Netflix’s Stranger Things
Season 3: “Chapter Two – The Mall Rats”
Directed & Written
by the Duffer Brothers
* For a recap & review of Chapter One, “Suzie, Do You Copy?” – click here
* For a recap & review of Chapter Three, “The Case of the Missing Lifeguard” – click here
In the old steelworks, Billy (Dacre Montgomery) is trying to escape the creepy, slimy creature. He gets to his car and drives to a nearby phone booth. He frantically calls 911. Electricity flickers. He isn’t even in the reality he knows, he’s in the Upside Down. he sees a bunch of people marching down the street. He sees himself come out of the darkness.
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) waits around for Mike (Finn Woflhard), wondering why he hasn’t shown up. He can’t see her today, using the bullshit excuse Jim (David Harbour) gave about his grandmother. He’s trying to create distance, due to the Chief’s concern about their relationship. “Friends don‘t lie,” he repeats when El questions him.
When he sees what’s going on, Hopper, in his glee, heads out for the day listening to the fittingly named “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim” by Jim Croce. He goes to see Joyce (Winona Ryder), excited over the new boundaries he forcefully put in place. Although she isn’t quite sure he’s followed her instructions. But the Chief has other things to worry about, like a protest downtown.
And Joyce discovers there’ a problem with the magnets.
Nancy (Natalia Dyer) tries to get a little time to herself. She uses the ole “girl problems” to freak her boss out, giving her and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) a chance to slip out and do investigative work. “We ask for forgiveness, not permission” is her motto. She wants to check in on the call about rats from an old lady. Nancy and Jonathan go to the old lady’s place. She shows them fertiliser bags chewed open. She even has one of the diseased rats captured.
Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) visits the mall to see Steve (Joe Keery). These two are pretty close, after last season’s madness. The younger of the two tells his older buddy about Suzie. He’s also sad about being ditched by his pals recently. He tells Steve about a “secret Russian communication” through Cerebro. He dreams of them being “true American heroes” should this latest adventure play out well. They get help from Robin (Maya Hawke), too. She’s a smart cookie.
Eleven talks with Max (Sadie Sink) about boy stuff. Max says Mike is “a piece of shit.” She tells El boyfriends lie. She suggests giving him a “taste of his own medicine.” At the same time, Mike is with Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), worrying about the Chief keeping him from the magical young woman. One great aspect of Stranger Things is how all the genre elements are wrapped up in a coming-of-age tale, alongside the adult storylines. The kids are so recognisable. Father Gore was born in 1985, and there’s still so much to relate with when it comes to these characters.
Big time uh oh— at the pool, Karen (Cara Buono) finds Billy to explain why she never showed at the motel. He listens to her talk and envisions hurting her. Luckily it’s a daydream. He’s fucked up, man. Sunlight’s enough to thrown him into a confused, wobbling state. He’s not going to explode like one of those rats, is he?
“There’s more to life than stupid boys, y’know.”
Chief Hopper goes to the office of Mayor Larry Kline (Cary Elwes). Outside, the protest is raging. The Mayor feels the Hawkins economy is growing and the town’s thriving, even if the downtown area has suffered from “good old fashioned American capitalism.” There’s no permit for the protest, which leaves Jim in a tricky situation.
What about the big guy stomping around? Doesn’t he look like that big Russian from the Soviet lab? Hmm.
The electromagnetic issues in town are plaguing Joyce. She studies up, trying to figure things out. This sends her to find Mr. Clarke (Randy Havens). He’s in his garage painting figurines and rocking out to “My Bologna” by Weird Al Yankovic from 1979.
Nancy calls around about diseased rats while Jonathan snaps photos of the rabid rat in its cage. Soon, the rat stops freaking out. It writhes in pain, falling over. Nancy comes to get Jonathan and they leave before witnessing what happens to the tiny animal, as it explodes, becoming a sentient jelly-thing, oozing from its cage onto the floor. The rat has become some other organism, and it’s getting out of that basement.
We see Billy’s experience in the Upside Down. “I want you to build,” his double told him. But what’s he meant to build? Will he help bridge the Upside Down with reality? He’s very, very ill. His skin is changing. He, too, is becoming something else.
Max and El go to the mall and shop, at the very same time Mike and his boys are trying to find a present for him to give his lady. A great montage here set to “Material Girl” by Madonna. Nice to see El developing her own identity / personality. Plus, she’s becoming closer to Max, another girl to have as a friend rather than being stuck with boys. They run into the guys soon. That’s when El dumps Mike. (Great Foreigner music cue!)
That evening, Jim has a non-date date with Joyce. He buys a colourful shirt and tries to act all sophisticated for a waiter over the wine list. He sits alone, because Joyce has forgotten. He’s left to listen to “La Traviata” and get lonely, angry drunk.
And he’s being watched by that big ole Russian.
Joyce is over at the garage with Mr. Clarke, discussing how to create an “electromagnetic field.” Is a more massive field affecting Hawkins? Is that what’s occurring at the steelworks? Joyce tries to make connections, and the teacher suggests it’s all apophenia. But she knows something strange is at work. He wonders about a machine. It’d have to be a BIG ONE to affect the entire town. Hmm.
Dustin, Robin, and Steve have translated most of the Russian “spy code.” It makes no sense. They’re left trying to determine what the Soviets are up to, when Steve has a breakthrough— the music from the background of the message is the same as the song from a coin-operated horse, an Indiana Flyer. The code’s source involves Hawkins.
Billy can’t stay away from the steelworks. He’s kidnapped one of the girls who works at the pool. He brings her inside the factory. She’s been brought as a meal for a giant creature that looks like hundreds of those exploded, inside-out rats mashed together.
Shit’s getting crazier.
Another solid episode. The best thing about Season 3 so far is it’s building more off the premise of the Upside Down, which was an exciting aspect of Season 2, to see that the writers were able to branch out into slightly new territory while keeping the mythology of the show intact.
Great stuff, and proper creepy!
“Chapter Three: The Case of the Missing Lifeguard” is next.