Stranger Things: Chapter Eight: The Upside Down
July 17, 2016 8:27 PM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Dr. Brenner holds Hooper and Joyce for questioning while the boys wait with Eleven in the gym. Back at Will's, Nancy and Jonathan prepare for battle. (season finale)
posted by oh yeah! (180 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Eleven is totally still alive in the Upside Down, right ? RIGHT !!!
posted by Pendragon at 3:56 AM on July 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


Eleven is definitely still alive, because of the Eggos at the end, presumably in the Upside Down.

I loved this, and would love a second season, but I'm conflicted on whether to continue this story with these characters. The child actors were great and it's a shame to waste them, and on the other hand I feel like a rescuing Eleven story would be a disappointment after the mystery of this season.

Still, this season was lots of fun and I'm really glad Metafilter let me know about it!
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:00 AM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


Not sure how I feel about the ending as a series finale, but I think I liked it as a season finale. The problem with losing Eleven to save Will is that I was more emotionally invested in her fate than his. Also, I woke up a couple of times in the night, the last time to a rather vividly creepy dream involving insects infesting my childhood bedroom, so, I think it's safe to say that the show made an impact on my subconscious. That last scene of poor Will coughing up that slug critter and being momentarily transported to the Upside Down of his bathroom was chilling.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:01 AM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


Why does Nancy end up back with Steve? I got to that and had to pause to sputter. What the fuck? Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree or something, but I got the impression of Steve as being a complete dick. Yeah, he does a bit of a turnaround and starts trying to be helpful, but he's mostly in the way and still a dick meanwhile. How does that result in a happy Christmas ending of snuggles and ugly jumpers? I just didn't find the idea of his character reforming enough to stop him being a pushy twit to be at all convincing.
posted by E. Whitehall at 7:53 AM on July 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


I zoomed through this over the weekend. Mostly I really enjoyed it. I graduated high school in '86, so all the tropes and references were hitting me right in the nostalgia sweet spot.

The problem with losing Eleven to save Will is that I was more emotionally invested in her fate than his.

Yeah, same here. For a few reasons, not the least of which is that Will is missing from episodes 2-8.

But for me, I'm only likely to be interested in female characters these days and we had only 3 significant ones. The child (Eleven), the maiden (Nancy), and the mother (Joyce.) In contrast, there's many more male characters, the 4 knights (the leader, the jester, the skeptic and the lost one), the sad dad, the bad dad, the brother, and the lover.

I was hoping for more with Nancy as the horror movie final girl, and while she had the look and was fine, I didn't identify much with her. I was more of a Barbara back in the day, I suppose. I think there could've been more layers to Nancy, honestly, and getting to choose between a vapid dingus and a creepy guy wasn't much of a choice. And while I enjoyed Winona Ryder's performance, I don't identify with mothers.

I really enjoyed Millie Bobby Brown's performance as Eleven, and am predisposed to identify with an awkward young girl who is sometimes mistaken for a boy. She was definitely the character I was following and who I wanted to see happy at the end. I even had a little hope that she would end up living with the Sheriff after the bad dad was disposed of, until the Sheriff sold her out, the big jerk. I just...rather than enjoyed this, I would have loved it wildly if it had been El's story.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:58 AM on July 18, 2016 [24 favorites]


So, I was thinking - El has to leave, I guess, because she's E.T., but E.T. got to leave with a ship full of his friends and as far as we know El is either in the Upside Down which sucks, or living in the forest on cookies and Eggos which also kinda sucks, so boo. She never got to try pudding!
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:39 AM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


E Whitehall, me too - Steve is an ur-Dick and the initial reading by him from Jonathan as being the guy who she'd marry and end up just like her mother -- that despite hating her parents' boring, know-nothing cul-de-sac existence and small-town limitations, that Nancy would embrace that and settle into a dead-eyed, comfortable marriage of convenience with the first guy she ever slept with and die in the home town that she viscerally wanted to escape from as a a teenager.

I think that his reading of Steve and Nancy's Virginity Quest journey was 100% correct, but what Jonathan didn't know is that people who go through near-death experiences form a really strong bond -- think Peeta and Katniss (fictional) or Christie Brinkley and her most recent ex-husband (real life) who met when their helicopter crashed on a skiing trip, then subsequently divorced afterwards.

Jonathan maybe thought that bond would be his and Nancy's, but since she'd already given up the goods and been slut-shamed by Steve, the one way to prove Steve was wrong and she WASN'T the town slut was, ironically, to stay with him.

I know, I know. It sounds like horseshit as I'm typing it, even to me. But that's the 80s for you... women's empowerment in small-town America wasn't even close to being A Thing, especially for teenagers (I graduated HS in 1990). I'm guessing Steve's family had money, too; Jonathan's clearly didn't, and the social cache of being paired with a "normal" choice vs. Jonathan's "good luck getting a job and escaping your family/father's fucked-up reputation, kid" underdog is pretty obvious in retrospect.

I'd lay a couple of bills on them breaking up in college or after a couple of kids, though. We'll never see it happen, because this isn't germane to the plot. But, I feel it in my bones as sure as those Eggos need a metaphysical toaster in the Upside Down. :(

Eleven had two insta-dads in this series: the short-order cook (can't remember his name, but I was very saddened by his murder post-kindness) and Hopper. I felt both of those men visibly reacted to her as they would a long-lost daughter; maybe there's an Upside Down dad who's looking for Eleven that isn't a monster?

If there's a season two and we DON'T see the after-effects of Will coughing up Baby Slither from the Upside Down, I don't know if I'll be thrilled or disappointed. That's a pretty big lead-in to S2 if it gets flushed down the literal and figurative drain, IMO.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:42 AM on July 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think Steve was not just a dick, I actually found him decently nuanced in the ways he was navigating his own social pressures and issues. I liked her ending up with him more than if she had ended up with the creepy Nice Guy.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:55 AM on July 18, 2016 [54 favorites]




Eight episodes and I'm wracking my brain trying to think if this series even passes the (super low bar) of the Bechdel test. Nancy/Nancy's mom - talk about Steve. Nancy and Barbara - talk about Steve. El talks to Benny and the D & D crew almost exclusively. (Please no one say "based on 80s blahblah" because it's 2016 and we can do better.)

I'm very glad I enjoyed the ride but I am more and more disappoint in retrospect.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:43 AM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think the ending with Will wasn't so much setting up season 2 as an homage to the standard horror movie ending of "everything is happy! (or is it?!)" jump scare.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:45 AM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


It's basically a cop out response, and I don't think it passes the Bechdel Test or is really up to contemporary standards of female characters, but I think it was better than it's source material. There were a decent number of female characters who got their own arcs, but they were mostly separated from each other and were often supporting male stories rather than leading their own.

In my dream world, this is part one of a youth orientated sci fi anthology series with next season being more inclusive than this one.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:45 AM on July 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


I had to think about the Steve thing, too. I think the show wants us to 'realize' that it was Steve's annoying friends that were really the problem, and that they did the spray painting after he confided to them in what he saw when he peeked into Nancy's window that fateful evening. He did some reflection after Nancy yelled at him for caring more about being punished by his parents than her missing friend, and he did follow up later to show that he totally changed his tune there. And yes, he helped remove the spray paint that (IIRC) his annoying friend did (albeit with him present).

But, I think the part that the show really wants us to buy as his redemption, is when he charges back into the Byers house, picks up a bat, and starts swatting the monster with it. He has just in the past five minutes learned about the thing, tried to wrap his mind around it, get a gun pointed at his face by Nancy, and told to leave (not to mention the supreme beat-down from Jonathan earlier that day). But, when he sees the lights going crazy in there, he rushes back in there to help her. Also, at the end, they make it a point to show that he knew about the camera gift - maybe they split the cost (those things were expensive!!).

Do I think the show nailed his redemption? Nah, not really. But, hey, high school relationships.
posted by destructive cactus at 12:23 PM on July 18, 2016 [27 favorites]


That douchebag Steve would not have been redeemed in the 80s at all. And I didn't necessarily take him jumping back into the fray at the house as having to do with Nancy so much as he was wanting to one up Jonathan. Steve isn't actually the bigger person - he just likes appearances/appearing to be the bigger person.

I wish they'd ended this episode at the chief getting into the car with the men.

Wasn't a fan of the slug-critter puke. I understand why they'd use it as a device but it didn't seem necessary to me given the chief taking car rides and leaving eggos for El.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 8:52 PM on July 18, 2016


Criticism grab bag:

- Matthew Modine was handed an incredibly underwritten role, and he really made the least of it :-/

- I was very disappointed that the climax wasn't Barb emerging from a portal carrying Will in her arms like she'd just come back from the post apocalypse. I wanted a whole Barb episode that revealed more about the Upside Down. That would have been glorious and just. As people have noted, it's pretty regressive.

- I generally wish the show had been weirder, or tried to do a little more with its supernatural setup. Been a little more SCP / creepypasta / Silent Hill. If this was an SCP it would not have been one of the creative ones. Even Insidious, which the Will bathroom Upside Down flash at the end kinda invoked, had a meta horror movie thing going on that was more interesting.

- I wanted to believe that the Demogorgon was actually created by Eleven, as a reflection/byproduct of her power and pain/anger/hate. I thought they might be doing that because of a focus on both of their eating behaviors, and her going into rage mode, so I kept thinking something might be revealed? But nothing really coalesced. Then at the end it looked like maybe she knew she would cancel the Demogorgon out? But.. I dunno. I didn't feel like there was actually anything there. And her just sometimes killing a whole bunch of people... that was apparently without moral consequence, but they sorta almost tried to milk it like it had some moral consequence? Did they just think it was cool?

- The shot where Eleven is walking across the (Under the Skin ish) water surface towards the Russian guy she's remote viewing... I really wish they'd flipped one of them, so that she was approaching the reflection, while the "real" target was upside down and being approached by Eleven's upside-down reflection...

- What sums up a lot of the show for me: when the professor pulls out the paper plate to explain the flea and the acrobat I thought oh fucking Christ, here comes the A Wrinkle in Time explanation again. But wait, it's something else! That's great! Yeah let's build this motherfuckin world! But then... he ends it by punching a hole through the plate with a pencil — but that doesn't mean anything in the metaphor! They're not trying to get to the other side of the plate, the plate is not spacetime... ARRGH. It should have been like: "How do you get upside down? You twist the rope, so now you're walking on the other side..*illustrative twisting*". But it costs a lot of energy to twist, what happens if you let go, things snap back.. See already more interesting than gates. More superpositions and 4d rotations, fewer gooey gate births, there's no way they need that much symbolism.

- Every family car in 1983 had a frisbee in it, either under the seat or in the trunk. They just came from the factory that way. So many frisbees. And one of those kids would have had a Mattel football handheld, or a home computer. Steve would have had an Apple ][+, Will might have had a VIC-20 lol, but they could have done something with it and its tape drive. Franklin Computer, Heathkit, Timex Sinclair, a TI994A, coulda been anything. It was a bit late to be like oh boy a 2600. In 1983 Championship Load Runner was out... Where were the arcade games? Where were.. ergh... the Monty Python jokes? Where were the books? (I'm not really faulting the show, just indulging nostalgia.)

- However, I do think the Goonie crew seemed unconvincingly naïve for 7th graders. If it was set in ~78 and they were in fifth grade, that seems more like the world and characters they created.

- Generally, the character drama was not great. So so cliché; like the very first idea that would occur without a sprinkle of salt added. People compared it to Stephen King and Spielberg, but it's not really close at all. Not vulnerable and messy enough to be King characters, not fresh and funny and perfectly quirky/normal enough to be Spielberg characters.
posted by nom de poop at 3:32 AM on July 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


I was very disappointed that the climax wasn't Barb emerging from a portal carrying Will in her arms like she'd just come back from the post apocalypse.

That would've been awesome. And they could've hit another 80s reference by outfitting her in a Rambo-style headband.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:05 AM on July 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


A guy at my gym just started watching it, so I've been randomly saying to him, "Why are you trying to lock this door of curiosity??" It's extremely satisfying because he always guesses totally wrong about where that line might fit into the plot.
posted by radicalawyer at 10:24 AM on July 19, 2016 [21 favorites]






I was so convinced that all the shoutouts to The Thing (teacher watching the movie at home, poster on the basement wall) were foreshadowing a SHOCKING TWIST END-OF-SEASON REVEAL that it wasn't the real Will that came back through the gate, but some sort of sinister shapeshifting extra dimensional changeling-kid pulling a baby cuckoo act on Will's family. I thought A-HA! I'VE CALLED IT! But nope, it was just regular (albeit somewhat wormy) Will in the end.
posted by celestine at 2:09 PM on July 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


Eight episodes and I'm wracking my brain trying to think if this series even passes the (super low bar) of the Bechdel test.
IIRC, Nancy's mom and Will's mom meet for Missing Child Casserole and do not discuss men.
posted by xyzzy at 7:19 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


IIRC, Nancy's mom and Will's mom meet for Missing Child Casserole and do not discuss men.

Does Joyce talking Eleven through her time in the gymnasium sensory deprivation bath count? Or do the "where is Will?" parts of it disqualify it?

Steve's redemption arc reminds me of Blaine in Pretty In Pink - the argument that although many people like Ducky better, if the movie doesn't end with Blaine/Andy it would be like showing that all the jerks throughout the movie saying that people from opposite sides of the track can never be together were right, that love doesn't conquer all. So, yeah, I don't think Steve's arc was entirely perfectly executed, but I like it in theory.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:46 PM on July 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


IIRC, Nancy's mom and Will's mom meet for Missing Child Casserole and do not discuss men.

Nancy's mom does actually get named (Karen) but they talk almost exclusively about men - Jonathan, Will, and Mike. (Male children count as men as far as I know.)
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:01 PM on July 19, 2016


Though I did enjoy the show thoroughly, I was really invested in Eleven's rehabilitation into society. Her psychokinetic powers were cool and all, but I liked her as a *person.*

We started with a group of boys without any girls, to a group of boys with a girl as an "other," to El actually starting to fit in and be one of the gang. Her departure, especially in the manner she left, it served to reinforce her otherworldliness, both to the audience, and to the boys.

I know at that age, gender lines can be pretty strict, but I was really hoping for that to be erased, not reinforced.
posted by explosion at 8:26 AM on July 20, 2016 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I was also hoping for a happier ending for El. Once we'd met her mum, though, I was pretty sure she wasn't going to get full reintegration.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 7:50 PM on July 20, 2016


I was also disappointed in the ending. There's so much investment in El, but I'm hoping based on Hopper that this isn't the last we see of her.

I did think it was interesting seeing Hopper in the snow, which is so much like the Upside Down.

In the 80s, Nancy would have definitely been with Jonathan. However, merriment's link makes it clear Nancy wasn't supposed to end up with Steve, but they changed it because the actor playing Steve was very likable. So they decided to give him a character arc as well. Both Nancy and Steve change, but it would have been nice to see the nature of their new coupledom rather than static happy christmas moment.

Steve isn't a bad guy in the world of Stranger Things. Nancy keeps a lot of information from him and these are teenagers involved in romance so being hotheaded is pretty par for the course. Besides, Steve immediately regrets what he did even though he doesn't know what's going on with her and Jonathan. On the flipside, we see a lot of time spent between Nancy and Jonathan working together. Honestly, I think whomever she ended up with people would be disappointed.

Also according to merriment's link, there's a reason why you don't see more monsters that they didn't disclose this season. I was really disappointed in how meh the Upside Down was once you got a good look at it. Hopefully, when they reveal more, I will not feel so disappointed.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:47 PM on July 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Male children count as men as far as I know.
Maybe I've been too generous in my interpretation of the Bechdel test. I had apparently wrongly assumed that by "men" Bechdel meant "a person I could/would or have had a romantic interlude with."
posted by xyzzy at 10:41 PM on July 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think that while the man being discussed is most often a romantic interest , the test is not limited to that category only. Thinks of all the female characters who are only there to fluff up fathers, mentors, bosses, and sons that we would miss out on examining.

We can call your version the xyzzy varient!

Steve and Jonathan were both high school dinguses. I hope a monster eats Steve and Jonathan both in season two. Women don't exist to be prizes to be won with proper behavior. I am personally incapable of investing emotionally in teen relationships on tv shows.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:20 AM on July 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


I can also see the argument that Nancy chose to give Steve another chance partly because of her guilt over Barb -- maybe a bit of sunk cost fallacy, but, Barb wouldn't have been in the monster's path if it weren't for Nancy's decision to go over to Steve's. Would breaking up with him make her death feel even more meaningless and unjust?

Barb dying is still a variation on the 'sex kills' horror trope, death by virgin proxy, but I do think it's good that Nancy took an active role in the series, choosing to sleep with Steve, choosing to fight the monster, rather than having a passive role throughout. I can see their non-breakup as a good thing if I squint at it hard.
posted by oh yeah! at 1:38 PM on July 22, 2016


Ah, oops, I realised I didn't give enough context for my earlier comment. I meant more that we see a lot of family conflict and disunity in Nancy's family over the eight episodes, and I felt like it would have meant more and created more of an emotional parallel to have both families having a moment of emotional bonding among themselves. It felt to me like putting Steve in there, rather than focusing on the parallels that we've had all season, was a bit of a swerve and didn't quite work. Why ought she have a boyfriend right then at all? Either of them? It doesn't quite work for me.

I mean, yeah, I do think Steve is a dick and Johnathan needs to do some work on himself, and neither of them are entitled to Nancy. For me it's more that having either of them there was a departure from what I expected to happen, and I think having that parallel of both families having a united moment after all this would have really improved the hook of Will's vomited tentacle, because there would have been an emotional beat beforehand to solidify the idea that it was over.
posted by E. Whitehall at 6:52 PM on July 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just finished the series last night. I enjoyed it both as character-driven horror and for its uncannily-accurate '80s set dressing (Mrs. and I kept saying "I had that!" and "My mom had that!" at various blankets, kitchen furnishings, etc.). The VHS filter on the opening credits is maybe a bit much, but that doesn't mean I wasn't tickled by it.

After learning that the creators intend to have Season 2 pick up with these same characters in this same universe, I'm slightly pessimistic. I feel like the way some of the "reveals" were portioned out was...not optimal. Like, I guessed the "parallel universe" thing the moment Will disappeared. Plus so many of the cutaways were purely "non-diegetic" in that their timing and content was solely motivated by what will inform and/or freak out the audience, which I found awkward given the otherwise very novel-like feel of the show's structure—the way, for instance, most of what we saw was from the point of view of a major character. (Maybe if Dr. Brenner had *been* a major character, some of the Secret Government Project stuff wouldn't have felt off in that way.) I also concur with some of the criticisms about how they orchestrated the grand finale. Given these patterns, I'm not sure how far they can effectively sustain the series concept; I could see it starting to go wonky or weaksauce like late-era X-Files.

The safer choice might have been to do a Fargo-ish thing, where each season has a similar mood but different plots, characters, timeframes, twists, etc. But that said, I like a lot of these characters enough that I'm definitely on board for Season 2.

D&D nerd aside: all that language about the "plane out of phrase" that "is right next to you, and you don't even see it" is still in the Manual of the Planes (as of version 3.5 at least), in reference to the Ethereal Plane.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:54 AM on July 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


From Squeak Attack's link to the interview with Millie Bobby Brown

If you had to go back and live in the '80s, what device or modern-day convenience would be the hardest thing for you to give up? Would it be Snapchat, just your phone in general ...?
I could give up my phone any day. I don't need it. The hardest thing for me to give up would probably be my Netflix account.

Talk about staying on brand, this kid has a future.
posted by Mick at 6:04 AM on July 23, 2016 [35 favorites]


And here be my random thoughts FWIW... Honestly, I found the finale to be a bit disappointing. I was glad Nancy was in the thick of the fight and not cowering in a corner waiting for Jonathon or Steve to save her. Or prove they are worthy boyfriend material. But damn Girl, just start filling out your admissions forms for IU and forget about those guys. Neither of them deserves you.

When Steve came back in the house of horrors after seeing the blinking lights I knew he'd end up with Nancy in the end. Nothing says Redemption like running back into the burning building/sinking ship/monster den.

Hopper and his flashbacks to his dying daughter was a bit too on the nose.

Ultimately I have to say Winona was wasted. I mean, she was not used to her full potential, not that she was strung out. Why didn't we get any flashbacks showing us her life before kids, or at the very least, a time in her life when she wasn't broken down and miserable? She got one note to play, desperate/frightened mom, and she played the hell out of it, but ..... that's it? That's all they're going to give her to do? She gets no backstory at all? Hell we know more about El's comatose mother than we know about Joyce.

El. :( Is there anything more depressing than imagining that poor waif all sad and lonely eating cold, soggy eggos in the Land O'snot-n-mucus?
posted by pjsky at 7:24 PM on July 23, 2016 [8 favorites]


I binged this on the weekend so I'll put all my thoughts here instead of scattering them across the episodes.

Loved:
- the 80s palette per DirtyOldTown's comment in an earlier episode thread.
- Joyce running away from the thing in the wall but forcing herself to return when she heard The Clash again. And later grabbing an axe to sit and wait in front of the wall. So much courage!
- Jonathon searching for Will at his dad's new place, including checking the boot of his car. A touch of darkness there that just adds to the horror vibe.
- The interactions between the kids. All of it.
- The amazing actors, all of them. Believable and engaging.
- The plot didn't need anyone to hold an idiot ball! No-one avoided any obvious conversations, no-one flounced out on their compadres without a good reason. The only exception I think was Nancy crawling in to the Snot Tree, which is such a horror trope I think you get arrested if your story doesn't have someone enter a scary place alone.
- The fake body! For some reason the stuffing was more disturbing to me than gizzards would have been.

Meh:
- sometimes the loving references and homages interfered with my suspension of disbelief. Eg Mike giving Eleven an ET-style tour of his house even though he has no reason to know she is ignorant of normal stuff; and the boys dressing Eleven like ET even though none of the girls in their classes are wearing pink party dresses to school. The writers needed to kill a few more of their darlings.
- the teens were so much meh, except for Barb who was too good for their world. I don't think changing Steve's plot because they liked the actor did those sections any favours, either. I'm going to have to take oh yeah!'s explanation above, of Nancy staying with Steve because of guilt over Barb and wanting to prove to everyone she's not a slut after all. But if I'd cared about them more to begin with, I might not be so critical of Nancy being paired off for a pat ending.

I'd definitely try a second season, although I'm not sure the story needs it.
posted by harriet vane at 11:00 PM on July 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Once I saw Steve as Jean Ralphio, I couldn't unsee it. I was happy he and Nancy ended up together; if they're going to do another season, Jonathan needs to continue to be the pensive loner. It'd get really boring if he just settled in for a normal Christmas with Nancy's family.

I hope season 2 focuses on Eleven. I just love her to death. What a great actor. And more girls overall, please! How many movies do we need that focus on (mostly) white suburban (pre) adolescent boys going on adventures and getting into trouble? You could have easily kept all the 80s references and made it an all or mostly girl group. Too bad Barb got mucused, I would have liked to see her and Eleven fighting evil together.
posted by AFABulous at 7:18 AM on July 25, 2016 [11 favorites]


In Alien, the xenomorphs have a reasonably consistent life cycle. It's horrifying as a parasitic wasp, doubly so because we are the prey. You can imagine xenomorphs evolving somewhere in the universe, because we actually have stuff that is just as creepy here on Earth, if smaller.

