Chapter Six was one of my favourite episodes ever. Chapter Seven, almost every fan can agree, was a pretty big let down. But Chapter Eight? Well…I find myself at a loss for words. The second last episode of the second season of Stranger Things leaves you feeling a terrifying sense of impending doom, but also an unimaginable joy. It leaves you feeling frightened, yet elated. Simply put, ‘The Mind Flayer’ is a work of art, and The Duffer Brothers at their best.
But unfortunately, Episode Eight also marks our first major character death of the season. And this one hurt. But would it really be Stranger Things if there wasn’t at least one injustice? Sit back, and let’s take a look at what happened in this fear-filled episode.
People Who Bully Have Been Bullied
I’m going to start the recap off with Billy, because what we learned about him in this episode was important, but completely unrelated to anything else. We see him in his bedroom, checking himself out in the mirror and preparing for a date. His parents come home to see that Max’s window is open and she is nowhere to be found. And when that happens, Billy’s stepmother quietly knocks on the door. She’s worried about her daughter. But he doesn’t care. He brushes it off, saying that she’s probably just out at the arcade or something. But his father…well, it’s clear where he gets the anger issues from. His father begins to scream at him about responsibility and respect, but that’s not enough. He hits Billy and continues to intimidate him until he gets the “yes, sir” response he was looking for. When his father leaves the room, Billy starts to cry. I have to say, I never thought I’d feel bad for this kid. But no doubt, the anger from this humiliation is going to come out unfairly on Max soon enough.
Hawkins Lab Has Become A War Zone
Chapter Six ended with a demogorgon climbing out of the hole, and that’s where Chapter Eight kicks off from. The demogorgon starts banging on the glass to no avail. Dr. Owens assures that it will never be able to break through, the glass is too strong. And then, right on cue, more and more demogorgons pour out of the hole and begin to pound on the glass, quickly creating dents and cracks. And like clockwork, a full evacuation is called for. Hopper and Owens are able to escape, but most of the other scientists are slaughtered within seconds. We saw last season what one random demogorgon could do. Imagine dozens of them with a specific purpose.
Will, The Spy, Has To Be Taken Care Of
Mike is the first and only to notice how dangerous it is to be around Will. Though he doesn’t want to be, he is a spy for the Shadow Monster. And he is being controlled by it. Mike would never suggest leaving Will, he’d never want to. But they have to put him under. It’s the only way to save themselves and, in turn, Will. Joyce is hesitant at first, but the way Will reacts convinces her. Will has never been one to scream and thrash, especially in anger. With Bob’s help, she’s able to sedate her son in time for Hopper and Owens to arrive and together, they try to escape. But the building is infested with demogorgons. Their only option is to barricade themselves in the surveillance room and hide until it’s safe. Everything might be okay. That is, until the power completely shuts down.
Basic Isn’t So Basic
The nearest exit for our group isn’t exactly close by, and even if it was, it wouldn’t matter. The locks on all of the doors are fail-secure, meaning if there is a power outage, there’s no way out. The only way to fix that is to reset the breakers and unlock the doors manually from a computer. Sounds easy enough, right? Hopper’s ready to go down to the basement and carry out orders, guns blazing and all, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. As Bob tells him, you would need to understand basic (computer programming) in order to reset everything. And it isn’t exactly something you can teach someone in five minutes. And so, Bob, who was just thrust into this world that very day, decides to go to the basement alone and save the day. The feeling of dread doesn’t take long to set in.
Meanwhile, The Kids Are Back In Town
Jonathan and Nancy head to the Lab, most likely thinking it’s the best place to look for Mike and Will. But when they see the lights are all off, they know something isn’t right. They get out of the car and try to open the door, but nothing is working. That’s when Nancy hears a rustling in the woods. But it isn’t a demogorgon (which they still don’t know about at this point). No, it’s her ex-boyfriend.
While Jonathan and Nancy were driving back to town, Steve was helping Dustin, Lucas, and Max take down the demogorgons. They’re making their way back to town when the kids stop and start arguing. Lucas is furious with Dustin for lying about Dart (understandable), and Dustin is furious at Lucas for telling Max about everything (also understandable). Meanwhile, Steve’s just looking upward and shaking his head, wondering how the hell he ended up being the babysitter. That’s when he hears the demogorgons. They all follow the sound to a hill that overlooks the town. It’s Lucas that figures out they’re at the Lab. “They were going back home,” he says.
