Stranger Things: Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat
July 17, 2016 10:12 AM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Hopper breaks into the lab while Nancy and Jonathan confront the force that took Will. The boys ask Mr. Clarke how to travel to another dimension.

After Will's funeral, the boys speak to Mr. Clarke regarding different dimensions. He explains that inter-dimensional travel isn't possible because humans aren't capable of creating the massive amount of energy needed. Theoretically, however, you would have to create a tear in space and time, then create a gate to allow passage. Upon returning to Mike's basement, Dustin discovers that none of the compasses point to True North. According to Mr. Clarke, if the gateway was created, it would disrupt the magnetic fields of the surrounding area. Dustin, remembering this, reveals it to Mike and Lucas, saying if they follow their compasses, it should lead them to the gateway.

During the search however, El has a flashback of her time in the Laboratory. It reveals she was weighted down and put in a water tank in order to get information from a Russian man and relay it back. While there, she comes across the creature and it gives chase. In the present, El uses her powers in order to direct the boys back home. When confronted by Lucas, Mike defends her and they begin to fight. Seeing this, El uses her powers to knock Lucas away and he hits his head. Afraid, she runs away. Nancy and Jonathan decide to search for the creature on their own, using his house, Steve's house and where they found Will's bike, to triangulate the creature's position.

While searching in the woods, they find a wounded deer and are about to euthanize it, when an unseen force drags it away. Upon following the trail of blood, Nancy comes across a hole in a tree with blood inside. After entering, she exits and sees the creature feasting upon the dead deer. After stepping on a root, the creature senses her and gives chase. After hearing her screams, Jonathan finds her bag near the tree, but can't find her. He runs off to look for her as the hole in the tree starts to close.
posted by Fizz (36 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I hope the wig and hideous pink dress are not El's costume for the rest of the series. I guess it's plausible that she'd use them as a disguise when they're out in the world, but I don't suppose that wig would be very comfortable to keep on while hiding out in the basement.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:38 PM on July 17, 2016


Oh, hey - was the musical score playing under the scenes of everyone getting ready for the funeral taken from something? It seemed really familiar, but maybe it's just the original score that I'm only now recognizing five episodes in?
posted by oh yeah! at 4:51 PM on July 17, 2016


So glad they finally starting talking about Barbara's disappearance. It was so weird to me that they could get a search party together for Will, but for poor Babr, the entire community seemed to shrug and say, "Eh, she's probably at the library or some shit." For days.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:21 AM on July 18, 2016 [16 favorites]


I'm becoming a huge fan of this show. It's just terrific. Some wags are dismissing it as reference-heavy nostalgia, but it's actually extremely well put-together, with a great story, developed characters, and a very immersive, well-thought out setting.

It might be more helpful to say the producers, as an exercise, limited themselves to working to a mid-80s palette than it is to say they're rehashing. The parts are familiar, but they're put together in interesting ways. Richard Donner goonies type kids filmed adventuring on their bikes Spielberg-style as they investigate a Stephen King type story set to a John Carpenter-esque score, while the older kids (who are more like John Hughes kids) get roped in, too.

One of the more interesting inversions of trope is that they absolutely use the old standard where one of the leads susses out very early what is going on, but can't get anyone to believe her. Only this time, it's not one of our plucky kids who can't convince their parents. It's one of the parents who everything thinks is bonkers, and the kids either dismiss her out of hand, or have their own theories keeping them too busy to hear her out.

Anyway, the net effect of all of this is the creation of something that feels very much of a piece with the works they're riffing on, but also feels original, and very much a product of the current Golden Age of Television.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:39 AM on July 18, 2016 [32 favorites]


Oh yeah, pretty sure that's New Order's Elegia - it's been in TONS of things already, and has a Carpenteresque feel as well. (Pretty in Pink soundtrack, a bunch of Metal Gear Solid games and some short films/a Truman Capote documentary.)
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:21 AM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


It was mentioned by someone else in an earlier episode thread, but I really appreciate the way the antagonism between the friends has played out. It feels really genuine to my memories of being a nerdy kid, where your friends sometimes treat you worse than the bullies.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:41 AM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


I totally agree. There's actually a really neat little internal dynamic, with Mike (the optimist), Lucas (the pessimist), and Dustin (the pragmatist).
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:34 AM on July 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


Nancy. Nancy. Nancy. Girlfriend. You are in the woods. At night. With a skinny, sensitive boy who has wandered off and you are looking for a faceless monster that you are pretty sure brutally killed 2 acquaintances of yours. Do ya really think it's prudent to crawl into a mucus covered hole inside a rotting tree? Cause when I saw that snot hole all I could think was RUN BITCH RUN. Otherwise, loved the episode.
posted by pjsky at 7:38 PM on July 20, 2016 [47 favorites]


