Summary: Nancy and Jonathan go to kill the monster and Steve arrives at the wrong time. They work together and hurt the monster. Joyce and Hopper work with the lab people to get into the upside down but have to give away El's location. The lab people go to get El but she kills them, summoning the monster. The monster kills Dr. Brenner and El is able to kill it but vanishes afterwards. Hopper and Joyce find Will and Hopper uses CPR to bring him to life. After everything goes back to normal but there is something different about Will.
The Good: This episode was a season finale and felt like it, making it more enjoyable though there are problems.
I'll dive into the Nancy/Jonathan/Steve storyline first. I enjoyed most of it, but not all (see: The Bad). I thought it was very tense to watch them fight the monster and it felt like a season finale storyline. I really liked that they decided to have Steve there as it added some unpredictability and managed to help close out his storyline this season.
I enjoyed Hopper's flashbacks too. They were effective at adding some emotions and created good parallels with Hopper's conflicts in the present, particularly the CPR scene. Though they may seem unnecessary, they served their purpose think and they were easily the most emotional parts of this entire series.
The school assault was pretty good too. It was tense and I wasn't sure how the kids would get free, and the inclusion of the monster was also very welcome and enjoyable. There was tons of action and I particularly enjoyed the scene where the kids armed the slingshot to fight the monster. It was comedic and tense at the same time, which made it quite an unusual success. Mike and El's scenes were also harmless, though not particularly good. It was a decent story. Meanwhile Dustin was as excellent as always.
The reunion with Will was good too. It was a strong emotional ending to the story of season 1 and definitely capped off the season in a strong way. I loved seeing the kids playing Dungeons and Dragons again and it was a very good moment to include.
The Bad: I had a number of problems with this though that really detracted from my enjoyment.
The Monster was completely different from what we have seen before in terms of his behaviour which is really annoying. The scenes with Jonathan, Nancy and Steve were fun but incredibly ridiculous. The monster has to go through the ceiling dramatically for his first entrance, but then he just magically teleports into the room somehow the next scene. How did the monster know about the trap and leave the first time? How did it not know the second time? How do bullets do no damage but a spiked baseball bat somehow does? Why didn't the monster instantly attack Jonathan like it did with Barb or Will? The monster never travelled far, this was established. So why did it instantly go to the school? All of these are inconsistencies that annoyed me about this episode and took away from the climactic excitement.
I didn't like the deaths of the lab people either. It was too sudden and anticlimactic. I also don't like that Dr. Brenner just stood there and got killed by the monster. El killing all the people in cold blood was pretty gruesome and it should have been treated as a much bigger deal. The other kids especially should have been grossed out by it and should have at least acknowledged that they just witnessed several people die.
Then of course there is the usual complaint. The ending was easy to predict and went to a very predictable happy ending that I saw coming since the beginning of the show pretty much. El's possible death was a bit of a twist, but it didn't surprise me, I pretty much just went "oh okay so that's where the story decided to go".
I wasn't a fan of the sequel bait ending either. This show has been fairly enjoyable but I have no interest in seeing another. This show came at the right time and captured some magic in being an 80s throwback show. But that magic most likely won't be there in a second season, and then we will be left with a subpar, generic television show.
The Unknown: A couple things that build to season 2.
Is El really dead? I doubt it honestly. Hopper was putting Eggos in whatever that box was so I feel he somehow came in contact with El. How did she survive though? Where did she go?
What is wrong with Will? What will be the effects of the tendril that Will had in his mouth? I assume he only survived because he was recently put in. Why did the monster do the tendril thing? What did it accomplish? It killed some people to eat, but what was the point of the tendril? Why did it choose to do this to Will?
Best Moment: Probably the death of El and the kids trying to fight the monster. That scene was exciting and fun and delivered a decent amount of emotion too.
Character of the Episode: Dustin didn't do a whole lot this episode, so it will go to El for delivering big time in the finale.
Conclusion: This was decent, yet flawed and unspectacular. This show has been very ordinary all the way through and never threatened to be anything special. And I highly doubt season 2 will be any better. This episode highlights how I feel about the entire season as a whole. Exciting but honestly just ordinary and forgettable. I will review season 2 once it's out but I won't have my expectations very high. Who knows, maybe I'll be surprised?
Overall, I honestly think I was a little but generous with my scores this season and that is because this show did have a unique effect with its 80s theme. Doubtlessly, this episode and all the other ones would have received much lower scores if this was just an ordinary TV show. But the 80s theme added some life to this and made it decent, when it could have been a real flub. Season 2 runs the risk of being a flub though so I will hope that it can find a new way to be enjoyable.
