Stranger Things 2 is quite a different beast than the show’s first go-round, that’s for sure. As we head into the sixth episode, titled “The Spy,” multiple turning points in the story are hit.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Stranger Things 2, episode 6.]
Nancy and Jonathan finally explore the unspoken nature of their relationship. Dustin and Steve prove to be the bromance we didn’t know we needed. Most importantly, though, it looks like Will is turning into something else, and whatever that is, it isn’t good.
- Joyce Byers
- Will Byers
- Mike Wheeler
- Jim Hopper
- Dustin Henderson
- Steve Harrington
- Dr. Owens
- Bob Newby
- Murray Bauman
- Nancy Wheeler
- Jonathan Byers
- Lucas Sinclair
- Erica Sinclair
- Hawkins Laboratory
- The Henderson house
- The Byers house
- Murray Bauman’s house
- The Sinclair House
- Max and Billy’s house
- Hawkins train tracks
- Hawkins junk yard
THE LEAK GETS BIGGER
We open on pure chaos as Will is being wheeled into the hospital, still convulsing from his reaction to the Upside Down vines being set ablaze. A quick cut finds Hopper enduring his own invasive situation as hazmat suit-wearing lab techs hose him down.
The opening scene kinetically jumps back and forth from a possibly infected Hopper, to a definitely affected Will. As they move him from the hospital gurney, we can see the boy’s sweat has soaked through his shirt. His temperature is 106, which is about 10 degrees hotter than it was when Joyce took his fever just a couple episodes ago. But, then again, those vines are probably ash now so … it could be worse?
As Will screams in pain, the doctors cut his shirt open searching for burn marks. There are none. They ask him where it hurts.
“Everywhere,” he screams.
STEVE AND DUSTIN, AN UNLIKELY DUO
Steve and Dustin are driving down a dark road. After a quiet beat, he begins to interrogate Dustin regarding Dart. It’s obvious Steve doesn’t believe the boy and poses the notion that the creature could just be a lizard. It most definitely is not a lizard. “How do you know it’s not just a lizard?” Steve asks. Bluntly, Dustin replies, “Because it’s face opened up and ate my cat.”
Well, that settles that.
They exit the car and Steve grabs the nail-ridden bat from his trunk. They approach the storm shelter and … stand there, silently. After he double checks with Dustin that this isn’t indeed a Halloween prank, Steve requests the key. He shines a flashlight down the stairs and sees nothing.
“He must be further down there,” Dustin says. “I’ll stay up here if he tries to escape.”
Steve heads down the steps and switches the only lightbulb on. It looks like Dart shed his skin again -- which means he’s gone through another growth spurt. “Get down here,” Steve says to Dustin. He shines his flashlight on a sizable hole in the wall, which leads out to another underground tunnel. Yet this tunnel was made by the creature, and it is now loose in the forest. Rotten pumpkins and burnt vines are the least of Hawkins’ worries now.
SNOOPY DUDES IN SUITS
The Byers home is still once more, but not for long. As the camera shows the dark living room, Will’s drawings of the vines wrapping around the walls, the front door is suddenly kicked open. In walk some ominous looking men in suits.
These men waste no time in snapping photos of the drawings of the vines and the sketch of the shadow monster. They even grab the VHS-C tape from Bob’s JVC camera. Now that’s just rude.
IT DID SOMETHING TO HIM
Back at Hawkins Lab, Joyce barely contains her patience as she explains the situation to a table of doctors, with Dr. Owens right at her side. She tells them about the “now memories,” that the shadow beast did something to him and that he’s been like this since she found him on the football field.
The doctors lob a bunch of questions Joyce’s way and, as we’ve learned, Joyce totally loves questions. The subtext of blame beneath their inquiries, all based on getting her reasoning as to why she didn’t bring Will in, is quite evident. We see it in Dr. Owen’s quiet frustration. And we definitely see it in Joyce’s volume and barely contained anger.
Owens, time and again, listened to Will’s complaints and sent him on his way. Stating his visions were all in his head. It’s enough to make anyone ask for a transfer and that’s exactly what Joyce demands; take Will to another hospital. They shoot her down again and again, stating that Hawkins Lab supplies Will with the best treatment available. “And what are you treating him for?” Joyce asks.
Not for nothing, but that’s an excellent question.
