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!
7. “The Bathtub”
We pick right up from the end of the previous episode. Mike is helping El clean up, and he tries to reassure her that she looks better without the wig. But you can see in her eyes and hear in her voice that for a brief time, she was able to pretend to be a normal little girl and not the weapon that she thinks she is. With a quiet moment between them, they inch closer together (cue “AWWWWWWW”). Unfortunately, Dustin barges in with the perfect timing of a bull in a china shop with dire news. Lucas is screaming on the walkie-talkie: the bad men found them.
With Dr. Brenner and the Hawkins vans pulling up the house, the gang makes a hasty exit out of the house on their bikes (Side note: “If anyone asks, I’ve left the country” doesn’t fly too well when you’re 12; trust me, I tried it at that age). Cutting through yards and side streets, the group reunites with Lucas. The vans have caught up with them attempt to catch them in a pincer move. El quickly takes care of that with an impressive display of power when she flips the oncoming van right over the group and blocks the ones behind them.
The group stops to rest in the junkyard. After a brief moment exclaiming how awesome El’s powers are, they fully reunite. Lucas apologizes to El for how he spoke and treated her. El also apologizes, in her soft-spoken manner that friends shouldn’t lie and she’s sorry as well. Finally, Mike and Lucas shake hands. The band is back together!
Hopper and Joyce arrive back at the station, where Joyce is (understandably) livid as to why her son is in handcuffs. The deputies, however, have a good reason (other than the accidental punch thrown their way last episode). They bring Hopper out and show him what’s stored in the trunk: the full monster-killing kit that Jonathan and Nancy purchased previously. While that amount of hardware is definitely disconcerting everyone in the room, Jonathan says they wouldn’t believe him as to why he has it. Hopper sternly but knowingly says: “Why don’t you give me a try?” We’re finally at the point where all the moving parts are coming together, and everyone’s starting to share the information they know with each other.
Back at Mike’s house, Brenner and the rest of Hawkins sweep through the house looking for any traces of El or the boys. At the junkyard, the group listens to Lucas as he describes Hawkins lab and how it’s basically an impenetrable fortress. Cutting them short are black helicopters, sweeping over the area looking for them; they quickly stash their bikes and lay low in an abandoned bus.
“You’re not alone…”
At the station, Hopper and Joyce see the pictures Jonathan and Nancy had put together of the creature. I love how at this point there’s no incredulity or skepticism since everyone’s experienced some part of the larger mystery. That carries into the next scene, where the bully and his mom are there to complain/file a report. Hopper and the deputies are ready to write them off until he describes El and how she’s able to “do things with her mind.” Now he has Hopper’s undivided attention.
One of the best parts of this series is the use, and subsequent tweaking, of the 80’s tropes. We see that when we come back to Steve nursing his wounds with his friends. Unlike the typical “bully” from that era who would most likely be planning revenge, Steve is genuinely remorseful. He got caught up in the momentum and anger and was further egged on by his friends. He actually sticks up for Jonathan and Nancy and even tries to make amends by going back to clean up the graffiti they put up.
Knowing that the government is out looking for Mike, Hopper et. al . head back to the Byers’ house: Jonathan attempts to contact the kids using Will’s walkie-talkie and get them back home. While the kids are skeptical, they take the gamble and let them know where they are. Some Hawkins’ agents have tracked them down, but thankfully Hopper takes them out and gets the kids out of there safe and sound.
Back at the house, everyone brings each other up to speed: the gate at Hawkins, the “flea and acrobat” theory, the Upside-Down. Joyce and Nancy ask El to reach out and try to contact Will and Barb, respectfully; after failing using the walkie-talkie, El realizes she can use “the bath”. Time for science! After interrupting Mr. Clarke’s date (of course he’s watching John Carpenter’s The Thing because he’s awesome), Dustin gets an explanation on how to create a makeshift sensory deprivation tank for El to use.
The group moves to the middle-school to set-up the bath for El. Here we get to see how far these characters have come in such a short time. Nancy and Mike start talking and opening up, Hopper has a cause to fight for, etc. But the standout scene is between Joyce with El. In stark contrast to Brenner’s cold, manipulative approach to El, Joyce is warm and reassuring. She knows what she’s asking this little girl, but is willing to take the risk with her. She will be there with her holding her hand every step of the way.
El crosses over to the Upside-Down and finds the remains of Barb (RIP Barb *tear*). She rightfully starts freaking out, but Joyce is there with her. The reassurances help calm her and she keeps looking for Will. She finds him hiding in Castle Byers, his beloved fort; he’s shivering and sick, but he sees El and he knows his mom is coming for him.
The episode ends with the group splitting up for the final push. Hopper and Joyce going back to Hawkins to go after Will. Jonathan and Nancy resolve to finish what they started with the monster. Finally, the boys keep watch over El as she recovers. Our last shot is of Will singing The Clash to stay awake and focused, but it’s too late. The monster has found him.
If there’s one thing I hope everyone takes away from this series, it’s that riding around the neighborhood with your friends on bikes was the way to go.
Creepy scientists saying “trust me” will never go well.
It’s been said before but they did an amazing job with casting: from the established actors to the kids, everyone is spot-on perfect in their role.