Summary: Rick decides to give Michonne to the Governor. Daryl objects to this. Merle notes that Rick won't have the stomach to do it so he acts on his own and kidnaps Michonne. Daryl goes after them. Eventually, Merle lets Michonne go when she suggests turning back. Merle continues on and lays a trap for the Governor. He tries to kill the Governor but fails, so the Governor kills him. Daryl cries when he finds Merle as a walker. At the prison, Glenn proposes to Maggie and Rick decides to put democracy back into the group.
The Good: I appreciated the focus on Merle and Michonne in this episode. There was some solid moral conflict explored in this episode and I did appreciate the overall look we got over the group's leadership. Granted, there were some major problems here (see: The Bad), but I appreciate the effort.
Merle had a pretty good episode. Watching the group's friction with Merle is always a blast, and having such an unrepentant prick amongst the group feels so fresh. Furthermore, I like that Glenn's scene with Daryl nicely suggested that Merle's crimes have been too serious to be easily forgiven, and that even if Merle changes, he will still be an outcast in the group. He will always be hated and he can't simply atone for his bad behaviour in the way that Daryl did.
The writers went in the direction of having a fellow outcast be the only person who was able to see Merle's true feelings. It's an age-old story and it works fine for some easy entertainment, though there were some pretty large issues with it (see: The Bad). At the very least we got some decent action sequences with walkers which remain a high point of the series.
The ending action sequence was the best part of the episode. It was tense and exciting and it really felt like there was going to be major consequences for everyone involved. In the end, Merle was given a death fitting for his character and we were given a sad scene as Daryl stumbles upon his brother as a walker.
Glenn proposing to Maggie is a fine side plot. Nothing too interesting, but it works for what it is.
The Bad: Skipping over Rick's decision to give Michonne to the Governor was stupid and it came right out of nowhere. What's worse is that there is no way that Rick could be stupid enough to agree to this. There is no reason for him to trust the Governor, and the fact that nobody is objecting openly against Rick's idiotic decision is even more ridiculous. Honestly, the character of Rick was totally butchered in this episode. Not only does he make a stupid decision, but he then sends Daryl, Merle and Michonne to likely deaths and he doesn't lift a finger to help them. That's so out of character for the man that stormed Woodbury to rescue Glenn and Maggie.
Rick wasn't the only character who was acting inconsistently. Michonne magically became an all-seeing wise woman as she was apparently able to read Merle like a book and perfectly deduce his issues. And to add on, she also magically became one of the most talkative people in the show after so many episodes of silence. I don't even think she spoke this much to Andrea, her friend of many months. It's such a sharp change that only goes to show how poorly written this episode was.
The worst character to be sabotaged was absolutely Merle himself. Merle stood out because he was a complete asshole with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He's the kind of person to loot mattresses to find dope, to torture people without blinking an eye, and to kill allies whenever it suited him. The only person who he ever cared about was Daryl. Yet somehow, Merle is portrayed in this episode as a regretful rogue who feels terribly about all the bad that he has done. Where the hell did this come from? It's at odds with everything we have learned about Merle so far, and it makes his mission to go kill the Governor make little sense. The only person Merle listened to is Daryl, and Daryl wanted Merle to redeem himself, not kill himself. It's so disappointing to see Merle get a "heroic death" following a sudden 180 on his character, and it makes it feel like the Merle in this episode is a completely different person from the Merle we have gotten to know.
This show is constantly failing in the character development department. Once again, a character that finally begins to grow and develop is immediately killed off to surprise the audience. Would it hurt to have some character development for the people that aren't going to die? This show has always been pathetic with its character development, and killing off the people who get the most attention certainly doesn't help the issue.
The Unknown: Will there be a big action sequence in the next episode? How is it going to go down?
Will Daryl make it back to the prison? Or will he attack the Governor in a rage?
Best Moment: Merle gunning down the Woodbury men before being subdued and killed.
Character of the Episode: Merle. Even though he was ruined in this episode, he still had all of the best scenes.
Conclusion: This episode provides some fun entertainment and there are some signature TWD action scenes. But when you look under the surface, the characters make little sense and the poor writing hurts what should have been a standout episode.
Summary: El removes the bit of the Mind Flayer in her leg but she finds that her powers have vanished. Hopper's group arrives and they form a plan. Joyce, Murray and Hopper go to the Russian lab to infiltrate it while Steve and Robin drive Dustin and Erica to Weathertop so that Dustin can help them navigate. The others attempt to leave to go somewhere safe but Billy destroys their car and they are trapped. The Mind Flayer shows up and gets into the mall. Some of the kids manage to escape from the Mind Flayer and Steve and Robin arrive to help drive them away. Hopper and Joyce infiltrate the Russians and they prepare to turn off the key. The terminator shows up and fights Hopper at the key. Billy finds Mike, Max and El and he captures El. The Mind Flayer comes back to kill her but Billy's memories reawaken and he sacrifices himself. Hopper kills the terminator and sacrifices himself so that Joyce can close the gate. The Mind Flayer dies. Three months later, the Byers family moves out of Hawkins with El. Mike and El confess their love for each other. Steve and Robin find a movie store to work at together. El reads Hopper's letter about the heart to heart conversation he was supposed to have before she leaves.