Summary: A man blows up a nuke in a submarine somewhere. Matt is going to Australia with John and Michael to bring Kevin back to Miracle for the seventh anniversary. Laurie joins in and doesn't see eye to eye with Matt's faith. On the plane there, the group is forced to land in Tasmania and have to take a boat with a lion worshipping orgy in it. Matt runs into a guy who calls himself God and also throws another man overboard. Matt confronts him and after a conversation, is freed from his faith. God is eaten by a lion.
The Good: Well The Leftovers continued its hot streak in a big way with this episode. This entire episode took the weirdness of this show and took it to a whole other level and yet it still works remarkably well. If anything, the story is better with the weirdness than it is without. It's impressive that such a weird episode was able to be so brilliant, exciting and beautiful.
The episode even opens on a completely weird note. We see a man strip down naked in a submarine, steal a key from a man and then blow up a nuke. It's such a strange moment and instantly gets you into the tone of the episode with a stupid amount of weirdness. But since the scene is in "The Good" it obviously worked for me and I can't even explain why. I'm not sure why the man did it (see: The Unknown) but I am definitely interested to find out more.
Matt's overall story is what carried this episode. It starts off like one of the classic Matt episodes, where he clings to his faith while everything starts going wrong. But ten the episode takes a turn for the better as some interesting developments, including an orgy and a man who calls himself God, occurred, increasing my interest in the episode. In the en this was very different from the other Matt episodes, since it wasn't about Matt sticking to his faith, but rather him letting go of it. He has given so much and now after an incredible scene where he talks to God (see: Best Moment), he finally realizes that everything h has done could very well have been for nothing and then he lets go of it all. This all culminates in that fantastic ending scene where God is devoured by a lion an Matt just turns o the camera and says "that's the guy I was telling you about", which could be taken as him talking about David Burton himself, or about God as he has preached about him for years. Overall this was a pleasing storyline chronicling a major change in an important character and giving him some much needed closure.
The Matt vs Laurie conflict was very good too. It was a good look at faith vs nihilism which was the main driving point of this episode. And surprisingly nihilism won over this time, which is rare in television and this new look at the conflict feels very original and enjoyable. I loved the arguments regarding Kevin too because it's easy to understand where both characters are coming from judging by their past experiences with him.
And now, the major elephant in the room: God. Most of this will be in The Unknown, but I was very happy with this storyline overall. David Burton has been a presence in the past and it's good to get a little bit more about him even though e are unlikely to get any proper closure about who he was and what happened to him. I enjoyed his vagueness and his stories about the Bible and Jesus were not only hilarious, but also served to properly start breaking Matt's faith in that amazing conversation scene.
The lion orgy was also hilariously weird. It also served to show that different people believe different thins and that while this whole Frasier thing sounds ridiculous to us and the characters, who's to say that it's less believable than Matt's mission.
The Bad: Nothing.
The Unknown: Was David Burton really God or was he just spewing garbage? Did he really cause the Sudden Departure? Did he really "save" Matt? Or was it just another hoax? How did he become God if he is God? What powers did he have?
Will Matt still go after Kevin? It does sound like he's just given up on that though.
Why did the man blow up the nuke? Was it over some stupid belief just like everything else this season?
Best Moment: Matt speaks to God. That scene was just beautifully done overall. Matt came in believing that David Burton wasn't God, but here was his opportunity to finally get some answers for what he had put all his faith into. And the answers, as it seems to be the trend this season, were disappointing. Burton says "I did it because I could" regarding the Departure and totally exposes that Matt has done everything for himself an it is powerful and also correct stuff. And Matt knows it so we see him snap and completely lose his spirit as he begins to realize that everything he has done was for nothing. But it's not enough as Matt frees Burton hoping for one final chance to get some satisfaction and confirmation of the greatness of the almighty. And yet with the snap of a finger it all comes crashing down as Matt realizes with that excellent look on his face that everything he has invested in has been a disappointment. It's great storytelling that is not only engaging but also tense. For a minute I was genuinely unsure about what Burton would do and the snap of his fingers was a wonderful "climax".
Character of the Episode: Matt obviously because his character took such a drastic turn in this episode.
Conclusion: Another amazing episode for this show. This was so unique and original and told a really great story that properly closed out Matt's character arc. I'm really enjoying this season so far as every episode seems to have at least a few emotional scenes and this was no exception.
