Netflix’s Stranger Things
“Chapter Five: The Nina Project”
Directed by Nimród Antal
Written by Kate Trefry
* For a recap & review of 4×04, click here.
* For a recap & review of 4×06, click here.
Argyle’s got the lads out of harm’s way but the government agent is bleeding out fast and tells them they have to warn Owens he’s in danger, mentioning someone named “Nina” before he dies. They’re still being pursued by cars so Argyle takes a hard left turn off the road. At the same time, the military are combing through the mess that is the Byers house, seeking any info on the whereabouts of Eleven.
Eleven is somewhere on the road with Owens, travelling to a “top secret location” across bumpy desert road in Nevada. They eventually get to the clandestine entrance to a bunker beneath the earth where Owens has been quietly doing his work. The place used to be an ICBM silo until Owens converted it for his purposes. There are many people down there at work on ole Nina, some large, powerful device, including Dr. Martin Brenner. It’s an uncomfortable reunion for Eleven, who immediately tries to run but finds soldiers waiting to stop her from leaving, along with a doctor bringing tranquillisers. Oh, my. Not exactly what Eleven was expecting.
In Russia, Hopper’s having the shit kicked out of him all over again after his escape attempt. He’s told his future will be “much pain.” After the guards pummel him he’s tossed back in a cell where he finds Dmitri locked up, too. Hopper’s rightfully angry but Dmitri was double-crossed just like him. Over in Alaska, Yuri’s got his plane ready with Joyce and Murray tied up inside. He’s planning to sell the two of them to make a bunch of money. Great needle drop here with “Travelin’ Man” by Ricky Nelson. Lots of great music on Stranger Things. I always enjoy the music most when it’s juxtaposed with a scene where you don’t expect it, like this one, where we’re left wondering how Joyce and Murray are going to avoid a dark fate in Russia but Ricky Nelson is just playing them good tunes.
Back in Hawkins, the gang are doing their best to stick together, and even Eddie’s trying not to be too obvious hiding away in Reefer Rick’s shed. Max continues to be troubled, though at least she made it back from Vecna’s nightmare. She’s been drawing things she saw there in Vecna’s creepy little world. She mentions that Vecna was almost surprised when she made it deeper to the place where they had their confrontation. Dustin said it’s possible Max wound up in Vecna’s mind. (Awesome Freddy Krueger reference here by Dustin, considering Krueger himself is playing Victor Creel.) Perhaps Max stumbled on a “backdoor” to Vecna’s mind. That’s when Nancy starts piecing together all the drawings Max has done and they form a mansion: the Creel house.
When Eleven wakes up it’s almost like she’s gone back in time: she’s wearing a hospital gown, her hair is cut short, and there’s a drawing of her + ‘Papa’ on the wall. It’s surreal for her, obviously, and painful. Is this the way Brenner and Owens are going to bring back Eleven’s powers, by simulating the past? If so, it’s a cruel way to do it. Eleven has a look around the place, finding kids and other people her age. She meets an eerie orderly, as time seems to skip and replay, then she runs off into the halls only for everything to repeat again like she’s stuck in a time loop. We see that this is, indeed, one large experiment on the part of Drs. Brenner and Owen.
Out in the desert, Mike, Will, and Jonathan are burying the dead government agent while Argyle’s tripping out about the insanity. Jonathan suggests Argyle smoke some weed to relax while they finish the grave. Meanwhile, Mike’s worried for Eleven. Will does what he can to console his friend while also struggling with the OBVIOUS romantic feelings he seems to have for his friend. In the middle of it all, Mike discovers a note in the pen the “unknown hero agent man” gave him before dying.
In Russia, Hopper’s having second thoughts about escape. He thinks he’s only endangering Joyce by being close to her, in any way. He starts to wonder if he’s cursed, ever since having to go to Vietnam and supposedly fight communism in the name of America; Vietnam, where he was exposed to chemical agents via Agent Orange, which he believes led to his daughter’s death. Hopper almost sees himself like a parasite who needs other people and sucks the life out of them. “I am the curse,” he says. Out of nowhere there are strange noises from elsewhere in the prison. Dmitri says he’s heard rumours “of a monster.”