The Good: Despite my gripes about this season, I thought that it hit something special in the finale, particularly with the final few scenes. After 7 episodes, the show finally captured the emotions of growing up and moving on, themes that the season had tried toying with before. Everything came together with these final scenes as the show impressively conveyed a wide range of different situations where characters were forced to move on from their past lives. Some were easy and familiar like Steve and Robin locating a new store to work at. Some were filled with optimism like Erica getting Will's D&D set. Others were extremely tough and emotional like El missing Hopper and Max struggling to accept Billy's death. And some were bittersweet like the Byers family having to abandon their old lives to discover a new place in the world. The entire sequence was heartfelt, and adding Hopper's voiceover did a brilliant job of adding to the intense emotion that was conveyed here. I can say with certainty that this sequence was the best that "Stranger Things" has ever been and it could easily work as a series finale because of the sense of finality that it had.
The reunion at Starcourt was a lot of fun and it made sense for everybody to finally end up together in the season finale. The episode had a sense of unity between all of the storylines and I enjoyed how all of the various storylines interacted with the others. This episode felt like more of a complete story than every other episode before it.
I also enjoyed the following scenes of the kids hiding from the Mind Flayer. The scenes were quite tense and I thought they were well executed for the most part. Then in the other half of the episode, we had a totally different story as Murray, Hopper and Joyce sneakily infiltrated the Russian fortress. The contrast worked and it felt like I was watching 2 unique climaxes which gave the episode a fresh feeling.
The ending ended up being really poignant with the dual sacrifices coming from both stories. Billy's death was sad and it felt like a fitting, heroic way for Billy to go out. Hopper's death was much sadder and it only added to the gutpunch of Billy's death by having Hopper die just a few moments after Billy. Both deaths coupled with each other made the final victory over the Mind Flayer feel much more triumphant and hard-earned.
The Suzie moment was very unexpected and it ended up being a surprisingly sweet comedy moment. Having Dustin and Suzie sing The Neverending Story was wonderful, and it worked as an emotional moment and also a comedic moment as the show kept showing everyone's confused faces as they listened in to the song.
There were a few fun moments scattered throughout the episode. I loved The Cutting Edge show as it caught us up on what happened after the timeskip in a unique and thoroughly entertaining way. I also really liked the scene between Hopper and Joyce where they set themselves up a date, providing some nice pay-off for their season-long story.
The Bad: I had some logistical problems with this as usual. The Mind Flayer seems much more interested in roaring and seeming threatening instead of actually killing El and the kids. This took away my investment because I was confident that the Mind Flayer will be defeated and having it be an incapable villain only amplified that feeling. Furthermore, I found it hard to believe that nobody saw or heard the Mind Flayer causing chaos all throughout the city. And also, the sheer amount of last minute saves made me confident that everyone would always be saved which didn't allow me to get as invested in every scene as I could have been.
I was disappointed that the immediate fallout of the Mind Flayer was just glossed over. It would have been nice to see how everyone explained what happened to the public. Additionally, I was annoyed that we never got to see what happened to all of the other possessed people. Did they die? Were there clones that existed like we were shown in "The Mall Rats" or was that just something else? To not get these questions answered was pretty disappointing.
How did the army get into the base? Did they all fit in that elevator? It's way too easy to get into the Russian fortress.
It's the 1980s and the Star Wars prequels don't exist yet. So why is the first Star Wars movie called "A New Hope"? That name shouldn't exist yet. It's a small gripe, I know, but for a show that's usually so good with its 80s references, this is unusually sloppy.
The Unknown: Why have El's powers vanished? Will they come back?
What happened to all of the possessed people? Are they dead?
Interesting mid-credits scene. Is Hopper still alive and is he the prisoner? Will the Russians play a role in season 4?
Where does the series go now? This episode felt like a series finale in a lot of ways. Is there more story to be told? How can the show continue the story for another season?
Best Moment: The final sequence was incredibly emotional. It's so impressive how the show nailed the feelings of growing up. There were so many varying examples of this, and that means that there is at least one moment in this sequence that any viewer can relate to and understand.
Character of the Episode: Hopper.
Conclusion: This was an exciting episode and it served as a fun conclusion to the season. But that phenomenal ending sequence turned this into the best "Stranger Things" episode yet and it worked as a tremendous closing scene. I do wonder where the show can go after this.
As a whole, this season was disappointing. The characters were very different from prior seasons and a lot of the season's writing was uninspired, repetitive and boring. Still, the season was a fun watch overall like the previous two. And much like the previous two, I'll conclude by saying that I had fun watching this, but I don't see myself ever being motivated to watch this season again.
Summary: Rachel's sister Jill arrives at Rachel's apartment because her dad cut her off. Rachel tries to help her but is shaken when Phoebe reports that Jill and Ross seem to have a spark. Joey starts giving away free food, drawing Gunther's ire. Monica is sick but refuses to acknowledge it.
The Good: Jill is played well and her role in the story is fun. I especially liked Rachel's reactions to a potential Jill/Ross relationship, and the idea that her interference is what caused the relationship is pretty clever. Ross, Phoebe, Chandler and Monica have the odd funny line throughout the episode. Though his story is a little flat, Joey is consistently funny throughout.
The Bad: This episode really feels like a part 1. The main story moves glacially slow and the two side stories don't really have much to them. The show continues to be very unoriginal with its storytelling. The Monica and Chandler plot is awful and Monica somehow gets more and more cartoonish by the episode.
Best Moment: I'll go with the confused looks everyone gives when they hear a knock on the door, realizing that everyone is already there.
Character of the Episode: Rachel.
Conclusion: This episode was fine for a few laughs, though the side stories were forgettable. It's also hurt by being a part 1 of a two-part story.
