Welcome back to the Stranger Things watchalong! This new sci-fi show from the creators of Wayward Pines premiered on July 15 on Netflix, and we want you to watch along with us. Over the next several weeks, we’re going to run recaps and reactions to all eight episodes in the show’s first season. If you haven’t yet started watching, read this article at your own risk. SPOILERS will occur!
If you haven’t already, read the previous entry here!
4. “The Body”
Joyce is despondent when Hopper tells her Will is dead. Not because she can’t grasp the death of her son but because she was just communicating with him. Hopper doesn’t buy it, of course, but you have to wonder if a part of him suspects something a bit supernatural could be possible after his investigation of Emerald City. Hopper tries to get through to Joyce, using the death of his own daughter as a connection point. He really opens up. “I need you to believe me.” Joyce pleads tearfully, tugging at Hopper’s heartstrings. While he might not believe her, he sleeps outside in his car like a watchful protector of the hurting family.
Mike and Eleven aren’t getting along as well since Mike thinks Eleven told her bad information about Will’s death. “What you did sucks,” he spits at her. Almost on cue, Eleven picks up Will’s voice on the radio and we hear him softly singing The Clash. The girl’s nose is bleeding when it happens, a clear sign that she was employing her powers to find Will.
A still shattered Joyce agrees to see Will’s body but doesn’t think it’s him. In fact, she’s so sure that she storms out of the morgue. Jonathan tracks her down and tries to bring her back to reality but she’s not budging. You can understand what’s going through Jonathan’s head, he thinks his mom has lost her grasp on reality. Anyone would think that. At the same time, you also see things from her perspective. Joyce can’t provide the proof she has and, worse yet, she knows she needs to keep looking and can’t be sidetracked by the death of a…thing that isn’t her son.
Back at the high school, Nancy tells Steve about the monster she saw at his house while looking for Barb. He’s not really buying it. Steve, being Steve, is more worried about the cops finding out about underage drinking and partying and pressures her to avoid telling the police too much. The bloom has certainly come off that rose for Nancy and she storms off. Good call, Nance.
Meanwhile, there are more people not believing those close to them: Lucas and Dustin aren’t convinced that Mike and Eleven have found Will on the radio. Mike is certain that if he allows Eleven to a stronger radio, they can get a better connection with Will. Makes sense right? They decide to use the HeathKit, the powerful CB radio at school but need to make Eleven look more like a young pre-teen and less like a laboratory experiment. Their alterations work and maybe give Mike a few butterflies in his stomach. With Eleven looking more normal, they head to the school.
After a memorial for Will, Mike has a run in with the bullies that have been giving him and his pals a hard time. They are making fun of Will during the duration of the memorial and Mike has had enough. He intends to fight the bully but, as I predicted before, Eleven has her way and uses her powers to humiliate the punk. She does it in a childish way but it’s absolutely effective. Take that, jerk.
Meanwhile, at the Hawkins Lab, a scientist named Shepard bravely submerges himself in the monstrous growth on the laboratory wall. That takes guts. If that’s the place where the monster came from, I’d want no part of it. He makes it to the other side but not before he meets serious interference in the form of some sort of beast. Hearing his cries on the radio, the crew attempts to pull him in but whatever’s got Shepard is too strong and severs the line. Shepard is lost to the other side and Dr. Brenner is beside himself.
Nancy speaks with authorities about Barb’s disappearance. Because of some pesky police probing, Nancy kind of lets it slip that she did more than “talk” in Steve’s room. Upset, Nancy heads home with her angry but ever supportive mother. There she rifles through the pictures Jonathan took and cries over an image of Barb, sitting alone poolside. But what’s that? Also in the picture is some…thing standing right behind her. Perhaps the same thing Nancy saw outside Steve’s house?
Nancy finds Jonathan at the mortuary and talks to him about the photo he took. They can’t figure out what the figure in the picture is but Nancy’s description is eerily similar to the one his mother gave. Later during a gentle heart-to-heart in the photo lab, Nancy and Jonathan develop a picture that gives them a clear look at the beast that took Barb. It convinces Jonathan that his mom isn’t nuts and convinces both of them that Barb might also be alive along with Will.
Hopper talks to Gary, the coroner, who is at a loss as to why state doctors came in to do the autopsy on Will. Sure seems odd to him and sure as hell seems odd to Hopper too. Maybe Joyce was right? Maybe that wasn’t Will’s body after all.
Hopper goes semi-undercover and gets chummy at a bar with the patrolee who found Will’s body. He quickly discovers that things aren’t what they seem, that the man didn’t just stumble upon Will’s body as he claimed. Someone wanted that body found, someone made the cop find it. Hopper eventually gets answers out of the man the old fashioned way (with fists) and discovers that someone told the patrolee to call in the body and forbid him from letting “anybody get too close”. Hopper’s interrogation is being watched by someone in a car who speeds away before he can get a good look at him. Was it someone from the CIA? The Hawkins Lab? Hopper is getting into dangerous territory.
When firing up the CB, Eleven has a flashback to her days in the lab. Dr. Brenner pressured her to find a photographed man. He wanted Eleven to listen to him and repeat his words back. The picture regarding the lab is becoming more clear. Perhaps the experiments at were on behalf of the government, finding old spies or enemies? In this case, the man happened to be just down the hall it was a test to see how strong Eleven is. The answer? Damn strong because she is soon able to broadcast the man’s voice through the speakers on the wall. Dr. Brenner was beyond impressed once again. This kid has got talent.
That talent allows Eleven to connect with Will via the radio at school. At the same time, Will is making contact with his mother at home. He’s pounding on the wall of the house, begging for his mom. Joyce tears at the wall and finds some sort of translucent cavity behind the wallpaper with Will trapped inside. As the boys listen on in horror, Joyce promises to find her son. Seeing Will trapped inside that Cronenberg-esque wall is disturbing to see, for us and for his mother. She takes an axe to the house, trying to get her son out. But he’s not there. Once again he’s slipped through her grasp.
As the episode conclude, Hopper is the only non-believer left but he’s coming around. He goes to the hospital to get a good look at “Will’s” body. Once again using his fists, he makes his way into the morgue and inspects the cadaver. Begrudgingly, he cuts it open to discover…stuffing. The body is indeed fake. He drives over to the Hawkins Lab, hellbent on answers. He doesn’t come with just his determination, though. He also brings bolt cutters.
Stranger Things is making one thing abundantly clear: David Harbour should be a big star. Can’t you just see him being a rugged, everyman hero much like Chris Pratt? I sure hope this happens and happens soon. Wake up, Hollywood!
Did you notice that Dr. Brenner called Shepard “son”? Did he mean that in the friendly, boss-to-employee sense or in the actual paternal sense? Did Brenner just lose his child? That would be coldly ironic since he is in the business of stealing other peoples’ kids away.
This was the second episode directed by Shawn Levy, best known for his work on Date Night, Cheaper by the Dozen and Night at the Museum. It’s understandable that few expected him to knock it out of the park here but he’s done some excellent work. He perfectly captures the nostalgia, the wonder and fear of childhood and the terror of the supernatural. Levy is turning over a new leaf! Way to go!