By its halfway point, Stranger Things 2 has shown the struggles Eleven’s faced while disconnected from her misfit family. Being unable to connect with Mike is frustrating, she finds a new lead that may give her a better understanding of who she actually is. A similar discovery unfolds as Will’s new ability gives him a leg up on the Upside Down monster — but at what cost?
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Stranger Things 2, episode 5.]
- Joyce Byers
- Will Byers
- Mike Wheeler
- Jim Hopper
- Nancy Wheeler
- Jonathan Byers
- Lucas Sinclair
- Dustin Henderson
- Steve Harrington
- Becky Ives
- Terry Ives
- Dr. Owens
- Murray Bauman
- Bob Newby
- The Byers house
- The Upside Down tunnels
- Motor Motel
- The Sinclair house
- The Henderson house
- Eleven’s mother’s house
- Murray Bauman’s house
- Palace Arcade
- The Wheeler house
THE WILL BYERS EXHIBIT
We open on the Byers house. Things are eerily quiet outside. Their porch bench swings in the breeze. Joyce is trying to call Jim again and gets his answering machine. She needs answers. After a beat, she picks up one of Will’s many drawings and walks through the house to find its place in the giant vine puzzle mural that has taken over every room. This thing has gotten huge.
The vines have found their way into every nook and cranny of the Byers house — interweaving from living room to hallway to kitchen. When she finds the gap in the drawings, she jumps to tape up the page as if this missing link will hold all the answers.
“It’s like I feel what the shadow monster is feeling,” Will tells Mike. “See what he’s seeing.” Mike takes it all in, slowly pacing Will’s room. “It’s like he’s reaching into Hawkins more and more,” the Byers boy explains. “And the more he spreads, the more I feel.” Attempting to look on the bright side, Mike tells Will that he could be their Upside Down spy. It sort of makes sense. If Will knows what the shadow monster sees and feels, that may be the key to stopping it.
But ... what if the shadow monster spies back?
HOPPER AND THE VINES
As Joyce struggles to connect the dots, Hopper has found himself back in the Upside Down. Slowly traversing the tunnels beneath Hawkins, all he has is his gun and flashlight to guide him. There are vines everywhere. It’s not long before our hero finds himself being spat at by what looks like giant Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style spores. His vision blurs and he passes out in the tunnel as the vines work to close the opening to the pumpkin patch above.
NANCY AND JONATHAN GET A ROOM
After recording their interlude with Dr. Owens at Hawkins Laboratory, Nancy and Jonathan skip town. It’s unclear where they’re heading but, for the night, they end up at a place called the Motor Motel. Quickly requesting a double occupancy, it’s evident they are both a bit uncomfortable with the situation.
They lay in separate beds and Jonathan finally breaks the silence, asking Nancy if she wants the light on or off. She smiles, saying, “deja vu.” Jonathan smiles back. “Don’t you think it’s weird,” she asks. “That we only seem to hang out when the world’s about to end?”
Breaking the tension, Nancy leans over to compare palm scars, recalling their big boss battle in the first season. Nancy’s is bigger. They share a lingering look before pulling back into their respective beds.
What happened to them? It’s a good question and one that both Nancy and Jonathan have probably been wondering for a while. It felt like, at the end of last season, they should’ve ended up together. “After everything, you just disappeared,” she tells him. Jonathan falls back on Will as his reason for backing off. But Nancy tells him she waited. “For only a month!” Jonathan’s defense is a little weak. This doesn’t seem to go over well, either, as Nancy quickly shifts in her bed, turning her back on him completely.
A DEADLY PREMONITION
Will suddenly awakens from a nightmare. It wakes Mike up, who’s lying in his sleeping bag on the floor. Something’s very wrong. The camera moves to the living room where Joyce is still trying to make sense of all the vines. After a beat, Will taps her on the shoulder.
“I saw him,” he tells her.
“You saw who, baby?”
“Hopper,” he replies. “I think he’s in trouble. I think he’s going to die.”
HOPPER GOES SPELUNKING
Hopper comes to and pukes up some awful looking slime. Could he be infected with the same slime that rotted the pumpkins and woods? He gets to his feet and frantically searches for the way out. No dice. Things may not be going Hopper’s way, but can we take a moment and shout out the Indiana Jones vibe he’s giving off with that fedora? More of that, please!
