So, two things to start. First, I came in a little late, but putting a break after this episode before dropping the last two episodes was a smart move.
Second, I saw a YouTube video where the creator speculated that Netflix’s business model of dropping whole seasons all at once was starting to hurt the service because other services would do maybe two or three episodes and then one at a time once a week. The weekly installment plan, the YouTube video argued, created a greater sense of anticipation and talk about a show while Netflix’s model means everything gets dropped all at once and then even the big hits would be binged and basically forgotten about since there’s no reason to watch on an episodic basis like, say, Disney+, Amazon Video, and HBO Max do and build anticipation over time. Interesting theory, and dropping an episode like this one shows why maybe spreading episodes out might not be a terrible idea.
Yeah, see, I wasn’t expecting much of what happened here. I have tried exceptionally hard to avoid spoilers on this season, something I am not always successful for with other shows, and I have been largely successful…but not entirely. That said, it doesn’t bother me that as much as the journey is as important as the destination. And the journey here…
OK, let’s set aside Joyce and Murray’s rescue of Hopper and his Russian guard buddy from the Demogorgon. It’s a great action scene, and it reminds the viewer why those things are so freakin’ scary.
Let’s set aside how Erica comes back to help in the most Erica-way possible as she first points out Lucas, Max, and Dustin are clearly lying to their parents and the cops before helping them figure out some more about the Vecna and slashing the cops’ tires.
Let’s set aside the reveal that the structures in the Upside Down are trapped in a time bubble from years ago, so Nancy can’t get the gun she keeps in her room. The reason there are building and such in the Upside Down? Because they appeared there when the first portal opened.
Let’s set aside that I thought you needed special equipment to breathe in the Upside Down.
Let’s set aside how Nancy and the teens figure out how to communicate with Dustin and the younger kids in the Wheeler house.
Wait, why were they in the Wheeler house? Never mind. That’s like trying to figure out why Will and Eleven both have a thing for Mike of all people.
Let’s set aside more Steve-should-get-back-with-Nancy talk.
I’ll even say let’s set aside how Dustin, Lucas, and Max manage to get a portal open enough for Robin and Eddie to come back to the regular world before something happens that delays Nancy and Steve’s return.
Let’s set aside a whole lot of that stuff. Because this extra-long episode (yes, I am aware the last one this season is even longer) manages a massive and important info dump that answers a lot of my questions, even a couple I didn’t know I had.
See, Eleven gets some more memories back. That massacre in the Hawkins Lab of the other psychic kids? She didn’t do it directly. And why does the Vecna seem to be human? And what did the Vecna have against Victor Creel?
Oh see, because Eleven knew this creepy orderly back at the lab. I don’t think I mentioned him because, well, I figured he was important but not THAT important. However, he was the first. He was…Number One!
Apparently, Victor Creel didn’t kill his entire family. In fact, he didn’t kill any of them. There was also one survivor: Henry, his creepy son. Brenner adopted him to figure out how the boy’s psychic powers worked.
Later the creepy orderly. Given an inhibitor that Eleven removed unknowingly, he’s the one that killed the other psychic kids…except presumably that one that appeared in that episode set in Chicago that I prefer not to talk about. Brenner survived. Eleven realized what was wrong and went nuts and shoved him into the Upside Down, where he transformed into the Vecna, an action that opened the first rift, and Henry, well, he was probably happy as could be because he had a thing for spiders while hating humans, and what does the Mindflayer look like again?
This story is basically told to Nancy in the present (of the 80s) and Eleven in the flashback, it works so well, connecting mysteries from this season and some small questions from the beginning of the show. It flashes back and forth, showing the true evil of the Vecna, starting with his childhood where he used his growing psychic powers to torture and kill small animals (a common first step for many young psychopaths) before using his powers to torture his father and eventually violently kill his mother and sister, leading to his father’s arrest for the crime.
Oh, this was so darn evil, but the story also suggested something: Henry the Vecna believes memories and feelings of anger lead to greater power, but El…she may have figured out love is stronger.
Oh wow. This guy deserves to go down.
And unlike people who jumped onto season four as soon as it dropped…I can get to it right away. You know, as soon as I go through the next episodes of The Umbrella Academy, Gotham, Better Call Saul, and The Boys.
Dang, I got a good weekly TV line-up right now.