mores? (And on a serious note, I have to say the juxtaposition of Barb’s movements/terror with Nancy’s movements/pleasure was super icky to watch.)
Mari: RED LETTERS.
After the credits, Nancy sits on Steve’s bed while he sleeps. She looks at him unhappily before pulling on his sweatshirt. Nancy tries to wake him, but he gives her barely a grunt, even when she says she’ll see him tomorrow. She looks disappointed.
Later, Nancy tries to enter her house quietly, but her mom has been waiting up. Nancy lies that some people wanted to grab something to eat after the assembly and she didn’t realize how late it was. Nancy tries to hurry upstairs, but Karen notices the sweatshirt she’s wearing. Nancy says it belongs to Steve, but only because she got cold and borrowed it. Karen sincerely tells Nancy that she can be honest. She can talk to her mother, no matter what happened. Nancy looks at her mom dead in the eyes and says nothing happened. Karen’s eyes fill with tears as she insists that Nancy can tell her, but Nancy says nothing. Very simple but well done scene. Cara Buono sold it.
Dani: She really did. And it’s interesting that she’s expressed this same sentiment to both Mike and Nancy now. I bet Holly can’t wait to grow up and keep things from her mom.
Mari: A swing swings creepily by itself in the wind, which Are You Afraid of the Dark? taught me good and early is BAD.
Jonathan wakes up to the sound of his mother calling Will’s name. He jumps up and grabs a shirt. He finds his mother in Will’s room, surrounded by lamps, calling for Will to talk to her. Jonathan asks what’s going on, and she tearfully explains that Will is trying to talk to her through the lamps. She asks Will if he can show Jonathan and one of the lamps briefly lights up. Jonathan thinks this proves nothing and tries to calm his mom down, begging her to stop this and just get some sleep. She promises that she will, she just needs to sit here a minute. As soon as Jonathan is gone (to make breakfast again), Joyce starts calling for Will again.
Samantha: This shit is rough. We, the viewers, once again know that Joyce isn’t crazy but putting myself in Jonathan’s shoes… rough.
Mari: It’s what sells Joyce’s character to me. We establish good and early that she’s credible and can only feel for her as everyone else reacts.
Wheeler Basement. Eleven is on the couch playing with a walkie talkie while the boys sort out their after school plans. They are going to lie about having an AV Club meeting so they can go search for Will along with Eleven, who Mike is convinced can help them. Lucas has gathered a bunch of supplies: binoculars (from ‘Nam), army knife (also from ‘Nam), hammer, camouflage bandana, and the “wrist rocket,” aka a slingshot.
Next, Dustin shows off his supplies: food. It’s all food because they need energy for their travels. (D: I am completely on board with this line of thought.) Plus, the way Dustin sees it, they don’t need weapons ’cause they have Eleven.
Karen calls that it’s time for school. Dustin and Lucas run up. Mike tells Eleven to stay downstairs and stay quiet. She can eat Dustin’s snacks if she gets hungry. (See? Handy.) He asks her to meet them at the power lines behind the house at 3:15pm. Eleven is like, “3 whats it” so Mike gives her his watch. When the numbers show 3-1-5, she’s to meet him. She repeats this and smiles. At some point, Karen calls for Mike again and he whips around and practically roars that he’s coming. It’s such a strange flash of anger coming from Mike, but I guess parents just don’t understand.
Samantha: So they seriously just never come down into the basement? Just… okay.
Mari: Maybe it stinks down there.
Hawkins High. Nancy looks super uncomfortable walking down the hall and catches a few looks in her direction. Steve meets her at her locker, and she’s obviously fidgety. She tells him that she just feels like everyone is staring at her. Steve very quickly says that he didn’t tell anyone. Nancy asks if not even Cool Girl or Cool Guy (I swear their names will not stick in my head). Steve says Nancy is just being paranoid. And that he had a good time. She says she did too and they kiss.