Jason and his jock buddies are closing in on Lucas now after seeing their new pal with the Hellfire Club in a yearbook photo. Except Patrick, who’s been seeing grandfather clocks, thinks maybe the Hellfire Club are a cult and the cult put a curse on them. The others just laugh. But also, they’re closing in on somebody else: Reefer Rick. And that’s not going to help Eddie, or the rest of the gang. Across town, at the old Creel house, Max, Robin, Dustin, Nancy, Steve, and Lucas try to get inside the place but it’s fairly well boarded up. Nothing a little breaking and entering can’t solve as Robin smashes a window with a brick and Steve unlocks the door. Inside the house is a grandfather clock that Max clearly recognises.
Eleven cannot escape the loop of time Brenner and Owens have stuck her in within the bunker. She’s right back with that unnerving orderly again. She gets up in the face of a surveillance camera’s lens and screams to be let out. She goes to the mirror and sees a smaller version of herself. Then she hears Papa over the speaker talking about the opera Nina by Nicolas Dalayrac essentially about a woman who buried her trauma. Eleven realises what she’s experiencing is not quite real, but it’s still happening, and now she has to find her “own way out.” The weird orderly starts talking to her again. Eleven pulls herself back in time like she’s actually a child again. The orderly’s a little less creepy now, more friendly. Then Brenner shows up to take all his children somewhere. We see that Eleven’s actually floating in a tank with sensors on her head, inducing her into a surreal coma.
Above the clouds, Yuri’s eating peanut butter and flying the plane, unable to hear anything in the back, so Joyce hatches a plan. She smashes the glass peanut butter jars to try getting a shard of glass, then she tries to pump Murray up to help out. Yuri catches Joyce with the glass but forgets to look for Murray, then the two men wind up fighting while she looks for the gun Yuri dropped. Though fighting in a plane is not a great idea. And when Yuri’s knocked out there’s nobody to fly the plane. The plane goes flying down towards the earth, crashing hard, yet somehow Murray and Joyce manage not to die.
Down on the ground somewhere in California, the Amblin Crew, I mean, Mike and the gang, have discovered the number they found on the note is actually calling a computer. Now they need a hacker: Susie.
Steve and the others are searching through Creel’s house. Steve notices a grate in the floor where he finds eerie specimen jars and also a few spiders, then he and Nancy have a cute little awkward moment. Lucas and Max have their own cute moment downstairs. Max keeps trying to use Kate Bush as a catalyst, then they see the lights flicker. Uh oh.
Jump back to Eleven’s surreal world where the lights are also flickering, as one of Dr. Brenner’s children uses their powers. Next up: Eleven. The orderly straps Eleven in and she has to try using her powers again, or, for the first time in this scenario. The kids laugh when Eleven can’t use her powers, so Dr. Brenner encourages her, but she still can’t make her powers return. Then Eleven sees her hands covered in blood. She stumbles into the corridors and sees bodies everywhere, the place covered in blood. Owens wants to take Eleven out of the simulation but Brenner insists on pushing her.
At the Creel house, everyone turns off the lights and they use a flashlight to sense where Vecna may be hiding in the house. They track the electricity flickering to a staircase leading into the attic where a single hanging bulb flickers, making all their flashlights flicker, too. Vecna is in The Upside Down, right in that same place where they’re standing.
Across town, the jock squad turn up at Reefer Rick’s place and find evidence Eddie is nearby. Patrick continues to have moments where he feels the lure of Vecna, but he’s pulled out of it by Jason, who takes him to the shed. There, they see Eddie fleeing by boat, so they swim after him. While Jason catches up to Eddie, Patrick’s caught in Vecna’s trance and pulled beneath the lake’s water. Moments later, Patrick flies out of the water, his body brutally mangled by Vecna.
In the bunker, Eleven comes out of her surreal coma state and attacks Brenner. She makes another run for it but finds no escape, taken away by soldiers again. And finally, her powers erupt, nearly killing the soldiers after they’re blasted back from her. Brenner’s glad to see it. But Eleven’s powers don’t work at the drop of a hat, as she sees when she tries to blast Brenner away. It’s more complex than that. Now, Eleven goes hand-in-hand with Papa like it’s 1979 all over again.