Stranger Things S02 E02 – Pretty murder portal.

Previously: There was a new girl in town!

Trick or Treat, Freak

Samantha: The episode begins with some trauma flashbacking to the end of last season, when Eleven banished the Demogorgon and got sucked away. We’re with her as she wakes up in the Upside Down version of the classroom. She gets up and walks exhausted through the school, calling for Mike. Oh god, poor Eleven. (D: FEELS.) She screams for him and I get scared because surely that one Demogorgon wasn’t the only gnarly thing in this place. We hear soldiers indistinctly, probably coming from the real world, and Eleven spots a small glowy hot pink hole portal in the wall. It’s almost pretty?

Dani: You say pretty, I say murdery. Potato, potahto.

Marines: I mean, if you are going to be stuck in a place that screams MURDER, this is probably as pretty as it gets.

Samantha: She peers into it and sees the shapes of the soldiers in the Real School. She presses against it with her hand and it makes that gross squelchy sound. She’s able to push all the way through it, so she gets Determined Face, backs up, and uses her powers to make it bigger. She pushes through and winds up back in the Real School, in an empty hallway.

She leaves the school, so timey wimey must have happened because no one is there to catch her.

Dani: The halls are covered with blood streaks where dead bodies have been dragged out, and it’s super creepy.

Samantha: Oh man, nice (horrifying) observation.

Eleven heads out to Mike’s house. There, she sees an intense amount of cop cars in the driveway.

Karen is being briefed by some people who I can’t remember if they are cops or sketchy doctor government people. She’s asking about the Russians coming to find Eleven and is reassured that it won’t happen. We pan through the house where other sketchy officials are telling Mr. Wheeler to keep it top secret and he salutes as dudes are pulling apart phones and tapping the lines. We finally come to rest on Mike, who’s being interrogated and insisting that he doesn’t know where Eleven is and also “I would NEVER tell you.” I love him for it. (D: +1)

Eleven comes to a window and see/hears the sketchy officials telling Mike that Eleven lied to him and that he has to tell them if she contacts him. She cries. Mike, who has no sense of discretion, openly gapes at the window where he can slightly see Eleven through the curtains. The officials notice the open mouthed staring and head outside but Eleven is gone, hiding under a fallen tree in the woods.

Dani: She’s hunkered down in what is obviously a freezing cold stream, in a dress, in October, in Indiana, in the dead of night. And she didn’t hear Mike saying he’d never tell them where she is, so she can’t even comfort herself with that. Guys, I’m having ALL the Eleven feels right now.

Samantha: RED LETTERS.

Hopper makes french toast and is startled by Eleven in a classic sheet-over-the-head ghost costume.

She insists that it’s Halloween and the bad men wouldn’t see her in this costume so they should go trick or treating. Hopper says NOPE because it’s too big a risk. “They’re stupid,” he says. “And..?”  “We’re not stupid” Eleven finishes, an edge to her voice. He tells her to take off the costume and eat breakfast and IDK let the kid at least celebrate Halloween in the cabin over french toast, damn.

Dani: Did I mention I was having Eleven feels?

Mari: She manages to make “we’re not stupid” sound like such a bad, bad thing. My heart. 

Samantha: Eleven agrees and sits angry and sulky at the table with her cute curly hair I forgot about. Hopper sighs and offers a compromise: he buys a bunch of candy and they watch a scary movie together tonight. Eleven doesn’t know the word compromise so Hopper spells it for her and offers it as her word of the day and his voice is gentler now. “It’s something that’s kinda in between. It’s like halfway happy,” he explains. Eleven clarifies that he’ll be home by 5-1-5 and he looks her dead in the eyes and promises, so you know he is NOT going to be home on time, dammit. (D: #jaded) He tousles her hair and they smile.

Byers Residence. Joyce goes in to wake up Will but he’s not in his bed so she gets panicky voice and honestly poor Joyce. She frantically goes to Jonathan, who’s making breakfast, and it’s all very reminiscent of the first episode, at least tonally. She busts into the bathroom and turns out Will just had to pee.

Dani: Poor Will! And poor Joyce! Poor all the Byers, basically.