Ever the resourceful one, our hero sheriff uses his knife to cut off the sleeve of his shirt. Placing it over his mouth as a makeshift scarf, he moves through the tunnel on a mission to find a way out. Instead, he comes to a fork in the road. He grabs a cigarette from his pack and snaps it in two, dropping one half at the beginning of the fork. Choosing the left tunnel, he marches on, followed closely by a slithering vine.
LUCAS’ PARENTS FINALLY SHOW UP
Lucas is sitting at the breakfast table with his family. He needs some relationship help. “When Mom’s mad at you, how do you make her not mad,” Lucas asks his dad.
“First, I apologize,” his dad answers. “Then I get your mother whatever she wants.”
It’s an amusing back-and-forth and shows that Lucas wants to make things right with Max.
“Even when she’s wrong?” Without missing a beat, his father comes back with some supreme words of wisdom, saying, “She’s never wrong, son.”
His first lesson in Relationship 101 is now complete. Lucas immediately stands and puts his dishes away, skipping breakfast. When his mother asks, he says he’s going to hang out with Dustin. But as we see him hop on his bike and bolt down the street, he passes by Dustin’s house. Odds are, he’s going to see Max.
THAT POOR CAT
Dustin’s mother can’t find Muse, the orange tabby cat D’Artagnan chowed down on in the fourth episode. Doing his best to cover up this unfolding disaster, Dustin pretends to be on a phone call. What else should he do, though? He can’t just tell his mother that a cat-hungry hell-beast from another dimension is in his bedroom. Can he?
After he pretends to speak with someone named Mr. McCorkle, he tells his mother that Muse was seen wandering around the outskirts of town. He sends his mother on her way and as soon as she’s out of the picture, Dustin throws on some hockey gear and creates a path of sliced bologna to lure D’Artagnan from his bedroom to the shelter outside.
He hides in the adjacent shed and watches as Dart follows the slices of lunch meat to his new home. He almost walks all the way into the trap on his own. But Dustin just can’t keep quiet and soon, Dart shifts his attention and starts creeping towards the shed. Gaining the courage, Dustin jumps out and charges the creature, striking a goal-worthy drive with his hockey stick, sending Dart down the stairs and into the darkness below.
“Sorry, but you ate my cat,” Dustin says. Not for nothing, but we’re sure that offense doesn’t warrant an apology.
ELEVEN FINDS MAMA
A semi truck drops Eleven off at 515 Larrabee. Not only is this the supposed house of her mother, it’s hard not to pay close attention to the use of numbers here. 5 + 1 + 5 = 11. Cracking these little codes help to give Stranger Things an interactive quality that audiences can connect with. Pretty cool stuff.
As to be expected, Eleven ditches Hopper’s rules again. She found some highly-coveted info in that Hawkins Laboratory box and has set off to find her real mother, with the hopes of understanding where she comes from. But, since Hopper is stuck in those tunnels, it seems that she may actually get away with leaving the cabin unpunished.
Eleven reaches the house and begins to slam her palm against the door. Weird way to knock, but it gets the attention of the woman inside. The resident attempts to shoo Eleven away, saying she doesn’t want any of her Thin Mints or religious mumbo jumbo. But this woman doesn’t know who she’s dealing with. And with a little tilt of the head, Eleven uses her abilities to unlock and open the door.
“I want to see Mama,” Eleven says.
She’s guided into the house and comes face-to-face with Terry, the same woman she saw in the ethereal plane. Her mother sits in a rocking chair, watching Family Feud on the television. But her mind is somewhere else.
Over and over, she’s repeating this phrase: “Breathe. Sunflower. Rainbow. Three to the right. Four to the left. 450.”
NANCY AND JONATHAN PAY MURRAY A VISIT
Nancy and Jonathan roll up to a building marked with the number 3833, which adds up to 17 and that probably means absolutely nothing, and as they buzz to get into the building, Murray Bauman’s voice is heard on the intercom. After using his surveillance equipment to verify their ID, he invites them into his conspiracy bunker.
After some brief small talk, Murray brings Jonathan and Nancy into the central hub of his home, where red strings crowd a busy wall, linking a number of characters and events that transpired in the first season together.
“I followed up on 200 tips, most bogus, but that’s how things go,” Murray tells them. He’s definitely onto something, though. Images of Will, Eleven and Barb are seen among the collage of articles, photographs and notes strewn against the wall.
“The answer to what happened to your friend is up here somewhere,” Murray tells Nancy, referring to Barb. “Just gotta connect the right dots.”