ODD TRUTH AND STRANGER LIES
It’s a completely different vibe at Murray Bauman’s house, that’s for sure. The scene opens on the recording of Dr. Owens’ admission of guilt. After a beat, Murray hits eject and hands the tape to Nancy who stuffs it with some paperwork in an envelope before handing it over to Jonathan. He adds it to the top of a growing stack, this one addressed to the Chicago Sun Times. It looks like they made copies and are doling them out to the mainstream press.
“To taking down the man,” Murray says in a toast. Nancy and Jonathan join him in his vodka consumption. He encourages them to continue drinking but it’s late and they have to get back. But there’s also the possibility that Jonathan, who points out he needs to drive, may not actually be in the position to do so. Murray offers them the guest bedroom and when Jonathan requests the couch, things get awkward. They explain to Murray that they’re just friends.
“You’ve told me a lot of shockers today. But that … that is the first lie,” he tells them, amused.
Between their youth, good looks, chemistry and shared trauma, Murray spells it out to them. Watching them accept a known truth from a guy they barely know probably felt like a slap in the face, but it’s a conversation that the two have been dancing around for some time.
It’s actually pretty fun watching Murray call Nancy and Jonathan on these lies. And when Steve is brought up, Nancy almost crumbles under the weight of her own uncertainty. Maybe it’s the alcohol — the last time she was drunk, she called her relationship with Steve bullshit -— but here, she practically stumbles over her words making her love for the man sound even more disingenuous. “There it is, Ladies and Germs, the second lie of the evening,” Bauman smugly points out.
They try and fight it, heading off to their respective bed and couch. But they finally face their feelings for each other. The scene almost doesn’t go there. Thankfully, after multiple beats of hesitation and doubt, Jonathan and Nancy meet face-to-face in front of the guest bedroom and share a passionate kiss before closing the door behind them. Finally! Geez!
From Nancy and Jonathan deeply kissing to He-Man and Barbie making out, we really have to hand it to Stranger Things 2, the writers have these transitions down pat. Here we find Erica having a blast with her toys. Lucas busts in and grab his He-Man, telling Erica that these two dolls can’t kiss because they don’t even exist on the same planet. It’s a fair point. His sister doesn’t even hesitate with her reaction, questioning when Lucas is too old to play with dolls.
Calling him a nerd, she throws out an off-handed reference to Dustin’s Code Red. Lucas immediately shifts gears and runs to his room and switches on his walkie talkie. He finally gets a hold of Dustin — who is arming himself with buckets of raw meat, thanks to the assistance of one Steve Harrington — and Lucas is finally informed that Dart grew, escaped and may very well be a mini-Demogorgon. He has no time to explain but tells Lucas to bring his binoculars and wrist rocket to the old junkyard. Welcome to the party, pal.
Hopper’s not doing so good. We jump back to Hawkins Lab where our hero sheriff is vomiting into a bucket. Dr. Owens comes into his room and gives him some good news, they’re discharging him.
But what about the goop that Hopper’s discharging? It’s hard not to have a sneaking suspicion that he’ll, too, be changed from his Upside Down experience. Owens brings in a hazmat suit. There’s something they want him to see.
BACK INTO THE VOID
Hopper joins Owens and another doctor on platform that, after a beat, is lowered into a square-shaped hole in the ground. Back into the Upside Down he goes. And much like every time Hopper has taken a trip into this netherworld dimension, a new discovery is made.
“All living organisms develop defense mechanisms against attack,” Dr. Owens says as they travel deep into the void below. “They adapt. They find some way to survive.”
The elevator finally reaches the bottom and Dr. Owens finally admits that the Upside Down has indeed been spreading, “growing beneath us like some cancer.” Hopper asks the obvious question: “Why aren’t you burning it?” “There’s a complication,” Owens replies.
And its name is Will Byers.
Will is asleep in his hospital bed, with Mike passed out on the chair beside him. They’ve sure been through a lot, but something tells us this is just the beginning of something much worse.
“I always thought stuff like this happened in movies and comic books.” Bob’s words ring true as he and Joyce stand in the hospital room discussing Will’s ongoing ordeal. It’s nice to see Bob is on Joyce’s side. Instead of questioning things, he’s just accepted this reality as the new order and is doing his part to be the support system they all need.
Joyce can’t get over all the confidentiality documents Hawkins Lab had her fill out. Anything to give up liability and claim ignorance against the bigger supernatural threat existing right under the town’s surface. Bob continues comforting Joyce, acknowledging that she did warn him of the unique nature of their family.
“It kinda makes my idea of moving to Maine sound a little less crazy, right?” Sure, Bob. Unless it’s Derry, Maine you’re referring to. There’s a killer clown that feeds on children in that town!
