It’s been roughly a week since we’ve returned to the Upside Down. Within less than 24 hours of the sequel season’s premiere, fans and critics were already spawning theories of what could come in the third installment of the nostalgic series. We have well over a year to theorize on what comes next for the heroes of Hawkins, Indiana. As fans continue to digest “Stranger Things 2,” let’s revisit some of the best and most intriguing moments of the season.
1) Eleven’s Meltdown (“Chapter Four: Will The Wise”)
While the first few episodes of “2” were essentially a slow burn to the huge payoff of the concluding episodes, one stand out moment of acting, effects, and overall impact was Eleven’s meltdown. Upon returning to the cabin where she is hiding out, under Chief Hopper’s paternal eye, Eleven’s reaction to the consequences of breaking the rules and leaving her new home is anything but controlled and subtle. The scene offers a moment of necessary character growth and conflict for both Hopper and Eleven, as both are becoming acclimated to their new roles with each other; Hopper as budding father figure to Eleven and Eleven coming to see the full strength of her power. Since we didn’t see the two characters share a lot of screen time together in season one, the scene set a strong tone for the relationship the two characters would have through the rest of the season.
2) Steve and the Demordogs (“Chapter Six: The Spy”)
“Stranger Things” is built on the foundation and inspiration of a slew of science fiction and horror films. Of the references made in “2,” Steven Spielberg’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” found its way into the mix. When Lucas convinces Max he has proof of everything that took place a year ago, the two find themselves with Dustin and Steve in a junkyard, waiting out the demordogs. Surrounded by creatures from the Upside Down, Steve’s predicament is similar to the band of Velociraptors stalking the party of scientists and opportunists in the sequel to Spielberg’s original dinosaur film. The ensuing scene plays out with action and references to the prehistoric creatures. Its well acted and well choreographed and adds another reference to the many pictures the Duffers have drawn from.
3) The Army (“Chapter Six: The Spy”)
Chapter six of “2” builds up the finale of the season in every way. It’s the episode where action starts to go down, and stuff hits the fan. The latter part of the episode sees Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) become more possessed by the Mind Flayer. As a layer of mist, also a reference to Stephen King’s “The Mist,” rolls in to the hive, the center fixation of the tunnels underneath Hawkins, it’s difficult to discern exactly what becomes of the members of the Hawkins Lab group, but the fear is in not knowing. What we see on screen is a methodological take down of each person, and what we’re left with is fear and some satisfaction that the series is really starting to kick into gear.
4) Eleven is not alone(“Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister”)
While it’s been argued that “The Lost Sister” is the weakest part of the sequel season, it did add to the world of “Stranger Things.” The episode saw the introduction of Kali aka 008, Eleven’s “step sister” who she bonded with at Hawkins Lab when they were children. One of the best parts of the episode, Kali is as powerful as Eleven but much more vengeful, seeking retribution against the people who tortured her and treated her as a lab rat. While Kali is egging on Eleven to move part of an old, discarded train, the scene offers a moment between two very powerful female characters and further exploration into what Eleven can really accomplish when her mind is set to it (which is paid off in full by the last episode).
5) Dark Phoenix Meets Darth Vader (“Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister”)
While fans and critics have debated its necessity “The Lost Sister,” there are small moments that do pay off. By the end of the episode, we see the full extent of the internal conflict Eleven has built upon, avenging her mother and herself. When on a mission to exterminate another member of the “bad men” from Hawkins Lab, Eleven’s means of torture and killing show a likeness to that of Darth Vader. Using her hand in a similar motion and focusing her power by choking the unsuspecting victim, the dichotomy of X-Men’s Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix storyline plays out with a subtle nod to the George Lucas series. This is a powerful moment that adds to Eleven’s character arc, in an otherwise standalone episode.