Samantha: Next we see Joyce helping Will into his Ghostbusters costume. She goes to get some tape and finds a drawing Will did of a giant, long-armed beast. She asks him if he had another episode, and Will ums his way to “it’s for a story I’m writing.” That’s a lie that totally goes with “I have to shave my hands.” “Gotta go shave my hands so that I can motorcycle to Africa for a story I’m writing.”

Mari: That’s basically poetry. 

Samantha: We get an ADORABLE montage of moms and Jonathan taking pictures of the boys in their costumes, at their respective homes. I can’t remember if this is the first glimpse but we get to see Dustin’s mom (and cat!) who’s very enthusiastic and sweet. Lucas’s little sister calls him a nerd and explains that this is why he only hangs out with boys. (D: I love Erica. She’s obviously a member of FSLA – Future Snark Ladies of America.) Karen takes pictures of a cranky Mike.

The boys meet up at school and there’s some contention between Mike and Lucas over which one of them is Venkman. Will thinks they can both just be Venkman, but Mike is mad because they planned this months ago, and Lucas was supposed to be Winston, though he says he didn’t agree to it. Apparently, no one wants to be Winston because he’s not funny or a scientist.

Stranger Things 2x02 - Trick or Treat, Freak The Hawkins Boys x Ghostbusters
Stranger Things 2x02 - Trick or Treat, Freak The Hawkins Boys x Ghostbusters
The camera pans out on Dustin looking around with horror dawning. “Guys. Guys. Guys! Why is no one else wearing costumes?” Oh man, the truest fear of middle school, fully standing out. Gulp.

They walk down the hall with everyone laughing and making fun of them. They look so sad and anxious that it hurts my heart some. (D: It’s depressingly relatable – but at least they have each other and aren’t entirely alone in standing out?) I deeply remember the almost obsessive desire to not stand out in the wrong way at this age. Why oh why did I wear that green and pink floral dress to school on dress up day? No one else dressed up! (D: *adds past!Samantha feels to pile of Eleven feels*)

Max skateboards down the hallway and Lucas and Dustin gaze longingly at her. Dustin wants to go talk to her but Lucas thinks they should wait till they don’t look foolish. After class is decided upon.

Joyce shows Hopper Will’s drawing and that it’s an exact match for a field and some power lines in town. She wonders why Will’s lying to her and says that when he describes the episodes it’s not like a nightmare, it’s like it’s real. Hopper explains that they’re flashbacks and that he knows some guys who experienced similar episodes. Google tells me that PTSD wasn’t added to the DSM until 1980. Hopper wonders if she wants to take Will back to Chicago and Joyce mentions a guy in Boston. Hopper maintains that they’re all expensive quacks and Dr. Owens is probably right, about trauma. I’m impressed that Joyce made sure to get her son professional help. Hopper tells her that they need to get through the next few weeks and it’ll get better. He gives Joyce a hit of his cigarette and she coughs on it. They laugh and remember sharing cigarettes in highschool.

Dani: This is one of those quiet scenes that make me love the show so much. Both actors play so well off each other, and there’s a ton that’s conveyed non-verbally. There’s so much longing for things they can’t have, and things that can never be. It’s really well done.

Mari: It makes me even more angry at Hopper because he knows there’s more there but he can’t and won’t say anything. He’s playing Joyce, and I get why, but damn. Will’s safety is also at stake here, and he’s sacrificing that for the sake of Eleven. It’s awful. 

Samantha: A+ to both of you; there’s a lot going on.

Sketchy Institute. A man in a suit goes into the Upside Down while a bunch of other sketchy professionals watch on monitors. He… opens a breaker box and replaces something? This part of the show is where I least have my footing. It’s announced that they are back up and running.

Later, Dr. Owens watches video of himself talking to Will about the Upside Down. He squeezes a stress ball and there’s a lot of ominous quick cuts between the monitor and Owens.

At school, Nancy and Steve do homework in the library. She breaks her pencil and while sharpening it, thinks she sees Barb browsing a shelf. Barb’s voice over from last season plays, the time when Nancy told Barb to go home at Steve’s party. She sharpens her pencil faster and faster until Steve comes over and interrupts her valid brooding. I have a TON of Nancy feels. Steve asks if she’s okay and Nancy sees that the girl by the shelves wasn’t Barb.