At that moment, Will wakes up and Bob calls for a doctor. But when they tend to his bed, Will doesn’t at all recognize Bob, which seems apropos since he’s the one that told Will to stand up the monster to begin with. We already know Will’s connection to the Upside Down monster found a melding of his brain and the “now memories” of the beast. Did the burning of the vines have destroy one of Will’s integral memories? Seems like it.
AN AWKWARD BREAKFAST
Murray makes breakfast for Nancy and Jonathan. The three share a rather long silence as they dig into the food and reflect on the night’s events. Murray smiles, watching them both avoid eye contact. After a beat, he asks, “So Jonathan … how was the pullout?” The double meaning of the question makes Jonathan choke. He specifies that he’s totally referring to the sofa. “It was good,” Jonathan says. Bauman can’t hide his knowing grin, “I bet.” Nancy’s amused reaction to all this is pretty priceless.
Nancy calls her mother and perpetuates the lie that she’s been preoccupied with some girl bonding time. Jonathan tries to get a hold of his brother to no avail. He shrugs it off that Will’s probably with Mike. Well, he’s half right.
Murray gives Nancy and Jonathan a bottle of vodka and seltzer water as a parting gift. He advises them to patiently keep an eye on the prize, before slamming his door in their faces, bolting the many locks behind him.
ROUND AND ROUND
There’s something very cliche about watching a mullet-having white dude lifting weights while the music video for Ratt’s “Round and Round” plays at full volume on MTV. But as silly as this scene feels, there’s also some extreme truth behind characters such as this. Basically, what we’re saying is, we may have come in contact with a few Billy’s during our formative years.
Smoking and chugging beer while getting in his reps, the doorbell rings. It’s Lucas. He rode all the way there on his bicycle for one reason only: give Max proof that everything he told her about the Upside Down was real. She holds this brief conversation with Lucas on the doorstep, keeping him out of Billy’s line of sight. We know full well that Billy doesn’t like the boy but we don’t know why. Although, more and more, it’s hard not to think of racism as the culprit for his anti-trust issues.
“Who the hell were you talking to?” Billy asks as Max quickly shuts the door behind her. “Mormons,” she answers. “Talkative ones.” You can see the suspicion in Billy’s eyes. He checks outside and there’s no one in his line of sight. Max outsmarts him again, running into her bedroom and immediately jumping out her window to Lucas and his bicycle below.
THE NOT NOW MEMORIES
Will’s memory loss has extended beyond Bob. We’re back at Hawkins Lab and Dr. Owens runs some tests on the boy. He remembers Owens but only to the extent that he knows he’s a doctor he’s met before. It takes him almost a full minute to place Mike’s face to his name. Unfortunately, he doesn’t remember Sheriff Hopper at all.
“I remember they hurt me,” Will tells Dr. Owens. Owens asks if he means the doctors. “No, the soldiers,” Will replies. The boy continues, telling the doctor that the soldiers shouldn’t have burned the vines.
“It upset him.”
He’s talking about the shadow monster. Their connection has grown quite a lot since the events of the previous night.
To try and get a better understanding of what is going on, Owens has an assistant wheel in a severed piece of a vine. He takes a lit blowtorch to it and Will’s blood pressure rises as severe burning pain envelopes his body. Talking to Hopper and Joyce in the hallway, he makes an educated guess that Will is suffering from a virus that the boy caught when he was originally lost in the Upside Down.
He explains that viruses are alive. That’s not unusual. What is unusual, though, is the communicating that’s happening between Will, the host of the virus, and its source. Owens refers to it as a hive intelligence, with visuals flashing between D’Artagnan, the severed vine and Will himself. Will is now a part of the hive. It’s hard not to wonder if Dr. Owens’ eventual cure will end up doing more harm to the boy than good. And while we’re on the topic: What happens if Will’s memories keep disappearing? As Joyce puts it, “What happens when my boy is gone?”
STEVE HARRINGTON, LOVE DOCTOR
In typical old school Stephen King fashion, Dustin and Steve walk along a set of train tracks. They’re laying out pieces of fresh meat to lure D’Artagnan out from hiding. As they walk, Steve learns more about why Dustin took the creature as a pet to begin with: To make Max like him. Why would any girl be interested in an intergalactic space slug? “Because it’s cool,” Dustin says.
Steve does his best to communicate some sage love advice to the boy, equating chemistry to the electricity one feels when a storm is coming.
