Stranger Things 2: Chapter Three Review

STRANGER THINGS 2: CHAPTER THREE: THE POLLYWOG

I fell asleep, and just like always, Mr. Baldo came, only this time I didn’t run. This time I stood my ground. – Bob Newby

Sometimes, smart people have no common sense. What else to explain Dustin Henderson’s decision to assume the best of the weird, slimy creature he first heard, then found in his trashcan? Sure, it could be a basic reptile or maybe a new species, but considering this is Hawkins, Indiana, and considering what’s happened in this town over the past calendar year, would you not proceed with extreme caution?

Also, haven’t we always been told not to feed dogs chocolate? But apparently, it’s cool to drop 3 Musketeers bites to whatever the hell it is that Dustin invited into his home. At the very least, however, we got the cool moment of “Dart” being stored in the Ghostbusters trap. It’s apropos, especially when we can tell immediately this small “pet” is a monster. That’s why you use those containment units, but somehow this possibility completely escapes Dustin.

He’s my favorite character on the show, but this one brought him down a bit. He wants to believe he might have discovered a fresh species, but with no knowledge and without thought, he actually brings D’Artagnan to school to show the crew. That’s great and all, but how about instead of doing that, you MURDER THAT THING now? I’m just saying it’s not going to end well. Plus, we recognize Dart as Will’s extra friend from the sink.

Will Byers is now being compared to Phineas Gage, the poor man who survived a railroad accident that drove a steel rod through his skull. In 1848, while working in Vermont to blow up rocks in order to open up a new railway passage, a freak scenario sent the item not merely into his head, but literally INTO his head. Through some miracle, he lived, but his mind departed him, and he became erratic, paranoid, and he became a completely different person.

Let’s just summarize Byers being mentioned in a Gage discussion by saying it’s not ideal, and it backs up my thought from the Chapter Two review yesterday that Will may have been better off…dead. John Cusack could have played the role, we could have killed this poor kid off after a Demogorgon attack on an Upside Down ski slope, and he could be at peace. You know, instead of dealing with this tentacled host monster that’s infecting his brain.

I might rather be deceased.

Jim Croce becomes the soundtrack for the newest HGTV show, “Fixer Upper in the Woods,” as El and Hopper go Chip and Joanna as they put elbow grease to a second home from Jim’s family. Although Bob Newby loves Mr. Mom, Jim Hopper basically becomes Michael Keaton in this extremely 1980s moment. The place is going to be Eleven’s new house, which is a nice gesture, but Hop is merely prolonging the inevitable.

She isn’t happy without Mike (to the point she’s mentally destroying plates), or without anyone else in her life, and as he reads his three rules, we knew she’d break them. I don’t know that we expected it quite so quickly, as just after he mentions the third, we see her stepping over a trip wire trap they had said moments before.

The “Don’t Be Stupid” rules make sense, as does the famous “Friends don’t lie” phrase that re-emerges but the actual nomenclature is important, and the irony of El being “stupid” in an episode where Dustin was the ultimate dunce should be lost on no one. Also, he’s not being truthful to his pals about the newest member of his family. Max isn’t a fan of Dart, nor is LUCAS, which should have been all Henderson should have needed to hear to stop glorifying this probable demon he’s keeping at home. Dustin wants Max, but so does Lucas, and here we have the latter on the appropriate side, agreeing with the woman. It’s the right way to live. Lucas is handling his business, even though here he wasn’t lying. Dart is a problem.

Also, a POLLYWOG? That’s what you’re going with? You’re not fit to wear the Minnesota Science Museum hoodie anymore. It’s not aquatic, it’s not terrestrial, and there appears to be something moving inside it. Light and heat both have detrimental effects, which eliminates the reptile angle. So, what’s left? It could be a new style of panda, but it could also be a FREAKING TERROR THAT IS GOING TO KILL US ALL. Will is seeing odd visions of monsters, but this unidentified creature is friendly? Dustin, buddy, we depart on this one my friend.

Nancy is no longer drunk, and she blacked out. After Jonathan took her home, she didn’t even realize it. She also had no clue just how big a pill she was for Steve the night before. “Apparently we killed Barb and I don’t care because I’m bullshit and our whole relationship is bullshit.” Seriously, I still can’t believe how easy it’s become to root for Steve, even when he’s whining about his predicament. It’s amazing how good a character he’s become, especially considering how those kinds of fictional characters are generally written. I credit Stranger Things mightily for altering the trend and allowing emotional evolution in its characters.

Anytime the Duffer Brothers want to do the same for Billy Hargrove, feel free, because Dacre Montgomery is playing one grade A hole. He doesn’t look like a dude that should be either good at basketball or interested in playing a sport, but somehow he’s both. He dresses like a rebel and then he’s Adam Morrison at Gonzaga. I didn’t pick that analogy because he’s white, but because of the hair both on his head and his face. Plus, A-Morr was a beast in Spokane.

