Stranger Things swept the geek internet last year, with it’s 80s nostalgia and adorably nerdy kids. So everyone was waiting eagerly for the second season, or sequel as the creators have styled it, to drop. I even took a day off work and started my binge watch at 3 AM! I am absolutely a fan.
As part of my fandom, I love reading recaps and analyses of TV shows. But by Saturday, a consensus was already forming: Episode 7, The Lost Sister, sucked.
It was the worst episode of the season. No one cares about what’s outside of Hawkins. It ground the momentum to screeching halt. No one asked for an 80s urban blight homage, give us more Spielberg pastiche!
Several of these are strictly personal opinion and I can’t really argue with them. If you only care about Hawkins, that’s fair! It’s what we were prepped to expect over 14 episodes. I happened to love seeing the world outside of Hawkins. And I’ve wondered since her first appearance what happened to the 10 kids that came before Eleven. I also absolutely love Millie Bobbie Brown and think the girl can do no wrong, so I was curious whether she could carry an episode by herself, especially one in which she wasn’t always the most sympathetic (and I don’t think anyone had any criticisms of her particular performance, so at least we all agree on that).
So did The Lost Sister bring the season’s momentum to a screeching halt? Yes. And that’s a good thing.
The binge watch model means that building suspense in any episode other than the finale is difficult. Whatever peril the characters may be in, you can find out in 10 seconds whether they make it out okay. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just means that a time-honored storytelling method doesn’t work the same in the era of Netflix.
The placement of Episode 7 gives us the Netflix equivalent of a week’s hiatus.
Episode 6’s cliffhanger is terrifying. Hopper is looking out over the pit that leads to the Upside Down, and we see several Demodogs coming for some of our favorite characters. We want to know immediately, will everyone escape? Can the Demodogs make it through the glass? Will they be unleashed on an unsuspecting Hawkins?
WE DON’T GET TO FIND OUT. Genius.
Instead we go to Chicago for a character study in El, aka Jane. She’s been cooped up in a cabin for close to a year. She’s met the mother she never knew. Now she gets to meet her long-lost sister, and maybe get a Dorothy-like lesson that there’s no place like home – and home is with Hopper now. (And in keeping our 80s nostalgia theme, Dorothy in this case is of course played by Diana Ross. Okay, Wikipedia tells me The Wiz was 1978, but I’m keeping the reference.)
And after the uplifting ending, where El realizes that murder is bad and she doesn’t belong with her sister…we can return to Hawkins lab, where our nightmares are already in progress as the Demodogs make short work of the protective barrier and we get a bloodbath of faceless, nameless baddies. And the resolution to the, perhaps inevitable, death of Bob Newby.
Episode 7 of Stranger Things 2 provides several crucial functions. It expands the world; the creators have mentioned before that they can’t just terrorize Hawkins year after year; the threat needs to get bigger, and now we know more people that could be affected. It increases El’s powers in a way that Hopper never could have encouraged. And it created an effective cliffhanger, making Bob’s heroic sacrifice in episode 8 feel all the more important, since we’d been waiting for merely two hours to find out the fate of our heroes, rather than mere minutes.
Did you watch Stranger Things 2 yet? What did you think of this experiment in format?
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