Welcome to this week’s installment of the Summer TV Binge of Stranger Things, looking back at season two, episode six, released October 27, 2017:
“Chapter Six: The Spy”
Written by Kate Trefry
Directed by Andrew Stanton
On this episode, the Hawkins Lab’s scientist and doctors examined Will’s psychic connection to the shadow monster; Dustin and Steve went searching for the loose Dart; and Nancy and Jonathan stopped denying their feelings for each other.
1. Jonathan and Nancy’s Sleepover
After Nancy, Jonathan and Bauman send off the edited audio of Dr. Owens to the Chicago Sun-Times, the detective offers to let them stay the night. When he learns they’re not together and need separate beds, he laughs his head off, basically telling them they’re kidding themselves, and casually dismantles every argument they have that they’re not interested in each other. His words keep them up at night, and eventually, Nancy bumps into Jonathan just as he’s about to knock on her door, and the two finally kiss and consumate their relationship. The intercutting between the two struggling to accept Bauman’s right really sells the cute romantic comedy of the moment, and to top it all off, the next scene is of Erica making Lucas’s He-Man toy kiss one of her dolls.
Is it a bit skeevy Bauman encourages these two teenagers to have sex under his roof, and then tries to embarrass them at the breakfast table by asking how Jonathan found “the pull-out” sofa? For sure, but it shows he’s a pretty chill guy as well, despite his gruff and paranoid nature, and the abrupt way he bids the couple goodbye by slamming the front door in their faces. Brett Gelman’s a really busy actor, so I imagine this was the writers’ way of telling the audience the door was closed to any future appearances, though little did they know…
2. Steve Accidentally Sabotages Dustin
After discovering Dart dug its way out of the bunker, Steve and Dustin go out spreading bait in the forest and then the junkyard to lure it out. Along the way, Steve mocks Dustin for thinking a girl would’ve been interested in such a slimy creature, and dishes some romantic advice, telling him the way to some girls’ heart is to act disinterested (“it drives them nuts”), or to be aggressive. Oh Steve, he has such great hair (the secrets of which we finally learn here), but it’s so obvious why he’s no longer with Nancy, something he tacitly admits: perhaps all of this is just him trying to prove he’s still got it, which is quite sad, albeit in a good, sympathy-building kind of way.
Dustin takes Steve’s garbage on board, which backfires when Lucas persuades Max to come to the junkyard. She’s still skeptical about the monsters they’re going up against, and Dustin responds rudely to her questions by telling her to leave if she still thinks it’s only a game. She chooses to speak instead with Lucas, who intuits the fog reminds her of the beaches in her home state of California, encouraging her to open up and explain the situation with her and her mother, her stepfather, and Billy: it’s no wonder when Dart and his brethren show up and attack, that she clings onto Lucas’s hand for dear life instead of Dustin’s.
3. Kill Will
Dr. Owens takes Hopper down a newly dug elevator to show him the extent the portal to the Upside Down has grown, right under their noses. He explains they haven’t undertaken the decision to burn it yet after confirming Will’s connection to the hive intelligence animating the “virus,” which is responsible for him experiencing the pain the tendrils felt when scorched. Owens’s fellow doctors and scientists tell him they can’t keep delaying the burn, and that they may have to accept Will could die, something Owens angrily responds to by daring them to say that again: you really get the sense he would punch his colleague if he could, proving once and for all that he is not — as Hopper, Jonathan and Nancy all fear — another soulless bureaucrat like Brenner. What’s noticeable is that Owens’s fellow higher-ups are all men: they probably dislike Joyce, and think Owens’s refusal to let her son die is irrational, even though compassion isn’t a weakness.Continued below
4. This Time It’s War
Owens’s troops head into the tunnels based on Will’s advice, in a sequence strongly reminscent of Aliens (especially with the use of the beeping motion detector), while Steve, Dustin, Lucas and Max barricade their selves in the junkyard bus, which brings to mind the mobile lab attack in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The two influences caused a personal reflection on why action film sequels, from The Empire Strikes Back to Terminator 2, trend towards more militaristic settings and imagery: seeing the protagonists effectively become soldiers presumably demonstrates the impact their experiences have had on them, but perhaps it also emphasizes how dire the growing situation is compared with last time — basically, if our heroes, with all their newly gained knowledge and resources, are still at the mercy of the forces of evil, then what hope do we have?
5. Bad Intel
In the previous episode, Mike expressed hope that Will’s connection to the shadow monster could allow them to spy on its intentions, helping them outwit it. That helped them find Hopper, but the sensation of being burning clearly sapped Will’s strength, allowing the monster to take over and direct the lab’s troops into a den of Demogorgons. There were signs (eg. Will being too slow to remember Mike’s name on top of any of the men he’d met in the past year), but the moment it takes full control of his mind is edited so ambiguously that it’s easy to hope he’s finding his way back — alas, Will only becomes lucid again at the end when he tearfully tells Mike he had no choice. Remember what I said about heroes still being outmatched despite their new knowledge and abilities? There you go.
– This is the only episode in the first three seasons without Eleven, something emphasized by the shots of the empty safehouse while Hopper leaves a message for her.
– This is the second time in a row handing out religious pamphlets factors into the story: this time round, Max avoids angering Billy by telling him it wasn’t Lucas at the door, but Mormons.
– Bob’s epithet as a superhero is introduced here after he learns the truth about Will’s disappearance, and comments he only thought events like that occurred in movies and comic books, which he jokes would make him the superhero of this story.
– This episode spawned a million memes about Steve Harrington becoming a struggling single mom to Lucas, Dustin and Max (seemingly in reference to the Michael Keaton film Mr. Mom), and honestly, it may be solely because of the yellow washing gloves he uses.
See you next week for Eleven’s spin-off backdoor pilot, “Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister.”