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Stranger Things S1E3: Holly Jolly

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Shame Is On The Other Side

One guesses this is the episode in which the creators of the show, The Duffer Brothers, for all the love and hard work they put into their creation, bite more than they can chew. Eighties nostalgia is a lore of its own, whatever questionable could be the urge to revisit it for nearly 8 hours. But the early stage of quote-mania are appearing: why a line of dialogue rechristening the evil lab “Emerald City”? Yes, the bros are Stephen King’s fanboys, and the Maine Master of Horror has used Oz references in his Dark Tower uncontrollably long cycle, mixed with rock n’ roll references to great effect. But what the heck does it do here, what purpose does it serve? Same could be said about a music box scene. But anyway, what happens next?

Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour, definitely very good after a consistent TV career and some appearances in an Oscar vehicle, a James Bond and, well, Suicade Squid) is somehow reviled from the locals since he was a cop in “the big city” (possibly Indianapolis, natch). His investigative competences are more than welcome however, as said locals would be unable to police work themselves out of a wet paper bag. Mind you, the evil lab itself seems pretty sloppy at discretion, as a casual visit to the Hawkins library proves a microfiche treasure trove. Ah, microfiches… They have a B&W negative poetry that a Google search could never pretend to.

A visit to the evil lab only confirms that they are lying through their teeth. Sheriff Hopper is definitely on for a rough ride and progressively acquires focus in a credible way as he realises something very wrong is happening on his watch. If only all characters were that well written. And by that you guess that it is time for our Winona moment.

The least that can be said is that Winona takes her comeback through a popular streaming series seriously. Watching her makes one feels both puzzled and very awkward. One means, what if Marlon Brando appeared now as a YouTuber? Would his talent be recognised or would he be just considered as one more freak? Just asking, is so much Method required in a supernatural series? Just as you think she has reached a climax in devious intensity she comes up with a new level of insanity of such proportion that it makes her desperate attempts to communicate with her missing son not desperate, but deranged. Here she successfully combines Xmas festivity with a oui-ja board, an idea she got talking to lights in a living room cupboard. There is a fair level of inventiveness at work here, and it could have work with another version of the grieving mother; but from her, it feels straight from Planet Schizo.

What else? The three kids have a search party. No, really. Again. This one is even more inept than the two previous ones, considering four kids on three bikes ride as fast as speeding police cars on an emergency. Magic, you know. Once a portal is open, everything becomes magic. That’s how things work. Also, Nancy discovers right after having her cherry popped that the very guys who told girls they are beautiful while making out fall asleep after sex, don’t kiss goodnight and act like jerks afterwards. She nevertheless takes her walk of shame bravely. Ata girl!

One saved the best and worst for last. Best is the opening sequence, Barb meeting the Monster in the Silent Hill version of the pool, a pretty good scene that would have been much better if not intercut with tepid Nancy/Steve making out. But in the credit column, teenage sex coupled with nasty retribution, check. One thing about Silent Hill, though: how comes ashes are flying everywhere but every horizontal surface remains clean? Worst is the final scene, set on a string-driven, tear-jerking, Peter Gabriel rendition of David Bowie’s Heroes, doing so much to convince the viewer that Will is dead that he is, obviously. Until next week, that is.

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