Thursday, February 22, 2018

Stranger Things, Season 2, Episode 6: The Spy

Dustin is with Steve trying to lure out Dart the slime monster, and finally manages to get in touch with Lucas to get him to come help

Dustin and Steve check the basement where Dustin left the slime monster - only to find slime, what looks like an open cocoon or shed skin, and a tunnel. Dart has escaped which is not good.

They decide to lure the creature and, along the way, Steve gives some dating advice to Dustin. This ranges from the good: that keeping an interdimensional slime monster as a pet is unlikely to impress girls to the very awful: that the best way to impress a girl is to completely ignore her and shun her so she will then become obsessed with you. This is terrible, awful advice and thankfully crashes and burns

He also tells Dustin how he does his hair meaning that a) yes his hair is like that on purpose and b) he is trying to perpetrate it on others. The 80s had much to answer for. Also this teenager is completely devastated by his break up with Nancy and more than a little pouty

They leave a trail of meat behind them to the abandoned bus yard where they plan to ambush it with big clubs and fire since that kind of worked with the adult demigorgon

Lucas has not given up on reaching out to Max, going to her house to try and meet her. She continues to be afraid of her brother, the arsehole’s reaction since he hates Lucas (probably due to racism) and is generally a terrible person. She seems to be trying to repair her skateboard which after his threats last episode suggests he broke it

Lucas has come to collect her to show her proof, taking her to the bus yard with Steve and Dustin so he can show her the slime monster and offer proof for her story. Dustin tries his new found tactics on Max who duly shuns him for being a sudden arsehole. Instead she gets closer to Lucas as he expresses an interest in her, her family (her father is still in California) and her toxic relationship with her abusive step-brother. He reassures her, offers praise and is generally pleasant to her and interested in her. This is much better than Steve’s advice

Which is when the slime monsters arrive. Yes, plural. Dart is not alone and Steve is nearly caught outside by them before he hurries to hide in the bus with the others, desperately trying to defend themselves. It seems inevitable that they’ll all be eaten very very soon - when something calls all the monsters off. More on that lately

Catching up on Nancy and Jonathan doesn’t take much. For the most part they celebrate spreading their little exposure tape with the media, drink a lot of vodka and deal with creepy guy being way too invested in their relationship. Even if he is extremely accurate and insightful about their obvious issues between them

They do finally give in to the sexual tension that night (which I kind of don’t hate but I say again I was kind of invested in how people pursued relationships on this show that weren’t based on who they were supposed to be with from a narrative point of view, along with platonic opposite sex friendship).

They finally come home and Jonathon realises something is up when he sees Joyce’s disturbing home decorating

Now to the main group - Will is hurried to hospital, screaming about burning though now it sounds far more human and less supernatural and horrifying. Jim also gets decontaminated while the Ominous Lab Men go to Joyce’s house and copy the map and take all the evidence Joyce has.

Joyce is being very vocal about how everyone is totally failing her and her son and how it’s unacceptable and Joyce is determined and moderately scary and totally unforgiving. Throughout this, despite having a whole lot dumped on him suddenly, Bob is there to be supportive, helpful and completely onside with Joyce - because he is a very very nice guy.

They also show Jim the tunnel system and how burning the edges of the portal has completely failed and how the network has now spread all over town. Jim wonders why they’re not burning it - and they show him why by burning a small tentacle in Will’s presence - instantly causing him agonising pain and proving the odd link.

Will also, ominously, says the soldiers hurt “him” with fire.. And they shouldn’t have done that. It upset him. Very very ominous

More worrisomely, they have definite evidence that the possession is consuming Will’s brain and memory - he doesn’t remember Bob or Jim. It’s clearly degenerative as well.

This is where I get extra impressed by Grandfather scientist. See, I thought this guy was using a pleasant demeanour to hide the fact he’s an evil demon scientist. Except he isn’t. When his evil minions claim they should burn all the tentacles and screw the boy who will die anyway, Grandfather man is actually genuinely angry and threatens them against repeating it. He is hugely invested and desperate to find a way to cure Will and stop the darkness without hurting Will

Kudos to Stranger Things for having a group of amoral scientists who are not actually moustache-twirling evil. Yes, Ominous Lab is not nice - but at least the head of it isn’t evil incarnate, he’s a human, flawed but still a man.

Will offers an opportunity - pointing to a part of the map saying that “He doesn’t want them to see”. Mike remembers how he encouraged Will that he could be a spy and everyone now seizes on this as an opportunity to strike back

They send a team to this site and ominous fog starts billowing.

And Will starts crying, saying “he made me do it”

Yes Will isn’t a spy for the monster, the monster is using Will as a spy - and to lay an ambush. All those monsters left Dustin, Steve, Max and Lucas alone because they had other targets

The team is slaughtered. And Will tells his mother to leave - because it looks like the slime monsters are heading to the Ominous Lab next

Ok I have to give this episode a lot of kudos about humanising the Ominous Lab leader rather than just have him being some sadistic monster scientist. I really like the humanity there which so manages to override an almost genre required trope. And Will turning out to be a mole for the monster equally works well as does Dustin and Steve’s failure advice - all works really well and in complete defiance of so many tropes.