Stranger Things 2: Chapter Four Review

STRANGER THINGS 2: CHAPTER FOUR: WILL THE WISE

What does it want? – Joyce

I don’t know. It came for me and I tried, I tried to make it go away, but it got me, mom. I felt it everywhere. I still feel it. I just want this to be over. – Will

Mike has found Will doing a Matt Saracen impression on the football field, if the Dillon Panthers quarterback had just had an evil monster take up residence inside his body. So really, their connection stops at a location. Will doesn’t care for baseball, so it’s reasonable to assume he’s also not a pigskin fanatic either. “True sight” is mentioned again, but it’s all speculative, although it feels like the right play for Stranger Things based on the past.

This unfortunate child is also not a fan of his new “spirit,” for lack of a better word, and he has virtually no idea what’s happening to him. He’s also blacking out to some degree, unable to process the actual Will Byers when under the creature’s control. At first, he’s unwilling to be honest about what’s happened, but Joyce breaks through when she tells him she believes him and that he has to tell the truth in order to get through to people like Dr. Owens.

The biggest problem for Will is that he isn’t always cognizant of the real world anymore. When Jonathan comes home to find his mother and brother asleep, we see the younger Byers’ eyes fluttering and in motion, but no one else does. Whether Will could describe that to anyone the next day is very much in doubt. But, he’s also rolling with a 95 degree body temperature, and in an utterly terrifying moment, he refuses to get in the warm bath. Why?

“No. He likes it cold.” All right bro, it’s about time to lock you up for a while. That’s the one that broke the bank. I no longer trust you in any respect. Mike, as always, understands Will before anyone else, and when he tries to visit his friend at home, Joyce mentions to him he isn’t feeling good. “It’s about the Shadow Monster, isn’t it.” Her mouth agape, she lets him in, and realizes the friends know far more than the folks, even when the folks are quick on the uptake.

Eleven, for perhaps the first time ever, really understands what it’s like to be punished by an actual parent. She was disciplined by Brenner, but classifying him as a selfless father would be grossly incorrect. Hopper might be overdoing it a bit, but his rules were designed to keep her safe. He isn’t doing this because he wants to control her. He’s doing this because he fears for her life and well-being if she’s discovered again.

But, El is still a kid, and thus she responds to his scolding and his decision to remove her television (and her Eggos) for a few weeks with a tantrum, including mentally turning over shelving units and cabinets as she destroys the home the two pieced back together one episode ago. She went too far when she told Jim he’s “like Papa,” leaving Hopper to respond aptly. “Really? I’m like that psychotic SOB?”

Eleven moves on from that line to inform Hopper she hates him, to which he responds she’s a brat. Yes, this is the same conversation you’ve probably had with your parents during a weak moment, except that you weren’t able to take it to the next level and use superpowers to throw a dictionary at your dad.

Very smooth work from Nancy and Jonathan tipping off the proper individuals to lead to a capture at the park. Just when you think they’re paranoid as they spot various shady characters lurking around, almost all of them converge to force them to the government facility and we figure out they were right all along. They also felt they needed to get in that building in order to get answers, plus they wanted to record incriminating comments, and they succeeded. Owens shows them what he believes killed Barb, calling the new gate to the Upside Down “one hell of a mistake.” This time, no one’s been able to “pull this weed,” and he and the country are worried about what the Soviets would do with it if they found out about its existence.

Here, we see Stranger Things tying in the culture and global conditions of the mid-80s to explain why Owens and his crew are acting in the manner they are. Originally, it seemed obvious these people were villains, but that may not actually be the case. They appear to be interested in getting answers and protecting the nation, and they aren’t doing weird experiments on children. Brenner was a cretin. Owens is a doctor. There’s a big difference.

