There’s always a certain inevitable sadness that comes with finishing the season of a good show. And Season 2 of Stranger Things was unarguably work of art. Truly the Duffer Brothers at their best. You can expect a review of Season 2 soon, but for now, let’s talk about that epic, terrifying, heartwarming finale. ‘The Gate’ was masterfully crafted and showcased both our favourite characters and actors at their finest. There’s a lot to talk about, and quite frankly, a lot of emotions, so sit back, try to relax, and let’s recap.
Mike And Eleven Are Reunited
Chapter Eight ends with a demogorgon tracking our favourite Hawkins residents to the Byers’ house, where it is thrown through a window and killed by Eleven. She slowly walks into the house and locks eyes with Mike. Both on the verge of crying, they smile. Chapter Nine begins only seconds after this moment, with Eleven and Mike embracing, holding onto each other for dear life. Mike pulls away and tells her that he never doubted her for a second, that he called her every single night. Eleven cuts him off. “353 days,” she says. “I heard.” Mike is confused. She heard? Why hadn’t she contacted him? But before she has time to answer, Hopper steps in. He confesses that he wouldn’t let her contact anyone, that she had been living with him for the past year. He was trying to protect her. Mike, understandably, is about ready to give Hopper a piece of his mind, so Jim pulls him aside into a private room. And Mike starts screaming.
Mike has every reason to be angry. And Hopper gets it, he just doesn’t want him to take it out on Eleven. And Mike shouts that he’s not angry with her at all. He doesn’t blame her, he blames him. He starts punching Hopper over and over again, screaming at him and calling him a piece of shit until eventually Hopper just wraps his arms tightly around Mike and holds him. Mike’s shouts turn into sobs and soon enough, he’s crying into Jim’s chest. It is, without question, one of the most beautiful and intimate moments of the season. Mike has so much anger and pain that he’s bottled up inside, mainly because he’s had nowhere to put it. In many ways, Hopper is more a of a father figure to Mike than Ted is.
Meanwhile, Eleven catches up with everyone, embracing Lucas and Dustin and poking Dustin’s mouth, pointing out that he has teeth now. Despite Max trying to introduce herself, Eleven walks right past her over to Joyce, giving her a giant hug. She goes to see Will with Joyce and lets her know that she saw everything that happened to Will. Joyce asks if she could close the gate, since she once opened it. Hopper tries to refuse, telling Eleven that she doesn’t know what she’s up against. But he doesn’t know how strong she’s become. She can do this, and she will.
How Do They Disconnect Will From The Hive?
Mike points out that, right now, it doesn’t matter if Eleven can close the gate or not. If she does manages to close the gate, sure, it kills the demogorgons. But it also kills Will. And that’s when Joyce gets an idea. All of this time, they’ve been giving the Shadow Monster exactly what it wants. He likes it cold, so they’ve been keeping Will cold. Together, they realize that if they make the host (Will) uninhabitable, the monster will have no choice but to leave and find another host. But in order to do that, they need a new place, a place that Will won’t recognize and that the monster won’t be able to find. And Hopper has the perfect solution.
Jim gives Jonathan directions on how to get to his cabin. It’s the best, most remote option they have. He’ll take Will with him, along with Joyce. And though Nancy isn’t originally going to go, Steve is the one to convince her. Nancy feels she can’t leave Mike, but it’s more than that. Part of her feels guilty about Steve, though she won’t admit it. Steve tells her it’s okay, and that Mike will be fine. “I may be a pretty shitty boyfriend,” he says, “but it turns out I’m actually a pretty damn good babysitter.” And while Steve is wrong about the first part, he definitely has the latter down. So, Nancy goes with the Byers to Hopper’s cabin while Hopper takes Eleven to the Lab, leaving Steve to look after Dustin, Lucas, Mike, and Max. This makes for one of the oddest and most wonderful groups yet.
Hopper And Eleven Make Amends
There is so much that goes on in the car scene between Hopper and Eleven, but it can be summed up in one word: honesty. Eleven tells Hopper that she went to see her mama. Hopper tells Eleven all about Sarah. They both let down their guards for a few minutes and completely open up to one another, getting more vulnerable than they ever allow themselves to be. They both apologize, because they’ve both been stupid. But the important thing is to learn from it. They can’t lose each other. And with this understanding and acceptance, they head into the Lab with a clean slate. Knowing that whatever happens, they will always have each other. In this scene, they truly become a family.
Meanwhile, Steve Has Become #DadSteve
If you have not seen the Dad Steve memes yet, please jump on Twitter right now. I’m not joking. Dad Steve is the best thing that has ever happened to this show, and that isn’t an exaggeration. Dad Steve is amazing. How did Steve get his Dad status, you ask? Let’s take a look.