In this show, the Upside Down is a mirror of our world where there is no sunlight and everything is rotting. But, it's also literally throbbing with grossly fecund life. Where is all the energy for that metabolism coming from? In this episode, Hopper and Joyce track the Demogorgon to a library in the Upside Down. What was there in the Upside Down, before there was a library in our world? There is a forest of trees with no leaves. How did the trees get so big without leaves and light to power their photosynthesis? Why is everything rotting, and yet so much actually remains un-consumed by the voracious biology of that place?

Also, what is actually up with the Demogorgon? What did it eat before it came to our dimension? Why does it restrict itself to ambushing defenseless prey and feeding on carrion, when it is apparently fire- and bullet-proof? It's hungry enough that a half dozen dead bodies will drive it into a bloodlust feeding frenzy, enough to face off against dozens of men with machine guns. But, prior to that, in a whole week it managed to eat one wounded deer, two government guys (one of whom visited it at home even), and Barb (poor Barb). So it's both starving, but it's not killing people rampantly. It's killed and consumed hundreds of pounds of prey, but it's still hungry.

The story wraps a whole bunch of sci-fi stuff around its plot, the government super-science, the "acrobat and the flea," using compasses to track down the gate. It does not seem like the science really adds up. The world makes a lot more sense if we assume the Upside Down was conjured into existence at a fairly recent moment in time, rather than being a parallel dimension that is linked to ours.

I didn't notice this on the first viewing, but is Eleven's use of her powers what drives the hunger of the monster? Does she get recharged when it feeds? This might explain why it shows up the first time when she is remote viewing the Russian guy, and why it shows up right after she kills the hallway full of soldiers in the school. It might also explain why it took Will when it did, because she presumably used her powers to escape the Hawkins lab. It might also explain why it got loose when it did, right at the same time as Eleven. Was there any plot linkage between Eleven-powers and Barb getting grabbed, or the deer for that matter? This might also explain why the monster can only be destroyed by mutual annihilation with Eleven (what a shit destiny to saddle her with, good job writers. Couldn't we have done something where she loses her powers to get rid of the creature?). Even if this is the case, it's not really well explained in the show.

I feel like the writers just stretched themselves too thin trying to reference all the 80's media. Like they wanted to have Alien and A Nightmare on Elm Street, but they ended up missing the mark on both.
posted by rustcrumb at 11:02 AM on July 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


Why does it restrict itself to ambushing defenseless prey and feeding on carrion, when it is apparently fire- and bullet-proof?

All prey is defenseless when you're fire- and bullet-proof.
posted by AFABulous at 11:36 AM on July 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


All prey is defenseless when you're fire- and bullet-proof.

Exactly. If it's that tough, and that hungry, surely it could have found more than a few small snacks? Maybe it was eating night watchmen at Hawkins the whole time? Maybe they were keeping it fed with sacrificial test subjects like the guy on the tether, hoping that it would stay in one place and not chow down on the entire population of the county?

None of that is really well explained though. It seems like they sent one guy into the portal and he got eaten and then they stopped. But they also never cleaned up the basement at all, like they just let that fungus stuff run wild there.
posted by rustcrumb at 11:45 AM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I dunno, I liked the finale? The gender critique is the only one that resonates with me.

I think it worked really well for what it is: a season finale that wanted to provide sufficient wrap-up just in case they didn't get picked up for the second season. I almost think I'd prefer this show as a sort of anthology series like American Horror Story, but the second season will apparently be a continuation from where we left off. In that light, the ambiguity with Will and El is acceptable to me.

Mostly, though, I just want to know how El suddenly gained the insight into the monster's nature that made her understand that she'd have to sacrifice either herself or her presence in the Right-side Up to stop it.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:16 PM on July 25, 2016


Mostly, though, I actually like the weird, unexplained parts? I appreciate when a show can maintain a sense of mystery, as long as the plot itself isn't shrouded in bullshit.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:17 PM on July 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


A couple of thoughts:

The problem with losing Eleven to save Will is that I was more emotionally invested in her fate than his.

Yeah. And in a lot of ways, El is more interesting than Will is at first glance. But Will is arguably a McGuffin that's motivating the behavior of pretty much anyone on the protagonist side of things. The premise is well-conceived enough that it's easy to imagine the plot moving forward even if it weren't a dear child who was taken, but it was in this case, and it's hard to imagine the resolution being satisfying without a clear (and happy) ending for someone who so many of the cast were deeply emotionally invested in.

In this show, the Upside Down is a mirror of our world where there is no sunlight and everything is rotting. But, it's also literally throbbing with grossly fecund life. Where is all the energy for that metabolism coming from?

I think it's also interesting that the damn portals themselves are so... biological. In a show that's highly derivative (if wonderfully so), that stands out to me as something that seems really really novel. Every other example I can think of a dimensional portal of any kind involves a lot of geometry-invoking glowing thresholds, trippy tunnels, various wireframes and visual warping and stuff that plays into our conception of the fabric of reality as a neat and tidy mathematical space if not one that's always euclidean and intuitive.

I find the contrast of the biological living portal into a throbbing fecund gross world to be a really apt one. Whether or not the fabric of the universe is that way, it's certainly true that the fabric of the human world is exactly that way. We tend to abstract our bodies into objects/vehicles/tools, but underneath that is the throbbing biological substrate we're inevitably bound to. A close-up confrontation with it can seem all kind of gross — and can get messy and even threatening fast. What apparently happens to Hopper's daughter is a nod to that. And it's interesting that 11 — who could represent the power of the mind, intellect, understanding, attention — both accidentally calls a representation of the most threatening aspect of that reality up into our pleasant surface abstractions and turns out to be the only one able to truly deal with that threat.

But down from metaphor and back into thinking about the details of the Stranger Things world, what I'm seeing is that the fabric of the universe is not neatly geometric, but it's messy and even tied between the parallel shadow world in a biological or quasi-biological way. Both physical features and human constructions from our world appear in Upside Down. That in itself implies a high degree of connection that amounts to bleed-through of matter. Why not energy too? And since there's at least one lifeform that moves semi-freely between the human world and upside down, why not more, why not an entire shadow biome that straddles the two? The energy doesn't need to come from anywhere in that world if that's the case if there are many organisms that can do the flea thing.

is Eleven's use of her powers what drives the hunger of the monster? Does she get recharged when it feeds?

This would be pretty brilliant if it's the case.

All prey is defenseless when you're fire- and bullet-proof.

It doesn't seem clear to me that it is in fact invulnerable to those things. Bullets obviously don't kill it, but they do seem to register sometimes. And it seems apparent that even though it wasn't mortally wounded by the fire it was absolutely hurt by it.

The weirdest thing for me about the creature might be Steve's weird success at pushing it around better than anybody else short of 11 with that baseball bat. Why would a bat do better than a bullet? Part of me wants to come with an explanation like the monster is trying to grapple with him, and the way it evades bullet damage is some kind of dimensional dodge and that doesn't work as well when you're close up and trying to grab. Part of me recognizes this is pretty ad hoc and our monster's apparently varying capabilities smell less like the interaction of subtle well-considered rules and more like what might have been required for specific plot and dramatic effect.
posted by wildblueyonder at 1:52 PM on July 26, 2016 [20 favorites]


The gender/Bechdel test problems with the show annoyed me pretty fiercely; I think it got a technical pass around episode 3 when Nancy calls Barb's mom to try to figure out what happened to Barb, but I honestly can't think of another time it passed subsequently. Did Netflix need to balance out the OitNB haters for some reason, and that's why it was so dude-heavy?

I am glad Nancy got to have some agency instead of being damseled, though, so it wasn't as bad as it could've been. I also quite liked the monster pushing through the walls and its flower-like head, so props to the design team there.

Count me in for the "wish Eleven made it and Will didn't" crew.
posted by tautological at 4:05 PM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I started out loving this, and it reverse-grew on me. The romantic plots felt really unnecessary, because the relationships I was most invested in were the sweet, nerdy friendships among the boys, and the characters I was least interested and invested in, kept getting the most screen time or narrative rewards.
posted by ITheCosmos at 4:19 PM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


But, prior to that, in a whole week it managed to eat one wounded deer, two government guys (one of whom visited it at home even), and Barb (poor Barb). So it's both starving, but it's not killing people rampantly. It's killed and consumed hundreds of pounds of prey, but it's still hungry.

Wasn't there a throwaway line somewhere in this episode about how six people had disappeared from town? I'd swear I heard it, but that would imply that there are more victims in town that aren't relevant to our story line... (Not that six people is a bank-breaker, but it's more than three.)
posted by mykescipark at 7:06 PM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, there were several other disappearances mentioned briefly in a background conversation. Plus, we only saw the one deer, it probably ate others critters in the forest.

Not to mention... creepy monster from another dimension accessible via psychic powers. So, it may not follow the same biological rules as living things in our world, may just be a psychic projection of some kind rather than a living creature, etc., etc.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:23 PM on July 28, 2016


Have Spielberg or King commented on the show? I'd love to know what they think of this.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:16 AM on July 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Random thoughts:

Overall I really liked this series, and can't wait for the next one. The finale did feel a little unsatisfying to me though, and I hate that El got the short end of the stick. If they had to use the 'someone sacrifices themselves in a final moment of grace and saves the day' trope, why couldn't it have been Steve? I hope they do find a way to bring back a lot of the same characters without necessarily making it a continuation of this story... it could be sort of like S2 of The Wire where some of the threads of the Barksdale story arc continue in the background even though the main plot revolved around the stevedores.

So... I thought Hopper had some kind of trick up his sleeve when he made a deal with Brenner, but I guess he really did pull a Lando? That bums me out, even if he's trying to make up for it by sending waffles to El in the upside-down at the end. I liked the way we met him as a hung-over, "IDGAF about this jerkwater town" cop who gets shaken out of his numbness and revealed to be a lot sharper than we thought as events unfold. Assuming Hopper is back in S2, I expect he'll be struggling with guilt over what he did to El. Ah, I just found this:
“Obviously something happened to her when she destroyed and killed that monster and we don’t know where she went,” [Matt Duffer] said of Eleven. “Hopper is left with this guilt because he sold her out. We wanted to leave it sort of mysterious exactly what he knows… Have there been sightings in the woods or is he hoping she’s out there or has he already made contact with her? We don’t answer any of that, but we like the idea of potentially putting her and Hopper together.”

Dr. Brenner's fate was deliberately vague, right? They cut away as soon as the monster turned on him. I admit I was hoping he'd have a scenery-chewing "Here's why I did it!" monologue somewhere towards the end.

I loved the lazily floating organic debris in the upside-down, it makes me think of spores/ airborne seeds (it can't possibly be good to breathe that stuff, whatever it is), and sort of implies that there's something corrupting about the entirety of that other world.

I agree that the Steve/Nancy/Jonathan triangle was just kind of awkward and unnecessary all around. Her character could have grown so much more if most of her time wasn't spent dealing with a straight up asshole and an angsty creep. (Did anyone really like Jonathan after he took the voyeuristic photos? It seemed like a weird derail for his character; otherwise he's an awesome big brother, a good son who's helping make ends meet, a loner teen I could totally relate to... but then they made him a creeper too.)
posted by usonian at 9:25 AM on July 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


When Hopper left the hospital we saw him get into a mysterious car and drive off. I'm guessing he's part of the Conspiracy now. Maybe he's their point man in the local area now, keeping their secrets secret?