Summary: June and Lawrence put their plan into motion, but things go awry when a martha arrives in the daylight and is reported to have been seen. Lawrence wants to back out but June forces him to continue. Lawrence decides to stay in Gilead while June and the others escort the kids to the airport. A guardian patrol is barring the way so the handmaids and marthas cause a distraction, allowing the kids and the remaining marthas to get on the plane and escape. June and Janine are shot and badly wounded, but they survive. The plane lands safely in Canada. In Canada, Fred pettily throws Serena under the bus by suggesting that she was complicit in Nick raping June, getting Serena arrested.
The Good: Sometimes simple and predictable storytelling is absolutely the right way to handle things. What I expected and wanted from this episode was a tense and dramatic episode centering only around June actually enacting the plan of getting the 52 kids out of Gilead. And that is exactly what we got. This show has consistently enjoyed making storylines way more complex than they need to be, but episodes like this one prove that complexity doesn't necessarily make an episode better. A simple episode that is executed well can easily be better than a sloppily written episode that has more depth to it.
The escape of the children from Gilead is a rare story that was built up across several episodes, and that played a big part in making the moment as successful as it was. The process of the kids escaping was really effective and it worked as a joyful moment that provided some much-needed hope into the world of Gilead. I thought that the handmaids and marthas attacking the one guardian patrol was a very strong scene and it was the most heroic that the victims of Gilead have ever been. This was a lovely moment of hope and strength that worked as a climax for the season.
The scenes at the airport in Canada were even better. The arrival of the children and marthas was a rare victory over Gilead for the rebels. The moment hits hard and is surprisingly emotional as Rita meets with Emily and Luke. Furthermore, this scene marks the first time a rebellious move has actually had a significant impact in saving lives and fighting back against Gilead, finally giving us some pay-off for the show's endless promises of rebellion.
June's determination to ensure that the kids get out was a very good story to follow. Her desperation when Maggie nearly ruins her plans is easy to understand and I really liked her choice to draw a gun on Maggie, with her willing to kill Maggie before letting Kiki go back. The prior scene where June got to empathize a little bit with Kiki was also very strong and it did a nice job of bringing June's emotional state to the forefront of her decision to draw a gun on Maggie.
The scenes with Lawrence were strong, as always. He came off as pretty heroic in his final scene as he says goodbye to June, and I did enjoy June mouthing off to him earlier in the episode as she attempted to force Lawrence to stick to the plan.
I liked the scenes with the Waterfords in Canada. Fred would be petty enough to throw Serena under the bus for betraying him, and it was very satisfying to see the walls close in on Serena, providing us with some sweet catharsis as Serena's plan falls apart right in front of her.
The Bad: I get that the show was trying to say that this episode was the point where June went from a victim to a major rebellious leader. The existence of that opening scene suggests as much. But the story doesn't work at all for me because June hasn't really been a victim for so long. I can't recall the last time that June has been abused without her acting out in some way, so it's hard to relate with June as a victim in this season.
I thought the scene of June pointing the gun at Kiki was very forced and it was difficult to buy into why June would do this. I don't buy into June being so desperate that she points a gun at Kiki. The scene simply existed because it was dramatic, not because it was logical.
I found it odd that Serena was convicted at the word of a war criminal. Surely they would need some actual proof of her involvement. Also consensual sex isn't rape, Tuello claiming that it is was very stupid.
The Unknown: What was Janine's gift that she gave to June?
Will Janine and June be fine after getting shot? What will happen to them when Gilead discovers what they did? What will Lydia's reaction be?
How will Gilead react to the child smuggling? Will they demand returns from Canada? Will this lead to war? Will Lawrence be punished for his actions? Or will they remain a secret?
What consequences will Serena face?
Best Moment: The airport scenes.
Character of the Episode: June.
Conclusion: This was a very good finale that had some emotional moments.
This season was a major disappointment. It started well enough but then the middle of the season put the show in a slump as the writers stalled the story, wrote sloppy side-plots, and completely failed to produce emotional moments. There were some good episodes towards the end, but the show mostly didn't recover and I still ended the season feeling underwhelmed. Funnily enough, I thought that this could have been a really strong season if it was written better, but it never lived up to its full potential. This show continues to get worse with every season and it isn't showing any signs of learning from past mistakes, so I'm not feeling very hopeful about season 4's quality. I'm unsure if I will be reviewing that season next year due to my declining interest in the show.
Summary: The kids remain at the house where they fight the Mind Flayer. El is injured badly but they escape. As El recovers at a store, Dustin calls Mike on the walkie. Dustin and Erica get Steve and Robin out but they are trapped in the mall with the Russians closing in. Steve confesses his love for Robin but Robin reveals that she is lesbian. The Russians find their location and the team is trapped, but the other kids return and El kills the Russians. El then collapses in pain from her wound which has started to convulse. Hopper and Joyce go searching through the Independence Day festival to find the kids. They are unsuccessful and Kline notices them. The terminator arrives and kills Alexei. Hopper, Joyce and Murray eventually escape and head to the mall.
The Good: Steve and Robin were once again this episode's saving grace. Their scenes were extremely well done. At first, it seemed like their interactions existed solely for comedy as they were high as a kite and were just saying a bunch of stupid, funny stuff. But then their interactions took a surprisingly poignant turn with Steve confessing his feelings for Robin and Robin then having the tough task of refusing him. The moment was impressively emotional and I felt really bad for Steve who had to suffer losing the girl he loves yet again. But what was most striking to me was how quickly Steve and Robin were able to move on and keep their friendship intact, showing their maturity and demonstrating the closeness of their bond which has developed in such a short amount of time. It was a beautiful scene and it paid off of their season-long story in a beautiful way.