“Your timeline is wrong,” Nancy tells Murray. “And the girl with the buzzed hair? She’s not Russian. She’s from Hawkins Lab. Her name is Eleven.” Murray’s obviously taken off guard. Jonathan nods his head and tells the man “you might want to sit down for this.”
MAX TAKES THE BAIT
Billy drops Max off at the Palace Arcade, warning that if she’s not out in an hour, she’ll be walking home. Flipping him off as he drives away, Max heads inside to find an “Out of Order” sign plastered on her favorite game, Dig Dug. Keith, the manager, tells her there was a short circuit in the motherboard. Not all is lost, though, as he informs Max he has another game set up in the back.
She follows him into a room where Max sees a smiling Lucas waiting for her. It appears that he promised Keith a date with Nancy to get this time alone with Max. Lucas is going to tell her everything that happened last year. Before he does, he makes her promise to keep this info a secret. After all, as Lucas warns, she could be arrested … or killed.
“Last year, Will didn’t get lost in the woods,” Lucas begins. “He got lost somewhere else.”
THE SEARCH FOR HOPPER BEGINS
Back at the Byers house, Will is once again furiously sketching out a picture. Mike and Joyce stand on either side, waiting for him to finish. “Is this where you saw him? Is this where you saw Hopper?” Joyce asks. He says he thinks so and that’s good enough for everyone. Joyce grabs the picture and begins searching through the house to find the right section to match this new vine.
Mike finds the location and Joyce runs to the refrigerator. It’s a picture of the fork in the tunnels where Hopper dropped his broken cigarette. The challenge now, is to figure out where that spot in the drawing actually exists in the real world.
Enter Bob Newby. He drives up with a stack of books and games in an attempt to help Will feel better. Joyce tells him they’re fine and don’t need his help, doing her best to keep him from coming inside. One look at all the drawings of vines throughout the house and he’s sure to ask her all sorts of questions she won’t be able to answer. Joyce finally found a good guy. She doesn’t want to scare him away.
Just as she convinces Bob to leave, though, she has an epiphany and invites him inside. Like he said, “they don’t call me “Bob the Brain” for nothing.”
One look at all the drawings and it’s clear Bob has all sorts of questions, but Joyce made him agree to not ask any. They take him to the crossroads on the fridge and draw an X. And without missing a beat, Bob asks if it’ll lead to pirate treasure, casually lobbing out a Chester Copperpot reference from Goonies. Awesome.
Still, he has questions and concerns. Bob is clearly a good guy and he cares. He wants to make sure Joyce and Will are okay and this isn’t okay behavior. In that moment, he recognizes a shape in the vines. “That’s Lover’s Lake,” he tells Joyce, pointing to a cluster of vines. And as he realizes these vines are acting as a map of the town, he begins to move through the house pointing out various Hawkins landmarks.
“It’s not a puzzle. It’s a map!”
Bob the Brain strikes again.
JIM HOPPER PHONE HOME
Hopper’s still in the tunnels and it looks like he’s venturing deeper into the belly of the proverbial beast. He tries to connect with anyone who may be listening on the other end of the walkie talkie, but to no avail. Just when it feels like things can’t get much worse, it does: Sheriff Jim Hopper finds himself amidst a batch of Alien-like pods and other such viscera.
In this moment, though, Hopper finds a saving grace: His cigarette lighter. Moving the flame towards the vines on the wall, he notices them flinch away from the heat. Quick on his feet, he takes his shirt and wraps it around a broken branch to make a torch. He shoves it towards the vines on the wall to clear a path and begins digging into the dirt to find a way out.
Dustin is doing his best to clean up his home while his mother’s away — and he’s doing it all by himself. As much as he tries, no one seems to answer his code red call for help on his walkie talkie headset. We watch as he buries the cat in the backyard and furiously scrub his bedroom carpet clean. After multiple attempts to reach Mike or Lucas, he gets a reply … from Lucas’ little sister, Erica.
Unfortunately for Dustin, though, Erica doesn’t give a crap about his code red. She picks up a He-Man action figure and gives Dustin a code, “shut your mouth” before switching the walkie talkie off.
STUCK IN A DREAM
Back at the Ives house, Eleven (we’d call her Jane, but that just feels weird) tries to get answers regarding her mother’s odd state. Becky, the woman who answered the door, explains that she’s sort of stuck in a dream. She tries to get Eleven to tell her where she came from. She doesn’t succeed.
