Stranger Things 2
“Chapter One: MADMAX”
Welcome back, friends. Back to Hawkins. Back to the 80’s. Back to the Upside Down! Grab your walkie talkie; grab your waffles; and let’s dive into Chapter One: MADMAX!
Before we head to Hawkins, we take the cold open to stop off in Pittsburgh, PA. Its October 28, 1984 and we are watching 5 punk-inspired (think mohawks and bad makeup) hooligans making their getaway after a robbery. I’d like to note they are driving the most Eighties van that has ever Eighties-ied. Led by the calm figure of Kali in the front passenger seat, the Punks make a succession of turns but the police continue to catch up to them. Finally, with a closing of her eyes and fist, Kali is able to collapse the entrance to the tunnel they just entered in their bitchin’ van, causing the police to stack up on each other in a classic police car pile up. As the Punks getaway, Kali wipes some blood from her nose and we see a tattoo 008 on her arm. Ah, she’s another gift of the Hawkins National Laboratory. Before we leave Pittsburgh, its important to note that the policeman driving the head police car totally imagined the collapse of the tunnel entrance. As his partner admonishes him, we see that the tunnel is in perfect, not collapsed state — that’s some specific localized mind power ol’ 008 has, huh?
NOW we get back to Hawkins where the boys have converged upon the arcade. Oh hey, Will? No biking or walking home or getting sucked into alternate dimensions. Ok? Bai! A year later and Joyce still has no chill. Speaking of Will, he kind of … isn’t ok. And I not talking about the real harm being done here, which is Will’s God-awful “Prince Valiant” haircut which hasn’t changed in a year. No, while Dustin tries to figure out who this MADMAX is that’s systematically topping his Highest Scores on various games, Will has a very real, waking nightmare of being back in the Upside Down.
Police Station. The next day, a Crackpot named Murray is trying to convince Hop that the Russians are using a shaved hair girl to slowly infiltrate and attack Hawkins. In this grand conspiracy, this Russian plot is connected to Barb’s disappearance and/or murder. Hop makes an implication that this Murray is working for Barb’s parents. More on that in a bit. Anyway, Hop blows him off but clearly, El is still around.
Steve and Nancy. Zzzz zzzz zzzz. Sorry, I frequently fall asleep during Nancy, Steve and Jonathan scenes, especially when they’re interacting with each other because, booooring. Anyway, Nance and Steve are still together a year later. Steve has written an incoherent essay for his college applications. Nancy tries to be as kind as possible but its possible all of the hair product has damaged Steve’s mind.
As we sit in Mr. Clarke’s class, a new student, Maxine “Max” joins our gang, all the way from California. She’s got red hair and the attention of our gang of 4. Given their age, it’s unclear whether it’s because she’s a girl or because she’s named Max as in the Dig Dug score topping “MadMax.”
Joyce is dating
Samwise Gamgee Bob Newby, and they have an aggressive old people make out session in the closet at Joyce’s job. Hot!
Merril’s Pumpkins. Merril is a grumpy farmer who is currently pissed off about his competition, Eugene, sneaking onto his property and destroying his entire crop of pumpkins overnight. And when I say destroyed, I mean that the entire crop lays rotting and fly-ridden right in the field where they lay. Eugene is a pumpkin killing monster. Hop is dubious.
Jonathan and Nancy. Zzz zzz zzz. Clearly she loves Jonathan but she is still with Steve. Zzz. Zzz. Zzz. Come to this Halloween party. zzz zzz zzz. No one cares.
Hawkins National Laboratory. Since the events of last year, including the whole vision of the Upside Down and slug vomit, Will has been going to regular physical and mental check ups at the restored Hawkins Lab Facility. Now run by the kindly, Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser!), Will is clearly very excited to be here again! Sarcasm. As Dr. Owens interviews Will about his latest “episode” in the arcade, we see the mirror in the room is really a two-way mirror which has on the other side of it in a dark room, lots of sinister looking government types wearing suits and looking sinister. This surprises, no one. Will is pretty open with Dr. Owens and tells them about the arcade Upside Down incident. By the way, Will is pretty sure the evil in the Upside Down wants to kill everyone … but him.
Back in his office, sans Will, Dr. Owens explains to Joyce and Hopper that this is all PTSD related since the anniversary of Will’s experience is coming up. Best plan? Let it play itself but know, it’s definitely going to get worse before it gets better. Seeing they’re not convinced, Dr. Owens throws in a “Trust Me.” Ahh, all better. Also, Dr. Owens mentions “those guys” are gone; presumably meaning Dr. Brenner and his goon squad from season 1 but SPOILERS: Dr. Owens is one of “those guys.” In fact, he may now ne THE guy. After Joyce and Hopper leave, Dr. Owens beelines to the basement of the Secret Evil Lab and oversees some minions flame-throwing another entrance to the Upside Down. Well, that’s encouraging.
Back at the Arcade. Through some not so subtle stalking, Dustin and Lucas determine that Girl Max IS the Dig Dug MadMax but Lucas and Dustin seem more turned on by this fact than mad. Oh, hormones! They’re wonderful.
At the Wheeler House, we learn that Mike is well on the road to becoming a Grade A Bad Boy. His crimes include cussing at adults, stealing change from his sister (to feed his arcade habit), and adding graffiti to an oft graffitied bathroom stall. His punishment – he must give up two boxes worth of donated nerd treasures. Also, we learn Mike has made an attempt to contact El every day for 352 days on his Walkie Talkie.
Barbs Parent’s House. Remember Barb? Who cares about this character that we barely knew and cared about even less? Well, Steve and Nancy are having dinner with Barb’s parents and her parents still very much care about finding out what happened to their daughter. We learn that the Hollands are selling their house in order to pay for a journalist they’ve hired, Murray Baum (the crackpot from the beginning of the episode), to find her. Oh, Hollands. Just let Barb be dead in the Upside Down. Nancy is so distributed by all of this that she rushes to the bathroom to maybe vomit while Steve tucks into the KFC (yum), which he quite rightly claims to be “finger linkin’ good.” You’ll recall that Nancy and Steve were doing the horizontal mambo while Barb was being abducted by the Demogorgon so, Nance is having some guilt about this whole thing. This is why you should wait to have sex until you’re married, kids. Or else, the Demogorgon will abduct your friends and make slugs grow out of their rotting carcasses.
The Byers House. Will is doing some on-point Zombie Boy drawings (apparently “Zombie Boy” has become a name he’s called at school by un-creative bullies) and when Jonathan sees this, he advises Will to embrace his inner Freak, just like Jonathan has. A polarizing discussions happens where we are asked to choose between David Bowie and Kenny Rogers and, FUCK YOU JONATHAN, I LIKE KENNY ROGERS! I also like the Michael Keaton masterpiece, Mr. Mom. Sadly, it turns out Bob and I are a lot alike. *Sigh* As we watch Michael Keato navigate being a house husband, the late night shrilling of the Byers phone send Joyce into the immediate cold sweats. Again, year later and girlfriend has no chill.
Later that night, Will has an Upside Down vision right in his house … well, right outside his house to be more accurate. Through this raging Upside Down storm (the same type of storm he saw at the Arcade), Will spies some sort of giant, spider-like creature. Oh, that can’t be good.
In the final scene, out at a run down cabin, Hopper comes home, takes off his belt and sits down to a small kitchen table, which already been set with silverware and TV dinners. He apologizes for being late as a small voice chastises him for not signalling. The complainer? Eleven! With Unruly, Curly Hair! And scene. See you in Episode Two!