In class, Nancy finally notices that Barb is missing. (S: -_-)
Hopper and his deputies pay a visit to Hawkins National Laboratory. They drive up to the guard, who says he can’t let them in without clearance. Hopper cuts the truck engine and asks the guard to pretty please let them in for a little while to look for the missing boy. The guard considers it.
Wheeler House. It looks like Eleven has taken a bite out of every single snack they left her. She’s also floating the model Dustin was trying to get her to float earlier. I love that. Eleven has some sass. She’s also bored out of her mind, so she decides to go upstairs. She checks out the La-Z-Boy again, of course, as well as the telephone and the TV. A Coke commercial sends her into a trauma flashback. She’s in an observation room, sitting at a table, a bunch of wires connected to her heard. There’s a Coke on the table. Dr. Brenner is standing in front of her and he nods. She looks to the Coke can and concentrates, eventually crushing it with her mind. Dr. Brenner is very happy. Eleven is bleeding from her nose.
Samantha: This reminded me of that time River saw a commercial and got her ballerina fighting on, in Serenity. Product placement is DANGEROUS.
Joyce pulls out a box of Christmas decorations. She grabs a string of colored lights. We watch her hammer nails into the walls around her house and then string up the lights. She runs out rather quickly and we cut to her at her job, the convenience store, stocking up on enough Christmas lights for the Griswolds. Her boss gives her a look, but she just yells at him to ring her up.
Dani: Dammit, Donald, don’t fuck with a mom in missing-child distress!
Mari: Hopper and his deputies are checking out the pipe where Mr. Clarke found the scrap of clothing. The Official Hawkins Guy who is with him says it’s not likely that someone crawled through there because they have cameras and men everywhere. No one breaks in to the lab. Hopper gets think-y face and asks to see the footage.
Official Hawkins Guy takes them inside and claims not to know what they even do in the lab. In the guard room, Official Guy plays back the grainy footage of the night of the 6th and the 7th. There is nothing on the tape. Outside, Hopper asks his guys if they remember the night of the 7th. There was a search party out. The deputies recall that it was called off because of the storm. Hopper didn’t see any rain on that tape. The Hawkins people are lying.
Dani: I think I’m starting to be glad Hopper’s in charge.
Mari: Same. How quickly he’s winning me over with, you know, investigating.
We go through an air vent back into the facility, specifically on the floor with the murdery lighting and weird web tentacle alien goo on the walls. Dr. Brenner is overseeing as two men lower some kind of machine into the room and bolt it to the floor.
At the Wheeler’s, Eleven is still investigating, and she heads upstairs to Nancy’s room. She goes through like 27 subtle emotions when she discovers a music box. She next emotes all over Nancy’s picture board and there’s a last, lingering shot on some pictures with Nancy and Barb. (S: #FriendshipFeels)
Hawkins High. Nancy sits with Steve, Cool Girl (Carol, maybe?) and Cool Guy (Tommy, I guess). (D: That’s it! (I couldn’t remember, either.)) She asks if Tommy saw Barb when he left. Tommy says he has no idea who Nancy is talking about, but Steve tells him not to be a jerk. Tommy smirks and says Barb was gone when he left. Carol says she probably couldn’t stand all the moaning, and then Carol and Tommy start loudly imitating Nancy moaning Steve’s name. Nancy is very uncomfortable. Steve doesn’t stop his friends and then thinly suggests that Barb is just skipping.
Samantha: Fuuuuuck this shiiiiiiiit. Nancy you can do better than these people, don’t let high school trick you!
Mari: Hawkins Middle. The boys are outside looking for rocks to use in Lucas’ sling shot. Dustin asks if they all think Eleven was born with her powers like the X-Men or acquired them like Green Lantern. Lucas says Eleven isn’t a superhero; she’s a weirdo. Mike jumps to her defense, so Lucas starts making fun of Mike the way young boys know how: saying he loves her. The school bullies find them and ask if they are back here looking for their missing friend. Dustin says that isn’t funny. Will is in danger. Bully says Will is dead. Mike suggests they ignore the bullies, and tries to walk past them, but Bully trips Mike, who busts his chin open. The bullies leave. Mike’s friends help him up and try to cheer him up because his chin found a good rock for the sling, at least.