Becky tells Eleven that her mother was always convinced she’d come home one day before taking her into the untouched nursery that Eleven never lived in. She walks slowly to the crib and picks up a teddy bear. This is obviously difficult. Becky offers her a place to stay and Eleven accepts.
“I want to help you,” Becky tells her. “But to really do that, I need you to talk to me, okay?”
The lamps in the hall begin to flicker. Becky blames it on old wiring in the house. But Eleven knows there’s something more to this. She follows the lights as they flicker, leading her back to the living room, back to her mother in the rocking chair.
“It’s Mama,” Eleven says as she kneels by her side, wiping a drop of blood from the woman’s nostril. “She knows I’m here.”
The channels on the TV rapidly flip to a screen filled with static. Elven knows exactly what this means.
“She wants to talk.”
MAPPING THINGS OUT
Back at the Byers house, Bob is cross referencing the town’s map as he collects measurement data from one landmark to another, with the help of Joyce, Will and Mike. Tapping into his knowledge of cartography, Bob draws estimated lines between locations on the map, doing his best to hone in on where in the city the X on the drawings should be marked.
“A half a mile south of Danford?” He’s questioning his own work, but it’s a lead and enough to get the gang moving. He still has no idea what he’s doing, but Bob follows them as they head out the door.
DUSTIN AND STEVE, A DYNAMIC DUO
Dustin takes his code red straight to Mike’s door. Unfortunately for him, though, Mike isn’t home. He interrogates Mike’s father a bit on his whereabouts and it seems that Dustin’s next destination is the Byers house.
That is until he sees Steve drive up to the house with a dozen roses. Steve’s goal is to win Nancy back but Dustin has other plans. “Are those roses for Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler,” Dustin asks. They’re not. Good. They have more important issues to work out than Steve’s love life.
Dustin confirms that Steve still has the bat with the nails in it, which is the same weapon he used to fight off the Demogorgon back in the first season. Why? Before getting into the passenger seat of Steve’s car, he tells him, “I’ll explain on the way.”
WHAT A TANGLED WEB
As much as he tries, Hopper’s attempt at burrowing out of the Upside Down fails. He’s just digging the wrong way through the wrong wall. Exhausted, he falls to the ground and goes to light a cigarette. The vines have him right where they want him. He tries to fight them off, using his knife to cut a few loose but there’s too many.
He falls to the ground as a ton of vines wrap around him, keeping him trapped His screams are heard faintly on the surface where his truck is parked. Unfortunately for Hopper, there’s nothing around but rotted pumpkins and freshly dug soil.
STORYTIME IS OVER
Lucas tells Max everything. And for a moment, she seems thoroughly engaged in everything he tells her. But, as one might expect, those outside of this whole Upside Down situation may find it all a bit too unbelievable to handle. That’s exactly how Max reacts. She storms out of the arcade’s office, still mad at Lucas even though he gave her what she wanted: the truth.
“I wanted to be a part of the group, not a part of some joke,” she tells him.
She’s livid and begins to speak loudly, spouting off some of the details Lucas told her about their ongoing supernatural adventure. Mentioning Hawkins Lab and the Demogorgon, Lucas panics and covers her mouth, once again stating this info could get them killed. In this moment, it feels like she begins to believe him. But Billy drives up before they can continue the conversation.
“Don’t follow me out,” Max tells him. Her step brother sees the boy anyway, once again warning his step sister to stay away.
We’ve yet to get a reason why and it’s difficult to not think that Billy is a bonafide racist.
THINKING WITH VODKA
Back at Murray Bauman’s conspiracy lair, Nancy finishes playing the tape of Dr. Owens’ recorded admission of, well, everything. Is it enough, though? Nancy asks that exact question to Bauman as he sits there in stunned silence. After a moment, he stands up and walks to the kitchen where he pours himself a cocktail.
Murray believes them but he’s not the one they should be appealing to.
“Your priests, your postman, your teacher, the world at large ... They won’t believe any of this,” Murray says.
As if he’s speaking from experience, and he probably is, Murray walks Nancy through how easy it would be for the government to bury the incriminating tape letting the guilty get off scot free. Murray takes a sip from his vodka and soda and winces. The cocktail is too strong. He heads back into the kitchen to add more soda water to the mix. Watering it down makes the drink perfect and that’s where new inspiration is sparked.
“We water it down,” Nancy exclaims. They need to normalize their story, moderate it down to something scary, but familiar. It’ll be close enough to hit them where it hurts, without the intel sounding too far-fetched. In the end, if all goes according to plan, the mucky mucks at Hawkins Lab will go down for Barb’s murder.