Summary: The Hawkins Lab people go to Mike's house and the kids flee with El before reuniting with Lucas. They go into hiding and are contacted by Hopper, Joyce, Nancy and Jonathan who are working together now. The group goes to the school to make a "bathtub" for El to contact those in the upside down. Barb is dead but Willis alive. Hopper and Joyce go to the gate but are caught by guards. Will is attacked by the monster.
The Good: This was a very strong episode, which is probably the best episode of the show so far.
The most impressive thing was definitely the fast pace and overall tension. The opening sequence for one was absolutely thrilling and fun, even though it was pretty obvious that the group would escape in the end. I assumed that the tension would drop a bit, but with the rapid plot developments and everybody finally working together, the tension continued to persist through several scenes including the wonderful scene where El goes into the bathtub.
Speaking of that scene, I really enjoyed that storyline. It made sense and had good continuity from the previous scenes that we have scene with El in the lab. I was happy to get some confirmation on the standings of both Will and Barb before the expected rescue mission in the finale. There were also some nice moments between El and Joyce as the former panicked at returning to the upside down and the latter used her motherly instincts to comfort El.
I enjoyed seeing the full cast coming together at last. Though I have some reservations (see: The Bad), I'm happy to see everybody finally working together before the final endgame because it gives us some fresh and interesting character interactions before everything goes down, including some excellent scenes between Joyce/El and Nancy/Mike.
Steve's redemption arc continues and I'm happy about that. I thought it would have stopped in the last episode, but I'm glad they are continuing even if it does feel a bit out of place in this episode where so much is happening in other scenes.
Dustin remains the greatest thing about this show. He was good in the first few episodes but he has really stood out in he past couple episodes, showing great intelligence and being genuinely funny. His late night conversation with Mr. Clark was very well done and hilarious, and it continues to make me believe that Mr. Clark will be doing something important in the finale.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the bullies story actually have some consequences and it felt like a very natural step to bring Hopper and Joyce to El. So I retract that complaint about the story from last episode having no consequences.
I'll reluctantly put the make up between Mike, El and Lucas in the good. It was a sweet moment but it really didn't quite feel satisfying because all characters didn't really do much in particular to make it feel like they should have logically made up. But then I remember that these are just kids so I suppose it's logical that they would make up so easily, even though it wasn't exactly satisfying on an emotional level.
The Bad: The usual complaints still stand. Even though this was exciting, it didn't have me quite on the edge of my seat because I always felt like I knew what was going to come next. And since most of this episode was impactful due to its energy and tension, it doesn't succeed as well as it would on paper because of the show's predictability.
The cliffhangers did nothing for me. It's obvious Will isn't dead and Joyce and Hopper will obviously still go through the gate in some way. It felt like 2 cliffhangers for the sake of cliffhangers going into the finale.
Nancy and Jonathan haven't really accomplished anything so far. Hopper and Joyce practically have the same pieces they do only the adults are actually going to do something. Hopefully Jonathan and Nancy will do something, but so far their storyline feels pretty much pointless.
The Unknown: Is Will dead? Probably not. But I wonder how he will escape alive from the monster.
Are Hopper and Joyce captured now? How will they escape? Or will they end up working with the lab people by volunteering to go through the gate? We had that one scene a couple episodes ago where the one man went into the gate which means it wouldn't feel implausible.
What are Jonathan and Nancy going to do? It feels like they don't have much of a role here. Same with Steve, so surely they will do something.
Best Moment: Probably Nancy and Mike's short talk. It was nice to get a proper relationship scene that feels real. It was also hilarious hearing Mike attempt to say he didn't like El, but Nancy clearly wasn't buying it.
Character of the Episode: Dustin, who remains the real MVP of this show.
Conclusion: This was a very good and enjoyable episode to set up the finale. It succeeded because I was enjoying it all the way through and I am looking forward to see the story wrap up.
Summary: Lucas and Mike don't see eye to eye and split up. Mike and Dustin find El when she saves them from the bullies. Lucas goes to Hawkins Lab and sees several vehicles heading out to find El. Nancy escapes from the monster and becomes closer to Jonathan. Steve is upset and gets into a fight with Jonathan. Jonathan accidentally hits a cop and is taken to the police station. Hopper and Joyce go to meet Terry Ives about her missing daughter and figure out who El is. Flashbacks reveal that El opened the gate.
The Good: This was more solid stuff as expected from this show. The season is picking up nicely as it nears its conclusion.