Jonathan is in a darkroom, developing the creepy pictures he took outside of Steve’s house. Another student walks in and gives his stalker pics the side eye, so he grabs them and clears it.
Byers House. Joyce has strung lights all over the inside of the house now. She’s looking at her handy work when there is a knock at the front door. She rushes over to answer, and looks a little let down to see that it’s Karen Wheeler. Karen gives the string lights behind Joyce the side-eye, but brightly says that she brought Joyce a casserole. Joyce invites Karen in. Also, Holly is there too. I kind of felt bad not mentioning her because I feel like I never mention little Holly Wheeler when she’s in a scene. (D: And she’s so frickin’ adorable, too!)
Hopper and Deputy Powell (I finally had to look up his name) head to the library. The librarian sasses Hopper for having the balls to show up there after he never called to at least say that it wasn’t going to work out. Hopper gives a thin “maybe we can go out next week.” The librarian looks at Powell like, “this for real?” and his face is hilarious. We cut to Librarian explaining that they have copies of the New York Times and The Post. (D: On microfiche! And there’s a card catalog, too! I love this so much.) Hopper is trying to find anything about the Hawkins National Laboratory. He asks for the librarian’s help and she just scoffs. Powell asks, “the librarian?” Hopper shrugs.
Samantha: As one of two resident Snark Librarians I think I take offense to that, Powell? You WISH you could date a librarian.
Mari: Hopper and Powell search through the microfiche themselves. We see flashes of the articles– experiment abuse, mikultra exposed, Dr. Brennar named in a lawsuit and a woman named Terry Ives suing with the pull quote “they took my daughter.”
Byers. Joyce says Will loved Christmas, so she put up the lights hoping it would make her feel like he was there. Karen is gracious and says it’s not silly at all. She also asks after Jonathan. Joyce says that Jonathan has always been good at taking care of himself. Something catches Joyce’s eye, but her attention is called back by Karen. I’m glad I mentioned little Holly earlier, because her attention is also grabbed by the string lights in the hall, which are lighting up one by one. Holly walks away from the table and follows the lights all the way to Will’s room, where the lamps Joyce left there are also lighting up one by one. She spins around in wonder until all the lights go out with a buzz. We hear growling. She gets close to the wall where Joyce saw the UCASE pressing through.
Dani: OMG SOMEONE GET THAT ADORABLE CHILD OUT OF THERE RIGHT NOW!!!
Mari: In the kitchen, Karen stands to put the casserole in and realizes that Holly is gone. Back in the room, Holly is still staring at the wall as the UCASE starts pushing through. Joyce grabs her and says she shouldn’t be in there. Karen apologizes, but then Joyce starts questioning if Holly saw anything. “Yeah,” Holly says, but that’s the extent of her information. Joyce thanks Karen for the casserole but says that she needs to leave.
Nancy uses a payphone to call Barb’s mom, Mrs. Holland. She asks if she’s seen Barb, but of course, they lied and said Barb was staying at Nancy’s house. Nancy makes up some story about how Barb was going to pass by the house in the morning for some textbooks she forgot, but no. Mrs. Holland never saw her. Nancy lies some more about how she just remembered that Barb was in the library. Mrs. Holland gets the vibe and asks Nancy to have Barb call as soon as she can. Nancy says she will.
Dani: I hope every girl watching has learned the important lesson that TERRIBLE things happen to you and your friends when you have premarital sex. Ugh, this trope really needs to die.
Mari: Nancy wasn’t even the one directly punished. Poor Barb got the brunt of Nancy’s sexually active consequence.
