As the Mind Flayer’s plan moves forward, everyone is looking for answers. However, those who find them might not be so glad they did.
On Stranger Things Season 3 Episode 4, Nancy and Jonathan deal with the repercussions of their actions. Max and El rejoin the party and begin devising a plan to find and destroy the Mind Flayer. Hopper and Joyce interrogate Mayor Kline about the company he keeps, and Robin, Steve and Dustin enlist some additional help on their mission to spy on the Russians.
Nancy vs. Jonathan
At the end of last episode, Jonathan and Nancy visited Mrs. Driscoll in her home looking for more information on the rabid rats. Instead, they found the poor old woman rabid, gobbling fertilizer and chemicals. When the police arrive, they must face the consequences of their crimes—breaking and entering, posing as reporters, and pursuing a story they’d been told to drop. Ultimately, that consequence is losing their jobs.
This causes an argument in the car. Jonathan resents Nancy for pushing him to break the rules to pursue the story, and Nancy can’t see why he’s so upset about losing a job that treated them so poorly. It circles back to the fundamental misunderstandings that have always been at the core of their relationship—classism versus sexism. Nancy can’t understand what it’s like for Jonathan to struggle and pitch in with family finances. Jonathan can’t truly understand the discrimination Nancy faces at work, or the pressure society puts on her to conform to a certain standard. It’s been a strain on their friendship since season one.
In this episode, Nancy suggests that she and Jonathan just don’t understand each other anymore. This does raise a few valid questions. Nancy left Steve because of the deep connection she’d forged with Jonathan saving the world. But will Jancy’s shared trauma be enough to sustain a healthy relationship? Since they’re a favorite fan pairing, I’m sure it will be. Still, it’s an interesting avenue I hope the show will continue exploring.
The Wheeler Women and Sexism
I want to take a moment to talk about the scene with Nancy and Karen. After losing her job, Nancy finally opens up to her mom about the situation (science-fiction elements aside). This was really satisfying to watch, especially as we’ve seen Karen and Nancy struggling to connect since season one. I’m glad they had the time to bond over the struggles they’ve been facing. While watching women be treated poorly on TV gets old quick, listening to moms call men shitheads doesn’t.
While Nancy’s struggle with discrimination has been very on the nose, Karen has been dealing with sexism as well. Or rather, she’s dealing with the fact that she has “lost her battle.” In her heart to heart with Nancy, she all but confesses that she gave up fighting the system a long time ago. That’s how she ended up married to Ted Wheeler, living the so-called “cul-de-sac” life.
The thing I liked most about this scene is how it gave a purpose to her failed fling with Billy. I didn’t enjoy watching it, but I no longer feel like it was a sensational storyline used to get views. (Even though it was, in fact, marketed that way.) Karen’s feelings for Billy were a fleeting attempt at recapturing her youth, getting out of her suburban life where she feels trapped. Hopefully, this conversation with Nancy will inspire her to fight back in other ways, and we can put the jailbait romance to rest. There’s no bad time to reinvent yourself, and it’s never too late to start again.
Hopper Testing Mayor Kline
Jim Hopper really went off the rails this episode. When Joyce describes the man who attacked him at Hawkins Lab, Hopper goes straight to Mayor Kline for some answers. And he makes it abundantly clear he’s not taking no for an answer. Sure, the Russians made things personal by knocking him out cold, but I didn’t expect to see Hopper threaten to cut a man’s finger off. It all goes back to the newly rash, emotional Hopper I talked about in my previous articles.
The thing that makes Hopper seem so unhinged is that Mayor Kline seems fairly innocent. He’s definitely a crooked politician who’s made real estate deals off the books, but he pleads with Hopper that he was threatened into doing it. Hopper doesn’t seem to trust that entirely. Maybe it’s because Mayor Kline is played by Cary Elwes, but I’m not ready to believe it’s that simple either. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Kline is working more closely with the Russians, or in on the plan at the mall.
Kline certainly made it clear that he’s not to be trifled with. When Hopper tries to blackmail him, he throws everything right back. While he’s powerless to stop the onslaught of Hopper’s punches, Kline is sure to remind him that he can use his political power to discredit him and have him removed from the police force. I certainly hope it won’t come to that. Still, between Kline and the Russians, Hopper needs to watch his back.
Erica and the Scoop Troop
Now that Dustin, Steve and Robin have confirmed the Russian’s shipping operation, their next step is to figure out what’s in the boxes. Robin theorizes that their best bet is to sneak into the room through the air ducts. Though there’s some great banter between Dustin and Steve, their attempts yield little to no results. So the group turns to Lucas’s younger sister—Erica.
Erica was a scene stealer in Stranger Things Season 2, immediately becoming a fan favorite with her sassing and bullying, and her unwavering sense of self-confidence. It’s these traits that earn her a place in Season 3. Dustin, Steve and Robin spend most of the episode convincing her to help them, bribing her with free ice cream for life. Eventually she agrees, but not without a little more butterscotch ice cream and a lot more verbal abuse.
I was nervous at this point that the plan would fall through. Erica might not get into the vault, or make it only to find nothing in the boxes. It was a surprise when the group found just what they were looking for: containers of acid green goo that looks exactly like the kind of thing an evil Russian would be shipping. In fact, with the exception of the room locking and dropping hundreds of feet below the ground, the plan went off without a hitch.
This plotline definitely feels super accelerated to me. I can’t tell if things are going really well now so they can take a turn for the worst later, or if it’s just the writing. At times this subplot feels so grand that the show is rushing to cram in all the details and solutions it needs to make sense. It’s a concern of mine moving forward, but the great characters and witty dialogue are enough to hold me over for now. For more, please rewatch the part where Dustin candidly tells Steve, “If you die, I die.”
The Sauna Test
Though the boys and girls have been divided in the previous episodes, Max and El rejoin the group when a new threat shows itself. Will finally gets the attention of his friends as he explains what it felt like to be under the control of the Mind Flayer, and El puts the pieces together about Billy. They devise the sauna test to trap Billy in the sauna at the public pool, where they can turn up the heat and prove that he is the Mind Flayer’s new host.
While the party gets their proof, it leads to a dangerous battle. With his enhanced strength, Billy is able to break out of the prison they’ve trapped him in and even battle Eleven’s powers. He nearly strangles her in the ensuing fight. Mike attempts to save her, and she nearly drains herself trying to return the favor. Watching Eleven level up to take on stronger bad guys is another thing that will never get old about this show. It’s absolutely entrancing to watch.
However, Billy does make it out of the public pool, and escapes to the iron mill where he’s based his operation. Heather appears to be his new second in command, reminding him that no matter how strong Eleven is, she can’t kill “us.” That brings up a bunch of new concerns as the camera pans out to show the Mind Flayer’s growing army. What exactly will they be used for? How does it relate to this season’s new monster of amassing meat and bones? Was Will right about the bit of the Mind Flayer trapped in their universe, or is this all a result of the Russian’s work on the Gate?
Only time can answer these questions. Storylines are already starting to collide, and it looks like things will only get darker from here on out.
All three seasons of Stranger Things are now available for streaming on Netflix.