The opening sequence was well done but it had some flaws (see: The Bad). I'm thankful that we weren't left with the cliffhanger throughout the episode and that we got to resume right where we left off. I was very happy with Nancy's reaction though. It was good to see her so afraid after what happened and Jonathan is likeable as he is very kind and caring towards her. I love that Nancy pieced together the blood after staying awake all night. After all why wouldn't she if she was thinking about it all night? It would come up at some point and I'm glad that the show acknowledged it.
I enjoyed seeing Hopper and Joyce together. Their story was pretty simple but I enjoyed seeing them piecing together that El exists and I'm excited to see how they will factor into the other storylines with the kids and teenagers. Terry Ives not being able to talk felt clichéd but it was a good way to explain how she lost the lawsuit against Hawkins Lab. I'm glad that the show thought through that much.
The kid storyline had some good moments in it. Most of which were from Dustin who is extremely likeable. I've enjoyed Dustin more than the other kids since the beginning but he really shined in this episode as he was not only the voice of reason, but also very funny and consistently entertaining. While the other kids are fighting, Dustin remains the moral compass who ensures that we remain engaged in the storyline. The writers have done excellently with the kids which I think is the show's biggest accomplishment.
I enjoyed El's storyline for the most part too but it also had flaws (see: The Bad). I enjoyed the flashbacks though they were pretty slow. They explained a lot about the gate and felt very exciting and intriguing throughout. This storyline was decent enough.
The Bad: There were several small problems though as usual. The clichéd and predictable nature of the show is still here. The ending of the last episode was pretty surprising and I thought it would lead to something special, but it was just misleading as Nancy is alright and the story continues to feel painfully average and unspectacular.
I hated the bullies storyline a lot. It was stupid that they were so threatening and I didn't like how apparently one of them was able to go around and surround Dustin and Mike. It was pretty unbelievable but even worse was that they made Mike jump into the quarry. He would have died! It's incredibly stupid that they would go to such lengths and really took me out of the moment. What makes less sense is how El saved Mike. She arrived in time to see him jump which means she should have been able to prevent him from jumping at all but it was just done for dramatic effect. Also she broke the kid's arm, shouldn't that have consequences? But it really doesn't look like it will.
I didn't like how easy it was for El to rob the store. It was pretty stupidly simple and I'm disappointed that it had no consequences. Also shouldn't the Hawkins Lab people be more aware and prepared for something like this so they can quickly get El back? It seemed to take them forever to finally start heading out.
The Unknown: Mr. Clark is getting more screen time than expected. Surely he will factor into the story somewhere down the line. The question is how will he factor into the story?
What happened to Terry? How did the Hawkins Lab people take her child? How did she get special powers?
Best Moment: Probably Dustin talking to Mike after they talked to Lucas. He's just so likeable, logical and entertaining and it feels refreshing in this show.
Character of the Episode: Dustin.
Conclusion: This was more solid, yet still flawed stuff. The story is picking up as it heads to the finale and I'm sure it will be a satisfying but unspectacular finale. This show is, as I've been saying since episode 1, very ordinary but still easy to enjoy.
Summary: The kids figure out that Will is in another dimension and try to figure out how to get into it. They attempt to locate a portal, but their attempts are subverted by El. Lucas gets in a fight with Dustin and Mike and leaves and El runs away. Nancy and Jonathan go hunting for the monster and Nancy finds a portal to the other dimension where she sees the monster. Lonnie returns to see Joyce only for the money and tries to shut down her efforts to contact Will. Hopper continues to investigate Hawkins Lab but they are aware of him and attempt to monitor his movements.
The Good: This was a much stronger effort and it is my favourite episode since the pilot.
Hopper's investigation was very fun as usual but I think this was the best episode of it. The opening sequence was very tense and while it was cliché at times like with Hopper taking care of the guards, I did enjoy it a lot more because there was a lot of suspense and we weren't sure how much Hopper would uncover about the lab. I also loved the scene with Hopper hunting for the wiretap, it was the smartest that show has been with this investigation and it was nice to see some thought put into the show and the characters.
The kid storyline was superb in this episode with some real conflict and plot progression. I really love their interactions which remain as fun and special as ever. The conflict and fight at the end also felt earned since we have seen some hostilities forming between the trio ever since Eleven was introduced and the writers did an excellent job of staging this scene to feel like the big breaking point between all of the friends.
