Netflix’s Stranger Things
“Chapter Eight: Papa”
Directed & Written
by The Duffer Brothers
* For a recap & review of 4×07, click here.
* For a recap & review of 4×09, click here.
We begin back when Eleven had to face One, but afterwards it was only Eleven left in the bloody wreckage and Dr. Brenner was horrified by all the carnage throughout the lab. We see another glimpse of Brenner as he tattoos One, though it’s a vision Nancy’s having. Nancy runs through the bloody halls of the lab, still gripped by Vecna. She struggles to escape him as he approaches, and the further she runs, the deeper into a nightmarescape she goes. Soon she’s stuck in a chair with nowhere to run anymore. Vecna has a message for Eleven. He shows Nancy an apocalyptic vision and urges her to tell Eleven everything.
In Russia, a Demogorgon is running wild while Dmitri, Murray, Joyce, Hopper, and a scattered few others attempt to deal with the chaos locked inside. Despite the horrors, Joyce and Hopper have a moment to reconnect. The big guy gets a sense of how people in Hawkins feel about him, too; he needs that. Yet the problem still remains: there is a fucking Demogorgon out there and it’s not stopping. Plus, there may be a second one nearby. Hopper ignores the danger and takes a look anyway, discovering another monster tied to an operating table in the process of being dissected. He shoots the thing. Then he sees a bunch more of them suspended in liquid tanks. The Russians have been busy bees, it seems. There’s also something else locked away in there, like a tank full of billowing smoke. Creepy. Dmitri at least finds what looks like a potential escape hatch to get them all out of there.
Eleven’s shocked back into consciousness, as Dr. Brenner and Dr. Owens stand over her. And she goes back over to NINA, using her powers to pull it right from its steel casings, lifting it up into the air and setting back down again. Looks like her abilities are just fine, though not without the familiar bloody nose. Elsewhere, Jonathan, Argyle, Will, and Mike are on the road looking for NINA’s location. Will’s trying to keep Mike from falling into depression being worried about Eleven, as well as what comes after all this madness. Mike thinks maybe Eleven won’t need him anymore. Will—in spite of how he clearly feels about Mike—tries to assure his friend that everything will be all right. He shows Mike a painting he did of all them together fighting a three-headed dragon. He says Mike is the group’s “heart.” It’s interesting to see Jonathan watching Will in the rearview mirror talk about being different. He can tell his brother’s gay. It’s heartbreaking for Will to say what’s necessary to be there for his friend. Such a quietly devastating scene. Beautiful and melancholy at once.
Dr. Brenner talks openly with Eleven now about Henry Creel/One/Vecna. He and Dr. Owens explain everything about what’s going on, albeit Brenner goes a bit far. At the same time, Dr. Brenner is only being realistic. Hawkins, not to mention the world, is under great threat from Vecna. Meanwhile we see Nancy dealing with what Vecna showed her, all the darkness that “hasn‘t happened yet.” She tells her friends about a “giant creature with a gaping mouth” and other monsters. She saw so many horrible things. Steve thinks it isn’t real, but Nancy knows it’s what’s coming. She saw “four gates” opening in Hawkins. Max mentions Vecna’s clock and how it always chimes four times. Oh, my. The end of the world may be coming.
Nancy wants to go back into the Upside Down. She wants to enter Vecna’s lair to kill him. (Hilarious moment when they briefly squabble over what to call Vecna/Henry/One, embodying the dilemma of all reviewers this season.) But can they figure out who Vecna will target next? Max feels “marked” by Vecna, so maybe she can act kind of like a decoy.
Eventually, Hopper and the gang make it outside the Russian prison’s walls. From there, Murray drives them through the prison’s barbed wire gate and further to freedom. Thankfully they all escape Russian bullets, for now. They still have to get out of Russia itself. They’ve got Yuri, but he’s a greedy piece of shit and won’t do anything without being paid. Perhaps Dmitri has the solution to that: threats of death.
Eddie suggests going to a store called The War Zone, where they’ll be able to get weaponry to deal with Vecna. First, they’ve got to steal an RV, with the use of a Michael Myers mask, to get themselves there. Helps that Eddie knows how to hotwire cars: “Really living up to that Munson name.” I mean, it IS in the name of saving Hawkins/the world. Worth it.