Cut to Nancy and Steve in a study room, Nancy saying that she can’t keep pretending that everything is okay. It feels like everyone forgot about Barb except her parents. And the internet, Nancy! The internet will never forgot the injustice done to Barb! (D: Neither will Riverdale. #Justice4Ethel) Nancy emotionally talks about how Barb’s parents are going to spend the rest of their lives looking for Barb and god, I know Nance, that murders my heart. Steve says there’s nothing they can do and I’m honestly still hella pissed at Steve so sorry to everyone who adores him, I’m *not* there yet.

Nancy wants to tell them part of the truth and Steve tells her this isn’t a game. WTF part of her behavior and thoughts right now is screaming GAME at you, Steve. You don’t have to agree with her but damn, don’t patronize. You did the absolute bare minimum at the end of last season. He goes on that if the sketchy institute found out that they told they could destroy their families or put them in jail. He wants them to pretend to be stupid teenagers at a stupid party, just for tonight and they hug.

Lucas and Dustin approach Max and introduce themselves, and she calls them stalkers. Fair, the boys were real weird last episode. They bumble that they were worried about her because there are so many bullies at the school and Dustin cutely shows off parts of his costume. (D: The word “adorkable” was made for Dustin.) They finally get to asking her if she wants to come trick or treating with them, because she’s new and probably afraid of bullies. Dustin says that it would be okay if she came with them because the majority of the group voted she could come. Max, fairly, takes issue with the wording there and tells them they are presumptuous. There’s an adorable moment where the boys clearly don’t know what that word means. She rolls her eyes and walks off and Dustin calls out where they’re meeting later.

Eleven is flipping through TV channels and stops on a soap opera. (D: It’s circa 1984 All My Children, which 11-year old Dani was ADDICTED to!!!! Fuck, I’m old.) She cutely mimics the woman’s lines (D: Susan Lucci as the iconic Erica Kane, if you please) as she watches. She hears chittering and opens the shade to find a squirrel sitting in a feeder. This throws us into another flashback. We watch a squirrel in the woods, with snow on the ground. It’s suddenly telepathically thrown against a tree and killed. (D: #Justice4Squirrels?) (M: Even more #childhoodtrauma for Eleven.) Eleven walks up to it, still in her dress and plaid shirt, and we cut to her roasting it over the fire. OMG she has to be so cold, I’m so worried about her. Suddenly a man with a hunting rifle (I’m guessing) comes upon her. He tells her that he isn’t going to hurt her and wonders why she’s out in the cold. Eleven immediately makes a log rise and slam him in the forehead. He crumples to the ground and she grabs his hat and jacket and takes off. Head canoning that this dude is not dead.

Present. Hopper pulls into the police station and finds a bunch of rotting pumpkins in the back of a pickup. I hate the sound of flies, so this is gross.

Inside the station, a man (the owner of the rotting pumpkins) is telling Hopper that Merrill poisoned his crops as retribution for his own crops getting poisoned, a crime this man swears he didn’t do. Hopper clarifies that this farmer didn’t actually see Merrill do this said poisoning. Hopper thinks that maybe it’s just the cold weather hurting the crops but grumpy farmer goes on that he’s hella old and has never seen anything like this. He further tells Hopper that he wasn’t the only one whose crops went bad last night.

Dani: Dun-dun-DUHN!!!

Samantha: Max skateboards over to Billy’s car. I am presuming that Billy is her older brother, though I’m not sure that was ever verified. (D: IMDb shows her name as Max Mayfield, but Billy is Billy Hargrove. So maybe stepbrother?) He snaps at her that if she’s late again, she’s skateboarding home.