The best thing about that scene was how everyone's motivations felt real. Lucas wants to find Will and is angry at El's betrayal, Mike is upset that Lucas has been so hostile towards El and Dustin is just trying to keep everything calm. But better than this is El's motivation to prevent them from finding the portal. She knows it will take them to Hawkins Lab and she is afraid of going back there. After seeing so many flashbacks of her former life it's completely believable that she has been traumatized by her past and her tears and panic at the end feel very real and felt like an organic next step in the story. I will applaud the writers for doing a great job with the kids storyline which has been the most consistently well written so far.
The Nancy/Jonathan story was very good in this episode too. It makes sense that they wouldn't be too fond of each other considering who they are, and I'm very glad to see that they didn't just split up after their argument. Though they may not be friends, they only have each other in the hunt for Barb and Will, which makes it realistic for them to stick together. The final scene was also very tense and exciting and it's good to see the monster for the first time. I'm also surprised to see that Nancy has entered the other dimension and I wonder if she is gone now too (see: The Unknown).
I liked the scene between Steve and Nancy too. It's nice to see that Steve isn't being painted as just some stupid and selfish teenager but actually a somewhat decent guy.
The Bad: The usual of course. The show is too clichéd still despite a few surprising developments which make it less predictable.
Lonnie's return was tedious and felt mostly pointless. It didn't further any storylines, wasn't interesting and was overall just a pointless roadblock which would prevent Jonathan from talking to Joyce about the monster before the plot wants it to happen.
The final scene was tense and exciting but had some major issues. The monster just taking the dead prey and ignoring both Nancy and Jonathan was really dumb and didn't seem to make any sense. We need a better idea of why the monster attacks people soon. I didn't like that Nancy just stupidly went into the mysterious hole without getting Jonathan. Surely she would want to tell him where she is going in case something bad happens. And it was beyond ridiculous that Jonathan didn't hear Nancy calling him over but heard her getting attacked.
The Unknown: A couple questions.
Why does the monster kill? How does it enter the regular world at will? Why was it not interested in Nancy and Jonathan at first?
Why did the Hawkins Lab leave Hopper alive and on his own? Are they watching him? Do they have a special plan for him? What else will Hopper tell Joyce and will they work together now?
Will Lonnie come back later in the story?
Best Moment: The big scene between the kids where they fought at the end was tense and wonderful. A perfect culmination for tons of build up.
Character of the Episode: Tough to choose in this episode. In the end I will pick Eleven over Hopper by a hair because I thought the story had built so well to that climax and El was the standout in that scene. Hopper wasn't quite as impressive.
Conclusion: This was much better. The writing and storytelling improved quite a bit and made for a really enjoyable episode. This is a much brighter sign for the final 3 episodes which can hopefully live up to expectations.
Summary: Will's funeral is to be held but Joyce doesn't believe that it is his body. Joyce encounters Will at home. Nancy talks to the police about Barb and they predict that she just ran away. She breaks up with Steve. She goes to Jonathan for help and they discover the monster in a picture of Barb. Hopper continues his investigation and discovers that Will's body is fake. He goes to enter Hawkins Lab. El contacts Will and proves to the other kids that he is alive.
The Good: I enjoyed parts of this. The plot developments continue to be paced really well and the show really does a good job of timing when a big scene happens. There never seems to be an entire episode of build up and an ending climax, rather we have slow scenes which build up to another exciting scene or reveal just a few minutes away. It makes the show easily enjoyable and it is fun to watch this show despite its predictability and simplicity (see: The Bad as usual for this).
Joyce and Jonathan's conflict was good. It's easy to understand their grief and their fight was well den and I'm very glad that they instantly forgave each other. That's what real people in grief do: they fight but will reconcile easily because they need each other.
Hopper's investigation was once again simple but it was the easiest storyline to enjoy. It's easy to root for Hopper as he is entering waters out of his depth but he is fighting hard for justice and truth.
The Bad: There were quite a few problems with this episode though that heavily detracted from my enjoyment.
First of all, the usual complaints: the show remains clichéd and predictable. Every scene has predictable and repetitive story beats which get old quickly. One again, I do understand the novelty of a show like this, but it's getting less fascinating to see an 80s show after four episodes. It makes me wonder if this show would have been better as just a movie instead.
Regarding the movie point, it does feel like a tory suited for a movie. This entire episode was simplistic but also extremely filler. The plot has hardly progressed and we are literally at the exact same point at the end of this episode as we were in the previous episode, making this feel pointless. There wasn't even any good character development and I didn't feel at all satisfied after this episode. For an 8 episode show, a filler episode like this is pretty much unacceptable and it makes me wonder if the show would have been better if it was just compressed into a movie. It's not like the characters or plot were so complex that they needed several episodes to develop.