So, Steve and the kids make their way down to the Lab, where they end up meeting Nancy and Jonathan. And both of them have the exact same response. “Steve!?” Their incredulity is hilarious. No one can believe that Steve Harrington is involved in any of this. It’s a joke that’ll never get old. They’re all pretty confused, and understandably so. All of these people together in the same place, it can’t be a coincidence. The demogorgons give a shriek, and Steve catches Nancy and Jonathan up on what’s been going down in Hawkins. Things sure do change in the blink of an eye in this town.
Bob Newby, Superhero
Quite surprisingly, Bob makes it down to the basement completely unscathed. He’s able to reset the breakers and unlock all of the doors within minutes. On top of that, he sets of the sprinklers off in a specific wing to distract the demogorgons to give everyone a clear path! Superhero indeed! But Bob still needs to get out, and so does everyone else. They aren’t in the clear yet. But thanks to Dr. Owens, they soon will be.
Owens has always been incredibly different than the last head of the Lab, Brenner. While Brenner wanted control and nothing else, Owens has a conscious. He wouldn’t let anyone put Will’s life in jeopardy, and now, in a time of crisis, he stays behind to give Bob directions through the maze of demogorgons, ensuring that he’ll get out with the others. He knows the risk, but he does it anyway. It’s a surprising and hopeful moment, a nice contrast to the rest of the episode so far.
Hopper carries Will and leads Joyce and Mike through the halls, into the lobby, and then outside. But Joyce stays in the lobby, determined to wait for Bob, and Hopper decides to give him a few minutes. It’s the least they can do. Meanwhile, Owens guides Bob slowly through the hallways until he encounters his first demogorgon. He tells Bob to hide in a closet and wait it out, so he does. It’s a close, suspenseful call, but the demogorgon moves on. We finally can breathe again until one of the mops in the closet falls and hits the ground with a tap. A light tap, but loud enough for the demogorgon to come back.
Justice For Bob
Bob runs at full speed now, and against all odds, he actually makes it to the lobby. He locks eyes with Joyce and smiles. Joyce is nearly jumping with joy and relief. And it’s in these few, pure seconds, that we feel the most dread. Because we know what’s about to happen. When Bob is tackled by a demogorgon, though it hurts, it isn’t surprising. It’s a classic Stranger Things move.
Hopper comes bursting in and tries to shoot at it, along with the others that have come running into the lobby, but there are too many to handle. Hopper grabs an inconsolable Joyce and drags her out the door. Luckily, Jonathan and Nancy pull up just in time, and between their car and Hopper’s, there’s enough to get everyone else out and away from the Lab. Everyone but Bob, torn to shreds by the demogorgons. Bob, who truly saved the day. Seriously, guys. We still haven’t gotten #JusticeForBarb, but we demand #JusticeForBob.
Things Are Looking Hopeless Back At The Byers’
The kids sit at the table while Hopper is on the phone, trying to get any kind of military backup he can. But, as per usual, no one believes him. Jonathan talks to his brother, who is still unconscious, Steve is restlessly pacing, and Joyce is mourning. Ultimately, it’s Mike that steps up. He can’t just sit there, knowing what’s out there, and do nothing. He sees Bob’s brain teasers and picks one up, bringing it over to the table. “Did you guys know Bob was the original founder of Hawkins A.V?” He tells them how he fought for it, how there’d be no A.V without him. How he taught Mr. Clarke everything he knows. They can’t let his death be in vain. But Dustin and Lucas point out how they can’t fight all of the demogorgons, or demodogs, as Dustin calls them. It’s an army. And that’s what gets Mike thinking.
Taking Out The Queen Bee
The tunnels, Will, the demodogs, they’re all connected. It’s a hive mentality. And the virus is the Shadow Monster, he’s the one controlling it all. They can’t take out each threat individually, but what if they could destroy the Shadow Monster? That should, theoretically, take care of the rest as well. The Shadow Monster is like the Mind Flayer. It believes it’s the ultimate race and wants to destroy all living things that are beneath it (so basically all living things). None of them know how to defeat it, but there’s one person who does. Will. He’s connected to the Mind Flayer. He’s the only one who knows how to stop it. And so begins the group’s biggest mission yet.