The Hopper/Joyce story had a few good moments. The action sequence at the fair was pretty creative and it had its fair share of tense moments. I got a laugh out of Murray doing his thing where he predicts people's lives with striking accuracy once again. It was stupid (see: The Bad), yet it was still funny.
The Bad: "Stranger Things" still hasn't figured out how to handle a season's climax. This show has been consistently good at heating up storylines with intriguing mystery and some surprising twists, but when it comes to providing an action-packed climax, the show has been consistently disappointing. That trend continues here as this episode completely failed in all of its big action scenes, and without the allure of mystery keeping me engaged, that gave this episode very little content that actually interested me.
The Mind Flayer action sequence for example was absolutely atrocious. I never felt any tension because I knew that everyone would escape okay (this clearly wasn't the big climactic confrontation), and as a result, I found myself screaming in frustration at all of the absurd, convenient moments during this action sequence. For one, it makes no sense that everyone would not immediate;y leave the house when they learned that the Mind Flayer knew their location. Instead they perplexingly barred the doors and chose to make a final stand, which ended in them all running away anyways. Why didn't they just run away before? Why didn't anybody bring this up as an idea? I have no clue.
Worse yet is the mechanics of the battle itself. The Mind Flayer doesn't immediately go for the kill for whatever reason and everything is set up purely to create the most drama, rather than making any sense. The Mind Flayer can send in multiple tendrils, yet it only starts with one. Then, it doesn't attack El right away, which makes little sense considering that El is its prime target. Another stupidity is that El takes forever to start using her powers. It's like she decided to give everyone else a chance to fight beforehand which is very stupid. And why didn't the Mind Flayer just send in a third tendril to kill El? After all she only has two hands to fight with. Then we have the Mind Flayer pointlessly just poking its head in and roaring until El could explode it, which is a perfect case of the villain becoming suddenly incapable so that the heroes could escape. Also, El was wounded pretty deeply, I find it highly unlikely that she didn't bleed out before they group arrived at the store.
Murray's accurate estimation on Joyce and Hopper's relationship still feels too cartoony. It's also not as funny as the first time it happened in the last season. Thankfully, his intervention did stop the endless bickering between Joyce and Hopper which had gotten old 2 or 3 episodes ago.
The scenes at the fair had their dumb moments. Joyce going back to punch Kline was a dumb action hero trope. Alexei's death didn't really work for me. His character hadn't been developed enough to make losing him feel sad. Furthermore, I can't believe that he died without anybody in the fair noticing. News flash, even if a gun has a silencer on it, you can still hear the gunshot if your close to it! Furthermore, did nobody stumble upon the dead body which was just around the corner from everything? That should be enough to send everybody into a huge panic.
The Unknown: What is happening to El's leg? Will she lose her leg in the next episode? Or is the Mind Flayer starting to take over her mind?
The story seems to be setting up for a big final confrontation at Starcourt Mall with all the major players heading there. What is going to happen? Will the gate be closed? Will the Mind Flayer attack the Russians too?
What happens to Kline in the next episode? What is his character's resolution?
If the Mind Flayer is killed, will all of the Flayed be returned to their normal lives? Or do they die too?
Best Moment: Steve's confession to Robin.
Character of the Episode: I gave it to Steve last episode, so I'll give it to Robin this time.
Conclusion: "Stranger Things" still hasn't quite figured out how to do big climaxes and it shows with this episode. Outside of the one brilliant Steve and Robin scene, this was a major disappointment and it feels like this season is going to end on a real low point.
Summary: The Russians discover Dustin, Steve, Robin and Erica's presence in the secret fortress. Steve and Robin are captured and interrogated. Dustin and Erica escape but they go back and save the other two. However, Steve and Robin have already revealed everything they know to the Russians after extensive torture. Nancy and Jonathan barely escape from the monster with El's help. El attempts to locate Billy to figure out where the Mind Flayer would be located. She finds Billy and discovers that the location is Brimborn Steelworks. However, the Mind Flayer is able to locate El as a result and the Flayed all go to the Steelworks to prepare for an attack. Alexei reveals that the Russians are trying to access the Upside Down, terrifying Joyce and Hopper.
The Good: I liked parts of this episode but not the episode as a whole. I thought there were a few excellent scenes but the stories overall didn't live up to my expectations.
The best parts of the episode were with Steve and Robin as they got tortured by the Russians. The Russians were intimidating and the two of them were in a genuinely dangerous situation with no way out. It was tense seeing Steve get beaten as the Russians try to force information out of him, and it was emotional seeing Robin and Steve open up to each other while in the face of certain death. The part where they both reflected on their high school life in contrast to the life they wanted was genuinely sweet. They developed a nice bond over the course of this season.
I also enjoyed the cinematic way that we were shown Billy's backstory. I loved the idea of El trying to read his mind to find the Mind Flayer's location, and I thought the execution of the scene was wonderful. I was also a big fan of the reveal that the Mind Flayer can now track El as a result of her approaching Billy. It's fitting that her bold move would have some major consequences, and now the stakes have been raised for the final two episodes of the season.
The start of the episode with the monster attacking Jonathan and Nancy was a really strong start. The scene was tense and I was on the edge of my seat because this moment felt like a point where the story could take an unexpected turn and have Jonathan or Nancy or even both of them get captured. But unfortunately the show took the safe route.