Back at Hawkins Lab, Dr. Owens is being shown a few soil samples. It really does feel like Owens is legitimately trying to right the wrongs of his predecessor. Talk about an uphill battle, though. He’s told that no contaminants were found in the soil aside from some pesticides, which is to be expected since they’re dealing with farmland. But it’s not all cut and dry.
The tech lights a burner and moves it underneath one of the flasks. Once the heat is applied, the soil rises up in a flurry and begins to move about like a mini-tornado. The samples in the other flasks join suit.
A MOTHER-DAUGHTER DATE
Back at the Ives house, Becky helps make a worthy blindfold for Eleven. The channel on the television behind them is full of static. Eleven is in the zone. Becky appeals to Eleven to relay a message to her sister but Eleven cuts her off. “Stop talking,” she tells her. Eleven’s got to concentrate.
Once on the ethereal plane, Eleven has difficulty connecting with her mother. Terry’s not completely coherent, but she does make a move. Once she grabs Eleven’s hand, things change and we’re given a look at the horrifying backstory that led to her vegetative state.
“Breathe. Sunflower. Rainbow. Three to the right. Four to the left. 450.”
These aren’t a random collection of words but a means in which Terry holds onto her sanity, recollecting the awful events that happened to her. Eleven watches as her mother goes into labor. We learn that Becky is her sister, Eleven’s aunt. In the vision, she tells Terry to breathe. Soon, she’s being wheeled into the operating room. Under the influence of some intense drugs, her baby is born only to immediately be whisked away by Dr. Brenner.
She awakens to find sunflowers in a vase beside her hospital bed. Terry’s informed Jane died, a lie she fought desperately to prove. She devises a plan. Three to the right, four to the left.. Terry grabs a gun from a safe. Suddenly we’re back at Hawkins Lab where the woman attempts entry. A security guard tries to stop her and in a panic, she shoots him in the chest and heads upstairs. Her search for her daughter ends when she sees a rainbow outside one of the doors. She opens it to find Jane as a toddler, sitting opposite another young girl we can only assume is psychic punk with the “008” arm tattoo from the first episode. The reunion is short-lived as security finds Terry and drags her away.
Flash to Terry getting strapped to a bed. She scans the room in a panic to find Dr. Brenner by her side. A mouth guard gets stuffed in as Terry tries to scream. A bitemporal device is attached to her head, signifying the beginning of some pretty intense electroshock therapy. 450. Dr. Brenner gives the go-ahead to shut Terry down with the absurdly high voltage.
“Breathe. Sunflower. Rainbow. Three to right right. Three to the left. 450.” She may have mostly been zapped away with Brenner’s electroshock treatment, but these words act as emotional sign posts that have kept her grounded all these years.
FIRE FIRE, PUT IT OUT!
On the road, Bob does his best to help navigate the group to their shared destination, even though he’s completely in the dark as to why. His navigation, though, isn’t accurate and there’s some brief fear that they’d be wandering around for hours. Will closes his eyes as Joyce and Bob bicker in the front seat. After a beat, he opens his eyes, telling Bob to turn right; his “now memories” have showed him Hopper’s location.
Making Mike and Will stay in the car, Joyce and Bob head towards the giant ditch Hopper dug. She sees a cluster of vines covering up the hole. Bob hands her a shovel, which she uses to clear the opening and then asks him to help lower her into the tunnel below. He obliges, even though it’s evident he’s finding this whole scenario to be a bit ludicrous.
Bob joins Joyce, immediately wondering if this s is Will’s map? Confused, he continues to follow his girlfriend. She calls out for Hopper as she walks and finds his broken cigarette. As they search deeper in the tunnels, Will and Mike stand on the surface waiting for a sign. Cue headlights. A group of vans from Hawkins Lab speed around the corner and head right towards the boys.
Back in the tunnel, Bob and Joyce find Hopper being choked to death by those insidious vines. He’s able to muster one word: Knife. With the help of Joyce and Bob, Hopper is set free. As the vines begin to close in again, they’re met with hazmat suit-wearing lab techs armed with flame guns. The burn commences, signifying the lab is definitely leaking. We also learn that Will’s connection with the shadow monster runs deeper than anyone expected.
As soon as the vines are set ablaze, the boy drops to the ground in a convulsive fit. He may not like it, but he’s surrounded by the enemy. This doesn’t bode well at all.