Breaking Through To Will
To ensure that Will doesn’t learn their location, they take apart the Byers’ shed, emptying it completely. They cover the walls with anything and everything they can find, installing bright lights that will face Will directly. They tie him to a wooden chair, also covered, and voila! It could be anywhere in the world. During the redecorating, Nancy and Steve have a moment to themselves where Nancy tells him that it was really cool, what he did for the kids. Steve plays it off, a very Steve thing to do, but I’m glad to see people appreciating him. Honestly, he deserves it.
When Will wakes up, he finds himself tied to a chair in an unfamiliar room. Mike, Jonathan, Joyce, and Hopper are there, trying to keep him calm. But he begins to scream and thrash again, so violently that it isn’t him anymore. You can see the monster taking control of him. I really have to applaud Noah Schnapp on this entire sequence. I don’t know how, but he’s able to convey such emotion in his eyes alone, but also in every movement. There’s an intense struggle, you can see him fighting the monster internally. It’s positively heartbreaking to watch, but truly beautifully done. These actors never cease to amaze me.
In an effort to break through, Joyce, Jonathan, and Mike all tell stories, memories that speak to Will’s character. Joyce talks about his eighth birthday, when she got him a box of 120 crayons. His friends bought him all these cool Star Wars things, but all he wanted to do was use his new crayons. He drew a spaceship for her, one that he created and called the rainbow spaceship. She showed it to everyone at work, all the customers. She was so proud.
Jonathan talked about the day their father left. And how they spent the entire night building Castle Byers. It started to rain but it didn’t matter. They kept going. They got sick for a week after, but they didn’t care, because they finished it. And Mike talked about the day they met, the first day of school. Mike didn’t have any friends, he was completely alone, but he saw Will on the swings, alone too. And he asked Will if he wanted to be his friend. That was the best thing he ever did.
All three of them are crying, and Will has tears in his eyes and a smile on his face. An intense look of pain covers his features as he fights the Mind Flayer, but when he goes to speak, all he says is, “Let me go”. It feels as if all hope is lost. That is, until Hopper looks down and sees Will tapping his fingers. His words may not be his own, but he still has some control and is communicating to them through morse code. They run into the house to translate it. It simply says, “here”. Will’s doing his best, and his best may just be enough.
They go back into the shed and continue telling stories, and Will continues to communicate. The way to defeat the Shadow Monster is to close the gate. By doing that, the rest will fade away as well. But before they can get anything else, the phone rings. And that’s all it takes for Will to know exactly where he is. They quickly sedate him again, but it’s too late. He knows, and so does the monster.
They all gather in the living room as the shrieks of the demodogs get closer and closer. Hopper looks at Jonathan and asks if he can use a gun. Nancy steps in and tells Hopper that she has this. He tosses the rifle to her and she cocks it, pointing it at the window. Hopper does the same as Steve moves to the front with them, bat in hand. Mike has a trophy in his hands, but besides that, none of them are armed. Things really are looking bad. But then the noise stops for a moment and suddenly, a demogorgon is thrown through the front window, landing near Hopper.
Hopper kicks it. No response. It’s dead. There’s a creak at the front door. None of them know what it is, but we all know exactly who has come. The locks click and the door swings open and there, bleeding nose and all, stands Eleven. They all look on in awe, frozen in surprise. All but Mike. He steps forward, past everyone, blinking as if he can’t quite believe she’s there. They both smile, with tears in their eyes. And the credits roll.
The plot is amazing, the special effects are incredible, but none of that is what makes Stranger Things so successful. No, what makes Stranger Things stand apart from other shows is its heart, and that comes straight from the characters and the actors who portray them. Those few seconds between Millie and Finn make you feel an indescribable elated heartbreak, as contradictory as that sounds. It’s breathtaking. And if this episode was any indication, one can only assume how amazing the finale will be.
As always, thanks for reading! For previous episode recaps and all Stranger Things updates, check out our Stranger Things Page here!
Sincerely, Fiction’s Mistress