Season 2, Episode 3
The thing that makes Stranger Things stand out from it’s peers is the little things. The more human moments amidst the Lovecraftian chaos. The montage sequence that sees Hopper and El cleaning up their cabin in the woods featuring Hopper dancing to Jim Croce is a truly touching moment. If anything, this season has been even more frantic than the one that preceded it but the Duffer Brothers continue to add these heart swells to keep everything grounded. That being said, there are still some characters that I feel have been a little marginalised so far. I’d like to see more from Joyce Byers. Winona Ryder has been superb throughout this run and she must be utilised more in future episodes.
Some major plot developments in the Pollywog mainly centred around the reptilian creature that Dustin discovers in his trash can and promptly names D’Artagnan after his favourite chocolate bar . Despite all evidence pointing towards Dart being a refugee from the Upside Down, Dustin loves him anyway, leading to a bit of conflict with the rest of the gang.
Elsewhere, Nancy still needs to shit or get off the pot in regards to the whole Steve/Jonathan thing and that story line is quickly becoming tedious. Stranger Things does teen melodrama very well but Nancy feels like she is going backwards as a character and this must be remedied quickly.
David Harbour provides the hours best performance as Hopper becomes more and more agitated. The sheriff is struggling to hold it all together and tensions are rising between the police department and the lab with Dr Owens looking less trustworthy by the minute. Over ten episodes in to Stranger Things and we still don’t really know the motivation of the men in white coats. This adds a layer of mystery without being overly frustrating however and Paul Reiser is doing a pretty good job of remaining ambiguous at this point.
The episode ends with perhaps Stranger Things darkest moment yet. Will Byers being consumed by the shadow monster is pure horror and visually has more in common with Hellraiser than anything in the John Hughes canon. It works though, both as a visually striking heart stopper and also as a cliff hanger for the next episode. Will Byers has been through too much to be ended like this but he is certainly in big trouble.
Pop Culture Watch: Ok, so on the whole the winks and nods are a little more subtle this week. The whole Dart story is very reminiscent of Gremlins, particularly the creatures aversion to bright lights. The flashback to the cabin in the woods pre makeover with all the cobwebs and the deer antlers seemed to recall The Evil Dead. The idea of fighting back against your nightmares is clearly a nod to A Nightmare on Elm Street, although this time it doesn’t work out and there is also a cheeky Star Wars reference when Mike mentions there are no good guys on the Death Star. This could be an allusion to The Force Awakens specifically as Finn goes from being a stormtrooper to a hero. Finally, the scene which saw Hopper reading to El in bed had shades of A Princess Bride. Phew.