Eleven’s seen her friends and what they’re planning. She’s scared and she wants to go help. But Dr. Brenner doesn’t think she’s prepared for what’s coming. He says that One is a different kind of monster, who “takes everything” from his victims, from their memories to their strength. He has faith in Eleven, but he doesn’t want her rushing off irrationally. Eleven still wants to go, and Dr. Owens also doesn’t want to wait, worrying they may be waiting too long. The doctors are at odds. Owens wants to give Eleven the choice “to stay or go.”
Steve drives the RV and talks to Nancy about the big family he’d always envisioned while James Taylor’s playing on the radio. A cute moment between the two, even if Nancy still has Jonathan out there waiting for her. Lucas is brainstorming about Vecna’s next victim, but Max says they don’t have time and she doesn’t want to put someone else—who has no clue what’s going on—in danger. Max is trying to prepare herself, going off what she already knows about Vecna, intending to “hide in the light” through a happy memory to avoid him. Yet another cute moment.
Hopper and the gang find Yuri has a way to fly, however, it’s a shitty little helicopter, not exactly what they were hoping. On top of that, Yuri’s never flied it. Good lord. Joyce suggests they try to contact Dr. Owens, who has lots of contacts. Dmitri does place a call, but now they have to wait for a call back to connect them, and if they do get connected to Owens they’ll likely have to talk in code because the KGB is always listening in 1980s Russia. What a trip!
At The War Zone, Eddie and his friends join all the rednecks out purchasing weaponry. Robin sees her lesbian crush there, witnessing her kiss a guy, and it’s another crushing blow for us queers in this episode. At the sales counter, Nancy runs into Jason looking at guns. There are a few of the others jocks kicking around trying to find weapons, too. They’re hunting for the Hellfire Club and anyone connected to it. Things in Hawkins are getting scary, and not only just because of Vecna, though Vecna’s killings are the cause of it, as well. Such a mess.
Jonathan is fed up in the van and stops before he and the lads get any more lost than they are already. When they get out, Argyle, still stoned, starts shouting out for NINA, and he stumbles onto a big set of tire tracks going further out into the desert. Simultaneously, a bunch of soldiers and several military vehicles are headed out into the desert, too. Underground in the lab, Dr. Owens is getting things ready to head out when he’s interrupted by the arrival of hostile military men. Eleven finds herself locked into the chamber with NINA, along with Brenner, who won’t let her leave.
Dr. Brenner’s arranged to lock the place down, forcing Eleven to comply by threatening Dr. Owens’s life. Eleven doesn’t trust Papa after a long line of terrible decisions. She’s suddenly starting to feel like Henry was right all along. Dr. Brenner blames Eleven for letting Henry “out of his prison.” But Eleven knows the truth, that all this horror is because of Dr. Brenner’s obsession: “You are the monster.” She says she’s leaving with Dr. Owens, and she says she’ll kill Dr. Brenner if he tries to stop them. Papa manages to sink a syringe into Eleven before she can escape. She nearly kills him, but the drugs finally put her out.
When Eleven wakes she has a tracking collar around her neck. Outside, Col. Sullivan and his soldiers have arrived to storm the underground lab and, presumably, capture/kill Eleven. Soon the soldiers make it inside and gunfire erupts between them and Brenner’s troops. That means Dr. Brenner has to get the subdued Eleven out of there. Dr. Owens is left to be questioned by Sullivan. Brenner makes it out into the desert only to be confronted with gunfire from a military chopper above. He takes a couple bullets and hits the ground, dropping Eleven, then he takes some more. Now Eleven’s left at the mercy of a sniper. Dr. Owens pleads with Sullivan, suggesting they put Eleven in a medically-induced coma so they can prove it isn’t her killing anybody, should the murders continue. The Colonel doesn’t like that idea, and orders the shot. That’s when Jonathan and the boys turn up driving into the scene, distracting everybody. That gives Eleven time enough to use her powers on the chopper, sending it crashing to the ground in a fiery explosion. She’s then reunited with Mike and Will. And Dr. Brenner releases Eleven from the tracking collar, too. He tells her: “You are my family, my child.” But it doesn’t undo all the tragedy and trauma. From here, Eleven embarks on a new journey, saying goodbye to Papa. Although she’s with her friends again, and if all’s right in the world there’s still Dr. Owens, who never gave up on her.
The whole gang must now all do their parts together to face Vecna.
Max, Lucas, and Erica are headed into the Creel house.
Here goes nothing!