As much as I despise Billy, he’s right on his Steve hoops critique. Mix in a charge young fella. It will pay dividends. That one strategy alone kept Shane Battier in the NBA, irritated fans across the country, and ensured Duke hatred for another two decades.

The story of Billy the bully, who is also uncomfortably abusive to his sister, played well with Joyce watching the tape of her youngest being bullied on Halloween night. This angle also permits Will and Bob to find themselves with something in common. There’s a bond, despite Jonathan’s objections, that begins with the nerd side, but extends to the “I didn’t put up a fight” side. Bob and Hopper are opposites, but what we’re starting to learn is that neither is a bad guy. They’re merely different, so it becomes a “Hoppyce” or “Joyb” ‘ship situation, based almost entirely on preference.

“True sight” is our newest Dungeons & Dragons reference, as the series continues to use a fantasy in its version of reality, and does so in much more effective fashion that Ouija ever did. Unfortunately for Will, it comes with a price, and we’re left to wonder whether the boy is still alive at the end of the episode. On it’s face, Bob’s advice to tell his nightmares and fears to “go away” isn’t bad at all, but in the world of Stranger Things, the biggest evils ain’t retreating.

Mike is still acting like a jerk with Max, who comes up with the idea of a “Zoomer” for the party, once she realizes Eleven is the mage. Mike blows her off, but not before explaining his dislike for her by calling her annoying. At this stage, Wheeler’s terrible haircut isn’t the most irritating thing on the show, nor is Max. It’s his attitude, and inevitably he’s going to soften to her, and apologize to her. The reason he acts like he does now is so “the feels” are more likely when he redeems himself. At least that’s my prediction.

He wasn’t wrong about his Death Star analogy though, and that might be one of the smartest things his character has ever said. Dustin still isn’t willing to admit the obvious. Dart’s not evil. They’re friends. No, fool, he’s very evil, and you’re not friends. KILL. IT. NOW.

Even though it’s completely innocent and by no means particularly friendly, Mike and Max are close enough to one another in the school gym that El, on the saddest reverse field trip of all time, uses her powers to knock the redhead to the ground off her skateboard. “It felt like a magnet,” she says, and Mike immediately shifts his gaze to the door, where El was…but at that second is no longer standing.

Meanwhile, Dustin finds Dart before the rest of the search party, and decides to hide it under his trademark tricolor hat. If only it would have eaten his brain from the scalp in, because once he makes this choice, we know for SURE how bad it is. This is the buxom blonde choosing to go look at the view at Camp Crystal Lake just after losing her virginity to the captain of the football team. Except, even with teeth, Dustin isn’t a buxom blonde. “It’s okay. It’s just me.” Right, and you’re a moron. I love ya, but your brain has departed you, Phineas.

Will might be haunted or possessed or dead, but this isn’t the Dustin I remember. This isn’t the kid that had most of the first season’s biggest answers. He’s so desperate for Dart to NOT be what everything in him is likely telling him that he’s going to put everyone at risk. Once that thing escaped before Mr. Clark could check it out and examine it, that should have been a wrap. Dart lives, and now the entire show is in danger, but none of them even realize it.

“Where is Will?” Well Mike, that’s the question now isn’t it. He’s in the Upside Down, standing on a football field not inhabited by Eric Taylor, and a gigantic parasitic demon creature from the gates of Hades, born from the demented mind of Mephistopheles himself, has risen up in his face. He flashes to Bob’s story, and chooses to try that idea at the worst time possible. “Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go awaaayyyyyy!” Nah player, I’m going to go ahead and stay right here, and I’m going to enter your body through your mouth and leave you a quivering mess.

Joyce saw a shadow that matched Will’s frightening artwork while watching the video footage, and indeed she’s yet again not crazy, but is actually ahead of the game. Whether it matters or not is still to be determined, because knowing there’s a huge monster hanging out with your son doesn’t necessarily mean you can do anything about it. But, she continues to think outside the box, which is the only way to survive in Hawkins, Indiana.

I didn’t talk much about Eleven for the third consecutive review, although her usage was far better here than in either of the first two episodes of the new season. She was seen by a mother and daughter, escaped through her powers, and ended up at Hawkins Middle School for the afternoon. At least she’s finally DOING something, but neutering her the first few weeks took some of the bite out of that side of the story. It might not have been brilliant to isolate her with Hopper, because although the reunion will be glorious, she’s been relegated away from the main plot too often to be useful.

This was a busy hour, and despite some boneheaded character moves, it was also the season’s best so far. It sets up the doom and gloom to come, and this episode MOVED. It flew by, and so much fun stuff happened. The season is really starting to pick up, although I wish Dustin wasn’t the idiot here. I’m also worried about his mother, who seems to be an awfully nice lady. That’s one final thought about Stranger Things today. Notice the parents are NOT terrible? They all appear to be loving, even Mike’s weirdly jingoistic, passive dad.

Again, good influences and largely positive messages, even against the ghastliest of circumstances.

What’d you think?

I’m @JMartOutkick. Your vortex-like malevolent force that enters through my facial orifices? You can keep that. I’m good. I’m trying to quit, actually.

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