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