Season 2, Episode 5
This season of Stranger Things has tricked everyone with the assumption that events in Hawkins would bring all the main characters closer together. Right now, El is with her mother, Lucas is trying to convince Max that there is more to Hawkins than meets the eye, Dustin is dealing with his own, self inflicted Dart drama, while Joyce, Bob and the boys are somewhere in a field with Hopper. The main chess pieces on the Stranger Things board have never been further apart…
The other thing that I wasn’t prepared for this season was just how dark the show would become. After witnessing, in recent episodes, the shadow monster consuming Will and having front row seats to the graphic death of Dustin’s cat, in Dig Dug the gloom is pretty much unrelenting. First off, we find that Eleven’s momma is stuck in an infinite loop that occurred after El was taken from her and she was subjected to electro shock therapy. Then we see Hopper almost choked to death before Will has a visually chilling, full body fit, presumably as a reaction to all the shit kicking off in the upside down world tunnels that Hopper stumbled across. The tone really is pitch black this time around and the show is all the better for it.
As good as the last season was, there was a recognisable arc to the story that, while never being predictable, was certainly familiar. I can hand on heart say that I have absolutely no fucking clue what is going to happen in the next five episodes of Stranger Things 2 and that is a good thing. One thing I will say however, is that if it involves Steve Harrington and Dustin teaming up, as is hinted at here, then I couldn’t be more on board for that.
One very minor criticism, at this point the Nancy and Jonathan angle is boring me. Get them back to Hawkins and back in the game. They need other characters to make them interesting.
Pop Culture Watch: I didn’t bother with this section for the last review, purely because I didn’t spot anything. Dig Dug had loads of delightful references to geek culture however. Lets kick things off with the Jaws poster on Will Byers wall, Spielberg is obviously a big influence on Stranger Things, hence the poster. Dustin and his mom have a Wheel of Fortune board game in their house, many happy hours spent playing that I imagine. The arcade of course features classic games such as Pac Man and Asteroids and there were a few others I didn’t recognise.
In that same arcade, the employee that Lucas bribes refers to Max as “road warrior”, a reference to the second Mad Max film of the same name. Lucas’ sister Erica plays with a He-Man doll while on the phone to Dustin and there is a poster of the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland on the wall of what would have been El’s bedroom at her mommas house. As the white rabbit is linked with drug culture, this is a clear reference to the link between El’s mother and the MK Ultra project (look it up). After being saved by Joyce and Bob, Hopper is led out of the tunnels but goes back for his hat, another Spielberg reference, this time Indiana Jones. And finally, my personal favourite of the episode was Bob asking if the X that Joyce had written on Will’s map led to “pirate treasure” – a truly heartwarming reference to actor Sean Astin’s previous life as a Goonie. Just one more thing on that, the gangs mantra of “friends don’t lie” recalls the Goonies insistence that “Goonies never say die”. Aaaaand breathe.