As they drive, Billy complains about how shitty (literally) this town is and Max defends it a bit. He also refers to the highschool girls as cows so I’m not really digging on Billy. Max tells him that they’re stuck here and Billy is all “whose fault is that?” She mumbles under her breath that it’s his fault and he gets all scary ragey at her. “You know whose fault it is,” he seethes. He then demands, in progressively more aggressive a tone, that she say whose fault it is before slamming on the gas. It’s incredibly unsettling, fuck off Billy. (D: He’s fucking terrifying. But I love that Max never gives in, even when he screams in her face.) Max notices Lucas, Mike, and Dustin riding their bikes in the road ahead of them and tells Billy to slow down. Bill taunts her about them being her new friends and she denies it so he taunts her about not caring if he hits them. What an abusive bag of shit this guy is. The boys pedal frantically and try to get off the road as Max jerks the wheel so they swerve and miss them.

Farm. Hopper checks out the grumpy farmer’s dead crops and finds that even the trees are oozing a familiar sticky substance. His deputies are at another farm, and have also found intense amounts of rot. Hopper tells them to track how far it goes.

Byers House. Sean Astin is teaching Jonathan how to work the video camera while dressed as a vampire. Joyce tells Will to stick with his brother and to tell him right away if he sees anything or needs to come home.

In the car, Jonathan wonders what Joyce sees in Sean Astin. (D: Dude, same. Even Joyce sometimes looks like she can barely tolerate his cornball humor, ya know?) (M: I’m guessing she sees SAFETY, which is appealing at the moment.) Will likes that he doesn’t treat Will differently, whereas Joyce won’t let him go trick or treating by himself. I’m impressed she’s letting you go at all, tbh. Jonathan looks thoughtful.

They meet the other boys, and Jonathan tells Will that he can go on his own if he promises to stay in the neighborhood. Whoooaaaaaa, Jonathan buddy, I cannot condone this. I mean, I know this is a TV show and won’t end well, I guess. Will excitedly promises to be back at Mike’s by 9 and takes the video camera before meeting up with his friends. Jonathan gets broody face as he looks at the flyer for the Halloween party Steve mentioned earlier.

At said party, Billy is doing a keg stand while everyone cheers for him. (D: “Shout at the Devil” by Mötley Crüe is blasting away, and y’all that stuff Hopper said about flashbacks is totally true.) He and his cronies approach Steve to gloat about how Billy is now the Keg King. IDK if that’s a title you even want, Steve. I am not sure who they are dressed as.

Dani: I’m trying really hard not to spew my useless 80’s trivia all over this recap, but I can’t stop myself: they are Tom Cruise and Rebecca deMornay in Risky Business. It’s actually nice continuity from last season, when Steve teased Nancy about having a thing for Tom Cruise and started singing the song from Risky Business.  

Samantha: THANK YOU for this context.

Nancy walks away and starts chugging spiked punch. Steve follows her and tells her to take it easy and Nancy throws his “just being stupid teenagers” lines back at him.

Byers. Sean Astin puts on a record (D: Kenny Rogers – even more continuity!) and pulls Joyce up to cutely dance. She admits that it’s silly but she feels like she can’t function when Will isn’t with her. Sean Astin tells her that it isn’t silly and asks if she’d want to move out of Hawkins together. He tells her that his parents are selling their house in Maine and they could all get out of this town. Joyce just kind of looks at him in surprise and he backtracks some. She tells him that they aren’t a normal family and he tells her that they could be. (D: Aw, now I feel bad for my earlier Bob-bashing.) She hugs him and it’s sweet.

The boys are trick or treating and an old lady mistakes them for exterminators. Lucas complains about Three Musketeers bars but Dustin puts them in his top 3 candy bars. I am also a fan of Three Musketeers, Dustin. Snark ladies?

Dani: It’s PayDay or nothing for me. Fun fact, though: Did you know Three Musketeers originally had 3 pieces in one package (thus the name)? It came with chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla, but rising costs during WWII made them drop the other flavors and just keep the chocolate. #TMYK

Mari: That trivia is better than Three Musketeers, which really is just nougat. I say this as a person who loves chocolate. Kit Kats are probably top for me. 

Samantha: The boys (and me) are then scared by a child in a Mike Myers mask jumping out at them. This is, of course, Max, who laughs at them for getting so scared and then heads off, asking if they’re coming with her. Lucas and Dustin basically squee, while Mike looks annoyed.