Jonathan walks up to his car and Steve, Carol and Tommy are waiting for him with the girl from the Darkroom. Nicole the Snitch. Steve grabs Jonathan’s backpack and finds the stalker pics. Nancy joins them and asks what’s going on, so Carol hands her the picture of her undressing. Steve and gang tear up the pictures, but it’s not enough. Nancy is all, “Steve! No!” but it’s no use. Steve grabs Jonathan’s camera and drops it. Nancy again looks very uncomfortable. She stays behind after Steve and gang walk away and she sees that Barb is in one of the pictures, soaking her feet in the pool. She grabs the pieces of that picture, but has to scurry away when Steve calls her.
Samantha: I haaaaaaate this. Jonathan’s pictures of her undressing were hella creepy but then also these people are just mean to be mean?
Dani: Tommy and Carol are the worst. Why couldn’t the demigorgon have taken them instead of Barb? #JusticeForBarb!
Mari: Eleven has made it to the power lines at 3-1-5. She’s shaking with anxiety and it only gets worse when she notices a cat nearby. The cat throws her into a flashback: She’s back in the observation room, wires connected to her head, a cage with a cat in front of her this time. The cat hisses and meows. Eleven cries. Dr. Brennar watches. Eleven rips off the wires from her head and shakes her head no. She can’t do it. We cut to two orderlies carrying Eleven down a hall as she screams for Papa. It seems like the exact scene we saw before and even more heavily implies that Brennar is Papa. The orderlies throw her into her room, but this time, before the door is closed completely, Eleven uses her telekinesis to push it back open and kill the two orderlies. Dr. Brennar walks into the frame to look at the damage and then look at Eleven, who is bleeding from both nostrils. He gets close to Eleven and puts his hands on her head, gently, and caresses her. Eleven sobs at the gesture and even more so when he calls her incredible. Dr. Brennar picks Eleven up and carries her out of the room and down the hall. It’s so fucked up, I can’t.
Samantha: I lied, I hate this the most.
Dani: What are they going to do with the cat, though??? We have to get it out of that terrible place!
Mari: The cat to cat transition was a little sloppy, but the overall effect was spot on. I feel for both Eleven and cat.
The boys find El who, freshly off her flashback, looks shaken. She says she’s okay though and hops on the back of Mike’s bike.
Hawkins High. Nancy, Steve, Carol and Tommy are sitting around. Carol is telling a stupid story about telling a teacher to blow her, but Nancy is as tuned out as I am. Suddenly, she just walks away from them without a word. Steve asks what’s up and she gives an excuse about needing to go do a thing with her mom. Steve wonders what’s up with her, and Carol asks what he expected dating Ms. Perfect.
Mike and gang all walk together in the woods. Eleven asks him why they hurt him. He’s taken aback by the question, so she indicates the cut on his chin. Mike lies that he just fell at recess. Eleven reminds Mike that friends tell friends the truth. Mike sighs and tells El about the bully. Even though she doesn’t know the words mouth-breather, knucklehead or wastoid, she gets it.
Nancy finds Barb’s car just as she left it the night before. She calls out for Barb, worriedly. We cut to Steve’s backyard. Nancy calls for Barb there too. She hears some rustling coming from the woods, so she walks in there to look. The rustling continues and suddenly, there’s a blur on our screen. Whatever runs by scares Nancy so much that she trips in her haste to get the eff out of the woods.
Samantha: The Woods of GTFOOOOO.
Dani: I think this glimpse/scene scared me more than anything because it happened in broad daylight. I would really like to hold on to the illusion that terrible monsters only come out at night.
Mari: Don’t worry; nothing can reach you under a pillow fort.
Byers House. The lights start flicking on one at a time. They are following a pattern, seemingly leading Joyce to a hatch or cupboard of some sort. She opens it up and sits in there with a string of lights that are balled up. She asks the lights if it’s Will and it lights up. She tells him to blink once for yes and twice for no. He blinks once that he can do that. She asks if he’s alive and the lights blink once. She asks if he’s safe and the lights blink twice.
