So, Dustin found a new pet - it’s slimy and looks kind of like a tadpole and is general awful. Very very awful. It’s slimy and nasty
After dodging his mother, he evicts his tortoise to give it a home and starts feeding it American chocolate. Clearly he wants it to suffer.
The next day he researches his pet monsters and then grabs the gang to show off his monster - including Max - and explains his rather impressive research (he thinks it’s a terrestrial tadpole or “pollywog”) but everyone is kind of freaked out by it because it’s nasty. Dustin thinks he’s got a new species though and is spying fame and fortune. They convince him to show it to their very supportive science teacher…
Until they’re interrupted and stopped by Mike and Will - because the monster has caused Will to have flashbacks. It’s from the Upside down. It’s rapid transformations seem to confirm that. Will is firmly on the side of kill it, kill it dead while Dustin insists they don’t know it’s an evil monster (it so is) and protects it. This leads to a scavenger hunt through the school to find the monster and Dustin hiding it while Will falls into another flashback
We see some wonderful flashbacks of El and Jim, how he moved from leaving food for her to inviting her to his grandfather’s abandoned cabin which they then fixed up, secured and turned into a home: complete with security measures. And rules - don’t open the curtains, don’t open the door without Jim’s special knock, don’t go outside in daylight. It’s all extremely sweet and full of d’aaawww
But that was nearly a year ago. Now El is losing patience. She wants to see Mike, she’s increasingly angry that Jim keeps saying “soon” after hundreds of days. Even bribes of eggos don’t thaw her - and El acting out involves telekinesis which is slightly concerning
She decides to see Mike and when Jim is out breaks all of Jim’s rules and makes her way to the school - but not before being noticed first - but at the school she sees Mike and Max together. Mike doesn’t like Max, in some odd and I can’t help but think sexist way, thinking her a replacement for El (room for one girl?) and Max tries to win him over - and El uses her telekinesis to know Max off her skateboard. Mike notices but doesn’t see El and she’s gone before he can reach her - but this is definitely worrisome.
Jim’s day job involves more tracking down of the weird slimy plant deaths and demanding that the scientists at the Ominous Lab do some tests because the slime seems to be centred on their facility. They deny it but Jim is tough and won’t budge - he demands they test and they test. Because Jim may be a big melty teddy bear around El, but is generally quite tough
So is Joyce - and through her loving relationship with Bob (who is nice and supportive and trying to connect to her kids) learns that Will may be being bullied and it was recorded on his video camera they borrowed for hallowe’en. Joyce watches it preparing to go full on mama-bear and rip people’s faces off but watching the video she sees an ominous shadowy monster in the sky. Sketching it she compares it to Will’s pictures - and sees they match, it’s the giant THING from the Upside-down confirmed and real to her
She freaks out, naturally
Will in his flashback sees this monster and decides to accept Bob’s well meaning but very wrong advice - when facing a monster in a nightmare, confront it. This results in black smoke sludge in his eyes mouth and ears which is not going to be good.
Over to Steve, who is not having a great time as Billy the arsehole is displacing him as king as the school. Nancy is also upset with him for not giving her a lift - it seems after getting drunk she forgot all the things she said to him. He confronts her about it and isn’t willing to accept “I was drunk” as an excuse (which I applaud; Steve is hurt, I’m glad that isn’t brushed off). He asks if she does love him and she doesn’t answer
Which is an answer, of course
She then turns to Jonathan for advice and he’s fine with pushing the “you can be a terrible person if you’re drunk” excuse. She talks about how she’s angry about Barbara being lost - and Jonathan about Will being clearly changed - and how no-one faced any consequences (she didn’t believe they all died). She decides to take action - and call Barbara’s mother to arrange a meeting to tell her the truth
Except her phone is being tapped. So there’s a lot of bad stuff coming soon.
I’m going to give Stranger Things major kudos for having so many good parents and parental figure. Even if they’re not perfect, they try, they care and they’re good. Jim’s care for El is just beautiful. Bob trying to win over Will and Jonathan is beautiful, he’s so kind (kindness is a grossly unappreciated trait), Joyce is a passionate advocate, Dustin’s mother is clearly interested, involved in her son’s life and hobbies and concerned. Even though the kids are largely leading their own lives, it’s nice to see parents as something other than The Enemy. Sure there are going to be some bad parents, but having all parents not be irrelevant is nice