Hopper is still out in the woods, tagging decaying trees. It’s definitely past 5:15 now, poor Eleven. He hears some strange noises and gets tense but it turns out to just be a little kid with a toy gun. He suddenly realizes the time and “shit, shit, shit”s. He gets in the car and starts driving off before backing up and buying some of the child’s candy.

Eleven is holding a teddy bear and watching Frankenstein. A machine in the room starts beeping and Eleven excitedly hurries over to it. It turns out to be Morse Code with a message from Hopper: LATE. This send her into another flashback, where she’s trekking through the snowy woods. She comes upon a cache box and inside are some Eggo waffles. (D: And the green Tupperware from the Season 1 finale!) She grabs them and runs away. In the present, Monster Mash starts playing. I love the Monster Mash.

The kids leave a rich person’s house, excited for full sized candy bars. Lucas and Dustin walk ahead with Max, where she tells them that she lives on Old Cherry Road, which must be a poorer side of town. Will films and walks with Mike who glowers and says that everyone should have checked with him about Max because she’s ruining the best night of the year. Ugh. I get it, group dynamic changing can be scary at that age, but oooooof.

Dani: I like the way they’ve flipped this from last season, when Lucas was annoyed by Mike including Eleven. THIS IS HOW IT FEELS, Mike! And if you weren’t being such a surly teenage angst-factory, you’d see that.

Samantha: Will falls behind the group, because Mike would rather pout then look out for his friend, and some older boys jump out and scare Will (and me, STOP WITH THE JUMP SCARES I’M VERY TENSE). He’s thrown into an Upside Down flashback He starts yelling for Mike, just as Eleven did in her flashback, and a large shape looms.

It’s smokey and creepy and looks much like Will’s drawing from earlier. He takes off running and hides behind a brick wall and curls up. He’s finally pulled out of it by Mike grabbing him, terrified. He’s honestly so concerned and stuff here that I forgive him a little for earlier. He asks if Will’s hurt as the other boys and Max run up and he promises to get Will home. Will cries and panics and Mike helps him up. Dustin goes to help but Mike snaps at him to just keep trick or treating. Just be friendz.

Jonathan arrives at the party just as someone vomits on the lawn, and I hate when shows make me watch that. (D: The sound effects are also horrible.) He heads inside and a girl named Samantha greets him. He tells her that he’s dressed as a guy who hates parties and then spots Nancy and Steve dancing.

Nancy drunkenly heads back to the punch bowl while Steve tries to stop her. They fight over the cup and it spills all over her outfit. They head to a bathroom and Steve says that he’ll take her home, and Nancy slurs about bullshit before announcing that he, Steve, is bullshit. She continues to slur that he’s bullshit because he’s pretending that everything is okay and like they didn’t kill Barb and like they’re in love and are partying. Steve looks crestfallen and zeroes in on the “like we’re in love” part because he thought they were really in love. He asks if she loves him and she just repeats that it’s bullshit, so he storms out. I really do get that this is a shitty situation and that has to hurt. But it also sucks that he didn’t hear the “I feel like I killed my best friend” part. I’m partial to cutting Nancy at least some slack, given all she’s dealing with. It all just sucks a lot.

Mike and Will sit on the couch, and Will tries to explain to Mike what his flashbacks are like (being caught between two slides). Will describes the giant shadow monster (I’ve been trying not to type that cause Lost, but that’s really what it is) and Mike wonders if this is real or just in his head. Will asks him not to tell the others, because they wouldn’t understand (I think that they would) and Mike nods and says that Eleven would understand. He confesses that sometimes he thinks that he sees her, and the friends decide that they can go crazy together.

Jonathan is taking a drunk Nancy out of his car and bringing her up to her house. This deeply made me feel like I missed a scene but okay, I guess Steve left Nancy there and Jonathan went and got her. He gets her in the house and puts her in bed and I’m wondering how Karen Wheeler missed all of this. He takes off her shoes and tucks her in. Nancy says his name before falling asleep.

Mari: Fifty Shades taught me that’s a legally binding contract. Sorry, Nancy. I don’t make the rules. 

Samantha: Hopper gets home and secret knocks on the door. It doesn’t open so he desperately pleads with Eleven to open up and finally the door clicks open. He gets inside and finds the TV taken into what must be her bedroom and the door shut. He talks through the door and asks her to come out but she doesn’t. He sits on the couch and threatens to eat all the candy.