The Bad: This episode ended up being one of the show's most uninspired efforts. The story is predictable and boring, and it's filled to the brim with tropes and clichés that drag down the plot completely. As a result, this becomes a wholly unsatisfying hour of television and it doesn't do a great job of getting me hyped up for the season's endgame.
The characters remain a weak part of this season. Each character gets maybe one episode to be relevant and to do something important, but outside of that everyone is a boring caricature of themselves. This appears to have happened because the cast has expanded far too much with too many characters being given nothing to do. Joyce and Hopper have been part of a rather dull side story for a long time now and they still haven't contributed much of note to the story. Their characters haven't been treated well either as Joyce doesn't seem to care for her kids at all and Hopper has become a complete joke with all of his worst traits played up for comedy. It's funny for sure, but his character's destruction has disconnected me from his story.
The kids are just as bad. I can't recall Lucas contributing a single thing to the story this season. Dustin has been relegated to a side character when he is given his own storyline as the emphasis is always on Steve and Robin. Erica is just awful and remains that way in this episode. Then we have Mike, El and Max heavily involved in this cheesy romance story which I'm somehow managing to get more and more annoyed by in every episode. The problem I have with this is that nobody is likable. Max is the annoying friend, Mike is so overprotective and obsessive that it's impossible to sympathize with him, El continually shifts from sensible to foolish with every scene, and due to this story, Will is just forgotten all together. This season's poor treatment of its characters has been present from episode 1, and it still hasn't been addressed. A few good scenes and some entertaining plot movement does not make up for the sabotage of the show's characters.
This episode is also far too convenient with stupid ways to advance the plot. Hopper giving Alexei the keys is stupid enough and I can't understand why he would take such a risk. What's worse is that his plan actually works as Alexei stops driving and submits in what is one of the show's cheesiest moments ever. Next, we have Nancy and Jonathan just standing there as the monster forms before they somehow manage to survive long enough until El finds them to save them. If the show had any sense of consequence, both of them should have been killed in seconds because they couldn't get away, and moments like the monster taking its sweet time to kill Nancy really hurt the show's credibility. Then we get the absurdly terrible Russian security. According to Alexei, the Russians have their most elite security systems in place, yet they can be breached by 4 dumb kids. That is completely implausible. Furthermore, Dustin and Erica somehow remain hidden after escaping, despite the Russians actively looking for them, and then they somehow stage a rescue mission to get Steve and Robin out of confinement. These scenes were all awful, and it made the Russians look like cartoon villains instead of a competent government organization.
Was Billy's backstory really necessary for the show? Its timing was very odd as the character of Billy hadn't been focused on for a long time. Furthermore,
Kline is a terrible character. He is cartoonish in the worst ways and the scene where he is threatened by the Terminator was bad.
The Unknown: What is the Mind Flayer going to do now? Will it attack the city or just go for El? How are the kids going to fight this?
What role will Hopper and Joyce play in the story?
Did Dustin, Steve, Robin and Erica seriously just escape that easily? How will the Russians respond to this?
Best Moment: Steve and Robin opening up while facing certain death was excellent.
Character of the Episode: Steve.
Conclusion: This had a few strong moments, but overall this episode was very badly done and continued the disappointing run of this season.
Summary: Joyce and Hopper find a secret underground Russian base that they investigate. The man whoa attacked Hopper at Hawkins lab returns to kill them. Joyce and Hopper escape with a hostage, Alexei. Hopper takes them to Murray's place. Dustin, Steve, Robin and Erica find themselves in a secret Russian facility. They quietly sneak around and discover a massive machine. Nancy tells Jonathan about Mrs. Driscoll and she speaks with the kids about it. They all figure out that the Mind Flayer has possessed tons of people and is doing it at a specific location. Nancy plans to follow Mrs. Driscoll back to this location so they all go to the hospital. At the hospital, Jonathan and Nancy find that Mrs. Driscoll is gone an dBruce and Tom are waiting for them. They fight and kill Tom and Bruce who melt into goo and transform into a monster.
The Good: The best thing about this episode is that it was very entertaining. There is loads of action, the comedy is fantastic, and the pacing is rapid. A lot happens here, and it is fun to watch.
Joyce and Hopper's story starts with a bang with an exciting action sequence that sets up the story for the rest of the episode. They go on an episode-long journey with new character Alexei, who is a fun addition with entertaining mannerisms, but the episode is still pretty serious as they are chased by a Terminator-like villain who is right behind them. The story is fun and there are several funny moments like the commandeering of the convertible car, Joyce accidentally throwing the gun to the bad guy, and Hopper screaming at Joyce to drive over and over again.
The Mrs. Driscoll plot is really strong as well. Like the Hopper/Joyce story, this is filled with comedy and some pretty important plot details which are given out early in the episode. The story reaches its climax with a really fun action/horror sequence as Nancy and Jonathan battle Tom and Bruce, though they do so differently than they may have expected. This leads into a shocking final scene as a monster is born out of Tom and Bruce's remains, leaving us on a pretty good cliffhanger. We also get a nice moment of Jonathan and Nancy making up, which was a solid scene that nicely addressed the tension between them.
The Dustin/Steve story is also really fun. There are a number of fun setpieces, exciting moments, and big reveals. It's good for all of the same reasons that the other 2 stories are good. As a whole, all three storylines are moving the story forwards in the same way and at the same pace.