Also, nice use of Echo and the Bunnymen!
posted by cottoncandybeard at 7:33 AM on July 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Since it was already mentioned, I feel obligated to point out that Elegia didn't come out until '85. Although I guess it isn't playing in the 1983 reality.
posted by snofoam at 8:37 PM on July 21, 2016


I LOVED the compass throwdown scene. Little nerdlings all carrying compasses like gangsters/mercenaries all being strapped and throwing down arms (the opening of The Losers spoofs this) for upsmanship.

re:Nancy... she seems to know her own mind. Her choices, her consequences. And she's demonstrated that she can own up and survive/thrive through them.
posted by porpoise at 9:21 PM on July 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


Yeah, the compass scene was great. So true to being an 80s kid, even if I grew up a little later than our heroes.

I also loved that the math teacher instantly knew about the Vale of Shadows.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:52 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]




As someone who grew up as a gender-nonconforming, girl-assigned kid, the ways Eleven was girled up made me weirdly sad and angry. Why did it make more sense to put a wig on her than to just dress her in boy's clothing? I felt like the show kept wanting to reinforce that she's a girl, even when it didn't really make a ton of sense to do so. It's totally possible that my feelings on this relate heavily to my own experiences, but it felt false and unnecessary to me.
posted by ITheCosmos at 4:25 PM on July 26, 2016 [13 favorites]


I don't think it's just you, ITheCosmos, the girlification stuff seemed pretty jarringly shoehorned in to me too. And that dress was so not convincing as being something of Nancy's (unless it was meant to be something from when she was years younger, but why would she have hung onto it? it looked like a doll's dress, so unnatural)
posted by oh yeah! at 7:07 PM on July 27, 2016


The regendering of El felt weird and unnecessary to me, too, and was one of a couple of things that ratcheted down my expectations for the show. The unbelievable moment when Nancy calls for Jonathan (who, it turns out, isn't far at all) and then goes into the tree by herself was so idiotic and out of step with the rest of the show's naturalism that it yanked me right out of the story. Same goes for the Explainium scenes with the teacher about other dimensions and Dustin on the compass, the ease with which the sheriff gets into the lab and the lack of anyone following him the day after (we'll cut them slack on not just making the sheriff disappear), and the sudden Lonnie/lawsuit story as a flimsy excuse to not have new-believer Jonathan talk to his mother about how she's not really crazy, which was the first time the most klutzy and stupid of all TV Tropes, Poor Communication Kills, made an ugly appearance. They were doing so well, too; it was disappointing to see such shallow writing pop up so often in this episode. The weakest of the series, I'd say.
posted by mediareport at 4:30 AM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I thought the way the boys dressed her up was meant to be seen as over-the-top, wrong, and missing who she was entirely. As in, only little boys would think that that made any sense. Note how when she starts developing personal initiative, she ditches the wig.

I don't meant that to downplay anyone's feelings based on lived experience. I'm just saying that, to my eyes, it was meant to come off wrong.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:35 AM on July 28, 2016 [31 favorites]


That was also my interpretation. The boys spend so much time projecting stuff on to her. The fight between Mike and Lucas is based entirely on the assumption that Mike and Eleven are boyfriend/girlfriend, but El herself never behaves like she believes that is true. Girling her up during the makeover scene felt more like that idea made literal through a costume change than something we're supposed to believe is right and good.

Plus, like you say, El ditches the wig as soon as she really finds herself.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:12 AM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


My heart just broke for Mr. Clarke there a little bit when he goes into that description of the Vale of Shadow and the kids just blow it off all unimpressed. You know he just had to be expecting to blow their minds and nuttin.

Also: Event Horizon was in the 90s, but I'll allow it.
posted by absalom at 6:59 PM on July 31, 2016 [5 favorites]


"but for poor Babr, the entire community seemed to shrug and say, "Eh, she's probably at the library or some shit." For days."

I gotta agree, the timeline is a bit muddy. I was startled by the bit when Nancy and Jonathan were either prepping to go into the woods or were already in the woods and she said something about when Steve broke Jonathan's camera yesterday.

So apparently days have not passed since Barb's disappearance. If we arbitrarily assign Pool Party Sleepover Night to a Monday, then Tuesday was film developing / camera breaking / "where is Barb?" and then Wednesday is funeral / hunt in the woods / Barb's car is found at the bus station.

It's much more compact than I thought. By the time Nancy and Jonathan are in the woods it's basically 48 hours since she last saw Barb.
posted by komara at 10:48 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I feel like the thing with going into the portal has been kind of… foreshadowed? explained? excused? by the earlier episode in which the sheriff lost himself just staring at the stuff in the corner of the shed. It seems like it has some sort of otherworldly power to just sort of compel people into it.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:09 PM on August 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


It might be more helpful to say the producers, as an exercise, limited themselves to working to a mid-80s palette than it is to say they're rehashing.

