Action packed episode moves Stranger Things forward…
There are certain things that the internet is obsessed with. Pop culture references, conspiracies, 80’s/90’s nostalgia and mysteries to name but four. Stranger Things wraps all these things together in such a masterful way that it is no wonder it has become the most talked about show of 2016. The beauty of Stranger Things though, is that it does all this without ever feeling gimmicky or vacuous and whilst still maintaining mass appeal. A fiendishly difficult balancing act.
The Flea and the Acrobat has a long and fast paced intro that sees Hopper breaking into Hawkins labs and finding a gateway to another dimension, via beating up a couple of guards for good measure. When he awakes dazed and confused back in his home, he has a small breakdown as he destroys everything in the throes of paranoia, although he does admittedly find the recording bug he was looking for. Elsewhere, Joyce finds the true reason behind the unexpected return of her husband. Lonnie (played by a convincingly sneaky Ross Partridge) is seemingly only interested in receiving compensation for the ‘death’ of his son. Joyce sends him packing in a powerful scene that wrings the shows best moment so far from a riled up Winona Ryder. I was pretty terrified of her just watching it, so it is understandable that Lonnie decides his number is up and leaves.
Mike, Dustin and Doubting Lucas figure out that the ‘upside down’ that El speaks of, is in fact another dimension. Mr. Clarke explains as much in a wonderful scene that gifts the episode it’s title as the science teacher explains parallel universe theorem with a metaphor using an acrobat and a flea. From there, the boys take to the woods (via an obvious referencing of Stand By Me on some train tracks) where it becomes clear that El is sabotaging them. Lucas flips out, attacks Mike and is then thrown across a junk yard by El (channelling her inner Carrie). We leave the boys with Lucas storming off and El missing.
The final scene sees the newly formed mystery solving team, Nancy and Jonathan, also searching through the woods. Nancy has become one of the shows strongest characters in recent weeks and her stock rises even further after dressing down Jonathan for his ‘I saw a girl trying to be something she wasn’t’ nonsense. Things end badly for Nancy however, as she goes through a portal in a tree and lands herself stuck in some Silent Hill-esque nether world. When she started crawling through a hole filled with gunk and slime that clearly shouldn’t have been there, she should really have been asking herself what her end game was…
All in all another really strong episode in which Stranger Things moves the story forward more than any of the previous entries. All the pieces are in place for a big finish now with Hopper and Joyce on the same page and Jonathan likely to meet up with Mike and the boys pretty soon.
Steve Watch – For any new readers I tipped Steve Harrington to be the white knight that would save the day in Hawkins. His apology to Nancy was welcome and his hair looked particularly fabulous but he needs to step it up and pretty damn sharpish.