Summary: El leaves Terry's to look for her sister 008, a girl named Kali. She finds her in Illinois as a criminal getting revenge on the people who did bad things to her. Kali and El instantly bond and Kali helps El learn to use her anger as her power. El wants to help Kali but after seeing Hopper and Mike in trouble she decides to leave her group and head back to Hawkins.
The Good: This was a good episode for El. She had a nice character arc and went through a lot before making her final decision. Presumably she has more control of her powers now, which is an interesting development. Her bond with Kali was nice and I hope to see them meet again.
It was good to get some continuation of the surprise season-opener with the introduction of Kali. She had a cool power and will likely play a role in the series later on. Perhaps in the season finale.
The Bad: Unfortunately I really didn't like this episode. Now I'm fine if a show wants to do a bottle episode, but there are a few things that must happen for it to work. None of those things happened here.
First, is the timing of the episode. For a bottle episode focused on a single storyline to work, it must come at a time where all other storylines have died down and become less interesting. Take the infamous episode "Fly" from Breaking Bad. This is an example of a great bottle episode and I will likely mention it several times. "Fly" came at a time where there wasn't a whole lot of exciting things going on in the show as it was transitioning from a huge midseason climax to the finale. Because of that there were no pressing matters and no major plotlines, thus making it the ideal time for a bottle episode. Now for this episode. El's storyline was NOT missed in the last episode as there was a load of excitement going on. The last episode ended with a wonderful cliffhanger that promised action and tension right from the get go in the next episode. What happens then? We are treated to an hour with a character we didn't miss while the important storyline gets absolutely no screen time. This episode was not at all timed well, and rather it killed any momentum the show had going off of the previous cliffhanger. This is the opposite of the masterful timing in "Fly". Breaking Bad fans will understand this comparison, but the jarring nature of this episode would be like if we got a bottle episode focusing on Hank in between "Half Measures" and "Full Measure" in season three. It simply doesn't work.
The next factor is El's character arc. I know her real name is Jane, but I'm not going to start using it unless it is confirmed that it will be used in the show by all characters instead of El. Anyways, regarding E's character, it didn't go anywhere interesting that warranted an entire episode dedicated to it. Had El been forced to choose between seeing her sister and saving Mike, obviously she would go to Mike based on who she is. It's not like she changed at all in this episode, but rather the show put so much nothing into this episode to make it seem like El has changed and gone through a transformation. But she didn't. She teased sticking with her sister, but she never made up her mind about it. There was no change, just a short conflict which would have had the same impact had it been given just 5 minutes of build up. Too much time was wasted on this "character arc" that El had, which honestly should have been so much shorter.
But I can already here the counter-argument saying that this episode was an episode exploring El's character. But it really isn't. What do we know about El now that we didn't know beforehand? Nothing. She behaved as we expected and did what we expected. This was just a whole lot of nothing for her. Just a single choice she made. To compare to "Fly" again, that episode showed a proper character examination that revealed things we didn't know. Walter White was too busy posing as a threatening kingpin for us to know exactly what was going on in his head, but "Fly" let us know how he is doing mentally, while also showing us where his relationship with Jesse currently stands. That episode had purpose despite being a bottle episode, whereas this one accomplished very little.
This episode only accomplished one thing: establish a bunch of characters who are annoying and easily hateable. Kali was decent enough but the actress has done a terrible job and I struggle to truly care for the character. Everyone else was just annoying and didn't leave any impact. Even if these characters are used later on, I won't be glad to see them since they are really annoying. I'm displeased that the season opening scene built to this. Worse yet though, is if these characters don't return. Then the ENTIRE episode is given no purpose whatsoever and ends up becoming a total waste of space.
The Unknown: While Kali's group return? What will their role be?
Is Dr. Brenner still alive somehow? If he is, it better have a good explanation.
Best Moment: Tough to pick since not much was enjoyable. Probably El saying that she is going home at the end of the episode. It was something of a catharsis for what was a pretty nothing plot line.
Character of the Episode: El.
Conclusion: The Duffer Brothers have impressed me in a lot of aspects, but bottle episodes is not one of them. This felt like a waste of time, which should have been spent elsewhere. This episode won't have a negative effect on the story overall thankfully, but it does feel like a real waste of my time and definitely hurts the narrative flow of the season. This needed to have more purpose to be justified, but since it didn't, I'm left wondering why this episode even happened.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.