I think it's also a lot more fun to tell this kind of story in a pre-cellphone and pre-internet world where kids had a lot of freedom. Especially teenagers, 16-18 year olds were treated quite differently in the 80s than they are now. They call out to that a few times with the reference to Nancy's Mom and why she married and the lack of concern for Barb possibly running away and disappearing. You could still do that in the 80s.
posted by fshgrl at 10:41 PM on August 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm conflicted about regendering El, but yeah; prepube boys projecting, 80's* over the top comedic homage.

There was a bit though (paraphrasing) "You're pretty. ... I mean, you look, pretty... good" and El was kind of excited at the initial compliment then deflated a bit. So yeah, I lean towards that El is cis female who was assigned gender neutral.

*we've come a long way, no?
posted by porpoise at 8:19 AM on August 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think that the assumption re: Barbara is that she was upset enough by being the fifth wheel at the pool party/fuckfest to run away, and further that she's also the type of person to come home when she's realized how foolish she's being, rather than ending up on the streets of Indianapolis or wherever. It's a bit of a different thing than a preteen boy's bike being abandoned at the edge of the creepy woods.

Also WRT the "regendering", Winona Ryder (suitably enough) once told the story of an incident during her grade-school days (she was born in 1971, so she would have been about the same age as the boys in 1983) when she came to school with short hair and wearing a thrift-shop suit and got beat up for being a "fag", an insult that Will is also subjected to, even after his disappearance. So, the boys are pretty canny in dressing El up in a way that wouldn't call attention to her.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:25 AM on August 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Did it look like Mr. Clarke was there when 11 was in the tub?

I want to believe no, but that cheeky mustache is hard to miss.
posted by sibboleth at 7:04 PM on August 18, 2016




eh, on second thought maybe it's that guy from the beginning of episode 1.
posted by sibboleth at 7:41 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


YEah, not him. For starters, the guy has a goatee, Mr Clarke just has the stache.
posted by Miko at 9:50 PM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


El's messing with the compass needles was an awesome subtle use of telekinesis, especially when major movements 1) draw attention and 2) sap your power.

I loved that Nancy was a better shot than Jonathan.

And now, the weather music: Elegia sounds like the DNA of the soundtrack, but with guitars instead of being purely synths.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:13 PM on August 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Nancy. Nancy. Nancy. Girlfriend. You are in the woods. At night. With a skinny, sensitive boy who has wandered off and you are looking for a faceless monster that you are pretty sure brutally killed 2 acquaintances of yours. Do ya really think it's prudent to crawl into a mucus covered hole inside a rotting tree? Cause when I saw that snot hole all I could think was RUN BITCH RUN. Otherwise, loved the episode.

I was worried Hop would also decide that after sneaking and beating his way into the inner confines of mysterious facilities, he might as well go into the spooky organic doorway. Well, he might have, had he not gotten drugged by men in hazmat suits.

And I was worried about Lonnie's return, but I'm glad Joyce kicks him to the curb.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:20 PM on August 25, 2016


The scenes with them walking the railroad tracks were pure Stand By Me - I half expected the song to come on in the background.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 8:25 PM on August 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


I was expecting lonnie to have been sent by the state to convince winona she was crazy - obviously he was not there for any good reason. The lawsuit idea was way better than mine :-)
posted by ianhattwick at 10:01 PM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do ya really think it's prudent to crawl into a mucus covered hole inside a rotting tree? Cause when I saw that snot hole all I could think was RUN BITCH RUN.

The unbelievable moment when Nancy calls for Jonathan (who, it turns out, isn't far at all) and then goes into the tree by herself was so idiotic and out of step with the rest of the show's naturalism that it yanked me right out of the story.

Yeah, I spent the next 15 minutes yelling "Who DOES that? No one!" at my cats. It almost made me stop watching the show (almost).
posted by maggiemaggie at 1:01 PM on September 5, 2016


I'm starting to wonder if I missed something... I know the Sheriff has a lot going on his plate, but no one has mentioned the dead guy in the restaurant in a while.
posted by drezdn at 8:16 AM on March 31


Well, it was declared a suicide, so I guess you could write off the lack of urgency there.

I like to see how they start the episodes with a shot of the starry night sky and then pan; to Will's house, to Hawkins Lab, etc.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:44 PM on October 20


Holy shit the thing in the tree!
posted by Faintdreams at 4:59 PM on November 19


« Older Stranger Things: Chapter Four:...   |  Movie: The Great Train Robbery... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments