Stranger Things: Chapter 1: The Hellfire Club
May 27, 2022 8:07 AM - Season 4, Episode 1 - Subscribe

El is bullied at school. Joyce opens a mysterious package. A scrappy player shakes up a D&D night. Warning: Contains graphic violence involving children.
posted by Navelgazer (34 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
This and OWK dropping at the same time, with S3 of The Boys in the warm-up box? Oof. Hope I have time to get outside this summer.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:23 AM on May 27


That ending was brutal; guess they are really going to lean into the Satanic Panic around D&D for some of the storyline this season.
posted by nubs at 8:57 AM on May 27 [1 favorite]


Also, really liked Eddie more than I expected to.
posted by nubs at 9:37 AM on May 27 [6 favorites]


Yeah, for sure Satanic Panic is going to play a big role here. Not loving Eddie so far (big wannabe cult leader energy) but he's got layers, which is good, and I like that they set up early that whatever's going on here, he's seemingly not the one behind it (though obvs he'll be the first suspect.)

I'm liking the increased focus on Max and Lucas, Erica was awesome but it was just one more knife in Lucas' back that she was the "sub." Every minute not spent with El was me needing to see if she was ok.

That first scene was, indeed, very rough, especially in the context of so much real-life violence against children.

It's now officially a rule: if David Harbour is trapped in a Russian prison, communication must be facilitated via dolls.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:41 AM on May 27 [3 favorites]


Also: Noah Schapp really grew up to look like Daniel Radcliffe, huh?
posted by Navelgazer at 9:44 AM on May 27


Side Note: I'm happy to keep up the Fanfare posts on this or hand that off to whomever wants to, I just don't know the protocol exactly. Should we drop threads for all available episodes today or dole them out?
posted by Navelgazer at 10:47 AM on May 27


Not loving Eddie so far (big wannabe cult leader energy) but he's got layers

I was expecting them to go for a stoner/metalhead gloss on a Billy or a S1 Steve type; not a guy who actually appears to have a high degree of emotional intelligence and sensitivity - I didn't get cult leader energy as much as a guy who is using that sensitivity to identify other kids who don't fit in and give them a safe group to hang with ("You were wearing a Weird Al shirt, which I thought was brave"); he does talk about Dustin & Mike being the future of the club, not himself. Also really liked that he pulled some gatekeeper shit on Erica, and then immediately backed down when she cut through it; also, his immediate empathy for Chrissy.

I think what it comes down to is that the trailers made me think of him one way, which is not my personal experience of who was playing D&D in a big way back in the mid-80's (it was the geeks, not the guys who were on the edge of not finishing high school, at least in my neck of the woods), so it was nice to see those layers right away.

As far as posting episodes go, I'll be joining in at whatever pace I can watch the show at - I'm only in this one because I woke up stupid early this morning and so watched it before I really needed to start my day.
posted by nubs at 11:19 AM on May 27 [6 favorites]


They're still nailing the aesthetics of the period pretty well though sometimes it feels a little forced. I would have been the same age as the kids in school at that time and I don't recall so much variation/uber-80s clothing in the halls but maybe I just didn't notice it. The nostalgia factor is strong for me - the age, as I mentioned, but I also grew up in suburban Atlanta which is where all the exteriors are done for Hawkins. Between the houses, the clothes, and the pines in the background, it's all quite the flashback. I absolutely remember guys who looked like Billy and Eddie hanging around the Student Smoking Area (yes) out behind our high school. Some were scary and tough, others were cool.

Even so, I feel...not great about this episode. Partly from the opening (even with the onscreen message beforehand), and partly from the bonkers body-horror stuff at the end. I wanted to see that character develop a little more, too.
posted by jquinby at 6:10 AM on May 28 [3 favorites]


I watched the whole series (what's been released so far) in a solid binge last night so I'm still a little hazy from "which episode was that in", but I THINK there was enough in this specific episode to make me comment that "oh dang they're really going to Go There with Will, aren't they".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:18 AM on May 28 [3 favorites]


I'm always happy to watch Stranger Things despite not being all that fond of some of the directions it's taken, even since early on. It was fun catching up with everyone, though the episode felt a little too packed. I was especially pleased that Eddie wasn't revealed to be some kind of charismatic hesher asshole, but just a charismatic hesher theatre nerd.