That might explain the Eggo thing: maybe being on the inside now he knows what really happened to El.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:09 PM on July 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Have Spielberg or King commented on the show? I'd love to know what they think of this.

Sangermaine, pretty sure Stephen King gave it the thumbs up, I think I saw a tweet of his linked in some review/article/something saying that it was like watching his own home movies.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:46 PM on July 29, 2016


Did anyone really like Jonathan after he took the voyeuristic photos? It seemed like a weird derail for his character; otherwise he's an awesome big brother, a good son who's helping make ends meet, a loner teen I could totally relate to... but then they made him a creeper too.)

I'm thinking of the movie Mullholland Falls, where a good chunk of the plot falls out some sex caught on film via a movie camera installed in a wall. The man behind it is gay; when he's interrogated about why he did this (certainly without the consent of the people filmed, leading to all kinds of problems for them), he says something like "It made me feel like I was a part of it."

Doesn't make it right, but it does make some sense that an outsider might feel like that was their way into the moments they see going on around them.

And having characters do things that I can relate to and also some things I can't or don't think are right seems like writing human beings.
posted by wildblueyonder at 5:21 PM on July 29, 2016 [14 favorites]


Seconding Tabascodagama...after having rage quit the X-Files reboot because of the pointless bullshit explanation of what was "really" going on using gene editing and just UGH, badly written dubious crap, I was nervous that Stranger Things was going to try to "explain" things at some point in the series.

Explaining in this series would essentially shatter the world and the atmosphere they built so I was quite pleased they restrained themselves, through to the finale, from even approaching how the upside down and the demigorgon "works".
My only hope for any S2, therefore, is that they keep it weird and inexplicable, yet coherent.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 10:01 AM on July 31, 2016 [5 favorites]


Wasn't there a throwaway line somewhere in this episode about how six people had disappeared from town? I'd swear I heard it, but that would imply that there are more victims in town that aren't relevant to our story line... (Not that six people is a bank-breaker, but it's more than three.)

From my count, there was the scientist in the opening scene of Episode 1, Will, Barb, the guy on the tether, and then the two guys who went hunting in the Mirkwood and disappeared (the two townie cops mention it to Hopper when they come by his place while he's searching for the bug).
posted by Existential Dread at 7:48 PM on July 31, 2016 [3 favorites]


I would be curious about Spielberg's take on the show, because I think this outdid Spielberg by a mile. This show had me genuinely laugh and like the kid characters, where Spielberg always seemed to portray kids in such a cloying and/or pandering way that they resembled nobody I knew at that age.

Poor Barb got cheated. I was hoping for a lot more development, but her disappearance is kinda shrugged off by just about everybody until we find, oh yeah, she's dead. Shrug again.

A season two sounds ready to disappoint me. I mean, there's a whole lotta shit in this show that is just goofy and doesn't make sense. I can go along with it for these eight chapters. But to extend this weird supernatural world out for another eight feels like it'll be a stretch, even moreso should they try to explain how this supernatural world actually works.

I think the series works out fine, including El dying (maybe) and Will hosting baby demigorgon (possibly). If it was left at that, I'm good with it.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:29 AM on August 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I fear that Stranger Things S2 could fall prey to Highlander 2 'Planet Zeist Syndrome' - deflating themselves by trying to add explanations nobody needs/wants. Time will tell, I suppose.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:26 AM on August 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm glad that the creators stuck to the 1980s feel and didn't try to imbue 2010s-politics into the series. Though as a trashy Stephen King fan, I think that the Upside-Down world could have easily been more of a critique of 1980s Reaganism — there's a lot that could have been done with the imagery of Cold War paranoia, the American flag at Castle Byers — even making the demogorgon the otherworld equivalent of the Dr. Brenner/Reagan doppelgänger would have made Eleven's self-destruction (so as to kill her "papa") make more poetic sense. Still, a pretty strong series and I look forward to a second season. Good work all around.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:35 PM on August 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, the way those lab elevator doors opened and closed instantly made me think of the underground lab scenes in Akira so bonus 80s points, there.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:40 PM on August 1, 2016


While we wait for the soundtrack to be released (I'm waiting, at least), this Stranger Things Remix from DJ Yoda is worth a listen!

There is a lot of dialogue from the show mixed in, so I can't imagine I would put this into heavy rotation on my music queue. Still, it's fun.
posted by kanewai at 2:21 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I admit hoping this pivots towards being an anthology series. I mean, they can keep the world building, but leave the Hawkins folks alone. Maybe one or two carryovers, but for the most part a refocus on somewhere else, like the shift between Seasons 1 and 2 of The Wire.

I'd like to see something set on a college campus so we could get the Revenge of the Nerds, Real Genius, and so on feels on, but that's just me. I guess it comes down to what their goals with the show are - explore this set of characters, plumb the 80s, detail the Upside-Down, etc.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:25 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Spoiler: EL stands for Emotional Labor.
posted by larrybob at 1:00 PM on August 2, 2016 [18 favorites]


So if El is 11, does that mean there are at least ten other kids? What do you think happened to them?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:21 PM on August 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


Genevieve Valentine at Vox: Stranger Things’ treatment of Barb reveals the show's greatest flaw: its limited view of women.

It’s from the perspective of the young-man nostalgia engine that Joyce makes sense.

When you’re a kid, Mom exists only as pertains to you; the intricacies of her inner life are revealed with time. (Richard Linklater’s Boyhood explored this process at length.)

posted by larrybob at 10:44 AM on August 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


I just wanted some MENTION of Barb at the end. You know: "Hi, Barb's mom? This is Nancy. I'm real sorry I couldn't save your daughter from being Alien-esqued in a dimension of pure evil. Would you like a hug?"

Re: Eleven. What happened to the other 10? See, roughly: Alien Resurrection.
posted by bitterkitten at 7:51 PM on August 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Stephen King is a fan:

"Watching STRANGER THINGS is looking watching Steve King's Greatest Hits. I mean that in a good way." (I assume 'looking' is supposed to be 'like').
STRANGER THINGS is pure fun. A+. Don't miss it. Winona Ryder shines.

I enjoyed the first two episodes, LOVED the middle 4, and kinda hated the last 2, for all of the reasons cited above. Not sure how I feel about a Season 2.
posted by Frayed Knot at 10:04 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I couldn't believe they didn't say anything about Barb at the end.
posted by saul wright at 4:04 PM on August 6, 2016


I am not sure about a second series. These 8 episodes were amazing, but I'm not sure the magic can be recreated or sustained further.
posted by humanfont at 5:29 PM on August 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


* Actually, 11 was the third, as the number is written in base two.

* I was pretty surprised that Jonathan wasn't fingered as a killer (or at least a suspect) after Barb disappeared while he was taking creepy photos from the woods. Nothing about that strikes anyone as suspicious??? Really?

* My read on the Demogorgon is that it's a Lovecraftian Old-One attracted to earth by our explorations into Things Man Was Not Meant to See. It's very, very Call of Cthulu-esque: By looking behind the curtain, we attract the attention of the things on the other side, which have little reason to want much more than to eat us. The flappy-face also struck me as quite Lovecraftian. And the invincibility.

* I was also pretty disappointed that there was approximately zero grief on Nancy's part for Barb. sigh.

* Completely loved loved loved the kids. They felt by far the most 'real' as characters, and the portrayal of their dynamics felt really true to how I related to my own basement-dwelling D&D group in high school. And it's a kind of group relationship that I don't think I've really seen portrayed in mass media before.

* Hopper was great, too; punching his way through the lab was great, and I thought the 'demon, cancer' parallel with the Demogorgon was well played.

Also, I love synthy music.

So on the whole, two thumbs up, with a couple-few plot caveats. I kind of agree that another season might be better with a different story, rather than continuing the current one. The tension of exploration and working through the character's various issues in discovering/acknowledging the supernatural nature of the problem was great, and I'm a bit afraid that it could fall flat as a show about small-town paranormal investigators. We'll see.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:32 PM on August 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


We thought that El was causing the rips in space/ time and she realized it and that's why she left. Hopper still leaves her food each night it looks like so she's holding the portal shut or hiding far enough away from people or whatever. That seemed like a fitting ending for her character. Either permanently or for now.

The gender critiques are valid except that it is a story mostly about a group of little boys. So all the women they interact with are by necessity siblings or mothers or teachers. If it were a show about a group of little girls and all they did was talk about men, that would be very weird, but in this circumstance it didn't seem bothersome to me. The core was the moms and dads and siblings, then their SOs and ex-SOs. That seemed like a reasonable circle of people given the focus was 4 10 year olds.

I'm also confused by the critique of Nancy staying with Steve. She always liked Steve and repeatedly said she wasn't interested in other guy. Why would she suddenly end up with him? That's not how attraction works. Steve was kind of an idiot but he came around.

* I was also pretty disappointed that there was approximately zero grief on Nancy's part for Barb. sigh.

I thought that was shy she got so upset during the boys reunion in the hospital and why she left looking upset.
posted by fshgrl at 12:06 AM on August 7, 2016 [13 favorites]


It took me a while to finish the series, but here I am.

My take on the Upside Down was that it was a parallel universe very similar to our world where the balloon had gone up. It has analogues of all the structures in the rightside up universe, but it's dark, dead, and particulate matter is all over the place. It looked like a nuclear winter to me.

Why did the demigorgon show up there (quite recently, given its protein requirements), and why did Eleven's psychic excursions into Russian officials' brains take her through there to attract its attention? I dunno. But it's a predator that can hop between universes to hunt. It doesn't really need an explanation and it's probably better without one.
posted by figurant at 7:38 PM on August 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


1980s small town, the dirt bikes, weekend binge's playing dungeons and dragons or call of Cthulhu. That was my boyhood and that's what made the show so appealing. The problems enumerated above with Barb were something I missed in the initial watch. It has been great to read these critiques.
posted by humanfont at 8:26 PM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm holding out hope that season 2 -- if they stick with the same setting and characters instead of going anthology -- will have a lot of flashbacks to Barb's and Will's time in the Upside Down. Why did Will survive when Barb didn't? That's a big question the show could answer without destroying too much of the bigger mystery.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:23 AM on August 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


Nancy is clearly playing the stereotypical teenage girl so I'm fine with this for now. But I am hoping that the following seasons will allow her to mature and grow on her own. I thought she definitely showed potential for this through bossing both Jonathan and Steve around a few times and showing such tenacity for finding Barb.

About halfway down this interview they talk about Steve's development as a character. I do think the redemption angle was a bit too half baked (or the douchebaggery side was overly done) but I am ok with "cool guy develops a conscience". But his two friends need to be launched into the sun pronto.

It's been a while since I've gotten so into a show that "everyone is talking about". I've been completely charmed by Stranger Things and can't wait for more.
posted by like_neon at 5:58 AM on August 8, 2016


rustcrumb: So it's both starving, but it's not killing people rampantly. It's killed and consumed hundreds of pounds of prey, but it's still hungry.

Who says there's only one? When Hopper & Joyce stepped through, there was something that resembled an open egg.

I was hoping that there was some sort of sentient intelligence on the other side of this dimension, maybe striking a deal to supply fresh meat for the Upside Down wildlife in exchange for access to the portal. In the height of the Cold War, the ability to launch a sneak attack using this dimension as a back alley to our realm is too tempting to for the government to pass up.
posted by dr_dank at 7:14 AM on August 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


It has analogues of all the structures in the rightside up universe, but it's dark, dead, and particulate matter is all over the place. It looked like a nuclear winter to me.