Back at the Byers’ house, Steve tosses the demogorgon corpse into the fridge at Dustin’s request. Anything to keep the kids from scheming. But Steve’s only been hanging around the gang for a little while, and he’s about to realize that it takes them about two seconds flat to come up with a stupid plan. Despite Steve telling them that the best thing they can do is stay put and let the others do their jobs, they formulate a plan that guarantees Eleven to get to the gate unharmed. They remember the last time the faced the demodogs, how they were called away. If they can get their attention, the demodogs will come straight for them and Eleven will have a clear path. They can go in through the hole that Hopper made and set their trap further down, where all of the tunnels feed into each other. If they set it on fire, The Mind Flayer will call his army to the tunnels. They all start chattering at once, excited that they can actually do something to help, and that’s when Dad Steve comes out.
“Hey! Hey! Hey! This is not happening. No, no, no, no, no! No buts! I promised to keep you shitheads safe and that’s exactly what I plan on doing. We’re staying here, on the bench, and we’re waiting for the starting team to do their job. Does everybody understand that? I said, does everybody understand that? I need a yes.”
Steve is not messing around, and it’s kind of perfect. What makes it even better is that he would literally kill to keep these kids safe, but he keeps calling them shitheads. But before the kids can give him the answer he wants to hear, they hear a car speeding into the driveway. They look out the window, and it’s Max that recognizes the car. It’s her stepbrother, Billy. And if he finds her here, he’ll kill them all. And this is how the showdown we’ve all been waiting for finally comes to pass. The kids hide while Steve stands on the porch to greet Billy. He tells him he doesn’t know Max, but Billy sees right through that lie, no thanks to the kids peering out the window in plain sight. He pushes Steve to the ground and kicks him hard in the stomach before rushing inside. He starts to get mad at Max, but then pins Lucas against the wall, lifting him off the ground and threatening him. Max clearly doesn’t understand orders, but maybe he will. It would have been terrifying if we didn’t know that Steve was going to come bursting through the door at any second. Come on! It was inevitable!
Billy is shouting at Lucas, “You’re dead!” But then Steve pushes him off and says quietly, “No, you are”. And then he delivers a fantastic right hook. Billy stumbles into the counter, and while all the kids are surprised and Steve is straight-faced, Billy is cracking up. “I’ve been waiting to meet this King Steve!” he shouts. Billy takes a shot at him, but Steve ducks, avoiding it easily and continues to deliver massive blows with the kids cheering him on. Steve would, without question, have won, if Billy didn’t start playing dirty.
Grabbing a plate, he smashes it over Steve’s head, disorienting him for long enough for Billy to get him on the floor and really start laying into him. Punching him over and over again, if someone doesn’t stop him, Billy would no doubt kill Steve. And that’s when Max finally decides to take a stand against her stepbrother. She grabs the syringe and jams it into Billy’s neck. He isn’t knocked out right away, just incredibly woozy. But somehow, still laughing. Max takes Steve’s bat and tells him to leave her and her friends alone. When he tells her to screw herself, she swings the bat so it lands right in between his legs, narrowly missing that spot. “Say you understand!” She shouts, bat raised once again. Billy cowers and quietly mutters, “I understand”.
This moment was so crucial for Max in so many ways. Not only does she take her power back by finally putting Billy in his place, ending his reign of terror on her, but it’s the moment when she truly becomes one of the group. And with that, and Steve down for the count, the kids have nothing standing in their way. And now, they have a ride to the tunnels. Max takes Billy’s keys and they get going.
Thanks To Dustin, Steve Isn’t Left Behind
They’re nearly at the tunnels when Steve begins to wake up. His face is completely swollen already, and he’s so out of it that when he sees Mike next to him, he thinks it’s Nancy.
Dustin tries to explain to Steve what’s going on, but when he sees that Max is driving, he starts freaking out. Dustin tries to tell him to stay calm, that the only reason they let Dustin bring him was because he promised them he’d be calm. But Steve is the opposite of calm right now. And trust me, Max called herself zoomer for a reason. This girl knows how to speed!!
They surprisingly get there in one piece, but Steve’s still furious. The kids have brought goggles and bandannas and are prepping to go into the tunnels. Steve is yelling at them to stop, but no one is listening, and that’s when Dustin grabs a backpack out of the trunk. “I know you promised Nanc that you would keep us safe, so keep us safe.” He hands him his bag with his infamous bat still sticking out of it. Steve shakes his head and takes it. The kids are going down with or without him, and there’s no way he’s letting them go alone.
When they all get down there, Mike starts to lead the way, but the theme of this episode seems to be that Steve isn’t having any of it, because he pulls Mike back. “Any of you little shits die down here, I’m getting the blame. Got it, dipshit?” And with that, Steve becomes the new leader of the gang, leading them through the mess of vines to the hub. And when they get there, they douse every inch of it in gasoline. They get ready to run for their lives as Steve clicks open his lighter and tosses it into the middle of the hub. Boom. And they had no way of knowing this, but setting the hub ablaze sets forth a chain of necessary events for the gate to close. They saved quite a few lives by doing this, but at the time, they didn’t realize just how many.
