Stranger Things is a series that doesn’t require filler episodes or one-offs to tell its story, which is why one mid-season episode felt jarring for many viewers.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Stranger Things 2.]
The seventh episode of Stranger Things 2 deviates from the rest of the season. It doesn’t take place in Hawkins; the main party of pre-teen boys don’t make an appearance; and we’re forced to spend close to an hour of viewing time with a group of people we’ll never see again. Director Shawn Levy told Collider they were aware the episode would be divisive because it moves the story out of Hawkins. Levy added that the Duffer brothers want to work toward building a bigger world.
“Whether or not people feel that episode was entirely successful ... the Duffers want to take some swings, and they know that they’re not gonna please everybody,” Levy said.
In a separate interview, the Duffer brothers added to Levy’s comments, telling Entertainment Weekly that the seventh episode was designed to not be a filler episode.
“Our test of the episode was we tried to pull it out of the show just to make sure that we needed it because I didn’t want it in there as filler — even though some critics are accusing us of doing that,” Matt said. “But Eleven’s journey kind of fell apart, like the ending didn’t work, without it. So I was like, whether this works or not, we need this building block in here or the whole show is going to collapse. It’s not going to end well. The Mind Flayer is going to take over Hawkins.”
Despite the intention of the Duffer brothers and Levy, the episode remains the season’s most divisive.
Hi, I'd like a refund on Season 2 Episode 7 of Stranger Things @netflix— Ivie Okechukwu Ani (@ivieani) October 30, 2017
Episode 7 of Stranger Things 2 was a backdoor pilot some dummy on the business side shoehorned in, right?— Victoria Graveyard (@VictoriaAveyard) October 30, 2017
Watching episode 7 of STRANGER THINGS 2 and it feels like the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D will pop in at any moment— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) October 29, 2017
The episode, according to the Duffer brothers, was also supposed to help tell Eleven’s storyline. Ross said that Eleven’s arc was “sort of the biggest risk we took” in the second season. Eleven’s arc, like the seventh episode, has also left viewers divided. Eleven’s character felt like one of the least developed and, when there were stages of growth, it felt tacked on, unlike the four main boys — Mike, Will, Dustin and Lucas — who were all able to grow as a group together.
“Eleven could be one of the most interesting characters, but the Duffer brothers never let her be more than something to gawk at,” I wrote in a previous opinion piece. “Her powers are the least interesting aspect of her character, but without the chance to grow, they're the only thing that she has to define her.”
Still, despite the questionable “bottle” episode and Eleven’s rushed story arc, Stranger Things 2 is an improvement over the show’s first season. Almost no show is without flaws, and Stranger Things 2 is proof of that. The series is currently available to stream on Netflix now.