Stranger Things 2: The Mind Flayer

Season 2, Episode 8

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I have desperately tried to avoid sweeping hyperbolic statements when reviewing Stranger Things but I can’t hold out any longer. The Mind Flayer is not just the best episode of Stranger Things 2, it  is the best episode of any show I have seen this year. The moment when El is reunited with Mike and the gang was a majestic, fist pumping scene. Love is nothing without sacrifice however and in gaining Eleven we have lost Bob Newby. I am willing to hold my hands up and say that I was dead wrong about both Bob the Brain as a character and Sean Astin as an actor. His everyman portrayal of Bob made his brutal death all the more resonant and, as ever, Joyce and Hopper’s reaction to grief makes for one of the more poignant scenes in the whole run. When Mike started talking about Bob founding the AV club at Hawkins Middle School, it was everything I could do not to start bawling. #JusticeforBob indeed…

There were loads of things that made this episode so jaw dropping. Quite often with Stranger Things it is the little things. Steve barely reacts when he stumbles upon Jonathan and Nancy together because he accepts that there are bigger fish to fry. A confrontation between those three characters would have slowed the action right down and the Duffer Brothers are smart enough to know that.

As we know, Steve Harrington is my boy but I’m struggling to see past Hopper as the best character in Stranger Things. His barely disguised disdain upon dismissing Dungeons & Dragons as a guide to defeating the shadow monster was both hilarious and delicious.

Can I also say that the Demadogs (?) are freakin’ terrifying. The way they slam into walls in a frenzy of malevolent hunger is nightmarish. Bob was a brave men to go out into the wilderness when those monsters were crashing around the place. I miss Bob. In his place we finally meet Max’s evil stepfather that we have heard so much about and, as expected, that guy is a dick. This casts Billy in a more sympathetic light and there could well be a Steve Harrinton-esque resurgence for the mulleted maestro.

Pop Culture Watch: First of all, we discover a little more about Billy’s music taste this week and unsurprisingly he has a Metallica poster on his wall and a Motley Crue vinyl on the shelf. I’m fairly certain that guy hates disco. Bob’s delighted exclaim of “Open Sesame” when cracking the Hawkins lab security system originates from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves but this may be coincidental.  Lucas says that the onset of the shadow monster could lead to “Judgement Day”, a direct reference to the Terminator sequel of the same name. It is revealed that Jonathan is a brilliant brother for making Will a mix tape featuring ‘Should I Stay or Should I go’ by The Clash. Lastly, Lucas holding aloft a slingshot in preparation for the battle with the demadogs could be a nod to IT, in which slingshots pay a big part.


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