Burning The Infection Out Of Will
Back at Hopper’s cabin, they pull a bed directly next to the fireplace and get the fire going nice and hot. They set up space heaters also next to the bed, and lay Will down in the middle of it. They’re all sweating profusely by the time he wakes up, and it only takes seconds for him to start screaming and thrashing. The pain is clear, and though Joyce knows it’s the demon talking, Jonathan can’t help but look down and see his little brother. He looks away, clutching Nancy tightly. But Joyce turns up the heat. Side note: people don’t give Joyce enough credit. She’s such a bad ass. Not many people could endure losing their child, getting their child back only to have him be possessed, and then literally burn the demon out of them. Joyce is pretty intense, and it’s pretty wonderful.
Jonathan tries to stop his mom from continuing to turn up the heat, but then they see proof of it working. Black veins start running up and down Will’s neck, the monster is starting to be expelled. But then Will breaks free of one of his restraints and starts choking Joyce, proving that right now, the demon will do anything to stay alive. Nancy grabs the poker from the fire and presses it against Will long enough for him to let go of his mom. All hope seems to be lost until finally, the final moments of possession end.
When Steve and the kids set fire to the hub, and Eleven began to close the gate, the Shadow Monster had no choice but to leave Will’s body. He had much more pressing issues. You can literally see the black smoke coming out of Will’s mouth, leaving his body entirely. And though Will looks incredibly pale, he wakes up within a few moments. From his eyes and from his voice, its obvious. Will is himself again. The gate is ready to be closed.
Dart Isn’t Dead
While rushing out of the tunnels, Steve and the kids come across a demogorgon. But it isn’t just any demogorgon. We see its yellow patterning and recognize Dart, and so does Dustin. And Dustin asks them to trust him as he slowly approaches Dart, getting a chocolate bar from his backpack and feeding it to him. Though Dart was defensive at first, now he’s almost purring. While he’s feasting, the others sneak past him. And he lets them. He still has a connection to Dustin, and this is positively groundbreaking. Demogorgons, as we now know, can form bonds with humans. They’re almost like…I don’t know, think of a direwolf from Game of Thrones. They can be vicious and shouldn’t normally be kept as pets. But they are fiercely loyal to their family, to those who raise them. Maybe demogorgons can be the same?
Eleven Is More Powerful Than Ever Before
And now we finally get to it. Thanks to Steve and the kids, the path to the gate is clear. On the way there, they run into Doctor Owens. He’s hurt, bleeding badly, but thanks to Hopper, he might just make it out of this. When he sees Eleven he starts to panic, but Hopper politely threatens that they can work something out when they get out of this. When she saves them all.
They get down to the gate and thankfully, the demodogs have just run off. They have a clear shot, at least for a few minutes. As they lower themselves down in the lift, Eleven clutches Hopper’s hand, preparing herself for what she’ll have to do, and what will happen if she fails. And then, she begins to work her magic.
This is when we really see the use of Chapter Seven, ‘The Lost Sister’, a very controversial episode. Many thought it was a filler, but at least one important thing came from it. It was Kali, after all, that taught Eleven to channel her anger and pain and use it to her advantage. Don’t think of the weight or mass of whatever you are trying to move, think of the worst things that have ever happened to you. Channel that. And so she does, and the gate actually begins to close. And though we see a looming shadow behind it, it cannot reach them.
As soon as Eleven starts to close the gate, the demodogs rush back to it, eager to help their master in destroying the threat. But that’s what Hopper’s there for. He shoots them off one by one. And though they keep coming, it’s too late. Eleven starts to scream as she feels all of her pain at once, and she starts to levitate. As she screams, the gate begins to close faster and faster until finally, it’s completely sealed shut. Eleven is nearly black and blue by the time she’s done, but she did it. She closed the gate. And as they guessed, it kills all of the demodogs in the process. They are disconnected from their dimension, they cannot survive anymore. Eleven and Hopper embrace in relief. Somehow, against all odds, they were able to survive. Will is going to be okay and so is everyone else. They’re actually going to be better than okay, they might get to lead relatively normal lives for once.
Though much of the finale consists of our favourite Hawkins residents fighting for their life, by the time Eleven closes the gate, there’s still about fifteen minutes of the episode left. We’re actually getting a good amount of closure this season. But quite honestly, it’s so beautifully done that it deserves its own recap. So stay tuned.
Between Dad Steve, Will’s possession, Max joining the group, and Eleven realizing the true extent of her abilities, this episode was one of the best of the season, if not the series. It had everything it needed to, all of the suspense and laughter, pain and joy that Stranger Things is known for. All of the actors tapped into new parts of their characters, and even if they only had a small amount of screen time, there wasn’t a single one that didn’t shine.
As always, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for what’s going on in Hawkins only a month after the incident. For all Stranger Things updates, along with previous recaps, check out our Stranger Things Page here!
Sincerely, Fiction’s Mistress