As a side note, I really liked the transition from Hopper, Joyce and Alexei in the woods to El watching them. This show has gotten a little more creative with its cinematography.
The Bad: The biggest issue with this episode is how little character work there is. The episode is far too busy with too many plot movements, and as a result there are fewer character beats infused into the action than usual. I enjoy some action and plot development as much as anyone else, but I certainly prefer there to be a character story told throughout.
The result of a lack of character means that this episode doesn't have much under the surface of the suspense. The mystery of early in the season is nearly gone, so all the tension comes from the action setpieces which is too simple of a story to carry an episode. The characters are given very basic things to do and there isn't very much conflict for any of them to deal with throughout the episode.
I had a few problems with this. Robin seems to have somehow picked up on the Russian language immediately which is too quick for my liking. I still don't understand why the elevator decided to go down at the beginning of the episode, and it seems that there is no explanation. That's pretty stupid. Lastly, the terminator villain is a little too ridiculous for me.
The Unknown: What does Alexei know? Will he tell Hopper and Joyce anything?
What is with that goo at the end? Are the possessed people actually just goo and not the actual people? Have they somehow been replaced by monsters? How does this work? What is that monster at the end? How did it form like that? How many of these monsters are there? What is going to happen to Nancy and Jonathan?
Best Moment: Nancy and Jonathan getting back together was the only scene of the episode thta actually made me feel something.
Character of the Episode: Hopper.
Conclusion: This was entertaining, but it was lacking in character. I had fun watching this episode, but there is nothing more than ordinary TV drama here.
Summary: Billy accepts June's plan and June is ecstatic. News arrives of the Waterfords arrest and that Winslow has gone missing. Mrs. Winslow comes by and Eleanor nearly reveals the plan to smuggle out children. June shouts at her upsetting her. Eleanor commits suicide and June sees her slowly dying, but she lets her die. Lawrence is distraught during the funeral but seems to suspect something about June. Serena's betrayal is confirmed and Fred is angry at her. Serena is allowed some time with Nichole but only after Moira shouts at her. Luke goes to speak with Fred who refuses to give any valuable information. Fred infuriates Luke who strikes him.
The Good: Elisabeth Moss is fantastic as per usual. I love how she conveyed June's excitement and happiness early in the episode. She has actual power now, 52 kids are going to be saved from Gilead and the Waterfords are facing some sweet comeuppance back in Canada. Everything is going perfectly from June, and Elisabeth Moss is able to convey a light in June's eyes that wasn't there in any prior episode. She is ecstatic about everything that has happened and for the first time in a long time, she is actually looking forward to what is coming up.
This makes Eleanor nearly revealing the secret plan to Mrs. Winslow such a scary moment. In this one scene, June is faced to look at the reality of her actually falling back down to just another handmaid. After doing all of the hard work to get to the top, it's unbearable for her so she lashes out at Eleanor to ensure that the plan goes along perfectly. But she goes the extra mile. When she is faced with an opportunity to rid herself of any risk by letting Eleanor die, she takes it, and in one of the show's darkest scenes, June simply lets Eleanor pass away quietly. The moment is shot perfectly and it gives me chills, and it reminds me a lot of the scene in "Breaking Bad" where Walt lets Jane die when he has a chance to save her. Of course this moment isn't executed quite as well (see: The Bad), but it still hits the mark.
Lawrence's reaction to Eleanor's death is pretty heartbreaking. He has been one of the best parts of the season, and his motives are pretty clearly defined. He loves his wife more than anything else, so it really destroys him to lose her. But Lawrence isn't stupid, and June seems oddly unperturbed by Eleanor's death to him. It seems like June and Lawrence are on-course for a major confrontation in the season finale.
The scenes in Canada are good for the most part. It's satisfying to see Moira trash Serena, just as it's satisfying to see Luke get a good, clean hit on Fred. It's refreshing to see the Waterfords in a powerless position and it lets their real character show, not the fake facade that they have been putting on for way too many scenes in this season.
The Bad: There's something lacking with Eleanor's death. In "Breaking Bad", Jane's death was the climax of a despairing episode that built slowly and intricately to Walt's fateful decision. Eleanor's death doesn't get the same treatment and there are only a couple of moments before it that allow us to buy into June's decision. The death isn't a major climax like Jane's was, it's just another underwhelming big moment in a season that has been filled with underwhelming big moments that haven't gotten the appropriate amount of set-up to make them impactful.
June continues to get away with anything and everything and it is becoming more frustrating with every episode. In the last two episodes, June has been responsible for the deaths of two important people, yet she has currently faced no consequences for it. Somehow it's easier to get away with murder in Gilead than it is in the real world. It's frustrating that Winslow's disappearance has been attributed to the Americans. Were their no cameras to track where he went? Did nobody notice him go into Jezebel's and never come out? Were there really no pieces of evidence left behind to track where he had went? It's absurdly easy. I'll make a comparison with "Breaking Bad" again to demonstrate how this story is really lacking. "Grilled" was a hugely eventful episode in season 2 of "Breaking Bad" that led to the death of a major character. The consequences of his death were explored for 3 full episodes after his death, and the entire following episode was spent covering up his murder. The story was fleshed out and satisfying because of the time dedicated to it. Winslow's death is cheap and underwhelming because of how quickly it got brushed aside without any consequences.