I didn't think of the nuclear aspect before, thanks. That makes a lot of sense in the context of the kinds of nightmares that kids could have in the 80s.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 8:59 AM on August 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


I didn't get the sense that the government folks understood enough about the Upside Down to make any kind of deals with anything there. Why put a winch on your sacrifice? Or a hazmat suit, for that matter? And the creature clearly didn't need to use the big portal to get out and snack on deer.

The idea of the Upside Down as resembling a post-nuclear wasteland is interesting. The particulate matter does seem to resemble a nuclear winter as people might envision it. But the organic matter blanketing everything doesn't quite square with that.

More importantly to me, though, is this: before the incident leading to El's escape, it seems to be perfectly flat and featureless. My theory is that the Upside Down reacts to what you send into it. You send a human lab rat who's never known the outside world, and it's empty of everything... except her trauma and pain, manifested as the monster (which might be how El sees herself, or it might be how she sees her captors). Then you send government men obsessed with apocalyptic conflict and a boy obsessed with fantasy stories, and you get what it looks like for the rest of the series: an empty version of our world mixed with the Vale of Shadows.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:14 AM on August 8, 2016 [18 favorites]




Stranger Things as an 80s sitcom

Needs more Barb.
posted by larrybob at 4:32 PM on August 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


One, Barb needs to be louder, angrier, and have access to a time machine. Two, whenever Barb's not on screen, all the other characters should be asking "Where's Barb"? Three--
posted by tobascodagama at 5:01 PM on August 8, 2016 [13 favorites]


Barb got taken by the monster and Will crawled/ fell through a hole like Nancy. That's why she got eaten right away and he and Nancy didn't.

And there as definitely more than one. Nancy was watching one monster eat the deer when she stupidly, nooooo Nancy, what are you doing!, stepped backwards onto the arm of another monster. So two at least.
posted by fshgrl at 5:58 PM on August 8, 2016


Just got through S1 after a two day binge. We really liked it. Loved Winona, thought she was great as a 'I will do anything for my kids and fuck all of you sideways if you think I'm crazy' mom. The kids were great, the supporting cast was cool, the plot was fine (although we have no idea why they released the sheriff after he broke into the lab the first time), even the knowing nod to camera in the finale: 'The campaign was too short! It was only 10 hours! It doesn't make any sense! What happened to...'

We found some of the comments above re Steve vs Jonathan a bit weird. People don't fall for other people because they've made hard-nosed rational calculations about their relative merits. They're attracted to them for a whole range of reasons, most of them unconscious, and 'is working class sensitive recluse, likes The Clash, may be a bit of a perv, happens to have shared an unusual experience primarily through self-interest' were rarely among them from our high school experience, whereas 'is good looking, popular, rich, has a car, was good in bed, is a bit of a bad boy, went up against an interdimensional monster for me' would rate pretty highly. We didn't care if he was 'redeemed' or not. People do stupid shit all the time in the real world. They're still in relationships with people who are genuinely attracted to them, sometimes even because of the stupid shit. If you absolutely need Nancy to choose Ducky McUpskirt instead, she didn't exactly look certain about things in that closing couch scene.

Likewise Barb. She was a +3 McGuffin of Guilt for Nancy, a plot device to tie Nancy to Jonathan, a hangover from Nancy's former 'I'll wear the elf costume' early teens, a contrast to what Nancy has now become and wants to be, something to highlight the callous nature of Steve's friends, and I think that's more than enough for a sidekick for one character in an ensemble cast.

I'd be happy if there wasn't another season, or if there is, if it was in a different place with different characters. This story is done, for these people anyway.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:19 PM on August 8, 2016 [24 favorites]


I JUST WANT MORE EL
posted by RakDaddy at 11:59 PM on August 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


"And there as definitely more than one. Nancy was watching one monster eat the deer when she stupidly, nooooo Nancy, what are you doing!, stepped backwards onto the arm of another monster. So two at least."

I did not see that at all, that thing you just described. I saw the old trope of "person walking backwards away from a horror steps on something that makes noise, drawing the horror's attention to them." I just saw her step on a branch or something in the Upside-Down.

And hey, speaking of the Upside-Down, I asked my girlfriend during the last episode, "There are cars in there. If someone moves a car during the day does the corresponding car in the Upside-Down move too?"

which of course is silly. It doesn't. My theory is that there was Our World, and there's this black plane of contact into which Eleven is able to extend herself, and then there's The Alien World, which we have never seen. When contact was made, Eleven's freakout basically created the Upside-Down which is a snapshot of Our World as it was at that second. From that point on any change in one is not reflected in the other.
posted by komara at 7:48 PM on August 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ooh, one of today's TeeFury t-shirt choices is tempting - Eleven
posted by oh yeah! at 5:56 AM on August 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Barb got taken by the monster and Will crawled/ fell through a hole like Nancy. That's why she got eaten right away and he and Nancy didn't.

I need to watch Ep 1 again (maybe in October to set the mood for Halloween), but my recollection is that Will got snagged by the monster in the manner of the scientist at the beginning of the episode; he turned around and looked up, presumably to the monster coming through the wall via a new rift between universes. Still doesn't quite get at why he survived and no one else did.

I've been thinking a lot about that final episode, and there's a lot that makes no sense. Barb and Will were found largely intact IIRC, while in a previous episode the monster was chowing down on the deer. Adjacent to Barb and Will were some human skulls, which the monster or the snake/slugs must have picked clean. So, the predation pattern isn't consistent.

Also, it seems they shoehorned a bunch of Alien homages in that felt out of place. The empty shell Hopper and Joyce came upon was reminiscent of the facehugger eggs; there was some sort of weird snake/slug down Will's throat recalling the facehugger, and Will coughed one slug up at the end. Perhaps there's some separation between monster predation and monster reproduction via the same prey animals I'm not getting, but it's pretty unclear and feels incoherent.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:28 PM on August 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


I need to watch Ep 1 again (maybe in October to set the mood for Halloween), but my recollection is that Will got snagged by the monster in the manner of the scientist at the beginning of the episode; he turned around and looked up, presumably to the monster coming through the wall via a new rift between universes. Still doesn't quite get at why he survived and no one else did.

Characters kept saying Will was "hiding" and "good at hiding," etc. I think the implication is that Will's instincts (subtext: from growing up in a volatile household) kicked in, and that his nerdy little world-building brain helped him to grasp what was going on in a quick intuitive way. Remember, when he wakes up he tells the other kids that "the demigorgon got me," a parallel the other kids have been using too, but completely unbeknownst to Will.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:21 AM on August 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think that the difference between Will and Barb is that Will not only managed to get away from the monster, but had a place to hide that the monster didn't cop to for a while. Barb got caught, got implanted, and was dead by the time Eleven found her; Will eventually got caught, got implanted, and was barely alive when his mother and the cop found him. (And may still be in trouble, if the epilogue is any indication.) I'd like to believe that there's a slim chance that Barb could still make it out, but that's like hoping that Apone and Dietrich (the two Colonial Marines in Aliens that got snatched by the xenomorphs during the first battle) were still alive because a) their biosensors showed them as still alive after the battle, b) we didn't actually see them implanted, and c) we don't know for a fact that they were still in the atmosphere processing plant when it blew up. It would be a tremendous ass-pull to have Barb survive somehow, and the interview of the brothers linked above make it seem that they intended her to die.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:23 AM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Finished watching it this weekend and ended up liking it a lot after having some reservations early on. The strength of the writing and acting overcame my annoyance that the movie reference overload that was bothering me in the first few episodes.
posted by octothorpe at 4:51 AM on August 15, 2016




But damn Girl, just start filling out your admissions forms for IU and forget about those guys. Neither of them deserves you.

Yeah, really put out by how the female characters' stories ended up. El has to eat Eggos in the snow for the rest of her life. Barb is completely forgotten (they don't even mention her after Hopp and Joyce see her in the UD!). Nancy ends up just like her mom. And Joyce lives in blissful ignorance that her son is infected with sea slugs or whatever.

Pretty much every character was some iteration of the Manic Pixie Dreamer Girl, which makes it seem like no coincidence that Winona was stunt-cast in this. That used to be Winona's MO.

Mainly, I am super fucking annoyed that the boys go on this vision quest for Will because they "just know" he's still out there somewhere, but when El gets evaporated they go back to their damn D&D game, barely giving wistful glances to the blanket fort she used to occupy.

A friend (as well as someone else above) said "that's just how these movies were in the '80s", but it seems like Stranger Things was as much about flipping '80s tropes as it was paying homage to them. I mean, Barb is a flipped version of the "slut must die" trope. If they could flip the script in that specific trope's case, why couldn't they have been a little smarter about the other female storylines?
posted by Brittanie at 2:50 AM on August 16, 2016 [18 favorites]


It's Always Sunny in Hawkins
posted by komara at 9:48 AM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Good news, everyone!
posted by arzakh at 4:41 AM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


The New Yorker weighs in on the Lovecraftian Legacy of Stranger Things.

And Emily Nussbaums delights, as usual, with her delight in the unusual.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 12:49 PM on August 17, 2016


Looks like season 2 will be a sequel, not an anthology: Stranger Things' Season 2: New Cast, Millie Bobby Brown's Eleven And Future Seasons.
posted by usonian at 2:09 PM on August 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Finished it last night, still digesting a few things, but it was good to read here that the whiplash I felt about Steve's arc is a result of the writers changing direction with him. Still not pleased he ends with Nancy; Nancy should've been on her own at the end.

Why did the demigorgon show up there (quite recently, given its protein requirements), and why did Eleven's psychic excursions into Russian officials' brains take her through there to attract its attention? I dunno. But it's a predator that can hop between universes to hunt. It doesn't really need an explanation and it's probably better without one.

Answering the question of what the demogorgon is/are is an interesting future way to go, but what I found interesting is that I don't think it really paid any attention to El at all - she saw it and it frightened her, but it was completely ignoring her until she went to make contact. She sought out the monster, and the resulting contact allowed it through to our world. But maybe they should never answer too many questions - "Stranger Things" as a title appears to me to derive from this: "And therefore as a stranger give it welcome./There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Not being able to answer these questions might be more important for the show than trying to answer them.
posted by nubs at 7:34 AM on August 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I agree. I'm not convinced that the upside-down in and of itself is really interesting enough to be the focus of a multi-season arc, to the point of demystification.
posted by usonian at 7:59 AM on August 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


And while I think they'd be better off going with an anthology series - different towns, different characters, but all being involved with the Upside Down in some way - since they are going with the same characters for S2, I think it needs to revolve around Will and whatever is happening to him. They can tie the body horror/changes to puberty with a male character for a change, and maybe Will becomes the "doorway" through which we can learn about what happened to El.
posted by nubs at 9:00 AM on August 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Stranger Things" as a title appears to me to derive from this: "And therefore as a stranger give it welcome./There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

I guess that's possible as an oblique reference, but more likely as a source I'd wager is the adage "stranger things have happened."
posted by invitapriore at 3:23 PM on August 20, 2016 [4 favorites]




Finished Season One last night. As several of you have already suggested, I think the creature is linked closely with Eleven, and may be a manifestation or aspect of her. They were even posed similarly in their last scene together. I keep thinking of "Forbidden Planet" and its "Monsters from the Id." And since Forbidden Planet was (I think?) loosely based on Shakespeare's "Tempest" I find myself skimming through that text, and wondering at lines like these:

GONZALO
I' the name of something holy, sir, why stand you
In this strange stare?

ALONSO
O, it is monstrous, monstrous:
Methought the billows spoke and told me of it;
The winds did sing it to me, and the thunder,
That deep and dreadful organ-pipe, pronounced
The name of Prosper: it did bass my trespass.
Therefore my son i' the ooze is bedded, and
I'll seek him deeper than e'er plummet sounded
And with him there lie mudded.

