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!
6. “The Monster”
How cool is Steve? He wears his sunglasses at night. (Metaphorically. And that’s the song on his radio.) His car full of friends (including Tommy and Carol) egg him on, wondering why he’s with Nancy in the first place and why he’s chasing after her. Finally, I think we get the impression that maybe Steve can be redeemed from the toxic viper pit that is his social circle. He actually has a heart. No sooner is that heart broken when he peeps into Nancy’s window to find her cradled by Jonathan. In fairness, she was cold after that dark dimension birth experience.
Elsewhere in Hawkins, Joyce is fired up and Hopper is cold sober. He describes the laboratory and (what we know to be) Eleven’s cell. Joyce pounces on a new detail: the drawing hanging from the wall. Referencing Will’s drawing from today’s flashback, the crude detail of the cell’s drawing points to another kid. Hooper puts two and two together and gets Eleven.
Nancy showers off the dark goo. Jonathan unrolls a sleeping bag onto the floor, and it’s so sweet that in stark contrast to Steve he doesn’t assume he’ll be sleeping in bed with Nancy. An uncomfortable minute later, she calls him up to join her.
Eleven never came home, leaving Mike who may or may not have waited all night for her to return. The sun has risen, and he takes out his frustrations on her bed/fort, kicking it (literally) and himself (metaphorically). E.T. would have at least phoned home.
The plot thickens
Jonathan awakes to find Nancy wide awake, tormented by the memory of the creature’s feeding. She has figured out that a lone nocturnal predator must be attracted across dimensions by the smell of blood; she clearly has given her new theory a lot of thought which makes it seem a little less out of left field. Karen interrupts the nascent re-enactment of Jaws by rattling the doorknob of the locked door. The
happy startled couple friends look down to find they are holding hands. Now, I know Nancy’s door has a lock on it. And Karen seems to have no problems opening it anyway. But Karen doesn’t ask why the door is locked, because… reasons. Jonathan is amused.
Who does knock? The “Social Services” woman from the diner. She’s selling Mr. Clarke on the idea of an A.V. Club association, if only he’d tell her the names of his brightest Clubbers who may or may not have melted a ham radio with the help of an escaped telekinetic psychic.
Dustin tries to play peacemaker between Mike and Lucas, but Mike is lodged in the “bargaining” stage of grief over Eleven. Dustin cracks and calls them all (including Eleven) in the wrong and unreasonable a-holes. Which, on the surface, is true. Dustin is wise beyond his years. Then he goes and spoils it all by forcing a confrontation between hotheads.
Eleven wakes up from a Brenner flashback in the middle of the woods. She ambles to a puddle of water and realizes how ridiculous it is trying to re-settle the now ruined wig on her shaved head. In frustration, she screams and dislodges the serene water. OK, El, the wig is not a great loss. You’re still pretty. Please don’t kill us.
Karen (and the ever-useless Ted) sit at the breakfast table, waiting for a Nancy that will not come. Karen uses a bobby pin to pick the lock and finds an empty room that had an overnight guest.
Mike and Dustin arrive at Lucas’ house for a peace summit. Lucas will only agree to reconcile if there’s unconditional surrender on Mike’s part (“forget the weirdo and go straight to the gate”). A shouting match ensues, and Dustin intervenes with a reference to a past D & D campaign where the party split up and was set upon by trolls. Lucas resents the entire concept of Eleven being a part of their inner (or even human) circle, and strikes out on his own to find Will at the gate, ignoring the totally reasonable argument that El is a weapon of mass destruction and having her in your corner to fight a monster from another dimension is probably prudent. Whatevs.
At the turn
The disheveled weapon of mass destruction in question finds her way into town to the nearest grocery store. The other shoppers look at her like a chimp with a gun. This scene is intermixed with a flashback of Brenner putting El back in the tank so that she can seek out the terrifying creature (that they know nothing about) by a process (they know little about) that she’s “in no danger from”. This is a bit of shoehorned editing, since she’s hunting food in the present. She walks out with an armful of waffles, pursued by a “mouth breather” manager who tells her to l’eggo those Eggos. She telekinetically thrusts several objects including glass doors in his way until he gets the message.
Hopper and Joyce hit the road to find Eleven’s birth mother. It takes them what seems about 5 minutes too long to realize the woman is all but catatonic and has not spoken in five years. Her MK Ultra experience ended up with her pretty fried. Eleven’s aunt believes that Eleven was miscarried, and that the birth-mother’s story of having given birth was an unsubstantiated demented rambling full of conspiracy theory.
Lucas heads out alone Rambo-style on his bike, noting the Power and Light guys descending on his house. Dustin explains the concepts of “unresolved romantic tension” and “bros before hos” to an oblivious Mike who does not understand Lucas’ behavior.
Jonathan and Nancy raid the army surplus store for bear traps, kerosene, hardware, and ammo. The blase clerk accepts the justification of “monster hunting”. After a tip from a passerby, they check the marquee of the local cinema, they find a jealous Steve has added “Nancy the Slut Wheeler” to the cast of All the Right Moves. Thankfully, this should mean he no longer is comparing himself to Tom Cruise. A convenient telltale spray paint sound leads Nancy to Hawkins’ newest street art installation, “Byers is a perv”, attended by Steve and company.
The final stretch
A rumble ensues, with music that would not be out of place in an after-school special, and the cautionary tale of
not peeping in your girlfriend’s window and slut-shaming her with graffiti not letting a weird boy sleep in your bed after a night of monster hunting ends with the police somehow stumbling upon the scene. Jonathan (and only Jonathan) is arrested. At the station, the no-nonsense Flo hands Nancy an ice-pack to mend Jonathan’s broken heart bruised face.
Lucas, who was stymied by a fence, uses his compass and binoculars to locate a building large enough to be seen from space (and which we already know from previous episodes is not far away from the fence). I’m not sure what the takeaway is supposed to be, beyond his making a connection between the Power and Light trucks and the Department of Energy lab (and the massively energic interdimensional portal inside).
Searching for El (who is dining nearby on a banquet of thawing frozen Eggos), Mike and Dustin are set upon by the school bullies (who are now armed with a knife). They are corralled to the quarry, where Troy (the one who soiled his pants) threatens to perform some unlicensed dentistry on Dustin unless Mike jumps to certain death into the water below. Proving his loyalty, Mike jumps. As one might expect, Eleven does not let that stand, and floats Mike back up to the cliff face. She breaks Troy’s arm for good measure, and they run off. This drains her to the point of passing out, and her fleeting thought is of how her (“totally safe!”) touching of the creature while dreamwalking created the gateway in the lab.
The Power and Light guys are on the move, and Lucas spots them on the way out. Will they track down our intrepid heroes? I feel an E.T. style bike chase coming on.
- Radio communication from the station to Chief Hopper who is apparently several counties away is amazingly clear.
- Their response time to a back-alley brawl is 30 seconds, but the graffiti that would have required a 15-foot ladder in broad daylight went unnoticed.
- Dustin can’t avoid the power of a hug.
- If I saw a half-dozen Power and Light vans chasing through small-town streets and there was no lightning storm right before, I’d be suspicious. Just sayin’.