Anachronisms in shows like this don't usually irk me too much, but Eddie's tattoos, or at least their visibility, seemed really unlikely. Even more annoying was that there was no Rogue class in Dungeons & Dragons until the second edition of AD&D in 1989, when the heretofore-used Thief became a subset of Rogue. Missing that detail felt really sloppy, but who knows, maybe it was intentional since there are Stranger Things tie-ins to D&D these days.

Speaking of merchandising, those Hellfire Club shirts are gonna be pretty popular very soon!
posted by heteronym at 7:46 AM on May 28 [5 favorites]


I rewatched last night with my family, and I can say that the biggest thing that felt wrong about the Hellfire club is that Eddie and his crew were not the kids into AD&D when I was that age; or if they were, they kept it really hidden. That, plus I think I saw them roll a d12 at one point, and seriously when did that ever happen?
posted by nubs at 8:26 AM on May 28 [5 favorites]


I think I saw them roll a d12 at one point, and seriously when did that ever happen?

I guess one of them was playing a Barbarian?
posted by Navelgazer at 9:16 AM on May 28 [2 favorites]


I guess one of them was playing a Barbarian?

Or using a longsword against a size L opponent.

My wife also commented on the D&D players being heshers, noting that when she played D&D in the '80s it was just with the nerd crowd, who maybe listened to metal, but didn't look the part.
posted by heteronym at 10:01 AM on May 28 [4 favorites]


The thing that bugged me about the episode was that the band had a trumpet player standing in between a trombonist and a clarinetist. That's...not how you arrange a band.

Apart from that, I liked Eddie much better than I thought I would, and so far the show is suitably fucking terrifying.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:40 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


It seems like everything was dialed up to 11. I’m exhausted.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:32 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


It seems like everything was dialed up to 11.

Don't you mean "It seems like everything was dialed up to Jane"?
posted by heteronym at 6:58 PM on May 28 [12 favorites]


Netflix automatically downloaded it for me, and I guess that means it skipped showing me a warning beforehand. It's a rough week for kids and death. Anyway.

For others who forgot who Matthew Modine was: he was last in season 1, as antagonist Martin Brenner. He's not definitively dead.

> I THINK there was enough in this specific episode to make me comment that "oh dang they're really going to Go There with Will, aren't they".

I’m guessing the "someone" Will likes isn’t a girl. Something about how Eleven talked about his ambiguous crush at the beginning, and his twitchy response to flirting in the classroom.

The last shot in the basketball game: I honestly expected / hoped for a hilarious airball.

Thanks for the post-per-episode! It feels like there's enough here to pause for a breather in between. I tend to not binge tense shows.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:24 PM on May 28 [3 favorites]


I feel like this season is a bit better written than previous seasons. It feels like there are fewer scenes that make me want to pull my hair out. Maybe I'm just more chill.

I just want to see what happens w/ Robin and Steve. And to see Brett Gelman doing his thing.

I feel like S1 was a little more aware of the class differences going on but by now it feels pretty faint. I don't remember why the Byers are living in a nice house in California now when like the class differences between Jonathan and Nancy/Steve were such a thing. Not really sure what they're doing with Jonathan's character anymore, idk just stoner stuff I guess.

which is not my personal experience of who was playing D&D in a big way back in the mid-80's (it was the geeks, not the guys who were on the edge of not finishing high school, at least in my neck of the woods)

IME there were a lot of D&D players back then who didn't finish high school. There is a whole like.. type of person, generally close to lower class, smart and geeky I guess but who aren't at all headed towards college, who've got some combination of "troubled" and having to be an adult before their time. And like if you haven't played D&D with at least three people who dropped out of high school for some professed reason that implies being just too danged smart and intellectually advanced, idk.. And this all bled into like the wargaming hobby culture of course. I'm the same gen as the ST kids and all, but we were the young invaders of the gaming scene that actual D&D grew out of, and there's a lot of erasure that happens there.

Anyway I really think Eddie just wouldn't have been in high school still at all. And probably the D&D club hould have not been a school thing either. (Game store/hobby shop is kind of missing from the show; for me it was a community college D&D group.)