We’ve got to discuss Billy again, because good lord is this an awful character. He’s supposed to be a problem, but the issue is he serves almost no purpose but to be mean to his sister. He’s just a complete prick, and worse, he might now also be racist. The conversation about Lucas wasn’t exactly above board, as he commands Max to stay away from “certain types of people.” It’s not overt, but it seems believable that Billy is riddled with internal trouble and prejudice.

Again though, it’s a terrible character, and thus far, there has been zero redemption to be found. Billy scenes are ones that no one will remember fondly, and that has nothing to do with Dacre Montgomery’s acting. It’s just a bad role.

Hopper is back at the patch after we discover Will’s drawings all correlate into something larger. “Killing…vines. Destroying vines.” He realizes the pumpkins and the three mile radius where everything has been dying may indeed be controlled by these roots. So, he’s got a shovel and begins to dig. Why he chose to do this with none of his deputies or no one else around is anyone’s guess, but for Stranger Things, it just means he’s putting himself in grave danger, which is good for the series. Jim has always operated like a cowboy, so it’s not out of character to act rashly and without fulling considering the consequences.

While he’s calling 811 before he digs, Eleven has found a box labeled “HAWKINS LAB” after observing a door in the hardwood floor. Inside the container are various folders and news clippings, included one manilla folder labeled “Ives, Terry.” And here we go. “Daughter Jane Taken When She Was a Baby” is the first headline she finds inside the folder, and then a photo of Brenner with Terry. She’s a bright kid, so it doesn’t take her long to figure out what she’s actually seeing.

The blindfold enables her to enter her special sensory deprived place and find her mom in a rocking chair, but when she disintegrates, we’re left watching El sobbing and screaming. No one wants to see this poor girl shouting “Mama” into an empty black space. It’s heartbreaking. Even though most of this year’s El scenes have bored me, at least until we discovered the box, we still feel a tremendous amount of sympathy for that character.

Less sympathetic is Dustin, who not only hid Dart and brought him back home, he also fed him and left him in his cage, under a sheet, while he went to school. The most obvious moment of the season was him returning home to a shattered cage and a missing monster. He sees skin left behind, he sees black stuff on the rug, then on his chair, and then he finds Dart, who looks at him and screeches.

Dart had to turn around to see him though, because he was busy. What was he doing? Well, he was devouring the family cat. And when he screeches, his head forms into a familiar shape. Yep, this thing Dustin had a bond with is indeed a baby Demogorgon. Brilliant work. This was so predictable, but still effective, because of what it means for the rest of the season. As for Dustin, as I said yesterday, you’re not fit to wear that Minnesota Science Museum hoodie. Please turn it over to the front desk and walk out of the room in shame.

Also, go tell your mom her cat is dead. Then tell her it’s your fault, because you allowed a demonic creature to murder it. Maybe couch it by telling her how much money he’s saved the family on Whiskas and Temptations treats.

And then, we got the single best moment of the season so far, complete with a wonderful piece of camera artistry. Hopper takes his shovel to the pumpkin patch and begins to dig. He does some serious work, is fairly deep into a hole as the sun goes down, and he finally stabs into something that seems alive when he strikes it. There’s a gurgling sound, and even deeper holes emerge. Hopper chooses to descend into the hole, which drops him into an area that’s been tunneled out under the surface.

As soon as he hits the ground, we see that infamous air quality that comes with floating, shiny objects everywhere. Jim Hopper is in the Upside Down. In a flat out brilliant finish, the camera then rotates 180 degrees, leaving Hopper visually upside down, spinning him slowly. We see his predicament, the effect is immediate, and the episode comes to an end.

THAT was awesome. It was only about ten seconds total, but it was by far my favorite spot in the season, and maybe in the series. It was a goosebump-inducing choice, and it worked hugely well. A perfect finish, although now Hopper is ALONE in the Upside Down and no one knows where he is. No one even knew he was headed to a diseased pumpkin patch in the first place. So, that could be tricky.

What’d you think?

I’m @JMartOutkick. Leaving Outkick, Come Again Soon.

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