“Sexual electricity,” He tells Dustin. “When you feel that, then you make your move.”
For some girls, according to Steve, you have to be ferocious like a lion. But for others, a more stealthy ninja approach is necessary. As for Nancy … well, she’s different. The two both agree that Mike’s older sister is special. And Dustin believes Max is special, too. Speaking for very personal experience, Steve warns Dustin not to fall in love with this girl, he’s way too young for heartbreak, after all. And it feels like Max has already taken a liking to Lucas. Love triangles, man. Stranger Things loves love triangles.
MORSE CODE RED
Back in his truck, Hopper tries to contact Eleven using morse code on his CB radio. She doesn’t answer. After a beat, he speaks into the handset and apologizes for being gone for so long. He tells Eleven that his disappearance had nothing to do with their fight.
“I want you to know I’m not mad,” he says teary-eyed. “I’m just sorry about everything. I don’t want you to get hurt at all. And I don’t want to lose you.”
It’s an emotional scene, to be sure. And one that digs a little under Hopper’s tough exterior. He can’t lose another daughter -- even if Eleven isn’t a blood relative. Unfortunately for him, though, his words pour out into a dark and empty cabin. Eleven is with her mother now. Who knows how long it’ll be until Hopper finds this out?
A CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Back at Hawkins Lab, a meeting with Dr. Owens and his peers is in full swing. They view multiple pictures taken of Will’s brain and its growing abnormalities. In fact, the final scan of Will’s brain appeared quite sinister, like the face of a beast staring back at the men. No one at the table offers suggestions for treatment because there are bigger problems to worry about. Namely, Owens has been delaying their regularly scheduled burn of the Upside Down leak.
It’s moments like this one where Sam Owens’ conscience is on full display. He desperately wants to save Will, even as his peers suggest the death of the Byers boy would simply be collateral damage in the face of this bigger threat spreading beneath their feet.
“At the rate this is spreading, he’ll be lost by the end of the day. What we do — or don’t do — won’t change the outcome.” Those are tough words to hear. Instead of ordering the burn, though, Owens leaves the meeting to have some thinking time in his office.
WILL DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANY MORE, MRS. BYERS
Back in Will’s room, Joyce’s patience has run thin. Bob tries to keep her calm but after a beat, she heads down the hall where she’s stopped by two soldiers. They’re guarding the access point to another part of the lab, and definitely keeping her from speaking with Dr. Owens.
As she argues with the men, Will stares from his bed. We see what he sees, his vision enhanced with some JJ Abrams-style lens flairs. He focuses on one of the soldier’s holstered gun. Immediately, his mind races through a montage of the previous night’s events. For a second it feels like Will may tap into his own undiscovered telekinetic ability, manipulating the weapon against the soldier. But he doesn’t, thanks to Mike.
His best friend snaps him out of it. Mike asks if he’s hurting. Instead, Will gives a creepy turn of the head, leans in and says, “the shadow monster … I think I know how to stop him.”
A LOVE TRIANGLE IN THE JUNKYARD
Dustin and Steve arrive at the junkyard. Dustin beams from Steve’s approval of the location. The two drop cubes of meat, leading to one heaping pile in the middle of the place. And that’s when Lucas and Max show up. Steve questions who the redhead is. Off of Dustin’s speechless reply, it’s pretty evident the girl he was talking about earlier has just arrived.
Lucas and Dustin hide behind a car, trying to work out their differences. They promised they’d keep Max out of it, but Lucas told her the whole story. Trying to downplay things, he explains that she didn’t believe him. But if she didn’t, why would she be helping them trap Dustin’s Demogorgon-in-training? One reason could be that she actually does believe them. Another could be that maybe, just maybe, she has a thing for Lucas.
If they kept Max out of things, they’d be able to keep their friendship as is. But girls always complicate things. Is it possible that a rift is forming between the boys?
BACK TO REALITY
Jonathan drives Nancy up to his house and they head in, looking for Joyce and Will. Instead, they find the house way different than it was left. This is the first time they see Will’s drawings covering every wall of every room. No one is home, but Jonathan does find a Polaroid casing on the floor of his room. He doesn’t shoot Polaroid. Someone’s been here.
LAYING THE TRAP
While it’s clear that Will’s grasp on reality is fading quickly, he still has some useful skills. One, of which, is that “True Sight” the boys previously referenced. And here, in the conference room at Hawkins Lab, he utilizes this ability. After studying the table in front of him, which contains a small connective recreation of the drawings at his home, he finally points to a location in the vines that he feels is important. Is this the shadow monster’s weak spot, or is Will sending Dr. Owens and his team into a trap?
