We look back at how El ended up with Jim as we see a series of flashbacks
After El killed the demigorgon last season she didn’t vanish - she went into the Upsidedown and searched through it for Mike - eventually finding an ominous red hole leading back to the real world. She quickly used her powers to expand it so she could return to the real world
That ominous red light seems to be a worrisome theme.
She made her way to Mike’s house - only to find it surrounded by Ominous people trying to convince everyone she’s a dangerous weaponised Russian spy. Mike isn’t remotely co-operating and Karen doesn’t seem to be a big fan either.
She flees to the forest, scraping a living killing squirrels with her mind so she could cook them… she was found by a man who seemed to offer help - but possibly discovery too. She used her telekinesis to throw him against a tree… dead or injured we don’t know. But she flees with his jacket and hat; definitely torn and guilty by this.
Until she finds the food Jim leaves her….
And now it’s Hallowe’en and El wants to go out - she can wear a costume and not be recognised… but Jim nixes it. The Rules mean there’s no risk. There’s a huge confrontation and she pouts when he lays down the law. So he offers her a compromise - he will buy lots of candy and they can both get fat eating it. And teaches him the word “compromise”
Awwww they’re soooo cute together. Utterly utterly cute: and El is still learning English
Over to the others: Joyce is still supe concerned about Will. She has great trouble letting him out of her sight and is also very troubled by his clear pictures of the Upside Down. Will, tired of people fussing, lies about having more episodes though Joyce doesn’t believe him. Jim does try to sooth her - because Will’s symptoms are very much like PTSD and they need to support him.
At the same time Jonathan is an awesome, supportive big brother. We also have nice little hints of everyone else’s family as well which is nice to see
The nerd club in geeky fashion have all dressed as ghostbusters (which is cool but also a problem since no-one else at school is in costume and a lot of adults don’t recognise it. But it does have a nifty argument from Lucas at the idea that he must be Winston since he’s Black).
Lucas and Dustin are still obsessing over and stalking Max. Hey I guess it’s ok that they’re getting their own storyline but can it… not be this? She does call them stalkers and call them out for their presumption.
We also see that Max’s brother Billy is basically The Worst.
Also the Worst are the Ominous people who are still being Ominous and exploring the tunnel - they’ve set up some kind of outpost in the Underneath connected to the computer - but the red lightning storms keep knocking it out. Just in case we didn’t realise Bad Things are Coming
And if you didn’t realise, we have Will. Still frustrated about everyone treating him differently, he tries to hide his Episodes, even from his brother who continue to be awesome and supportive. While trick-or-treating, Will is consumed by a vision of a big dark shadowy monster lurking over the town and Mike hurries to support him - and keep his secret (which kind of sidelines Lucas and Dustin but Max did join them for trick or treating). They commiserate about why will wants to keep things quiet along with Mike still hoping to find El.
Nancy is also having issues with not being able to share what happened with others - in particular she wants to tell everyone what happened to Barbara, to give her parents some closure and to remind everyone else that Barbara actually existed since everyone has forgotten about her. She’s angry, she’s upset and Steve saying they can’t tell anyone is sensible, but it’s also self serving and hard to hear. And when they go to a party to be “normal teenagers” at Steve’s suggestion she gets drunk and lashes out at Steve (who is desperately trying to cut her off). She calls everything bullshit, including the idea she loves Steve… who last episode was basing his future career and plans on being with her. Steve leaves (already taking hits from Billy the New Worst) and Jonathan is the one who takes Nancy home. It’s messy, it’s full of emotion and oh yes it’s painful but so real and such a mess.
Jim has another problem to investigate - plans are dying. Firstly pumpkins rotting in black goo (which I am informed is not normal) spreading to other crops and trees. He tries to track the line of it while some creature makes lots and lots of scary scary noises but is never seen. This does make him late for his promised return to El and she’s definitely not happy when he comes home
And yes they’re still adorable, even as she turns tv channels with her powers. She’s also using a blindfold to try and reach out to Mike through the Upside Down.
As for that ominous noise - Dustin finds a creature in a bin. I’m going to guess it’s the thing making the noises but he seems pleased to see it not afraid.
Hey remember how I said last episode that I really liked how we had all of these platonic, non-romantic, non-jealous relationships between men and women? Yeah, let’s shelve that. We have Jim clearly more and more focused on Joyce while her current partner more and more being cast as, basically, boring. At the same time Jonathan is showing more and more jealousy towards Steve and attention towards Nancy. It’s a shame because this was such a unique element of this show.
El and Jim together are precious - especially since Jim is clearly out of his depth but so clearly cares. I think Will desperately not wanting to tell his story is a very real depiction of many people dealing with trauma and mental illness - a desire for “normality” that pretty much rests entirely on “fake it until you make it”. And from that we also have Nancy’s own frustrated lashing out. I do like how real these people and their struggles are.