So, as much as I have worked as hard as I could to avoid all spoilers for this show…yeah, I heard about the way Kate Bush had a song hit the charts again thanks to one sequence for one episode. I didn’t know much beyond that, but now that I have seen the episode…well, it’s a crowning moment for an episode chock full of crowning moments.
That is Stranger Things‘s MO at this point: keep the awesome coming. Spread them around, and hopefully at the end of the season, all the different groups of characters meet up to lead an improbable victory against whatever is coming out of the Upside Down this time. When the weakest plot is the stuff involving Joyce and Murray trying to get somewhere with a Russian pilot with an incredibly dark sense of humor (and he’s untrustworthy in the end anyway), then maybe it’s time to look over all the things this episode did to make Max’s fleeing from the Vecna, set to that Kate Bush song, so darn powerful.
First, there are the little things. Robin and Nancy manage to bluff their way in to see Victor Creel, and he’s played by Robert Englund. Or at least he is in the 80s. In a flashback, he’s the guy who played naive mama’s boy Sam over on Ozark, so just for kicks, I am going to pretend in my own head they’re the same character as part of the Netflix Cinematic Universe. You won’t believe what happens when an adult Eleven gets locked up in the prison from Orange is the New Black.
Regardless, it’s a story told by a sightless man who, it turns out, took out his own eyes to try to save himself or join his dead family, all ripped apart by the Vecna, a being that can kill people who has lived through certain types of tragedy, but is oddly enough vulnerable to music from the looks of things. The thing is, the Vecna looks a lot like Freddy Krueger, so what better way to show how dangerous it is than to make Freddy his first victim in the form of Englund?
That is how this show rolls.
And in nice character moments, Robin has to go in dressed in Nancy’s clothes, and they don’t make her very comfortable, but she’s much better at bluffing than Nancy is.
Meanwhile, over on the West Coast, Jonathan comes out of his pot-infused haze long enough to realize that since Joyce is inexplicably gone and Dr. Owens has some humorless federal agents watching him, Will, and Mike, and calling Nancy to warn her isn’t a good idea, the thing to do is drive back to Indiana. His pothead buddy Argyle delivers pizzas. Get him to come over, sneak out, and then go back to Indiana. The only thing that goes wrong there is soldiers show up first and start shooting, meaning the boys end up taking one of those (wounded) humorless agents with them.
And as exciting as the shoot-out was, that’s nothing on all things Max. Sure, the basketball team knows Lucas may have told a few fibs in his effort to protect Dustin, but the Vecna still wants Max, and she expects to die. It has to do with her unresolved trauma following her big brother Billy’s death, and it almost works…except Lucas knows her favorite song, they have a walkman, and she remembers the good times, leading to a running escape of her spirit from the Upside Down to her body in the real world. It is, without a doubt, fantastically powerful stuff. And somehow, this is only episode four.
I mean, if the show is always going to come back this consistently awesome, I may not mind such long waits between seasons. It perfectly combines character work with thrills. I mean, pretty much any time Erica can be a verbal badass or Dustin and Steven can chat is usually an A+ scene, and this episode has all that plus running escapes from insane asylums, California homes, Russian gulags, and the Upside Down.
Is there a way to do better than that?
Yeah, probably. I still have three episodes to go.