Back at the junkyard, the plan is coming together nicely. A montage shows Steve, Dustin, Lucas and Max carry sheet metal into a broken down school bus before rolling oil drums down a hill. Intercutting back to Hawkins Lab, a group of nameless hazmat suit-wearing techs lower themselves into the Upside Down void below. Switching back to the junkyard, we see Steve dowsing the ground with gasoline as Max creates an escape route out of the bus, using an old ladder.
As we watch these scenes play out, it’s clear they are acting as two sides to the same coin. Traps are being set, one for Dustin’s former pet. The other, for the Hawkins Lab soldiers — who delve into their mission with multiple shots calling back to James Cameron’s sci-fi classic, Aliens.
THE TRAGIC SCHOOL BUS
It’s night time and the group has shut themselves inside the broken down school bus in the junkyard. Lucas uses his binoculars on the roof, acting as a lookout. Steve patiently waits, flipping his cigarette lighter open and closed as Max lays in with the questions. “You fought one of these things before,” she asks. “And you’re sure it wasn’t a bear?”
Dustin’s patience is already wearing thin. The fact that Lucas brought her along means Max has more of a connection with with his friend than him. “Why are you even here if you don’t believe us?” Dustin snaps. “Just go home.” Part of Steve’s advice to Dustin was to show the girl you’re interested in that you don’t care. It doesn’t seem Dustin really listened.
Max joins Lucas on the roof. After half a season of mystery, she finally drops her guard and tells Lucas about her home life. Her father still lives in California. After the divorce, her mother and stepfather decided they wanted a “fresh start” which led them to Hawkins. The divorce and the move pushed Billy over the edge from douchebag to bully.
The bonding continues as Max apologizes to Luke for being mean. She doesn’t want to be mean like her brother. Of course, Lucas doesn’t see her in a negative light. It’s the first authentic moment they’ve shared. And it’s quickly interrupted by a mini-Demogorgon shriek.
DEMOGORGON BAIT WITH THE GOOD HAIR
Looking through the binoculars, Max asks Lucas if he’s sure D’Artagnan isn’t really a dog. All she sees is a shape in the fog. Down below, however, Steve have a more important question to ask: “Why’s he not taking the bait?” “Maybe he’s not hungry,” Dustin says.
“Maybe he’s sick of cow,” Steve replies. On those words, Steve exits the bus armed with his nail bat.
Max hurries down the ladder. “What’s he doing,” she asks. “Expanding the menu,” Dustin says, staring out the window. Steve slowly walks through the fog, letting his bat swing low as he moves.
As he digs his feet in, taking a batting stance, Lucas sees movement to the right. It’s a trap, but not the kind the group was planning for. D’Artagnan brought friends. Steve is suddenly surrounded. He does his best to fight them off but he’s outnumbered and barely makes it back to the bus before the beasts are upon them.
We all know our heroes aren’t going to die here, but the stakes successfully build in such a way that it’s hard not to fear for their lives. Also, what’s really important here, is that Max comes face to maw with one of the beasts. There’s no way she isn’t going to believe their story now!
But just as the creatures were about to pounce, they turned tail and ran off. Steve may be a hero, but him and that bat weren’t that overpowering.
“They’re going somewhere,” Harrington tells the group.
SPRINGING THE TRAP
“Stay frosty, boys.”
Seriously, how much more Aliens can this whole scenario get? Watching Paul Reiser, who played Burke in the James Cameron classic, react to the video footage taken from his soldiers’ body cams is a bit too much like deja-vu. Will Dr. Owens meet the same gruesome end as Burke did in the 1986 film?
“Wait, that’s where I was,” Hopper says.
Looking at the video footage, he tells Owens that’s the graveyard he was trapped in. The place is covered in human bones and other such carnage. Like we said, a trap. A fog moves in as familiar Demogorgon shrieks are heard. Those soldiers have been cornered.
“I’m sorry,” Will says, teary-eyed from his bed. “It made me do it!” Mike gets it. But try as he might, he can’t break through the soldiers’ barricade in the hall. It’d be too late anyway. The soldiers are surrounded and vastly outnumbered. One by one, they’re taken out until the video feed goes to static.
“You should go no,” Will tells his mother. “They’re almost here.”
Stranger Things 2 is streaming on Netflix.