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.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.