Joyce hit the war path last episode after realising that Will’s vision are real and very scary. She finds Will lost and confused at school after following Bob’s advice and confronting the giant cthulu smoke monster. After terrifying everyone with a pause, he snaps out of it and Joyce takes it home
There she reveals what she saw on the video camera, that she knows what is happening to him and, above all, that she believes him. This is powerful and supportive and reminds us that Joyce is a) wonderful and b) contains a terrifying level of intensity.
Meanwhile, Will’s friends are all looking for the slimy swamp monster Dirk, which Dustin actually has hidden at home because he wants a pet and evil monsters from the Upside down are unique and totally not going to blow up in his face. Mike tells the others about Will’s visions and reiterates how much they need Dirk for reasons - basically because they don’t really know what they’re doing but they do know that Will as True Sight. They’re also excluding Max a lot from their secrets -which Max is obviously not a fan of and, not unreasonably, assumes this is because she’s a girl
For added layers of problems - her step-brother Billy the awful insists she stay away from the gang - and Lucas specifically. He’s angry and intimidating of her and he doesn’t specify why she should stay away from Lucas beyond “I’m older and know better”. He doesn‘t spell out his motive - but we can’t ignore that Lucas is the only Black character on the show.
Billy continues to be a dick to Steve but seems to be softening on that largely because he’s kind of won. He’s established himself as the dominant alpha arsehole and can now be benevolently condescending to him.
Dustin is all torn at the idea Dirk may be the key to helping Will - but when he goes to see his evil pet he sees it has grown much bigger and has now eaten the family cat… it may or may not try to eat Dustin at the end. Either way KILL IT WITH FIRE ALREADY
El and Jim’s relationship collapses pretty messily when Jim confronts El about leaving and being seen. There’s lots of screaming and shouting and temper and ugly and oh Jim this is not the way. He shouts about safety, she shouts about freedom - it’s ugly and messy and he decides to ground her by denying Eggos and TV and she pins the television and throws things at him with her telekinesis
It’s getting uglier and uglier. The next day Jim clearly feels uncomfortable with his behaviour and tries to extend both an olive branch while still sticking to his safety guns
When cleaning up the cabin, El searches and finds Jim’s box of research on the lab - including pictures of her mother and her real name, Jane. El uses her power to psychically connect with her in the big telepathic darkness - there she sees her and sees her current mental state. When El touches her, she shifts to smoke and disappears, leaving El crying and devastated.
El’s relationship with Jim is powerful and sad and emotional and I’m hoping that we start turning upwards soon - because their emotions are really real, their positions understandable and neither of them are really experts at social interaction so it’s all just...unfortunate.
But we know Jim cares - not just about El but also Joyce and Will because when Joyce calls him for help and to tell him about Will’s real visions, he’s there to help. Will has told Joyce about his visions and that he still feels the touch of the big scary shadow monster that consumed him last episode. This has a lasting effect in that he is physically cold - and afraid of heat. When asked he says “it likes cold”, leading to Joyce leaving all the doors and windows open and Will walking around shirtless
They encourage him to describe his visions/memories/knowledge but it’s all very hard to put into worlds beyond the idea that it’s growing and killing. Joyce suggests he draws (Will draws a lot) and he fills dozens of pieces of paper with sketches that Joyce and Jim turn into a collage, showing large branching networks of roads/roots/rivers/forked-lightening (it’s open to interpretation). Jim thinks vines
Worried, he goes to check the farmer’s fields that have been rotting with black goo and digs - a lot. Jim is handy with a spade. He discovers a tunnel, with all the floaty bits in the air that is reminiscent of the portal to the upside down that is in the Ominous lab. This is worrisome
Last episode, Nancy and Jonathan decided to reach out to Barbara’s parents to explain everything about her loss. Only their phone was tapped. So the Ominous People in the Ominous Lab know about the meeting and are there to really politely kidnap them
And, surprisingly for Ominous Lab People, they definitely want Jonathan and Nancy to be quiet and are totally subtly reminding them they can be disappeared or burned to death quite easily but like the last season the Ominous Lab People seem to be very eager to secure co-operation before messy murdering. In this case Happy Grandfather man admits that the scientists before him made MISTAKES, bless their souls and wasn’t that unfortunately and please stop calling them murders it’s totally awkward. And though these mistakes were indeed very very naughty all of those naughty men are gone now and it’s just us Happy Grandfather folks trying to make it all better, gosh darnit. The problem is it’s kind of trick and the Ominous Portal they have is really hard to close and the best they can do is stop it spreading by using flame throwers (which they could also use on pesky loudmouths but they won’t because they’re Nice People). Their main worry is the scary Soviets would find out which would be bad (he doesn’t have to define how. It’s the 80s - just mentioning the word Soviets assures badness)
Obviously, with the tunnels Jim’s found, the Ominous Lab is just not as good as they think at stopping this spreading
They then get to go home. See, not that Ominous at all!
And Nancy has shown more of her grit - she has recorded the whole conversation. On a 1980s tape recorder. For those of you too young to remember these, a) get off my lawn and b) they’re roughly the size of a medium sized brick. Ominous Lab’s security is lacking.
She does declare her intention to burn the whole place down
I believe her