There were several storytelling flaws too that I will need to list off. It didn't look like Nancy got a good look at the monster in the forest, but apparently she did which was very awkward. I didn't particularly care for her storylines with Steve and her mother either. They were unemotional and pretty typical for an average TV show, not a good one. I didn't like her scenes with Jonathan either. The acting, dialogue and storytelling was very off and I just didn't enjoy them together. The clichéd nature of the final scene with them uncovering the picture of the monster was also pretty stupid overall and completely took me out of the scene.
I wasn't a fan of the kids story either. The scenes with El were played for laughs but they were pretty unrealistic and hard to believe for me. I also didn't like that El could just conveniently contact Will and didn't choose to do it at an earlier time or even tell any of the other kids that she could do it. It felt unbelievable and even her social issues can't quite explain that much. Also, without any kind of wedge between the kid characters, that makes the entire plot point of Will's fake body pointless since it had no effect on the story. Hopper was already looking into Hawkins Lab, Joyce never believed he was dead and Jonathan was already grieving so what was the point overall? Without any effect on the kid storyline it gives us absolutely nothing.
The Unknown: How can El contact Will in the other dimension and broadcast it to the radio?
What happened to the man who went into the weird place with the slime? Is he dead? Is that place the entry point to the other dimension? How did it get there? Was it from experiments? What effects does it have on the human world? Is it why the monster can seemingly go through dimensions at will?
How did Will make himself visible to Joyce through the wall?
Best Moment: Honestly it was Joyce talking to Will because that scene was decently written and had some proper emotion.
Character of the Episode: Hopper for being the most likeable and consistently enjoyable throughout.
Conclusion: This was disappointing. This show was never great or even threatening great, but this episode was sloppy and pointless. Hopefully the storytelling improves in the upcoming episodes because this was quite a bit below par.
Summary: Mike and the other boys plan to go looking for Will after school with El. Joyce sets up lights in her house and manages to make contact with Will and has a run in with the monster. Jonathan is exposed as a pervert. Nancy investigates Barb's disappearance. Hopper turns his eyes to Hawkins Lab to find Will but his investigation is turned on its head when he finds Will's dead body in the quarry.
The Good: Like the last 2 episodes, this was perfectly fun and enjoyable television.
El wandering around the house was a small scene but really good. I enjoyed seen her get flashbacks so we can slowly start piecing together her past, but the best part for me was how real it felt. Some of El's dialogue does seem a little forced, but her exploring a new environment felt very real. It was refreshing to see some character work being done and it really helps the show get more scenes that let it take a break from the rapid revealing of plot developments.
Joyce's storyline was the most engaging in this episode. It was easy to understand her motivations as she looked for her son in her own house, and it was equally believable that others would think she's crazy. It was very exciting to see Joyce finally get into contact with Will and the brief monster scenes were quite tense and exciting. I look forward to seeing where the storyline goes from here.
Hopper's investigation was simple but still very fun. Hopper is a fun character even if he is a bit of a stereotype and I really enjoyed him Steve Gomezing his way into the Hawkins Lab to continue his investigation. I get the sense that he's not going to give up on Hawkins Lab just yet and that makes this another story I'm interested to keep following.
The ending twist was definitely a good one. This show has felt largely by-the-numbers so far, so it's good to see that there are a few twists and turns in the story to keep it exciting. There are many places the story can go now (see: The Unknown), which should add a welcome sense of excitement and intrigue to the story.
The kids' storyline was fine but unspectacular. Not much to say about the story, but I definitely did enjoy all of the moments where the personalities of the kids came against each other. It lets each of them stand out amongst the others. I particularly enjoy Dustin.
The rest of the things that I mentioned as good in previous episodes remain true. This show knows what it is and consistently succeeds at accomplishing what it attempts to accomplish.
The Bad: I don't want to sound repetitive but of course this episode had the same problems as the rest. Too predictable, too clichéd, too simple.
More specifically, there were a few scenes I didn't like. It felt dumb that Jonathan just hung up all of his pictures for one, it felt like another dumb thing for him to do that led to his camera being destroyed. At least he will presumably start developing something of a relationship with Nancy soon judging on how the story is progressing with both of their storylines.
I didn't like that Joyce didn't inquire more from Holly. She is desperate so surely she would want to know if someone else can not only validate her sanity, but also perhaps offer some more insight on how to contact Will. It also felt a little dumb that both Joyce and Karen would lose track of Holly and not notice the blinking lights at all.
