We begin with the most horrendously painful scene we on the show: Hopper breaking the news of Will’s death to Joyce. She does… not take this well. And it’s agonising to watch, Winona Rider is the second most talented set chewers out there.
She screams about christmas light ouijah boards and Jonathan just can’t - he turns and walks out. Hopper tries to appeal to her. One element I like is that Joyce knows she sounds ridiculous, at no point does she say she’s being reasonable - but she still saw what she saw and pleads for belief. It’s painful and awful and of course she completely denies the idea Will is dead. Hopper, himself a father of a dead child, tries to reach her and encourages her to come to the morgue to see her son’s body.
But when they do Hopper is suspicious - because lots of men from the State have come to take it over, have sent his own pathology people sent away. That seems… extreme for a missing child in a rural backwater and Hopper (and Gary the pathologist) are super suspicious by this. Hopper also tries very very hard to comfort poor Jonathan who can’t bring himself to keep looking at the body
Joyce is, of course, equally doubtful in her own denial and demands to see a birthmark Will has - of course it’s not there and she storms out, refusing to sign anything and refusing to bury “it.” and screaming about the faceless monster that has her son. This is also not convincing
Poor Jonathan is pretty devastated by this and they have a huge, furious, public row. I really feel for Jonathan here because this teenager is having to step up and do things no kid should have to do with no support.
While Hopper tracks down the man who claimed he found Will and tries to question him and when that doesn’t work, he beats it out of him. Someone told him where to find the body, to keep his distance and not let anyone need the body. He also, ominously, says “they” will kill him - and there’s an obligatory ominous black car watching them.
Hopper’s suspicions drive him to investigate Will’s body (this involves more violence because Hopper has a relatively limited skill set) which he finds completely whole (it’s supposed to have been autopsied) and clearly feels wrong. Hopper cuts into the body and reveals it is full of stuffing.
And the painful act of cutting into an apparent child’s body is clear
Over to Mike who is off school again because his mother, Karen is super understanding and kind. He’s furious with El, she promised she had found Will and how he’s alive and hiding. Mike is hurt and angry and upset (hey it may be mature for a kid of his age, I do appreciate that he expressly said he was hurt, to make it clear to El who doesn’t understand human interactions why he was anger)
El pulls out some woo-woo - and manages to play Will’s singing voice on their walky talky. Her woo-woo is all encompassing. This calls for the Geek Squad to reconvene and realise that Mike is still around and still in need of rescue. But to communicate with the dead they decide they need a much bigger radio. Geeky teacher has a HAM radio.
To the school - well after a very dubious make over scene to make El not stand out in the school. There they end up pulled into the assembly in Will’s honour: and the homophobic arsehole bullies are still homophobic arseholes. They taunt and Mike confronts them - and with El at their back this ends up with the homophobe wetting himself in front of the whole assembly. El’s powers are flexible.
Speaking of, they’re also capable of using that Ham radio to hear Will - but not speak to him. They hear him through a radio (and we get a flashback of more experiments with El’s power) while Joyce hears Will through the walls, his begging her to help and telling her how cold and awful it is: she tears away the front layer of wall to show a glassy fleshy window of supreme creepiness which then heals. As the radio also shorts out causing a fire.
To Nancy who refuses to forget about Barb - or how she found Barb’s missing car and briefly saw a flash of the faceless monster. She goes to Steve to demand they go to the police - of course he says no. He’d rather Barb be missing than he get in trouble with his dad.
Nancy who is a much better woman and has a much better parent decides to tell the police - of course the police focus far more on Nancy’s sex life and the idea that Barb ran away out of jealousy (especially since her car has vanished) and definitely don’t believe in faceless men
Karen isn’t happy about Nancy lying about her sex life with the police - but is quick to focus on support and the main issue: Barb being missing. Because Karen is amazing
Nancy decides to look at the torn up photograph stalker Jonathan took (wait… she kept them?) and sees a shape that looks like a faceless man - to Jonathan to question him. While he’s buying a coffin for his dead brother
Wooooow, that’s kind of tasteless and she realises this… but mentioning the faceless man has intrigued him. Especially since he saw Barb pretty much vanish. They do some photographic wizardry and enhance the image… to show more vagueness. But maybe a faceless man. More people on team woo-woo!
Speaking off - the ominous lab is doing ominous things sending a guy called Shepherd (who is called “son” by the boss man) into a disturbingly organic tunnel that heals behind him. He’s attached to a line and winch to pull him out… he doesn’t get out. Something squishy happens to him
And Hopper - who has developed to a really interesting character after his initial poor impression “knocks” on the door of the base. Which involves breaking and entering.
I'm surprised by Hopper and Karen - because it would have been easy to make these characters flat, hollow obstacles. I like that the show went further than that