Episode 1.8 “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down”
Teleplay by The Duffer Brothers, Story by Paul Dichter
Directed by The Duffer Brothers
Created by The Duffer Brothers
Starring Noah Schnapp, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, David Harbour, Natalia Dyer, Cara Buono, Millie Bobby Brown, Winona Ryder, Charlie Heaton, Matthew Modine, Joe Keery, John Reynolds, Joe Chrest
Air date: Friday, July 15, 2016
If you’ve followed my reviews of this series so far, you know I am in love with it. So this review is bittersweet. To most in Hawkins, Indiana, Will Byers drowned in a quarry. He had to – they had a funeral and everything. To those who know him best, they have spent days piecing together the truth. There is some sort of monster lurking in Hawkins, that has taken Will to the Upside Down, a parallel dimension to our own. Worse, perhaps is that the government is covering this up, and the monster as well as a powerful but scared little girl, are parts of a Cold War experiment called MK Ultra. Before we get to it, let’s take a minute to review where our essential characters are:
The Kids – Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Eleven (Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin, Gaten Matarazzo, Millie Bobby Brown) are in the middle school where Eleven has just used a makeshift sensory deprivation tank to help locate Will who is stuck in the Upside Down
The Adults – Joyce and Hopper (Winona Ryder, David Harbour), both grieving from the loss of children, have newfound fervor, knowing Will may be alive in the Upside Down, they race off to Hawkins Research Facility
The Teens – Nancy & Jonathan (Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton) have formed an unlikely but awesomely adorable bond and show no fear in their pursuit to hunt down and kill the monster. Steve, not the stereotypical high school jock he often resembled, is on a path to redemption too, except that path might lead straight into danger.
The Others – Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) and his agents will stop at nothing to recapture Eleven. As an almost running joke, Mike’s dad continues to do nothing.
Spoilers below for the finale of Stranger Things.
Hopper and Joyce are caught by the government agents at the Department of Energy. Hopper agrees to give up Eleven’s location IF he and Joyce get Will back. The compromise by Dr. Brenner is to give them radiation suits and show them to the gate into the Upside Down. Figuring they’ll get lost and or be killed, the agents trek off towards the school. The kids are there alone because Nancy and Jonathan are setting a trap for the monster that the kids refer to as the demogorgon (from D&D). They booby trap the house like Nancy does for Freddy at the end of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Steve shows up at the wrong time looking to make peace and is quickly and accidentally caught up in their battle with the monster.
Back at the school, the agents show up right in the middle of some more classic dialogue from the kids. Mike trying to explain to Eleven the difference between girlfriend and sister, is exactly how a shy 12-year old would ask a girl out… you know, before emojis were created. The joy on the faces of Lucas and Dustin as they find the chocolate pudding haul is also hilarious. Eleven has to use her powers to try to escape the grasp of Brenner’s agents, but soon the blood spilled summons the demogorgon, and a final showdown between Eleven and the monster seems imminent.
In the Upside Down, Joyce and Hopper desperately search for Will, with us getting some flashbacks to Hopper dealing with his daughter’s passing. This is where I lost it, and pretty much didn’t stop crying for the rest of the episode. The quest for Will has become as important for him as it is for Will’s own mother.
Dividing this season into halves, the first is about loss, and coping with loss in various ways. The second half is about restoring faith and finding what is lost, no matter what stands in your way. In a world divided by everything from an upcoming presidential election, which lives matter, and whether or not to love or hate Pokemon Go, the entire Internet seems to have one thing to come to perfect harmony and agreement on… Stranger Things. It is perfect for nearly every age group. Kids (probably 7+) can watch other kids, normal kids playing games, biking, and participating in after school activities that have NOTHING to do cell phones, social media, or video games. Young adults can enjoy the coming of age story, as there are three really interesting teenagers, Nancy, Jonathan, and Steve. As for me, I’m 34, a kid who grew up in the late 80s/early 90s watching all the movies that the Duffer Brothers paid homage to throughout the series. My Facebook threads were filled with my friends and I going over all the references from Stephen King books, to the films of Spielberg and John Carpenter. Best of all my 12-year old son watched 15-minutes of one episode waiting to play X-Box, and now wants to watch the whole series.
Stranger Things was filled with great actors of all ages, putting on tremendous performances, showing wide ranges of emotions and making it for the audience to audibly laugh one minute, shriek in terror the next, and end up in tears. The ending is perfect. No cliffhanger, no obvious set up to a sequel or season two. There are some questions left unanswered and some interesting things happen in the final 5-minutes, but you are left feeling totally satisfied. I cannot wait to re-watch this show with whole family.
Stranger Things is streaming on Netflix now.