There were a lot of small scenes that did kind of push the limits of realism as well like the bullies and Joyce getting all of the Christmas lights. It would take a while to get through all of them, but there were several small things that just didn't seem very well thought out.
The Unknown: Lots of questions again.
Is Barb dead now? I don't see how she would survive whatever happened to her in the opening scene.
What about the monster? How does it travel between dimensions? Are there more than 1 like I suggested last time? How is Will escaping it? Is it in the main dimension now for good or did it go back?
What is going on in Hawkins Laboratory? The newspaper clearly reports Dr. Brenner taking El. Will Hopper learn about this? How will he?
What was in the forest with Nancy? It didn't seem like the monster. Perhaps another character?
How is Will able to control the electricity so precisely? How does he know how to contact the main dimension anyways?
How about that ending? Is that really Will or is it a fake set there by Hawkins Lab as a cover-up? Could it be that Will's spirit is alive but needs to be put back into his body? Or is he actually dead and the monster killed him?
Best Moment: Tough to pick as always because nothing really stands up. I'll pick the ending reveal because it does make the plot much more exciting going forwards.
Character of the Episode: Joyce for her performance and the overall engagement in her story.
Conclusion: This was more solid stuff with familiar praises and complaints. I do think this was a bit better than the last episode and hopefully the ending can make the rest of the season more exciting.
Summary: Mike decides to hide El (Eleven) in his house when she tells him about the dangerous people after her. El tells him and the others that she has seen Will and he's hiding. Nancy goes to Steve's party with Barb. She and Steve have sex and when Barb goes outside by herself she is attacked by the monster. Joyce comes into contact with Will through the phone.
The Good: This was more solid and enjoyable stuff for the most part.
We had some major developments regarding Will's disappearance. Joyce has come into contact with him in a very mysterious scene (see: The Unknown) and she has also provided a lot more insight on this apparent other dimension where I assume Will is hiding. The fact that El has seen Will is also very interesting and raises a lot of questions about her too (again see: The Unknown).
Aside from that, this was more of the same. The kid characters remain very likeable and fun. They each have distinct personalities and when they come into conflict with each other, they all raise very valid arguments. I'm glad to see kids portrayed like actual kids instead of as adults only incredibly stupid. They have probably been the strongest part of this show so far and I am always engaged when they are on screen.
I liked several small scenes too. Joyce's desperation when facing her boss felt very real and I really loved how she tried to use her missing son to get what she wants. It was a nice little bit of humour and realism in the show. El and Mike getting to know each other was also very good. It's nice seeing kids being kids and trying to show off to one another and to have some good fun. Once more, kudos to the writers for portraying kids properly and to the child actors who have done an incredible job so far.
The 80s atmosphere remains very good. There are loads of 80s references which are very fun to spot and they also help with the continued setting development.
The Bad: Some things didn't work for me however.
I didn't like the Nancy storyline. I was never engaged and I can't be bothered to care about the characters involved. They are very shallow and stereotypical and honestly bore me. Though I do like the development that Barb has been taken by the monster as it should give these characters something more interesting to do, I was annoyed at how unemotional that entire scene felt. I felt nothing when Nancy chose to stay with Steve since that was inevitable and I felt nothing for Barb even though she was sitting all sad and alone. I wish more character work had been done to make me care more for these storylines.
I also didn't like that Jonathan was conveniently there taking pictures of Barb. I don't understand what his motivation was to go take pictures of the forest and it doesn't make sense to me how it would help him find Will. Even worse, I don't see why he would stop to take pictures of the party instead of doing what he came there to do. It felt ridiculous that he would just sit around taking pictures. It's really creepy and also odd that the tone didn't seem to focus on how creepy it was. Overall, it felt like a flawed and forced development for the sake of getting a character in a position for him to do something convenient to the plot (see: The Unknown).
The characters remain shallow and the story is clichéd and mostly predictable. As I stated that was part of the allure of the show, but it still prevents it from hitting the next level. The good thing about this is that it shows excellent self-awareness from the creator and the writers. They know what this show is and so they won't damage it by reaching too high. It's not a bad thing for the show to settle on the level of good instead of shooting for great, but it will explain why my scores won't be extremely high for this show despite all that it does right.
The Unknown: Plenty of questions.
Who are the people going after Eleven and what did they do to her in the past? Why did they lock her up? Is she even real? Could she be an artificial human? Or perhaps an experiment for whatever powers she has? How did she escape? She also saw Will in this other dimension apparently? How? When did she go there? Does she have an ability to travel there? Do the government people? Was she sent into that mysterious hole or whatever that is being hidden?
