Netflix’s Stranger Things
Season 2: “Chapter Nine – The Gate”
Directed & Written
by The Duffer Brothers
* For a recap & review of Chapter Eight, “The Mind Flayer” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 3 premiere, click here.
Finally, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has returned to Hawkins. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) embraces her, both of them so happy to be back together. She tells she heard him over the radio, and Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) admits he wouldn’t let her reply. This pisses Mike off bad, so they have a chat together. The chief tries to explain it was for their safety. Either way, Hopper takes the blame, and the kid rages at him for having his heart broken. “I‘m sorry, kid,” the chief says while hugging him close.
Everyone’s happy to see their friend come back, from Joyce (Winona Ryders) to Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo). El doesn’t give Max (Sadie Sink) a warm welcome. She goes to see Will (Noah Schnapp) wanting to help her friend. Maybe she’ll be able to close the gate she once opened.
At the Wheeler house, Karen (Cara Buono) soaks in the bath while Ted (Joe Chrest) snoozes in his chair. She’s forced to hop out of the suds to answer a relentless doorbell. It’s Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) looking for his step-sister. He hits on Mrs. Wheeler pretty hard, then he’s off again.
The group’s trying to figure out their next steps. Their whole worry’s “if the brain dies, the body dies,” and closing the gate could kill Will due to his connection with the shadow monster. Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) suggest they’ve got to make the “host inhabitable.” They’re going to use heat because it prefers cold. They’ve also got to disorient the monster, so they’ll go to a place Will doesn’t know. Everybody has their task. While Nancy, Joyce, and Jonathan take Will, Hopper and Eleven are headed towards the gate.
On their own, Hopper and Eleven talk. She tells him about going to find her mother, how she hitchhiked down there. She expresses regret for leaving. Likewise, the chief regrets his mistakes with her. He laments being “a black hole,” and talks of his daughter, Sarah. He feels anybody close to him gets destroyed. These two are good together— they need each other.
Back at Joyce’s place, the kids and Steve (Joe Keery) are brainstorming how to help. Dustin brings up the “hive mind.” Mike suggests a plan of lighting a fire to draw some “Demodogs” away from the Department of Energy, in case the chief and El run into trouble. This is at the same time Billy arrives, looking for his stepsister. Ooh, could be a dudely showdown! Billy knocks Steve over, then heads inside. He manhandles Lucas and threatens him. This brings out “King Steve” and the fist fight begins. The two older dudes go pretty hard. Billy gets the upper hand. Before he beats Steve to death, he’s stabbed with a tranquilliser by Max. This gives her the chance to threaten her step-brother a bit. Love how the boys are always being saved by the bad ass girls/women in their lives throughout Stranger Things.
At the cabin in the woods, Jonathan, Joyce, and Nancy set Will up, strapped down. They put a heater on him, planning to burn the monster out. Mom’s fed up and wants to kill the thing torturing her youngest son. All they have to do now is wait. Will’s frightened when he wakes, plus the monster transfers its pain to the boy. Joyce only thinks of Bob (Sean Astin), stolen from her by the beast.
Steve’s too beat up to stop the kids from taking Billy’s car and enacting their own fiery plan. Max gets them to the decayed fields and the tunnels. They all head down looking for their mark on the map. Without much choice any longer, Steve leads them forward. They get to the spot and prepare to lit the place up.
Meanwhile, Hopper and El go back to the DoE, where the howls of the Demodogs can be heard from outside. All those horrible memories of hers come back, as well, remembering what Brenner and the scientists did to her. They go inside, as Jim takes point so she can preserve energy. They run into a wounded Dr. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) in a stairwell, who’s shocked to see El. The chief hopes, if they make it out, the doc would help the girl “lead a normal life.” Further on into the DoE, Hopper and El come to a room full of Demodogs. The chief rushes in to start firing on them when the fire in the tunnels draws their attention, leaving him safe. The gate can be closed.
The heat’s nearly killing Will. Then the others see a shadow reach up through the boy’s neck. It breaks one of the restraints free and Will starts choking Joyce. Just as fast, it stops. Shadow swirls out the kid’s mouth and flies outside into the air. The monster has detached itself from Will, after so long.
On the rush back out of the tunnels, Mike falls and gets gripped by the vines. Joe and the rest get him loose. Only problem is Dart’s found them. Dustin attempts talking to the creature who he once kept as a pet, apologising for the storm cellar. He’s got a Three Musketeers bar and offers Dart a bite, allowing them to pass.
Together, Hopper and Eleven head down to the gate itself, hand in hand. Once down below she attempts to force the gate closed. Behind the opening, a massive shadow appears. She feels its power pushing back. She remembers Kali (Linnea Berthelsen) telling her to channel her anger. This helps her gain power. As she closes the gate, the Demodogs retreat back towards it. Hopper shoots, fending them off, as she continues. Eleven soon lifts off her feet, closing the remainder of the gate’s gap. Everywhere else in Hawkins, the decay begins to disappear, the vines are retreating, and the Demodogs die.
Skip to one month later. Hawkins is in the “national spotlight” after Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) help get the tape out. Finally, there’s justice for Barb!!! This changes the landscape of their small town. It also returns it to normal, in a way. Chief Hopper meets Dr. Owens in a bar to talk about El’s new birth certificate— Jim’s listed as the dad, too. This helps things, a little.
Christmas is right around the corner. Everybody’s feeling in the festive spirit. All the boys and Max are preparing for the big dance at school. Dustin even got a few hair tips from Steve to try and make the night extra special, hoping to impress Max. Things get awkward when Lucas asks the girl to dance first. Even “zombie boy” gets a dance with a young lady. Poor Dustin gets turned down a bunch, until Nancy sees him and decides to give him a dance— oh, sweet boy. And what a move on her part, giving him a boost, making him look cool in front of all the girls. My heart!
Outside, Joyce and Hopper find solace in each other’s company. It’d be nice to see them together eventually, too. They’re so good as a pair. Speaking of pairs, Eleven and Mike get their sweetheart moment when she shows up at the dance. Neither of them know how to dance and decide to “figure it out” as a team.
And all the while, the tentacled shadowy monster continues hovering about Hawkins. It hasn’t been beat. Not entirely. That’s for Season 3.
Lord, this finale killed me in so many ways. Beautiful, fun, wild, and full of wonderful emotion. The whole high school dance thing really touched me, reminded me so much of being that young. This is why Stranger Things nostalgia works, because it isn’t cheap and it takes us back to a specific time, evoking what it was like the be the age of these characters. Then there’s all the amazing horror and science fiction that grabs hold and never lets go. Dying for next season and Father Gore literally JUST finished Season 2. I’ll have no fingernails left.