They Are In The Walls!
Given its DNA test reveals Stephen King’s paternity, it is not abusive to read some political subtext in Stranger Things, especially not in this King-titled episode. A bunch of small town Democrats, led by a borderline, low-in-polls female candidate (Joyce/Clinton) fight against the second coming of Ronald Reagan, a faceless, demonic Republican (Monster/Trump). They fight for tolerance, decency, family values, the works, and he stands for power, dominance, greed. Will one interpret the whole season as an elaborate variation on the ongoing 2016 presidential campaign? No, one won’t. But it is sure tempting.
So much is “inspired by” King in this episode that it is indeed difficult not to sum it up as a series of vignettes lifted out of his novels. There is the ax from The Shining. There are school bullies punished by ESP from Carrie and so many others. There is a Firestarter evil lab. Speaking of de Palma, there is a whole photo sequence inspired by Blow Up via Blow Out. There would be an interesting moment about dressing up a girl as a girl because she doesn’t look enough like a girl if it wasn’t played for kid giggles, as it speak volumes about how this series try things before hastily retreating into safer territory. Eleven is a monster, in all logic. Yes she’s an unwilling one, and she suffers from being so, but she’s more radar/parable/listening device than little girl. Her humanisation by way of a blonde wig, a pastel dress and cute socks is more than silly: it’s convenient. It’s good versus evil, with no in-between. That gigantic gaping grey area that is Eleven is terraformed with the cheapest of tricks.
Sheriff Hopper’s soothing voice keeps on being in contrast with Joyce’s shrills. He witnesses lie after lie and suspects the evil lab enough to break in at the end of the episode. The lab seems to be far up its head more than anytime before, as they send some goon into the viscous portal, at the end of a life line which gets predictably cut off. “There’s something else in there!” are his last words. Tell us something we don’t know, buddy. Or was it Barb wandering amongst falling ashes? She must be hungry after so much time…
Oh yes, Barb. In what must be one of the slowest reactions to a missing person ever, Nancy starts worrying about her vanished best friend, whose mother seems to also have disappeared into thin air. As did her car. Is the plot thickening or what? One is not sure what they have in store for this whole “having an internship in Silent Hill while no one cares” subplot, but it’s about time they came up with something.
Last but not least, Joyce. We learn she had “some anxiety problems in the past”, which counts as mild revelation. She axes through her front room wall because Will was in there, talking to her. She keeps foaming at the mouth but she has a dignified moment when she storms outside of the morgue, fuming “That thing is not my son!”. Did you believed that was Will’s body in the quarry water? Did you, really? Awww, that’s cute!