Why is Will hiding? Where is he hiding exactly? How can he talk to Joyce? How did he get the phone? What was with that scene anyways? How did Will or the monster or whatever turn on the electronics from the other dimension? How did the monster apparently just phase through the wall like that? Also what is with the flickering lights? Does that signify when the monster is around?
Did Barb's blood attract the monster? How did she end up in the other dimension? How was the monster just conveniently right there? Is there more than one monster?
How will Jonathan taking pictures factor into the main plot? Surely it's not all for nothing especially considering how he had to do many illogical things to get into the position he was in. I get the feeling that his pictures will be revealed to someone else at some point for some conflict.
Best Moment: Nothing has stood out so far. I'll go with Mike showing El his house. It was a lovely reminder that these 2 are still just kids despite their roles in the story and it was the best character work the show has done so far honestly.
Character of the Episode: I will go with Mike for thinking logically with what to do with El and coming to a logical conclusion.
Conclusion: This was more of the same stuff, but there were more specific flaws this time around. This show remains enjoyable of course and it's easy to understand why so many love it. For me though, the show doesn't offer enough emotions and character storytelling to really hit that next level.
Summary: A mysterious monster of some sort is loose in the town of Hawkins. Will Byers encounters it and goes missing. The Hawkins police chief, Hopper starts to investigate. Will's friends Mike, Lucas and Dustin go looking for him themselves. They discover a mysterious girl who is on the run from a government group.
The Good: This was a very easy episode of television to enjoy. The plot was simple and easy to follow, the characters well-defined right off the bat and the premise very interesting. In a world filled with complex TV shows this can feel like a breath of fresh air for some.
The one big thing this show accomplishes is in its setting. The 80s timeline is recreated perfectly with lots of brilliant touches like the dungeons and dragons game, the phone, the references to comic books and more. The tone is conveyed so brilliantly that it's easy to get caught up in the world and to just enjoy what you're seeing. The simplistic plotline also pays off in this way because it closely resembles the kind of story that would be used back in the 80s. This kind of retro TV show is rare to find and because of that it has seen massive success. I definitely have to applaud the creators for making a show that so perfectly gives the target audience something they never even knew they wanted.
I also heavily enjoyed the pacing of this show. It manages to feel like a TV show with its pacing while also moving fast enough to feel like a movie. This is a wonderful blend of 2 different types of pacing that makes the show very enjoyable. Honestly without the quick pacing that also allows the scenes to breathe, this episode probably wouldn't be anywhere near as fun.
I also liked the kid characters in the show, which is a rare treat. They weren't annoying and were rather energetic and fun in a very good way. It's a rare gem to find likeable kid characters and hopefully they remain this way. They appear to be the main characters so if they become annoying, the show will become much worse by default.
The opening sequence was phenomenal too. It was very chilling and tense to see whatever the heck that monster was in glimpses. Will running away from it was also genuinely tense and had me engaged right from the start. The scene was very good at getting me right into the show and intrigued for the duration of the episode.
The Bad: There were some problems though. The show is simplistic but that does make it feel a touch predictable. The episode was already riddled with clichés like the mysterious girl with magic powers, the existence of an evil monster, the drunk and aggressive cop who is smarter than he looks, etc. This does take me out of the experience a little to have lots of crutches in the story.
The characters are likeable but very stereotypical. There isn't a single interesting character and I feel like I already know everything about all of the characters. I'm solely invested for the story and the characters just feel like they are there to amplify the story. That prevents the show from reaching the next level of emotional engagement. It's fun to watch but it won't be memorable or even something I'll want to watch again. It just seems like another show which I will enjoy watching scene-by-scene, but it won't ever exceed expectations.
The Unknown: Several questions from this episode.
What was that monster that attacked Will? Where did Will go? Is he still alive? With this show being what it is, I assume he's still alive.
Who is the mysterious girl? Why is she called Eleven? What is with her powers? Why do the government people want her? What were they doing with her?
What was that slime in the hallway? What secrets is Hawkins hiding?
What was that thing that Hopper saw in the shed? Was it where the monster took Will?
What was with the phone call? Who was it that was talking to Joyce?
Best Moment: The opening sequence was excellent and instantly engaging.
Character of the Episode: Nobody really stood out. I will pick Hopper for providing the best lines.
Conclusion: If you're looking for something special, my first impressions say you won't find it here. What you will probably find is a perfectly fine TV show that will be enjoyable enough to watch. There isn't much wrong with this show and I did enjoy it but it does seem completely ordinary.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.