...and this:

ALONSO
This is a strange thing as e'er I look'd on.
(Pointing to Caliban)

PROSPERO
He is as disproportion'd in his manners
As in his shape.
posted by baseballpajamas at 9:59 AM on August 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


I want another episode inserted in there somewhere that has a whole bunch of scenes in the Upside Down with Barb and Will trying to survive together, and even if you end up with Barb still getting killed, it gives her more character time including some payoff for her being smart and resourceful in a way that Nancy ends up embracing later (which provides symmetry with her moving away from Barb and towards Steve during his more douchebag phase) and also lets us-the-audience bond with Will so we give a damn what happens to him.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:52 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


That's a really good way of giving the character more time, while still keeping canon. But we still wind up with dead Barb.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:32 PM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Indeed. I would love to have not-dead Barb as part of that.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:09 PM on August 22, 2016


By the time they start filming season 2, Will probably will have grown a foot taller making flashbacks impossible. (Read in an interview that they had trouble completing ADR because Dustin's voice had changed already by then. Unless they want to go all 'Wet Hot American Summer' continuity on us, there's no chance of the season picking up where it left off).

AV Club - The creators of Stranger Things know you’re pissed about Barb
posted by oh yeah! at 6:56 PM on August 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


What is ADR?
posted by AFABulous at 7:32 PM on August 22, 2016


ADR is post-production dubbing of dialog.
posted by octothorpe at 7:53 PM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ok, it was in the article usonian linked above:

The co-creator of the show Matt Duffer spoke about the kids on Stranger Things and compared the challenges of them growing to Harry Potter. Speaking with IGN, Duffer revealed that the next season will start one year after the events concluding Season 1.

“Yeah, you have to do the Harry Potter thing,” he explained. “You have to jump a year. Because, like, Gaten [Dustin], his voice has already dropped quite a bit, to the point where we couldn’t even do ADR [automated dialogue replacement] with him. We had to pitch it way up. It’s dropped. He’s grown. As much as I would love to have it be Christmas right after that, it’s just not feasible, so we’re going to skip a year. They’ll be a year older, and all their changes they’re going through, we’ll take that into account and kind of work that into the show.”


I hate the thought of poor Eleven being stuck in Upside Down (or the woods or wherever) for a year, but it's always fun to see another batch of child-actors come out the other side of puberty and see what they turn into.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:20 PM on August 22, 2016


If they're lucky and the actress doesn't get too tall, they could get some plausible flashbacks with Eleven showing how she got out of the Upside Down (or how she's been living in the forest or whatever) and then jump ahead to taller boys.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:01 AM on August 23, 2016


Was listening to the Duffer brothers (on NPR I think) and they were talking about Millie Bobby Brown (El). They noted she's a good actress, obviously, but also that she's still twelve. One day she came on the set, covered in glitter, saying "I don't know where all this glitter came from." They had to delay production by 45 minutes to get her cleaned up, which is a really big deal because child actors can only work a set number of hours. It was funny now, but the day it occurred was a tough one.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:39 AM on August 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


Regarding the theory that Eleven and the monster are the same (or at least connected)...

The issue of the X-Men that the boys refer to is #134. It's about Jean Grey struggling against the darkness in her soul and its manifestation as Phoenix. More info here from the Marvel wikia.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:31 AM on August 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


Hollywood Gave Up on You: The Summer Movies of 2016 (Or, Thank God for Stranger Things)

Once the credits start rolling, most of these films dissolve from the mind like cotton candy in water. Which brings us back to “Stranger Things.” The show trades on those moments you never forgot; the frisson that makes you exclaim, “Hey, I remember that shot from 'The Thing!'” But what makes “Stranger Things” more than pastiche is that it has remembered what made those moments click. That they were part of a well-told story, with fleshed out characters
posted by nubs at 9:05 AM on August 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I just read that article. Stranger Things was so much more satisfying than any recent blockbuster.
posted by octothorpe at 10:21 AM on August 23, 2016


El was also my favorite by far and away and the ending seemed kinda trite. Hopefully however they roll that into the sequel isn't even more hackneyed.

I tend to agree with the school of thought that the Upside Down and the demigorgon do best without too much examination, which is a potential problem for the sequel.

Indulging in the urge a little, though, I think it has to be some kind of phantasmic pocket dimension, possibly opened up by the experiments with El (and others). Or maybe it's actually some kind of interstitial space between dimensions, convenient for remote viewing, that was corrupted by the experiments horrific impact on the psyche of the abused kids (think The Brood), or attracted some transdimeneional predator.

It can't be a fully realized parallel world -- it doesn't have inhabitants, or any sense of a separate timeline, etc. The D&D version of it being an evil planar shadow of the 'prime material plane' -- the typical horror movie trope of an unseen hellish mirror world -- seems much closer to what was actually portrayed.

And for dimensional portals and such made of viscera and walls of stretching skin there's always Videodrome.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:30 AM on August 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


Explaining things hasn't worked out well for a lot of TV shows, I think, because of three problems:

1) The writers didn't actually start with any well-built world with coherent and sufficiently comprehensive rules about how things work and interact, so there's no reasonable explanation that covers what actually gets written into the plot.

2) The writers/producers give in to the temptations of various incentives to never resolve arcs (or can't let things that have reasonable and satisfying resolutions rest).

3) They fall into long-form explication rather than having the characters reasonably piece together what's happening.

Some interviews suggest that the Duffer brothers are aware of the problem with the third, started from solid ground when it comes to the first. I suppose we'll have to see when it comes to the second.
posted by wildblueyonder at 1:57 PM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a fourth problem: the internet. There are no or very few completely consistent stories on TV. Someone on the internet will find those inconsistencies, be bothered by them and broadcast it over the net. Sites will pick up the story if its a big enough name because they need to fill space.

Just quit explaining everything to death and trust audiences are there for the magic and willing to suspend disbelief.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:09 PM on August 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Kindof feels like this thread on the blue Narrative Stinginess in Binge-Worthy Shows should be looped in here, for those who might be unaware.
posted by wildblueyonder at 6:51 PM on August 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


oh yeah!: The problem with losing Eleven to save Will is that I was more emotionally invested in her fate than his.

A quick comment on this: El sacrificed herself to save Mike (and Dustin and Lucas) from the young petal-faced monster that was physically in the room with them, right then. She wasn't doing it for Will. (At least, that's my read of that scene.)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:26 AM on August 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


The basic math filthy light thief mentions is a very solid point, three lives for one. But I also think it was likely a matter of Eleven thinking that if this trouble follows her, it's up to her to end it. And anyway, she was the only one with the means, so no matter how much she wanted to stay, that wasn't really an option.

And that's not even getting into the theory that Eleven and the Monster may be either connected or somehow one and the same.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:40 AM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


So the Half in the Bag review had a criticism of the finale, in that it felt like Nancy's crew was disconnected from what Joyce and Hopper were doing which was also somewhat disconnected from what the boys & El were doing in the school. I don't agree, as I felt it was pretty clear that Nancy's crew did the vital job of drawing out and engaging the Monster so Joyce and Hopper could pass by and get to the school/the nest and rescue Will. Am I being too generous, or did other people feel that too?
posted by nubs at 9:13 AM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


Am I being too generous, or did other people feel that too?

I thought it connected fairly well, actually: Joyce & Hopper go after Will, but the price of that is sending the government to the school; Nancy & Co. notice the lights switching on when Joyce & Hopper are nearby and realize that's what must be happening -- accidentally, the course of attacking the monster, also helping them not be killed. I can sort of see the case that, at that point, the events at the school don't tie together with what's happening with Joyce & Hopper -- the Nancy & Co. situation is, at that point, already resolved. El's actions with the monster don't do anything (seemingly) to Will's chances; the deaths in the school don't impact Joyce's ability to get Will back out through the gate.

Those two endings are contingent on each other, but the contingency is very linear, and I think that's, perhaps, a valid critique -- the one thing happens so that the other happens. What if El had stayed out? What would Hopper do then? Where would El go? Or, what if Brenner was still around? He didn't expect Hopper or Will to make it back -- what would he do? It's a relatively neat and tidy ending, considering how else it could have gone.

Separately, El sacrificing herself -- which I did see as saving Mike and Lucas and Dustin, or else ending 'this threat in general that keeps coming back,' rather than as saving Will -- didn't totally work for me because of the inconsistency with the petal-monster's vulnerability. It gets angry and distracted at being hit by a bat, but doesn't bat the absence of an eye at being shot point-blank by several dozen guns? (That is at least consistent with not caring about being shot with one gun). It declines to follow people into the room at the house, after not eating anyone, and leaves, but chases the kids into the classroom at the school after eating several people? It felt like it was most vulnerable to plot necessity than to anything in particular, which would be fine if its vulnerability or invulnerability to specific things affects El's decision point in the classroom scene. It felt okay as something El would do, but it didn't fell right for that to be a position to have to do it; but that said, I'm not sure how else I'd end the school scene without opening twenty other dangling plot threads that El disappearing ties off. In that respect, it felt like the writers taking the easy way out, rather than working through the consequences of El being around, and a bit of a hand-waving cop-out rather than an emotional pay-off.

I did like the ambiguity of the eggos in the woods, though.
posted by cjelli at 10:27 AM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Immediately reading back what I just wrote, it feels weird to be criticizing the show for resolving plot threads rather than leaving them dangling, but one of the joys of Strangers Things for me has been the relatively deft touch of leaving some things unsaid, some things unexplained, and some things intentionally ambiguous. A lot of that goes out the window with El, Brenner, and the petal-monster all out of the picture -- in terms of character-driven questions of how people would react to different things (how would El take Hopper selling her out?), more than plot-questions (like where the monster came from -- 'it's a monster' is sufficient explanation for me) -- and the SurpriseSlug™ in the epilogue doesn't really make up for that, because of course that was an intensely traumatic experience and that will leave scars.

How Will and his family deal with the emotional fallout of their collective experience is a way more interesting direction to take it (to me) than whatever is happening with that slug, because the show's deftness so far has been, I think, in handling the reaction of its characters to the strange things happening, rather than in the strange thing themselves. There are situations in the show that evoke tropes (consistently and on purpose), but the characters in those situations (even Steve) aren't quite tropes themselves -- they're decently nuanced, if not always entirely likeable.

The other takeaway I have, looking back on the whole season: Millie Bobby Brown was phenomenal as El. The whole cast was fantastic (I thought Winona Ryder was well cast, although I get the critiques), but Brown's presence as El made the entire show actually work.
posted by cjelli at 10:41 AM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


inconsistency with the petal-monster's vulnerability. It gets angry and distracted at being hit by a bat, but doesn't bat the absence of an eye at being shot point-blank by several dozen guns? (That is at least consistent with not caring about being shot with one gun). It declines to follow people into the room at the house, after not eating anyone, and leaves, but chases the kids into the classroom at the school after eating several people? It felt like it was most vulnerable to plot necessity than to anything in particular,

One of the things that I think works for the show is the ambiguity of the monster. We know - or think we know - by the end a few things about it. Drawn to the scent/presence of blood. Seemingly impervious/oblivious to a lot of physical damage - guns, etc. But what we don't know is the intelligence, planning, goals etc of the thing. From first appearance, it looks to be alone in a featureless landscape, until El makes contact with it. Then, it apparently built a nest and was storing food and possibly looking to reproduce or may have already.