Inside the room, El is clicking through TV channels until she lands on static. She ties a blindfold around her eyes and concentrates and ends up somewhere else? (D: It looks like the watery-floor place where she first encountered the demogorgon, so I guess she’s figured out a way to get there sans sensory deprivation tank?) It’s all black until she turns and sees Mike sitting in the blanket fort, talking to her on the walkie talkie. Day 353 and he had a bad day and misses her. He asks for a sign if she’s out there and she crouches in front of him. He seems to sense her but as she reaches out to him, he walks away. Eleven pulls off the blindfold and cries as her nose bleeds.

Dani: Oh, good, because it had been a whole fifteen minutes since my last Eleven feels.

Samantha: Dustin walks up to his house and hears something in the garbage can. He panics and grabs his proton pack as a weapon. He lifts off the lid and looks surprised. “Holy shit,” he says, and we’re thrown into the credits.

I really liked this episode. I was wary about recapping one of these and had planned on breaking it into three recapping sessions but I was enjoying myself so much, I did it all in one. I really appreciate that they are examining the fallout for all of these characters as they try to move on. Obviously for Will the fallout is the most tangible. For Joyce, it’s being unable to let go of the fear. For the boys it’s trying to be normal and finding that nothing is quite where they left it, both because of supernatural and growing up reasons. For Nancy it’s dealing with guilt that she is constantly feeling and having no real outlet to deal with it, due to Steve not knowing how to help and no one knowing the truth. And for Eleven, she’s locked away again, even if it is better circumstances than before. The things that annoyed me or frustrated me I think were supposed to.

Dani: I enjoyed this episode better on rewatch. The first time I saw it, I was expecting the same sort of terrors that the beginning episodes of Season 1 instilled in me, and so far Season 2 is a much slower burn. It was nice to get out of the waiting-to-be-terrified mindset and just enjoy the ride on rewatch.


Next time on Stranger Things: Dustin gets a new pet in S02 E03 – The Pollywog. 



Samantha (all posts)

I'm a 25 year old graduated English major I can often be found singing too loudly (poorly) in the car or spending some time (hours) on Tumblr. I am a lover of Harry Potter, the Spice Girls, and too many other things.

Marines (all posts)

I'm a 20-something south Floridan who loves the beach but cannot swim. Such is my life, full of small contradictions and little trivialities. My main life goals are never to take life too seriously, but to do everything I attempt seriously well. After that, my life goals devolve into things like not wearing pants and eating all of the Zebra Cakes in the world. THE WORLD.

Dani (all posts)

I’m a serial procrastinator with mild OCD, so instead of writing my next novel I’m probably counting the ice cubes in my drink to make sure it’s an even number. I am also low-key obsessed with Dutch painters, Norse mythology, and Canadian bacon.

Did you like this? Share it:

  • Blinvy .

    It’s peanut butter cups for me. Always.

    This episode was so good. I admittedly felt bad for Steve in that scene because I can’t expect him to not feel hurt that the girlfriend that he thinks is in love with him is telling him it’s all bullshit. But I also feel bad for Nancy who is seriously going through a lot of trauma. I was so glad that they delved more into how she feels about Barb, it was an after thought last season because of all the other stuff they were trying to get through so it’s nice that they are giving her death more weight now that we know Will is “safe”

    Get ready to have so many Eleven feels. There’s tons this season. I love the dynamic between her and Hopper but he also really disappointed me a lot of the time.

    Also, get ready to absolutely loathe Billy. He’s disgusting and awful and abusive and just the worst. The absolute worst. I think introducing him and knocking Steve down a few pegs (coupled with upcoming adorableness) helped me love Steve this season.

    Also, also, I felt the same way about Bob. He was really offputting the first few times you see him. He’s just a humungous dork who happened to get the girl he crushed on in highschool to date him and he’s incredibly, nerdily excited about that. He becomes extremely endearing and you end up loving him though. He’s great with Will.

  • Joy

    #teambob I love Sean Astin so much in this role, omg. Seriously it’s like the director was all, “Now play Samwise, just without the furry feet.”