Netflix’s Stranger Things
Season 3: “Chapter Six – E Pluribus Unum”
Directed by Uta Briesewitz
Written by Curtis Gwinn
* For a recap & review of Chapter Five, “The Flayed” – click here
* For a recap & review of Chapter Seven, “The Bite” – click here
A great theme surrounding the title of this episode. “E Pluribus Unum” is Latin for “Out of many, one.” It appears in the Great Seal of the United States. We can also take this as coming partly from the Upside Down and the Flayed, as the Mind Flayer emerges more into reality— out of the many Flayed comes the Flayer himself, all connected. We could also take it as an unofficial motto for Hawkins, or at least the kids. An all for one, one for all Three Musketeers-type thing.
In the subterranean lab, Steve (Joe Keery), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Robin (Maya Hawke), and Erica (Priah Ferguson) are in big trouble. Alarms are going off. The two teens and the two kids wind up near the crack leading into the Upside Down, chased at every turn. Robin and Steve sacrifice themselves to let the younger pair run.
The other kids are at the hospital. Will (Noah Schnapp) senses the Mind Flayer. Nancy (Natalia Dyer) faces the creature upstairs, as does Jonathan (Charlie Heaton). She makes a run for it, sneaking into a room. Doesn’t stop the monster. It devolves into a massive glob again, slipping through vents in the door. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) bursts through the door just in time, saving Nancy by tossing the Mind Flayer out of the window and to the parking lot below.
Still, the creature isn’t dead. El, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Max (Sadie Sink), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Will watch it slither through a drain to the sewers. Down there, Flayed Billy (Dacre Montgomery) and Heather (Francesca Reale) await.
It’s July 4th in Hawkins. Mayor Larry Kline (Cary Elwes) hopes a big shindig will keep everybody happy in town. He’s also dealing the big Russian, making sure to keep an ear to the ground about Chief Jim Hopper’s (David Harbour) whereabouts.
The cop is at Murray Bauman’s (Brett Gelman) place trying to figure out what the Russian scientist knows. They argue over a strawberry Slurpee that was meant to be cherry. The scientist will watch Woody Woodpecker instead. (Interesting, vague connection: The Russian Woodpecker was a Soviet radar system.) This nonchalant shit doesn’t fly with Jim. His lazy plan manages NOT to backfire. Ole Smirnoff has a chance to run again, refusing to take it.
Soundtrack note: “Neutron Dance” by the Pointer Sisters plays on the car stereo
Dustin and Erica are in a set of air ducts. These two are a pretty funny team. She’s so smart and doesn’t take any mess. They argue, jumping from “communism as an ideology” to My Little Pony. He gets at the electrical system, shutting down fan blades. Simultaneously, Steve is beaten viciously by the Soviets. They want info. He doesn’t exactly have any to give. Other than about Scoops Ahoy’s ice cream selection.
In the astral plane, Eleven looks for the Flayed. Mike is concerned that spending too much time within the static will hurt her brain. He and Max bump heads. Nancy, Jonathan, and Will talk about the Flayed, hoping to suss out where they’ve all gone. Everything devolves into everybody acting like Mike’s controlling Eleven, when he’s the only person thinking about how the use of her powers affects HER, whereas they’re all treating her “like a machine.” In the middle of it all, Mike confesses his love for her, too.
One good thing? El’s tracked somebody down.
Chief Hopper a.k.a “Fat Rambo” wants to help his Russian scientist get the key back to turn off the machine, preventing the Upside Down from being reopened. The only trouble is it’s in a top secret place, guarded by the best of the Soviet best. Basically impossible to penetrate the security. Probably won’t stop Jim.
While mounting an escape, Robin and Steve hit the floor. They’ve messed it up. She takes the chance to tell him about how she was in his class once, she saw him every single day, remembered what he ate. She obsessed over him, yet he didn’t know she existed. All the same, he doesn’t quite dig being popular. Never fully worked out for him. Maybe he’ll start seeing what’s right in front of his eyes, or, well, tied behind his back.
Soon the Soviets are back with a doctor, not the kind Steve was hoping to see. Dustin and Erica use the green acid to distract the soldiers and get Robin and Steve out.
El can see Billy in his room. He’s just waiting. On July 4th. Probably a trap.
So, the magical girl has an idea to figure out the location of the Flayed’s source. She goes back across the astral plane seeking Billy. She asks to “see what happened.” He grabs her arm and she sees terrifying visions of the Mind Flayer. But she reappears through the void on a beach far from Hawkins. She sees a woman. A boy runs out of the water— little Billy. Also gives El a view to the source.
Chief Hopper makes a call. He gives a code— “Antique chariot“— and tells a man on the other end to let Dr. Owens (Paul Resier) know about the Ruskies working to break through to the Upside Down underneath Starcourt Mall. His whole purpose is to get people paying attention. Will that just start MORE shit? Are the Americans in on it all?
Through the darkness on the beach, El chases young Billy past all his horrible childhood memories. They go further into the clouds, where she sees all the abuse and the sadness in his past, what made him the young man he is today, the cyclical abuse he perpetuated. Past it all, El sees the steelworks.
But when she tries to get back to reality, she discovers the Mind Flayer, as well as all the Flayed, can see her. She’s in terrible danger. The Flayer and the Flayed have been building for her. They want to end her then “end everyone.” A horrific, unsettling scene at the end with the Flayed returning to the Flayer, falling before their master as more human goo to make it bigger, stronger.
One of the greatest shows to ever exist. So intense. While the sci-fi+horror is great, the emotional core of the whole story rests in the wonderful, rich characters. A true gift to genre lovers. Sure, the nostalgia’s heavy— not even near the most interesting parts of the series anyway.
“Chapter Seven: The Bite” is next.