I don't really think about these things while I'm watching though. Though I was reminded of a gripe I had before, in a later scene where someone describes something to Eddie as a hive mind, and he's like, "hive mind?" and I'm like, Eddie would know the phrase hive mind better than anyone. Then I remembered the weird way that none of the geeky kids in ST, like, reads any SFF books... this kind of nostalgia glurge never visits books for some reason; I guess they don't have associated per-book mass produced material objects that inspire reverence.
posted by fleacircus at 11:33 AM on May 29 [12 favorites]


fleacircus: That's a good point about the relative lack of books. Like, in Season 1 the boys talk about The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, and Suzie is reading Earthsea when we meet her in Season 3, but that's about it as far as I can remember. And while they would definitely be into the movies and stuff too, SFF books seem like they should be a bigger part of these kids' lives.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:49 AM on May 29 [9 favorites]


So, on re-watch, I definitely like Eddie a lot more than I did at first, including in this episode. I think the first time I was just really thrown off by his response to what was, in my opinion, a super reasonable ask from Mike and Dustin. I think because I grew up with a number of friends like Lucas, nerds who also played sports, and of course we would postpone a game (or equivalent) in order to support our friend in a championship game, even if we weren't really into sports ourselves. But this isn't that world and they're using Eddie's histrionics to make that point, which is fine.

I love the scene of him and Chrissy in the woods, though, which feels very natural and makes both of them come off as very likable teens. Given that Chrissy only gets the one episode, I'm glad that they gave her a decent amount of depth first.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:21 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


Introducing A Nightmare on Elm Street to the pool of 80's stuff they riff on?

Here. For. It.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:55 PM on May 30 [6 favorites]


I'm taking the season very slowly. Mark Kermode described it as being dialled up and I really feel that, there's a lot to take in.

I clocked Will's crush as being Mike - is that not where this is headed? Excited to find out!

All the 'kids' were fantastic. I think I thought they might sort of fade a bit as they get older but the characters really rang authentic. I don't know if it's amazing direction or just that the producers lucked into casting some major talent early on but they are all so natural. Mike's gangly obliviousness is so great, and Max just breaks my heart.

I had to plug my ears and shut my ears during the 'elephant' scene. Still no idea what was happening there - I can take supernatural body horror til the cows come home but torture in the Gulag is just too dark for me, at least in this kind of show.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:15 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


I loved that Will's project (unremarked upon, but clearly shown in the background) was on Alan Turing. Even if still unstated, we're past the point of subtlety on Will's sexuality now, so may as well.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:54 AM on May 31 [10 favorites]


The Extreme song "Do You Wanna Play" that was in the episode came out in 1989.
posted by COD at 6:46 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Just caught up with this first episode last night. It seemed a little slow to me, and I hope they back off on the comedy a little. I felt like the previous season got downright goofy at times and this episode makes me worry we're in for more of that. Some jokes are fine, but please let's not go crazy with Brett Gelman and Winona Ryder making funny faces.

Eddie seemed like kind of a likeable if skuzzy guy, but if I understood it right he's failed to graduate twice before, which would make him about 20. If that's the case, his character becomes a lot creepier. Playing nightly D&D games with a bunch of 16-year-olds, taking a teenage cheerleader back to his trailer to sell her Special K... yikes. When he talked about being in middle school with the cheerleader, and seeing her perform her cheer routine, wouldn't he have been like 14 when she was 12? Their interactions in the episode had kind of a flirtatious edge, and I wasn't sure if I was watching a 20-year-old flirting with a minor. Eddie seems like he's supposed to be harmless, so I hope I misunderstood something about how old he is.

To those of you questioning whether the stoners played D&D, I can tell you that I was a stoner in high school and my crew played D&D for a while. Maybe D&D was mostly for the geeks, but some of the freaks were into it too.

I loved how protective Will was toward Eleven. That kid is a good egg.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:32 AM on June 2


A bunch of my friends in college in the early 80s were D&D playing, metal listening stoners. They grew up in suburban Harrisburg and didn't have much else to do.
posted by octothorpe at 3:23 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


Most anachronistic things in the show don't bother me--I just tell myself it's an alternate reality so these things are a little different. BUT, the one nitpicky thing that bothered me in this episode was the crossword Dr. Brenner was working at the beginning, which contained the word ASCII.