It was clever enough to come into the house with Nancy's crew, and then back off when the "prey" disappeared down the hallway and lure them back out. It then got shot (and I want to go back and count, because I remember on my first watch thinking that Nancy shot it eight times with a six shot revolver), beat with the bat, stuck in a bear trap, and torched before escaping into the Upside Down - at which point Joyce and Hopper are in the Upside Down school/monster nest while El is also present in the real-world school. What is the monster reacting to at that point? Is the existence of El a threat to it? If it's a reflection/connected to El in some way, does that mean the fact that El is under threat from the Shop affected its responses? How much pain is it in at that point, and are its actions more in line with a wounded animal than a thinking being? Does El just punch a hole through the dimensions and the smell of blood brings it running? I have no clue, and I am ok with not having a clue.
posted by nubs at 11:07 AM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


(and I want to go back and count, because I remember on my first watch thinking that Nancy shot it eight times with a six shot revolver)

I'd love someone else to do a recount and corroborate, but on a quick re-watch of that scene: I count six visible shots, if you go by muzzle flash, and nine shots if you go by sound. At least to my hearing, anyway.
posted by cjelli at 12:36 PM on August 26, 2016


OK, I guess I know what I'm doing tonight :)
posted by nubs at 1:05 PM on August 26, 2016


Initial encounter - 3 shots fired. I'll give Nancy the benefit of the doubt and assume she reloads, though it isn't shown on screen.

Second encounter - Heard Nine shots, saw shots 2-4 and 6-9.

I'm going to choose to believe the show creators were having some fun with the trope of the never-empty six gun.

From there, the two remaining teams have their endings:
Joyce and Hopper hear it as it comes back into the Upside Down (for lack of a better word, it seems to be screaming); and follow the blood trail it leaves behind - presumably from the amputated foot - to the public library (funny, I thought it was the school for some reason).

In the school, the kids realize the impending problem, rush to escape, El does her eye gouge things and collapses, unconscious. She remains that way until Papa has her in his arms. She comes back around but is not really coherent, only talking about the "bad man" and then "bad" followed by reaching out and calling for Mike. Monster comes through the wall of the school, presumably because of the blood on the floor. Papa gets killed and the kids get away.

In the library, Joyce and Hopper find Will and remove the umbilical/worm that he's been intubated with.

The kids retreat to the science classroom. Gunfire erupts in the hallway; then the monster bursts into the room. The boys go after it with the slingshot, until El takes charge of the situation and disintegrates the monster and apparently herself in the bargain. Some funky stuff going on with her eyes - it might just be the lighting, but as she's approaching the monster, her irises almost seem to have a reddish cast, and during the final moments there's a darkening of the skin around them.

In the library, Joyce and Hopper revive Will. We never see how they leave the Upside Down, but I presume it's through the portal they came in.

Headlines on the stories on the police bulletin board:

"The Boy Who Came Back to Life"
"Hawkins Lab Blocks Inquiry"
"Coroner Arrested for Falsifying Autopsy"
"More Heads Roll in Ongoing State Trooper Scandal"
posted by nubs at 9:20 PM on August 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


Just rewatched the last episode and I think my favorite moments in the whole series might be the interplay between Steve, Nancy, and Jonathan at the Byers house. Steve's there because he's started down the road of opening his eyes beyond a narrow and shallow set of concerns, is trying to be morally bigger than he's been. He thinks he's on a simple (if difficult) journey of reorienting himself, and what this really gets him is very quickly utterly disoriented, and it's so fun to watch him waffle from repentant, get surprised that Nancy is here, thinking the opposition he's facing is about him, concern for her injury, casting that into a narrative where maybe creepy Jonathan is creepy, getting inside the house and seeing a landscape that's so weird he's not even sure what's going on is merely freaky, and then getting really oriented on the fact that there's otherworldly shit going down he hadn't even imagined.

And I think this is a giant payoff for us because he's acted like such a narrow douche that it's really fun to watch him get his mind blown so far beyond his even slightly enlarged picture of how the world works. He's completely out of his depth and realizing other people are dealing with stuff he hasn't the first clue about.

But then he actually takes the newfound OK-other-people-have-lives-too realizations he's had and combines it with that cocky assertiveness and presumable jock athleticism and jumps in and provides support as a functioning party member at a crucial moment. He becomes the fighter they need to round out their elf + ranger/rogue party, a little extra muscle to make their subterfuge work.

It's personal growth, it's a reminder that enlightenment can involve disorientation well beyond any pre-conceived ideas before you can get really well-oriented, it's D&D, it's yet another place the show tells us we need each other, and it's fun.
posted by wildblueyonder at 11:15 AM on August 27, 2016 [23 favorites]


Oh, and a few more observations... just noticed the entubed-snaky-creature that Hopper pulls out of Will's mouth/throat and then shoots seems to develop a forked neck of a kind and maybe even another head as he shoots it. Hydra-like. What's the big bad in the closing game of D&D they play? Thesselhydra. Since the D&D game also seems to be making veiled references to loose threads from the series (the lost knight, the proud princess, the flowers in the cave, "too short"), it does seem like a future hint or a backreference.

And while we're talking D&D: I don't love how the demogorgon seems to just shrug off bullets but can be at least bothered by a baseball bat. But if I put on my D&D hat, I start thinking about various kinds of damage often articulated in the game (e.g. slashing, piercing, blunt, fire) and resistances various monsters can have and it fits that system. Give our flower-headed creature some plant-like nature and/or maybe even some regenerative capacity and the idea that piercing damage is NBD, blunt force can at least move it around and bug it, and fire actually hurts starts to look somewhat consistent. It's still far from perfect, because in the real world bullets pack a punch as much as they pierce. But the D&D frame helps.
posted by wildblueyonder at 11:48 AM on August 27, 2016 [9 favorites]




Watched the video of Millie getting her hair cut. I wondered if she was donating the hair to charity (it was carefully cut, it seemed to me, with the hair saved).

Also, I thought that 11 might be binary as well, but 'papa' called her eleven as well, so I imagine it is base 10. But her tattoo was '011' (if I recall), which means not only were there potentially 10 before her, but they were planning on up to 999 of the experiments. If '011' was binary, it would be 3 (there was a serif on the 1's, so it wouldn't be 6).
posted by el io at 11:01 PM on August 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


But the D&D frame helps.

I'm having trouble finding my 1st Ed. Monster Manual (and my borrowed copy of the Fiend Folio dematerialized years ago....)

Are there canonical stats for a demigorgon or a thesselhydra?
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:07 AM on August 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


OK, yes, scans are showing up on Google Images, put apparently TSR like to sue people because the stats are blurred or obscured.

For example
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:14 AM on August 31, 2016


Magic defense? The bat was 'enchanted'? (With nails and anger.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:26 AM on August 31, 2016


Are there canonical stats for a demigorgon or a thesselhydra?

There are canonical stats for the Demogorgon - instead of an image search, try just looking for a pdf of the 1st edition Monster Manual. But I would argue that while Stranger Things has taken the name, the Demogorgon of the game is a rather different beast - a highly intelligent demon prince with two heads, tentacles for arms, a forked tail, and magical capabilities such as hypnosis, along with attacks that cause insanity, rot, and so forth.

As for a thesselhydra, it first appears in Monster Manual II and is essentially a monster with a giant central mouth and a surrounding fringe of snake heads and a pincer tail; the heads have a poisonous bite, while the tail grabs prey to drop in the main mouth for feeding.

While I'm hesitant to say that there's any right or wrong way to play D&D, my take on D&D in Stranger Things was that they were using it for inspiration rather than giving a deep look at the the game; the monsters being used are there more for their metaphorical natures than as reflections of their stat blocks or in-game descriptions.
posted by nubs at 8:20 AM on August 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


Season Two Trailer, including apparent episode titles.

And, yeah, to be clear, I don't think the demogorgon's nature is a reflection of Demogorgon's stats... though I do think it's possible what works and what doesn't work against tulipface may be based in a damage/resistance type conception similar to what you might find for some other plant-animal chimaera monster from the game.
posted by wildblueyonder at 5:47 PM on August 31, 2016


Everyone go here to watch the kids from Stranger Things playing a game with Jimmy Fallon and silly string.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:55 AM on September 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


^ so so so great. Thanks for sharing!
posted by Brittanie at 6:00 AM on September 1, 2016


Baseball bats are made of ash wood, which is one of the three sacred trees in Celtic mythology, and has a certain power over Fae and other mystical nasties. That, or using an entire can of hair mousse gave him secret strength over extradimensional creatures.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:08 AM on September 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


Maybe the monster is just allergic to douchebags.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:41 AM on September 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Baseball bats are made of ash wood, which is one of the three sacred trees in Celtic mythology, and has a certain power over Fae and other mystical nasties

Ash wood, iron in the nails, the hair mousse, bludgeoning vs. piercing. All factors at play. Along with the writers needing to rehab Steve, so he's the one who gets to provide the beat down, which might be the greatest magic of all.
posted by nubs at 8:06 AM on September 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Re the Jimmy Fallon clip - there is another clip from the same show where he's interviewing the gang, and Finn and Millie Bobbie talk about filming their kiss scene and how Gaten and Caleb were hanging around the set watching them and making funny faces the whole time, and they are all acting like typical 8th-graders the whole time they're talking about it all and it is totally adorable.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:06 AM on September 1, 2016


Millie Bobbie Brown is such a great actress and created such a memorable role that no matter how many times I watch her talking (or singing) in her normal voice it always seems wrong.
posted by The Gooch at 2:00 PM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


This series wouldn't normally be my type of horror, but I enjoyed it quite a bit and am definitely game for a second season.

Like many others in this thread, I thought Millie Bobbie Brown did a stunning job of playing Eleven. For a painfully inarticulate character who had so little dialogue, she was incredibly expressive and fascinating. But then all the acting was excellent except for Winona Ryder's, whom I found irritatingly histrionic. She couldn't even complain about her mashed potatoes being runny without sounding overwrought.

I loved that so many people were working on solving the mystery at their own levels, and that it took all of their efforts as opposed to it being one (male, white) hero who saves the day. Amusingly, it was the kids who had the most scientific approach and the ultimate weapon.

I was also impressed that the young actor who played Dustin had the physical strength to pick up Eleven and carry her.

The marginalization of Barb drove me crazy. I hope she comes back as some sort of regenerated Demogorgon and eats all the people who didn't give a shit about her disappearance. And Nancy, you were not a good friend. You dragged Barb to a party at which she was neither welcome nor comfortable and then ditched her.
posted by orange swan at 8:05 PM on September 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think the show wants us to 'realize' that it was Steve's annoying friends that were really the problem

This is totally it.

You dragged Barb to a party at which she was neither welcome

The only people who made Barb unwelcome were Steve's friends. When Barb and Nancy showed up at the door, Steve didn't make any kind of indication that Barb was unwelcome. It was Steve's friends that were influencing him to be a dick. It was a bad friend move to bring your friend to be the 5th wheel at a makeout/sex party.

I kept waiting every time he showed up on screen to be a total douchebag but he actually wasn't. He apologizes, realizes that he hurt someone, tries to make it better, realizes almost too late that his friends are the problem, goes back and cleans up all their crap, and goes back into a house with a monster to help out.

I think in any other movie, he would have just been a dick with no redeeming qualities, but this guy actually grows as a person. He may have gone along with his friends too much but he is still in high school. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he's a teenager who's trying to figure out who he is. I'm happy that he recognized what he was turning into and decided to change it.
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:38 AM on September 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


Jonathan wants Nancy. Nancy wants Steve. this many years after Pretty in Pink, it's still this confusing that a happy ending can mean the girl is the one who gets what she wants? that she doesn't make the choice based on which boy "deserves" the prize commodity of her?

she's a teenager dating a cute boy she fucked for casual kicks but ended up liking more than she expected to, though nowhere near as much as he likes her. She didn't fall for Jonathan's hilarious lines about how only conventional squares with miserable futures like boys who aren't him. even fictional teenage girls can see through self-serving garbage like that. somehow a lot of viewers couldn't, I guess?
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:54 AM on September 6, 2016 [21 favorites]


Well, here's my thing. I didn't like Steve. I didn't like Jonathan. I think Nancy's selling herself short by being with either of them. And I'm still generally pissed off about Barb.
posted by nubs at 8:17 AM on September 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


From first appearance, [the monster] looks to be alone in a featureless landscape, until El makes contact with it. Then, it apparently built a nest and was storing food and possibly looking to reproduce or may have already.