Karen is in the kitchen. She’s surprised to hear Nancy come home so early, but then looks up and sees that Nancy is distraught. She explains that she thinks something very bad happened to Barb.
Library. Powell thinks that Terry Ives is a “nutjob.” (D: Powell is quick to dismiss women as nutjobs and “over the edge.” Misogyny much, sir?) Her claims that her kid was taken for LSD mind control experiments were discredited. Hopper tells Powell to forget about that and shows him the article with the headline “Mkultra Exposed.” The picture is of Dr. Brenner and a group of people all in hospital gowns. Hopper finds this interesting, but Powell finds it all a reach. Hopper says it’s a start. A call comes into Powell’s walkie. We don’t hear what it is, but we see Hooper and Powell running out of the library.
Eleven has led the bunch to Will’s house. Mike tries to explain that this is where he lives, but Eleven shakes her head and says he’s hiding. Before they can try and get more clarification, the boys all start fighting and yelling again about whether or not they should call the cops. Dustin sees something though. The cops are driving by right now. They all take off running to follow.
Inside the house, Joyce has finished her letters. She asks Will where he is and he uses the lights to spell out RIGHT HERE. Joyce doesn’t understand and begs him to tell her what to do. He spells RUN. (D: crap crap CRAP) The lights all start blinking quickly and behind Joyce, the UCASE starts pushing up against the wall again. She watches it until it breaks out of the wall and we see it’s face, if it can be called that, for the first time. The brief glimpse I got was like a folded flower, before it blooms, but like alien-y. I’m not going to rewind to confirm. Joyce runs. (S: Excuse me, I just need to add more Blankets of Safety to this fort.)
The boys follow the police all the way to a lake. There, a body of a young boy is found and fished out. The boys can’t believe that it’s Will. Eleven tries to say something to Mike, but he won’t listen to her. He slaps her hand away and yells that she was supposed to help them find Will alive. He asks what is wrong with her. Even Lucas, who was just yelling at Eleven earlier, is taken aback by the anger. He tells Mike not to do this, but Mike won’t listen. We saw a flash of this earlier, when he roared at his mother for calling him. Seems that Mike is given to losing his temper. And at this moment, it means grabbing his bike and leaving his friends.
Dani: ALL THE FEELS. I think one of the reasons Mike reacts so vehemently (besides seeing his friend’s body pulled from a lake) is because he’d put sooooo much faith in Eleven being able to find Will (thus proving to Lucas and Dustin that she’s more than just a weirdo or a freak). Doesn’t excuse him, though, especially when Eleven did everything right and she’s standing there looking just as hurt and vulnerable as she did when Brenner punished her for not murdering the cat.
Mari: Joyce runs right into Jonathan who is driving home. He gets out of the car and hugs her. We cut to Mike getting home, and his mom immediately jumping up to asks what’s wrong. She hugs him. In the background, we see the Hollands sitting in the living room. We go from Karen and Mike to Joyce and Jonathan. They keep hugging and in the background here, we see police with their sirens on, hurrying toward them. Ending on this juxtaposition gave me all of the feelings.
There are plenty of creepy things about this show, but what’s made clear to us here is probably what makes it the creepiest: the danger is RIGHT HERE. There is something pressing up against the fabric of where our characters exist, and in cases, breaking through. There is so much about this show, the characters, the tropes employed, the nostalgia and the homage that makes it feel familiar in places, but then it pivots into something completely not. And even where we see things that aren’t entirely new to us (Nancy and Steve’s relationship, for instance) there is something about the performances and the sharpness of the directing and the heaviness of the mood that really elevate it.
Guys, this is living up to the hype so well.
See you tomorrow!
Next time on Stranger Things: Joyce can’t believe Will is dead in S01 E04 – The Body.