So, Joyce has a mystery - this means it’s time to radically redecorate her home! I have to say this habit of plastering random stuff on every flat surface every time something odd happens is more than a little disturbing. I like to think that this is only happening because of supernatural nastiness
Actually that’s a terrible lie. I like to think this is a constant habit and any random problems will set her off into a series of truly bizarre collages, because that would be kind of hilarious.
So she has plastered Will’s tunnel network all over her home, while Will is comforted by Mike. Will is not doing well, clearly disturbed by all the shadowy stuff he sees and is now sweating profusely presumably due to the big monster’s love of cold. Mike offers the hope that since Will senses what the big monster senses he can be some kind of awesome spy.
Jim has been examining the Ominous tunnel - and some random tentacle goo creature on the wall squirts poison nastiness into his face, leaving him unconscious on the floor. And the hole he dug is then plugged by vines. This is not good. Even when he manages to regain consciousness, he still stumbles around, tries to find a way out, tries to dig through a wall (for some reason) and in general is in a creepy horror set full of slimy, tentacle nastiness. Eventually he ends up on the floor, covered in tentacles. Really really not good.
Luckily for him, Will psychically senses this and dreams of where he is - pointing it out on his map, which no-one can read. Oops.
Well along comes Bob. Who is quietly awesome. Here to provide some kind of help and comfort for Will who he thinks is sick. After initially worrying that Bob is going to see her disturbing collaging, Joyce realises Bob is super clever and can be really useful in interpreting the pictures - so recruits him on the understanding that he asks no questions
Ah, Bob. He is the definition of a nice guy. And I mean nice guy, as in genuinely decent, caring human being, rather than Nice Guy, arsehole who thinks he can buy sex with common decency. Bob is very worried that both Will looks kind of ill and Joyce has reacted to this by taking up Disturbingly Craft Projects and though he respects her wish for him not to ask questions he is clearly concerned. But he’s also a brilliant lover of puzzles who, after quickly realising the collage is a map, excellently starts pinpointing where it corresponds to and gets completely lost in the joys of the puzzle and figuring it out
I like Bob. I feel Bob will be eaten by something by the end of this season. But I raise a glass to Bob before this inevitably happens. With his help he pinpoints here Jim is
Let’s also check in on the Ominous People in the Ominous Lab have done some soil sample testing from the various rotting farmers fields and realise that if you apply fire then all of them form disturbing whirlwinds. Note applying fire to one, makes them all whirlwind because they’re all spookily connected. Ominous Lab People decide that this is a definite Oh Shit moment and also head out to try and stop this
Which means when Bob and Joyce find the hole Jim went down, carve their way through vines and rescue Jim (was there any doubt that Joyce would charge in?), they’re soon followed by the Ominous Lab People with flamethrowers
This seems to be their solution to everything. And I approve. So many of the books I’ve read and shows I’ve watched would see all of their problems vanish if they applied the “kill it with fire” method. Also points to Bob and Jim exchanging polite greetings like they’ve just met. It makes my English heart proud to see two men who maintain proper dignity in complete denial of the randomness around them
A downside to this flamethrowy-ness is that Will, connected to the shadow monster, collapses and starts screaming. Only I think it’s less a “I’m in agony and dying” scream and more a “the unholy noise I’m making signals the end times and summons the Thing That Man Was Not Meant To Know” scream.
It is not a good scream. Though I do have a friend who makes a similar noise when she realises there’s no vodka left.
So, Ominous Labs have another thing to worry about because Nancy is gunning for them. And since this is the 80s the Cold War would probably have been over years earlier if Nancy had been gunning for the Soviet Union. She and Jonathan go on a road trip which involves awkwardly staying in a hotel together and her vaguely wondering why she and Jonathan didn’t become a thing and Jonathan, predictably, saying the wrong thing. He stepped back because of Steve, she points out she did wait for him and he basically says “not long enough”. So, not the smoothest path
I kind of feel sorry for Steve here.
