Thursday, July 4, 2019

REVIEW: 'Stranger Things' - El and Max Spend Time at the Mall While Billy Spirals in 'Chapter Two: The Mall Rats'

Netflix's Stranger Things - Episode 3.02 "Chapter Two: The Mall Rats"

Nancy and Jonathan follow a lead, Steve and Robin sign on to a secret mission, and Max and Eleven go shopping. A rattled Billy has troubling visions.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's Stranger Things.

"Chapter Two: The Mall Rats" was written by The Duffer Brothers and directed by The Duffer Brothers

It's so significant that El now has a female friend. So much of her life has been defined by what men project onto her. She was whatever the scientists at Hawkins Lab required of her. And now, she listens to what Mike and Hopper have to say about how she should be and act. It's not healthy. It's very controlling. Even Lucas' advice to Mike about needing to win back their girlfriends is toxic behavior that treats them as a prize that needs to be won at any cost. Meanwhile, El and Max can be off on their own actually pushing themselves to be the best versions they can be. El can finally explore what she actually likes. She is the one coming to define her life now. She has that freedom with Max. This is a much better executed version of the same story from last season that saw El run away to Chicago. Max seems like a good influence. And yet, everyone remains very concerned about El being in public too often. Those concerns may ultimately be justified because of the new monstrous threat that is slowly creeping into the narrative. Right now, it appears the monsters from the Upside Down are actively trying to snatch bodies from the living. That's horrifying and plays into a new specific genre of horror films. At the moment, it plays as Billy constantly being tormented by visions of violence he could perpetrate against the various women in his life. Karen is safe for the moment but Heather is not. The scope of the season is really just starting to take shape though. It's just like the disease-infected rat that explodes and forms a new creature altogether. That's absolutely terrifying. Sure, it's annoying how Jonathan is there to see that something is wrong but not present when the metamorphosis actually takes place. But again, it's all in service of building up this new creature. That's a significant threat. But so is the idea that the creatures of the Upside Down wish to take over people and try to exert their power and control over the world in that particular way. After three seasons, the show needed to change up the various threats that come from this alternate reality. At this point, the characters should be smart enough to suspect that something that seems scientifically improbable may not actually be the case. In fact, it's rewarding to see Joyce make quick progress with the new magnet problem while Dustin, Steve and Robin learn that the Russians are now conducting their experiments from within Hawkins. All of that is very ominous. But again, most of the character-based drama comes from the people of this world trying to move on with their lives and how that clashes with those who haven't quite reached those levels of maturity. Will is still in his basement just trying to play D&D with his best friends. He doesn't want to save the world again because that would mean his life is once more in jeopardy. Nor does he care to get sucked into Mike and Lucas' adventure to buy an apology gift for El. It's all crazy and awkward. It's too complicated for him. It's complicated for El as well because she doesn't know how to react to learning that Mike has started lying to her. He promised her that he would never do that. Their relationship has now changed so that they are dating. That introduces a new set of issues. El dumps his ass here. It's empowering because it plays as the best thing for everyone involved. But it's also precipitated by Hopper who really doesn't know what he's doing at all. He thinks he's this charming and commanding presence whom people love and respect. In actuality though, he's mostly just trying to make things work without putting too much work into the emotional and personal connections.