Uh oh. Eleven also started in a blank world and then gained a nest and a stash of Eggos and a budding maybe-romance. This Eleven/Monster mirror theory may have something to it.
posted by sadmadglad at 5:11 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just finished the series last night (I AM ALWAYS BEHIND THE ZEITGEIST)

First off - #TeamSteve because he really did remind me of Jean Ralphio. every time he had a scene that played on 80's tropes he pivoted away from full on jerk. He wasn't a saint by any means, but he clearly cared for Nancy and was trying to figure out the right thing to do.

Jonathan is the type of guy who will do well in college - that brooding loner thing works wonders.

I really enjoyed the scenes with Nancy and her mother. Her mom was clearly trying to be there for Nancy in a supportive and non-judgmental way. Her dad was deeply useless.

I loved Winona Ryder as the determined Mom, who refused to give up on her son. That scene where she yells in the store to get the items she needs and when she sits down with the axe to wait were wonderful.

Loved all the kid actors, but especially El and Dustin.

Mathew Modine was wonderfully sinister. I couldn't figure out how much he actually cared about El beyond her being his prize experiment. Also don't know if he actually died in the school hallway.

I really enjoyed that everything wasn't explicitly spelled out at the end of the series and am excited to watch the second series (hopefully around the time everyone else on the planet does)
posted by Julnyes at 2:45 PM on September 9, 2016


Modine's character will end up INSIDE the monster (a la The Black Hole)!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:10 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think in retrospect, it's pretty clear the producers gave Barb short shrift because they wrote her to be a forgettable, incidental character. They weren't prepared for how well the costume designer and the young actor playing her would positively nail something resonant to nerd folk. Even with precious little to work with, she was so very memorable and relatable.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:32 AM on September 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think that they are probably former nerdy, awkward boys, and they are riffing on '80s movies that were created by former nerdy, awkward boys. Both their source material and their own sensibilities are very tuned in to the perspectives of nerdy boys, in a way that they're just not tuned in to the perspectives of nerdy girls. I think that we're not going to see shows about Barb until more former-Barbs are making TV shows. And to some extent, the reason that grown-up nerd girls are pissed about Barb is that one of the things that has changed since the '80s is that we now have some glimmer of expectation that our perspectives will be represented.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:05 AM on September 10, 2016 [11 favorites]


Have you seen Barb?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:15 AM on September 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


Lots of Stranger Things cosplay at DragonCon this past weekend, here are my Stranger Things tagged photos. (and here's my full album link, in case that one goes wonky and because I crave page views and help identifying a few costumes still). I knew there would be good Elevens and probably some Barbs, but I was delighted to see the different versions of Joyce's Christmas light wall.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:47 AM on September 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


oh yeah!, those are the best pictures! Thanks for sharing your album. It make me ridiculously happy that a few people did a Tremors cosplay :)
posted by silverstatue at 9:59 AM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Been going to DragonCon since 2009, and I think this was the first time I've seen anyone do Tremors. Those guys were hilarious - I wish I'd taken some video of them instead of just photos, but someone else out there must have. They were going around in character, the Kevin Bacon one kept yelling "Earl!" at the Fred Ward one, they would tiptoe, yell about watching out for graboids. So funny, one of my favorite cosplays of the weekend.
posted by oh yeah! at 10:10 AM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Stranger Pugs
posted by oh yeah! at 11:39 AM on September 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I live on the edge of my town in rural-ish central Ontario. I spend a fair bit of time in the woods at night walking the dog.

Last night I finished Stranger Things, went out for our walk, and ... something... nearby was knocking over trees in the swamp that borders my path in the woods.

So thank you, stray large dog, clumsy insomniac black bear, or whatever, for giving me a really authentic Stranger Things experience.
posted by LegallyBread at 4:41 PM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Once I saw Steve as Jean Ralphio, I couldn't unsee it.

A certain relevant someone agrees.
posted by cjelli at 7:18 PM on September 20, 2016 [5 favorites]








So late to the party, with only a few comments.

The movie did not pass the Bechdel Test, unfortunately. However, it did pass the Sexy Lamp Test (which a lot of fan-favorite 80s films don't do, sorry Buckaroo Banzai and Big trouble in Little China), and arguably it may have passed the Mako Mori Test.

As for Demogorgon...

Has anyone noticed that in D&D terms, the closest thing to Demogorgon is a troll? Bullets only hurt it a little, but fire REALLY hurts it, as does bashing it hard enough. And of course a Disintegration spell works just fine. And also, in D&D there were a number of demons that couldn't be hurt by normal weapons- unless they were iron. Like a bear trap, or nails.

I also had the feeling that Demogorgon was intelligent, and liked playing with its prey. And quite possibly, as a demon, it didn't need to eat, but had a bloodlust triggered by something being injured.

Honestly, the scariest thing is how well El maps to say, an 11th level Sorcerer, with her powers that have to be turned on and have limited uses: Telepathy, Clairvoyance, Telekinesis, and finally Disintegrate and Plane Shift. ;')
posted by happyroach at 11:40 PM on October 30, 2016 [3 favorites]




I know it's actually a hook for Season 2, but I initially thought Will's vision in the bathroom and coughing up a slug might be PTSD hallucinations or flashbacks, because when they found him and pulled that alien tentacle out of his throat, my first thought was, "That poor kid is going to be very messed up for a long time."
posted by straight at 2:26 PM on December 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


The resolution of the Nancy/Steve/Jonathan triangle was very Breakfast Club. Nancy and Steve get each other, and Jonathan gets a camera. It may not be the most satisfying possible ending, but it's realistic.
posted by mbrubeck at 7:56 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I also thought it seemed much more realistic that Nancy and Steve would gravitate back together, rather than the usual Hollywood trope of two people without much in common ending up in a relationship because they went through some traumatic event together.
posted by straight at 1:59 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


I finally got around to watching it, and I really dug it. It's a shame Barb was killed off, because outside of the trio of boys/Eleven, she's the one I liked the most. It's so tempted to just start churning out alternate universe Barb stories. "Barb goes to college" "Barb fronts a band in Seattle in the late 80s" "Barb gets a job with a web start up in '97."
posted by drezdn at 11:53 AM on March 31 [5 favorites]


It's so tempted to just start churning out alternate universe Barb stories. "Barb goes to college" "Barb fronts a band in Seattle in the late 80s" "Barb gets a job with a web start up in '97."

Barb was in a crossover with Black Mirror and is in San Junipero.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:08 PM on March 31 [3 favorites]


One thing Stranger Things very effectively captures about the 80s is that 90% of all boys in the 80s were named Mike.
posted by drezdn at 12:29 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]


I finally watched this thing a year after everyone stopped talking about it and I would like to register a complaint. DOE labs, including the fictional one in the show, are really big. There are only like fifteen of them and they employ thousands of people. If there was a Hawkins National Lab then half the population of Hawkins would work for it or know someone who did. Instead, everyone seems at best vaguely aware of the lab's existence and the town's greatest scientist is Mr. Clarke.
posted by theodolite at 6:49 PM on April 1 [2 favorites]


Your comment made me think that maybe Hawkins National Lab was a secret lab where everyone had to live on the premises, like Limetown. And then I realized that there really should be a Limetown/ Stranger Things crossover episode.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:16 PM on April 1 [1 favorite]


Heh - One of ThinkGeek's April Fools fake products - Where's Barb? - Object-finding puzzle book based on the wildly successful Where's Waldo? format
posted by oh yeah! at 6:22 PM on April 2


Movies With Mikey on Stranger Things
posted by nubs at 11:52 AM on July 21




I really enjoyed this. Season 2 is gonna be hard to do without kind of ruining the magic, I think, but I guess it was inevitable that they'd try.

+1 to all the interpretations that the Upside Down world is just a derivative of our world, not its own full-fledged reality. And the featureless black space where El goes when she's in the bath isn't a reality at all, just a mental construct that allows her to connect to other parts of reality, initially parts of our own universe, then outside our universe as they amp up the power. I guess it's unanswered whether or not the Monster is actually from the Upside Down, or was just drawn there by the experiments. I'd prefer it be something from a completely foreign universe that uses the Upside Down as a waystation than have it be native, it doesn't seem to me like the Upside Down as shown to us should have any native life, it's just a shadow of our universe.

Anyway, looking forward to at least giving Season 2 a shot.
posted by skewed at 12:04 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


+1 to all the interpretations that the Upside Down world is just a derivative of our world, not its own full-fledged reality. And the featureless black space where El goes when she's in the bath isn't a reality at all, just a mental construct that allows her to connect to other parts of reality, initially parts of our own universe, then outside our universe as they amp up the power.

I think the Upside Down further builds on the moments in the show where it's clear the boys have invented their own, parallel reality - they have different names for locations than the adults, etc; to some extent this is about the magic of their imagination having power to influence things (and maybe open doors that shouldn't be...though Mr. Clarke has something to say about curiosity doors) I'm seeing that idea present somewhat in the trailer for S2 as well with the Ghostbusters ghost trap the kids have made obviously coming to have a real-world use...something they build as a talisman coming to have real power.

I'm thinking about firing this up for a re-watch.
posted by nubs at 12:54 PM on July 24 [4 favorites]


Quick reactions to Season 2:

1. The giant monster/upside down/darkness is super rad and I love it
2. If this turns into a RPO reference fest I'm gonna hate it
3. I hope there's plenty of space for town slice-of-life stuff that breathed life into characters like Barb.
posted by Existential Dread at 4:08 PM on July 25


What's RPO?
posted by skewed at 4:33 PM on July 25


Sorry, Ready Player One = RPO
posted by Existential Dread at 4:34 PM on July 25


Why does Nancy go with Steve? Why wouldn t she?
She chooses him from minute 1. She is her mother, in a series that s all about mothers. Americans are classist.

I enjoyed Nancy s character arc, the romance of it does owe a lot of its quality to hunger games, but I Don t see the series portraying her as this paragon through which the show is pushing its values
posted by eustatic at 4:41 PM on September 26 [1 favorite]


No new post yet I guess for the new season which just dropped... I'm getting on a 15 hour flight to India with it though. So stoked.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:30 AM on October 27


Does someone want to call dibs on the S2 posts, or start a Fanfare Talk thread to coordinate? I was hoping I’d be able to start binge-posting tonight after work if nobody else got there first, but turns out I need to help a buddy with a driving errand and probably won’t have time to watch more than one episode tonight.
posted by oh yeah! at 11:49 AM on October 27


Just finished my rewatch last night, and it's notable how much the soundtrack with those creepy, detuned, dissonant synths really amp up the scare factor. The scene I'm thinking of is right before the Demogorgon shows up in the hallway at the school; the lights start to flicker, one of the boys says something about all the blood, and the camera pans over all the dead agents with a pulsating, low, distorted synth sound that just screams wrong. So great, and I hope S U R V I V E is part of the new season.

Overall, it held up really well to second watch! I still feel that the Alien-esque life-cycle stuff in the last episode felt tacked on, but other than that I'm stoked to start the new season tonight.
posted by Existential Dread at 3:59 PM on October 27 [1 favorite]


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