The bottle episode follows Eleven to Chicago, where she seeks out her “sister,” aka the girl from the opening scene of the season with an “8” tattoo and some serious powers. It’s all A Very Special Episode, right down to a shot of Punky Brewster on TV, which obviously made me think of one of the best VSEs of all time: when Punky’s best friend, Cherie, got trapped in an abandoned refrigerator. Seriously, a generation of us ’80s kids were terrified of this happening, even though most of us would never even encounter an abandoned fridge. Mostly this episode is just a way for Eleven to remember how important her real friends are, and a reminder that there are a lot of people in Chicago who think everyone from Indiana lives on a farm.
On to the good stuff …
In a shocking twist, Billy Cougar Mellencamp’s dad is an abusive asshole. Who ever could have seen that coming?!? The lab is under attack.
And it turns out I was totally wrong about Bob. Rudy knows BASIC and is basically an ’80s coder who goes on a super-scary mission and (gorily) sacrifices himself in the process which is…
Bob, I’m so sorry for ever thinking you had nefarious intentions. You were a good and true Hoosier who founded Hawkins A/V and died admirably. But are the Dart monsters/Demodogs zombies? I mean, they brought death to the pumpkins, but do they feed on humans? What is this, The Walking Dead?
And shouldn’t we really be ‘shipping Hopper and Joyce anyway? Team Jopper, all the way. And while we’re at it, a reminder for Team Steve. Jonathan sucks.
After some tender moments, we get to our hard-working-heroes montage as they ready for battle, proving that a Midwestern work ethic can save your life. The gang tries to draw real Will out with sad family tales, showcasing yet again how great some of these performances are. #WinonaForever They think they’re failing, but Will is actually tapping out code. Also, there’s a “Steve’s a dum-dum” joke! Still #TeamSteve.
Finally, the answer (set to the sounds of The Clash “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”): CLOSEGATE.
Then, everything gets weird in that horror-movie way that you know something big is about to happen.
ELEVEN IS BACK! And she’s rocking a very Legend of Billie Jean look that I’m very much here for.
I totally forgot how much I love Joyce and 11 together and maybe even got a little misty. I also very much love this weirdo scene with Mrs. Wheeler and Billy Cougar Mellencamp? Is he trying to do early Robert Downey Jr.?
We also get further evidence that #TeamSteve is the only Team as he tells Nancy that he’s a “shitty boyfriend, but a damn good babysitter.” Steve’s evolving, guys!
En route to the lab and the closing of the gate, Hopper and Eleven make up, because of course they do. And he’s evolving, too—talking about his daughter and using the word “bitchin’”.
Back at the house, Billy shows up and Steve proves himself worthy of our love yet again in his failed attempt to beat up the bully, whom Max eventually stabs with sedatives, even though I totally thought she was going to kill him. She then drives Steve’s car to the field where we go straight Goonies underground and Steve is Bran … and now my love for him is getting out of control.
We start flashing between our various locations. Dr. Paul Reiser is somehow still alive. Joyce and Jonathan are burning the monster out of Will. DART really is Dustin’s friend—and a true nougat fan.
And Eleven summons all of her past pain and abuse to shut shit down. Listen, don’t f*ck with girls in 2017. We are PISSED.
Cut to one month later, where Barb finally gets a funeral. I guess that’s nice and all for her family, but HOT TAKE ALERT: I never really liked Barb and don’t see what the internet fuss was all about. Hopper is adopting Jane (yay!) and there’s a school dance.
Dustin is Ducky in Pretty in Pink and I adore him and his hairspray.
We get to hear one of my favorite songs of the era—Olivia Newton-John’s “Twist of Fate”—from the highly underrated movie Two of a Kind co-starring one Mr. John Travolta. I think this is a signal that maybe things aren’t really over for Steve and Nancy.
It’s all a perfect ’80s movie dance scenario. Lucas and Max are dancing as Ducky, I mean Dustin, sadly looks on. Girl after girl rejects him until Nancy sweetly comes to the rescue! The montage is too perfect as people kiss and find adolescent joy, so we know it’s gonna turn soon.
Which it literally does as the sparkling lights of what I’d consider pretty upscale decor for a small-town middle-school dance turn over revealing … the UPSIDE DOWN—and a very unhappy smoke monster.
Until next season, Hoosiers!