I think that June letting Eleanor die was a poor direction to take June's character. We have already explored the darkness inside June with the Ofmatthew story earlier this season. Do we really need to see more of it? This show is very low on characters I genuinely empathize with and care for, so it's dangerous to put June on such a dark path, especially when her actions have started to become more and more frustrating for me. Once I stop caring about June as a person, I will have lost most of my interest in the show. The show needs to be very careful with where it goes next. Unfortunately, the messy writing of this season hasn't got my hopes up at all.
I still find myself disconnected with Serena's storyline. Not letting us know why Serena set Fred up is a huge mistake. Since we don't know what Serena sacrificed Fred for, we don't understand the significance of her actions. Furthermore, Serena seemed to genuinely care about Fred in their reunion scene which contradicts the idea that she still hates him. I'm left confused with Serena's motives, and that makes her story arc wholly uninteresting.
The Unknown: Will June's children plan work out? Will they be saved? Will something go wrong? Will Lawrence escape? Is June going with him? What will happen to both of them?
Does Lawrence suspect that June let Eleanor die? How did he figure it out? What will he do about it?
What are the effects of Eleanor's death? Will that mean that June has to be shipped off to a new household since the Lawrence household no longer has a wife?
What was Serena's deal with Tuello? What is she getting in return? Why are the Waterfords imprisoned in such cozy holding cells?
Will Fred eventually break? What do the Canadians want to do with him? Will Gilead make an attempt to get the Waterfords back?
Best Moment: June letting Eleanor die.
Character of the Episode: June.
Conclusion: This episode had some impressively good storytelling surrounding June, but the writing problems, fractured storytelling, and lack of consequences all but nullify the impact of the episode. There is a great story underneath all of the poor writing this season but it hasn't overcome enough to create something worthwhile.
Summary: Hopper and Joyce track the mystery assailant back to Kline and they confront him about it. Hopper kidnaps him and gets him to reveal that the culprits were the owners of Starcourt mall who are buying out various properties. Hopper and Joyce go to investigate but Kline warns the owners. The kids get back together when Will informs them that the Mind Flayer is back. Max and El suspect that Billy is possessed so they lure him into a sauna to test it. They confirm that Billy is possessed but Billy nearly kills El. Eventually Billy runs back to Heather and many other possessed townsfolk. Jonathan and Nancy are fired and they fight. Nancy goes to investigate more on Mrs. Driscoll. Robin, Steve and Dustin send Erica to infiltrate the room they found. She does so and lets them in. They discover that the room is an elevator and accidentally trigger it.
The Good: This episode was pretty explosive and I enjoyed it. The climax of the episode was brilliant and it provided an effective action sequence for early in the season's story. I thought that the plan to get Billy into the sauna made sense, and I enjoyed the drama once he was in there. Billy's begging was fascinating and created tension in an organic way. I was never sure if it was Billy actually talking or if it was just the Mind Flayer possessing him. The fight between Billy and El ended up being really intense, and it nicely demonstrated the overwhelming power of the Mind Flayer, setting up the story with a sense of impending doom as we learn that the Mind Flayer is building an army of superhumans like Billy.
Nancy and Jonathan's story finally went somewhere I liked. Having them both get fired was a nice way to force change for the characters. It makes sense that their secret investigations would go unpunished when they were in high school (they are just kids), but in the adult world they are severely penalized for acting on their own without any thought. Nancy's follow-up story is great as her fight with Jonathan forces her to really look at herself as a person to get past this rough patch in her life. I was impressed with how the show managed to portray Nancy in a really relatable light, accurately conveying the emotions that a girl in her position would be feeling.
Having the kids back together was fun, and their story in this episode was much better than the split stories of previous episodes. They have great chemistry together, but when they are on their own, the spark is missing. I especially liked how the tensions between characters continued on in their interactions despite them working together. The scenes between El and Mike, and Will and Lucas in particular were quite good.
I like that Kline returned as a much more significant character than he initially seemed. He was never portrayed as a likable guy, so it was smart to have him return as a weak villain. I enjoyed Hopper's fight with him, and I really liked that Hopper took Kline with him to get information instead of just leaving him.
The Bad: But then Hopper inexplicably leaves Kline in his own house so that he can contact his men. It's such a dumb move from Hopper, made worse by the fact that he was smart enough to take Kline with him earlier in the episode but not at the end.
I'm not enjoying Erica at all. Robin toed the line for being an obnoxious character due to the fact that she frequently had the answer for just about everything. However, her great chemistry with Steve and Dustin made her an enjoyable character who didn't annoy me at all. With Erica, the writers send her way over the line as she annoys me in just about every scene she is in. Her personality is extremely hard to buy into for a child, and the fact that this little kid has all of the answers is much more annoying than with Robin. I don't like her as a new character to focus on, and I hope she goes back into the background soon.
This show still doesn't quite engage me like other shows. It's fun to watch in the moment, but I'm never left spending much time reflecting on the episodes or desiring to watch them again. The show is only able to really hit "good" in terms of quality, and it never seems to transcend that. I think it has something to do with the show's format and its simplistic nature of storytelling. There's nothing wrong with simple storytelling, but this show just seems to do it in a very bland way.
The Unknown: Is the Mind Flayer really just a remnant from season 2 like Will said? Or is its emergence connected to the Russians?
Who are the Starcourt owners? What are they buying? Why is it so secretive? Are they the Russians? Why is Kline okay with what they are doing? What are they hiding that Kline had to warn them about?
Where does the elevator lead?
Why was Mrs. Driscoll getting the same body texture as Billy? Is the Mind Flayer also connected to the rats? Why was she freaking out like Billy? Is it a case where every possessed human gets a power-up at the same time, not just one?
