Friday, February 23, 2018

Stranger Things, Season 2, Episode 7: The Lost Sister

After a season which seemed to have rather neglected El (which is odd given she’s the one with the woo-woo) we finally have an episode that focuses on her

I’m also going to start calling her Jane, as it is the name she starts using, the name her mother gave her, rather than the number that her captors and tormentors tatooed on her arm.

She’s with her aunt Becky and describes the vision her mother Terri shared with her - they focus on the girl who was in the rainbow room with her and believe this is why Terri wanted her to come. When Terri was looking for Jane she produced many files about missing children, including a girl of Indian descent kidnapped from London - Kali.

Jane uses her powers to search the darkness for Kali and has a clue to her location. While she’s doing this Becky tries to call Jim (who is busy with other drama) since he may be able to help them find Kali. But Jane is worried about her contacting home and decides to run

She takes a bus to Chicago and doesn’t exactly fit in in the big city - but she has a confidence that comes from being able to kill people with your mind. She follows her vision to find a gang of people squatting and tells them she’s looking for her sister.

They recognise Kali from the picture, and one of them, Axel, threatens Jane, worried that she’s managed to find them even though Mick is less happy with him threatening a child. Surprisingly it isn’t Jane smashing the weapon from his hand that stops Axel, but the illusion of being covered in spiders which does it

Kali has arrived

Janes introduces herself -as Jane (and why I’m not calling her Eleven any more) and shows her abilities to Kali and explains who she saw Kali. She sounds much more confident. She mentions the Rainbow room and shows the tattoo on her wrist: Kali has the number 008

They call each other sister and hug. And I’m as happy with this as I am curious about the other 9 children.

Jane gives Kali a bit of history - especially how she doesn’t really remember anything - but that Jim is looking after her and thinks he can make a deal with the Ominous Lab to keep them safe. I would share Kali’s cynicism of this if it wasn’t for the Kindly leader last episode. As well as suspicious (she warns Jane they’ll always be “monsters” to them), Kali also  notes that Jim isn’t exactly encouraging Jane to develop or encourage her powers. Kali also explains her own powers - she has the ability to make people see (or not see) anything. And she shows off a pretty version of it with a beautiful butterfly

I like that she’s showing Jane some joy from their gifts - as well as describing how she feels “whole” around Jane.

The rest of the gang somewhat mocks Kali’s “hick” sister - but Kali points out that Jane can find people with nothing more than a picture - which is just what they need for their mission. So much that they’re willing to go out tomorrow to keep hunting - though there’s some concern that they’re still “hot” after killing one of their targets

Their targets are people who worked for Hawkings Lab - the Ominous Lab. Any of the mena and women who hurt the children and experimented on them - it’s a revenge quest. Kali quiets that concern - saying that Jane is “hurting” and needs this. I think there’s a definite sense that Kali is projecting a LOT on Jane - that doesn’t mean she’s wrong but still she hasn’t known Jane very long for deciding she knows what Jane needs. Especially since we see Jane picking up a heartfelt message from Jim about being sorry.

And the others are all willing to follow her because she helped save them all: she describes them as outcasts, people neglected by society: We have Axel the White punk, Mick Black woman (and protector - she seems to be careful), Funshine a Black man (described as a “warrior” but also a big softie) and a mentally ill white woman called Dottie.

While Jane has some reservations about killing people, Kali is very convincing in her argument for pre-emptive defence and Jane remembers she has also killed - a whole lot of Ominous Lab people

She also has lessons for Jane - about how suppressing her anger and pain just makes it fester and is unhealthy and how she needs to use it, especially with her power. She encourages Jane to channel her anger in trying to remove a ridiculously huge train car. Which she does. It is more than a little scary and the gang cheers her.

She then uses her power to pick out their target - Ray - the man who shocked her mother’s mind and used a taser on Kali as a child. So it’s time for an awesome make over (I kind of love how much Jane’s looks reflect the different stages she’s going through), some fun road trips, a brief stop to rob a store (Kali tries to use an appeal to solidarity to get away with this when the shop keeper challenges her - Jane just throws him into a wall) before they arrive at Ray’s place

Entering, subduing and menacing Ray goes easily, with Kali using her illusions to make it clear who they are and why they’re there. He tries to deal with them by saying he can help them find Brenner - papa - but Jane insists Papa is already dead

Which, of course, means that he’s most certainly alive.

Kali wants Jane to kill him slow - except she sees a picture of the man and his two daughters (the rest of the gang finds the two children in the back room calling the police). Kali urges no mercy - but Jane can’t bring herself to kill him now he knows he has kids. (Unwilling to rob kids of a parent like she was? Or just empathy? Either way she can’t)

And when Kali tries to do it, Jane uses her telekinesis to stop her

They flee - and Kali is furious. She accepts that Jane wants to show mercy but she is outraged that Jane would take Kali’s choice from her. Which is an interesting conflict because Kali has her own quest and desire for revenge and it’s interesting that she doesn’t INSIST that Jane kill - just that Jane doesn’t make her choices for her … which is a nice conflict of agency. Except, y’know, vigilante murder and all that. But how much does self-defence still apply? After all, we know they were still hunting Jane, so the idea that Jane and Kali have to pre-emptively defend themselves isn’t necessarily wrong.

Kali doesn’t stay mad with her sister when they’re back at the base - she does explain why she was so mad: she thinks Jane is making a lot of the same mistakes she did. She once tried to go into hiding as well, but they still hunted her. She thinks the choice is very much between fighting and hiding

Again, Kali may be projecting a lot onto Jane, based on what she needed, what made her feel better and what is making her safe - but at the same time she may not be wrong

Of course, equally she might be: after all with the shadow monsters now does the Ominous Lab have bigger things to worry about than the psychic kids?

Kali insists they have to face the lab people - and confronts Jane with an image of Papa. This also makes me hmmm on consent and agency - because Kali was furious that Jane used her power to save Ray and take her choice - but Kali is definitely trying to manipulate Jane here.

But she does stress that Jane can leave whenever she wants - or avenge her mother. Yes the manipulation is strong here. Jane is clearly torn, thinking of Mike, Jim and her friends. Especially as she gets more and more visions of Jim in trouble

The police raid their hideout and we get to see Kali’s power at its most awesome - and damn between invisibility and giant walls, Kali is a force to be reckoned with.

But Jane does not come with them - she decides to go to her friends who are in danger. Kali insists her friends can’t save her - but Jane replies that she can save them. And when a kind woman on the bus asks Jane where she’s going - she says “home.”

It’s interesting that Jane has moved on from the labs in more ways than Kali - and I think a lot of that is down to killing “papa”. Jane has got her revenge and ended the big threat in her mind. She has started to build her own life outside of that and she also has people in her life who are very much focused on their own concerns while Kali’s circle very much revolves around her, with no closure moment, keeping her in the same place. Or, the flip side is that Kali could be right. Jane is kidding herself that she can live a normal life, keep herself safe and her friend’s safe and she will see the truth of Kali’s war

I do want to see more of Kali and her gang - they bring some good diversity, a harsher edge to the Ominous Lab (which will contrast nicely with the Ominous Lab being led by an apparently compassionate man now) but more I really like how even in this short episode we saw some excellent connections between Jane and Kali. Kali is an excellent big sister for Jane, their ability to share experiences and wonders, for Jane still finding her way in the world to have that confident, understanding peer really works well together. And I wonder where Kali’s path could go from here - especially if she sees the darkness, demigorgons et al

And, of course, I really really want to see the other numbered kids. Or not kids - can we safely assume the lower the number the older the child?