I asked my spouse if that would have been in common parlance in 1979; we looked it up and determined that it had definitely been invented and was in use by then. Computer geeks would have known it; maybe even Brenner might have, but it wouldn't be likely to get into a general-audience crossword.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:18 AM on June 2


I'm glad I'm not the only one who saw ASCII in there! Bugged me too.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:29 AM on June 6


I think "Special K" for ketamine is an anachronism, too—there seem to be some early citations for it on Google Books, but I think they're all errors (like journal articles being given the date of the first year of publication of the journal).
posted by The Tensor at 11:40 PM on June 12


I definitely knew a DM who fit the Eddie mold. He was friends with my friend's older brother, who got us into D&D and prog rock.
posted by kokaku at 9:18 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Nick Prueher, of the Found Footage Festival, posted earlier about how the character of Eddie reminded him of his favorite DnD playing babysitter. So indeed there are Eddies among us.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:56 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Eddie's not an anachronism. Playing D&D at school seems like it might be, but doesn't seem as outrageous as having a high school counselor who actually cares about helping kids.

I had forgotten that Nancy and Jonathan hadn't graduated yet. How many years has it been since Season 1?

I started high school in the fall of 86 in Ohio, and my wife in California, so we were feeling all the feels. It's awful to watch Eleven get bullied after all she's been through, and the brave face she puts on in her letters. I was so much like Mike and Lucas and Will and Dustin that it doesn't bother me so much when they get bullied. That's just how things were. But I just want to wrap up Eleven in a big hug. She's taken on the Byers' poor Midwestern dress sense in California and she looks awful (as do Will and Jonathan). And Max is rudderless, too. Even though the episode ended on two big wins for the gang, it felt so hopeless and horror-filled.

I was nervous about diminishing returns after the last two seasons, but it seems like they can wring a bit more blood out of this stone.
posted by rikschell at 10:22 AM on July 25


This was 1989/1990 timeframe.

So - uh, I was a grade 11 high-school student, got a number from a paper phone number off a bulletin board in the local game store for a weekly session, hosted by... basically Eddie... I mean, he looked identical, he was in college, drove a black trans-am, wore a snake-skin leather jacket and matching boots, long-metal-hair like Eddie - he was taking exactly 1-course in college to make his parents happy (who do you think gave him the car?)... 'Classical guitar', because that way he could shred better when he eventually went on to become a metal-god... (Well, that was the plan anyway... then Seattle grunge happened, who knows where he ended-up)

We also had an anti-fascist/anti-american anarchist skinhead in our group (during the late 80s/early 90s Canada this was a thing, supposedly you could tell them apart by the color of their doc marten shoe laces - at the time in Ontario, I believe 'blue' was supposed to mean anti-american), plus a couple other high-school students and a motley assortment of nerdy people in their early 20's. The love of the game brought us all together. Previously, when I lived across the province had found another game club (we started playing at lunch in high-school grade 9/10), it was a cross-mix of nerds and social outcasts. We then started to do table-top miniature gaming a few times a week at the local store, and then it was a mix of us high-school students, a few in their 20's and then the 'olds', who were the owner and friends of the store (probably late 40's and up)

Gaming in those days was just a mix of all ages and people who were passionate about having fun.
posted by rozcakj at 3:47 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


Getting to this quite late lets me feel a bit more comfortable jotting down that I found this whole episode nearly unwatchable! So much...phoniness! But I might just be extra sensitive to some of this. Or maybe I was just in the wrong mood.

But a couple of the concrete things that jumped out at me: the early scene with the two older teenagers driving to school could have been a good one, but -- like with the grownups-on-the-phone scenes -- they seem to be encouraging in the actors a kind of giddy enthusiasm I find hard to handle. It's tough when the actors are having more fun than you are (and more fun than their conversation topics would suggest).

And then a good chunk of the longhaired DM character's schtick obviously would be prone to falling into this category, too, but I think I could have run with it if not for -- in at least two separate scenes -- something terrible going on with the reaction shots to his antics.

In both the cafeteria scene and -- especially -- the later scene around a picnic table in the woods, the other characters have (to varying degrees) charged emotional situations they're dealing with, but the moment the DM character starts in on some goofy broad theatrical bit, we cut right back to those characters with huge grins on their faces, immediately not only understanding the DM's schtick but loving it, and loving it to such a degree that whatever they were previously worried about (in one case, horror-adjacent psychosis!) disappears completely.

It's utterly bizarre and phony and I wonder if these were in reaction to exec notes worried about the DM's likability during those broadest moments. Got to immediately let the audience know that what he's doing is both Adorable and To Be Adored.

(But I liked eleven's sadness, and I liked the scene in the guidance counselor's office, at least until they started cutting in to shots that to my eye felt inappropriately close, or at least a bit too early to be that close...)
posted by nobody at 10:18 AM on September 13


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