Was Billy actually indifferent to what the Mind Flayer was doing or is he actively working for it? Billy's scenes in "The Mall Rats" are purposely left vague for us to speculate about this.
Best Moment: Nancy speaking with her mom and finding her strength again was a nice moment.
Character of the Episode: Nancy.
Conclusion: This was a good episode, giving Nancy some much-needed character development and providing an exciting climax.
Summary: Hopper is mad at Joyce for standing him up. Joyce eventually convinces him to check out Hawkins Lab. They are attacked by a mystery assailant who knocks Hopper out and leaves. Dustin, Steve and Robin search for evil Russians. Robin eventually cracks the code and the trio watch a group of Russians accept a shipment. They are almost caught but they escape. El sees Billy while playing a game with Max and realizes that he is doing something questionable. They track down that Heather is missing and pay her a visit but everything is strangely fine. After they leave, Billy and Heather knock out Heather's parents. Will and Mike get in a fight when Mike is way more interested in girls that his friendship with Will. Will leaves and destroys Castle Byers in a fit of rage. He senses the return of the Mind Flayer. Nancy and Jonathan return to Mrs. Driscoll where they find her consuming the fertilizer.
The Good: This episode benefited from terrific structuring. It's impressive how every single storyline in this episode started off as dumb fun before building up to a super creepy sequence which culminates in a major reveal that nicely establishes the season's story. The perfect way that every story flowed, and the way that the writers got all the stories to fit into one another was downright impressive and it made for what is easily the season's best episode so far.
El and Max's story is pretty good. I love the way that El accidentally stumbles on Billy's sinister actions. Of course the two teenage girls would abuse El's powers just for fun, and I love how the fun and games quickly turned into something sinister. There were a couple of excellent sequences here. El's bathtub scenes are always really well shot to convey creepiness and fear of the unknown. The scene with Billy and Heather at Heather's house worked really well too simply because of how odd and unexpected it was. It had its flaws for sure (see: The Bad), but I think that it worked pretty well.
Robin, Steve and Dustin are simply excellent and their chemistry is fantastic. I had tons of fun with their storyline and the humour was simply great. Steve and Dustin's awful attempt at following the "evil Russian guy" was hilarious, and the payoff gag of him being a dancing teacher was awesome. Additionally, we have been treated to the wonderful arc of Steve failing to adjust to real life after leaving high school. Steve has consistently been given more depth than half of the cast.
The Mike vs Will story is heartbreaking and I think it works really well. What makes it so good is that both characters have understandably gone in different directions with their lives and those differences have started to cost them their friendship. Will is sad because Mike no longer has any time for him and is so fixated on girls, while Mike is upset that Will doesn't understand how much he does care about El and how her dumping him has affected him. I've felt that this season hasn't done a very good job of examining the pains of growing up until now with this storyline. It's hard not to feel for Will who has to go through the tough act of leaving his childhood behind. Noah Schnapp puts in a fantastic performance (he remains my favourite kid actor on the show by far), and the scene where he destroys Castle Byers is particularly poignant.
Joyce and Hopper's infiltration of Hawkins lab is fine television overall, but what really stands out is the reveal that Joyce is planning to leave Hawkins as a desperate bid to escape the horrors of her past. This is such a real emotion and it's easy to sympathize with Joyce. Additionally, Hopper finally comes off as a good guy in this season when he talks to Joyce about her decision with some kindness and caring. This is the guy I liked in seasons 1 and 2, not the stupid over-protective dad role that the show has thrust David Harbour into.
The Bad: The mystery this season just isn't as engaging as it was before. I guess it's because we already know so much, so the thrill that was there in season 1 doesn't have a chance to return in this season. It becomes clear that the Mind Flayer is behind everything so his return isn't as big of a moment as the show thinks. It's also the most predictable direction to take the show, so I really hope there are some twists to this.
Some of the main stories are hard to invest in. Hopper and Joyce's argument is really dumb and I was annoyed by Joyce's refusal to acknowledge how she left Hopper. Not having her even mention it at all was way too blunt and it made her seem like a total jerk. Their story was probably the least engaging to watch overall.
Nancy and Jonathan are still horribly dull as characters. The Hawkins Post guys are somehow even worse as they are one-note "bad guys" who do the same shtick in every episode. Unfortunately they aren't funny so the gag has already run its course and has started to annoy me more than anything else.
I wish the Mike vs Will story had gotten more focus in the prior episodes. The big moment of their fight is excellent, but I feel like it could have been so much more had it the fight been the boiling point of a conflict which had been given time to actually grow in the first two episodes. The writers also heavily botched the characters of Mike and Lucas this season as they come off as far too unlikable, and it's hard to sympathize with their cause instead of Will's.
The Unknown: What is the ice for? The Mind Flayer? How was Heather taken down from the bath tub? Was that just a cool effect?
Did Mrs. Driscoll get infected by the remains of the rat? Why is she eating fertilizer now?
What are the Russians smuggling into the mall?
Who attacked Hopper? Was it a Russian?
Are Billy and Heather both possessed by the Mind Flayer? It seems like he is building an army of possessed people this time around.
Best Moment: Will destroying Castle Byers was such a heartbreaking moment. It's a wonderful moment showing how life forces change regardless of who you are and how tough it can be to accept that people will go their different ways and that you need to move on.
Character of the Episode: Will.
Conclusion: This was a much stronger episode with some emotional moments and phenomenal structure and pacing. I still had my usual laundry list of gripes, but this was a fun episode.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.