They end up going to a guy I have a feeling I’m supposed to recognise, but I don’t. He’s a conspiracy theory obsessive, with lots of paranoia and security measures and a wall of televisions which conspiracy theorists all seem to have. I dunno, maybe the union insists. They give him the recording and he has a dilemma.
Because no-one’s going to believe it (let’s face it, the recording could be anyone. Merely having a recording of some random guy isn’t proof of anything) and most people are so very invested in comforting normality that exposing ground breaking horror won’t work. They won’t believe it, they don’t want to believe it and anyone in authority who debunks it, no matter how weakly will be believed instantly
Kind of like Trump supporters who still think Russia had nothing to do with. Or Brexiteers who think Britain is going to be some kind of super power once we’re out of the EU
(Yes, I’m getting political. No I don’t think the readers will care because the aforementioned groups have likely already stormed off from this site for so many many other reasons)
So he and Nancy (leaving Jonathan to scrabble to catch up) come with a better plan: lie. Or water it down. No-one’s going to believe alien dimensions and monsters - but they will believe, say, a chemical leak. It’s familiar enough to be believable and awful enough to cause outrage enough to burn the lab down - as Nancy wants. Because Nancy isn’t playing
While Will and Mike are running around facing shadowy monsters, Lucas wants to make up with Max. He asks his dad what he does when he’s annoyed his mother and he tells him that he apologises and does whatever his mother wants
Lucas asks what he does when he’s not wrong and his mother is
To which his dad says “she’s never wrong.” Lucas’s father is a wise wise man.
So Lucas meets Max at the Arcade, manages to trick her to go to a private area and then tells her everything.
Which is good except, of course, she doesn’t believe a world. Why would she? Lucas desperately tries to convince her that it’s real and seems to come close to this simply by how desperate and scared she is. But before they can talk more, Billy arrives, he is awful and there’s more arguments about Max spending time with Lucas which is almost certainly racist.
During this Dustin is dealing with the fact his pet monster, Dart, has eaten his mother’s cat. He gets rid of his distraught mother as quickly as he can, lures Dart into a basement to lock away and buries the cat, all the while calling the others and desperately asking for help. Except they’re all distracted and none of them are available - except Erica, Lucas’s sister who has no time for his nonsense.
Dustin resorts to drafting Steve because why not, at least he knows the big secret. Also I am vastly amused that Nancy and Mike’s father, having no clue what his children are ever doing, grumbles that neither of them live there any more.
Which leaves us with El who manages to hitch-hike her way to her mother, Terri. She meets her aunt Becky who does try to make her go away, not believing her until El - or Jane as is her real name - uses her telekinesis to access the house. This is more convincing… but then she sees the condition her mother is in. Catatonic, just repeating the same few words over and over and over again.
Becky is kind, welcoming, clearly deeply emotional to see the long lost return of Jane and is quick to offer Jane/El a home with them. I will say that the acting of this whole series is absolutely perfect - beyond perfect - and Aunt Becky’s emotion and pain and hope that it’s painful and powerful to see
El notices the lights flickering which Becky puts down to dodgy wiring but El recognises as psychic shenanigans. Confirmed when she sees her mother’s nose bleed. She realises her mother wants to talk and uses a blindfold to allow her to psychically dip into her head
She does and sees Terri’s history - she gave birth to El and the baby was stolen. Everyone claimed she died in a miscarriage but Terri didn’t believe it - instead invading the lab with a gun. There she finds El - and another child I assume is Kali - before being captured and electroshocked into her current state. The words she repeats over and over is her reliving this moment over and over and over again. Obviously, this is utterly tragic and may end up with El going on the warpath but I hope will lead to them finding Kali
I’m increasingly beginning to wonder at the storylines branching off. I mean I’m really happy that Dustin and Lucas are getting their own storylines which is something I complained about last season. But at the same time, Lucas, Dustin, Max, Steve and Billy all feel… superfluous? It’s not that they have their own storylines - it’s that they’re no longer involved in the main storylines any more.