This episode of Stranger Things is comprised entirely of interrogations: Steve and the Russians, Hopper and Alexei, Eleven and Billy. Let’s hope we can get some answers.
On Stranger Things Season 3 Episode 6, bad luck finally catches up to the Scoops Troop in the Russian base. Eleven confronts the Mind Flayer, and Hopper and Joyce search for answers by talking to Alexei.
The Russians Catch Robin and Steve
After two episodes of sneaking around a Russian base, Steve, Robin, Dustin and Erica are finally spotted. The older teens sacrifice themselves to give Dustin and Erica time to run. This leaves them in the clutches of the stereotypical evil Russians, who torture, drug and interrogate them for answers. After all, it’s not Stranger Things if Steve doesn’t get pummeled at least once.
This did give us some incredible quality time with Steve and Robin. Wounded, hopeless, and bound on the floor, Robin reveals that she was obsessed with Steve in high school. He was an idiot, and still is, but on some level she still wanted to be like him. Steve reassures her that being King Steve wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. His popularity, his car, his hair—“it’s all bullshit.” Having Steve quote Nancy here was a really wonderful and creative way to hurt my feelings!
The Russians return to administer some kind of truth serum, which they hope will make Steve more willing to talk. While he continues to insist that he works for Scoops Ahoy, Robin does reveal that they know about the radio code. I particularly liked the in-canon acknowledgement that a handful of teens breaking Russian military code was absurd. Steve implicates Dustin, who promptly rushes in with a taser to save his friends just in time.
I’ve rambled about the dynamics of this group in the past, but this episode really gave them traction. Wherever Steve and Robin’s relationship leads, I honestly feel like they’re a good match for each other. And the conversation Dustin had with Erica in the air vents about being a nerd offered some much appreciated character development. Sass and verbal abuse can only get you so far.
Hopper Interrogates Alexei
The concept of Hopper interrogating a Russian scientist through Murray as a translator is funny in and of itself. Hopper drives miles to meet Alexei’s demands, only to be refused because the Slurpee he bought was strawberry, not cherry. Once again, Hopper loses it. He roughs up Alexei, throws him out of the house, and throws the car keys at him. Joyce and Murray worry that Alexei will escape, but Jim assures them that they are Alexei’s best chance of staying alive. And though it looks for a moment as though Alexei will flee, it turns out that Jim is right.
This scene easily could have been played just for laughs. It made me really appreciate Hopper’s presumptive speech about Alexei’s chances returning to the Russians. They frame it as a mistake for just long enough to make it seem funny, and then reveal that Jim is correct. After a few episodes of Hopper going off the handle, it felt good to be reminded that he knows what he’s doing and he is good at his job. He’s the Police Chief of Hawkins for a reason.
The rest of the episode fills in the necessary plot work. Alexei reveals that the Russians were trying to open the Gate, and that while it’s nearly impossible, there is a way to shut their machine down. Hopper calls Dr. Sam Owens for backup. While Hawkins Lab is closed for business, it seems as though Owens continued working for the government elsewhere. Unable to sit around waiting for backup, Joyce leads the charge out of the house to go and save “[their] kids.” It is the top tier of the found family trope, and it’s hard to imagine loving this line any more.
Mike Confronts His Feelings
While El retreats into her room to use her powers to locate the Flayed, the rest of the group breaks out into an argument. Mike is worried Eleven is pushing herself to her limits and could seriously hurt herself in the process. Max tells him that he’s a paranoid and controlling boyfriend, and that he needs to trust his girlfriend. El knows her own limits, and doesn’t need anyone telling her what to do. While arguing his case, Mike accidentally blurts out that he’s in love with Eleven.
It’s nice to see Mike coming face to face with his feelings, which viewers and characters alike have known since Season 1. But the argument as a whole was really conflicting for me. Max and Nancy make the great point that no one knows Eleven better than she knows herself. No one should be telling her what to do with her powers, or what to do with her life. On the other hand, I totally get why Mike is worried about Eleven. He has lost her twice, and I think it’s normal for him to be nervous about exhausting herself when that’s exactly how he lost her in Season 1.
Where things start to get touchy for me is when Max alludes to Mike being controlling. The problem is that Mike’s concern doesn’t, at any point, actually stop Eleven from doing what she wants to do. He’s just a teenage boy who’s overly concerned about his first girlfriend. But the one character who has been controlling Eleven is let off the hook: Hopper.
In the previous episode, when Mike brings this up, El just tells him that Hopper was right to separate them. I don’t love that the show forgives Hopper for being controlling and admonishes Mike for the same behavior. I could write a whole dissertation on this conflict alone, but it’s something to keep in mind. Mike and Max both make good points in this scene, and Mike’s emotions are doing a lot of the talking.
Eleven Versus The Mind Flayer
Even though Eleven finds Billy, the group agrees that they can’t go to him in case it’s a trap. El decides to reach him another way: by using her powers to tap into his mind. Mike is concerned, again, since the only time El’s tried that is with her mother back in Season 2. But El pleads with him to trust her. Stepping back into the Void, she contacts Billy, and we get a look inside his head and past.
The audience already knows that Billy’s father is abusive, but the flashbacks in this episode show us just how much and how long Billy’s been dealing with it. It shows how his mother was his saving grace, right up until she left him and his father behind. El has to pass through these memories to get to the memories of “the source” that the Mind Flayer is working out of. The whole scene seemingly works as a metaphor, showing how Billy’s father is the source of his anger and evil while Eleven searches for the source of the Mind Flayer’s. It’s a plea to make him more sympathetic, as he’s undoubtedly a victim in this season. That said, I just want to take a moment to remind everyone that being abused is not a valid justification for abusing others.
Just when Eleven gets her information, she finds that she’s unable to pull herself out of Billy’s mind. By stepping in, she’s also opened the door to her own mind—and the Mind Flayer takes full advantage. It’s the one time we get to hear the monster’s true thoughts, allowing him to monologue as any classic villain would. He promises that all of the Flayed can now see her, and that they’re coming for her and her friends. It’s all of Mike’s worst fears come true, and a perfect set up for the next episode.
Wrangling Loose Ends
Now that we’re moving into Act III of Season 3, it’s important to take stock of what we know. So let’s do a quick recap of everything up to Stranger Things Season 3 Episode 6. At the end of Season 2, Eleven closed the Gate, but with part of the Mind Flayer still in our world. When the Russian scientists discovered this, they moved their base to Hawkins and built Starcourt Mall. They want to exploit the weakness between dimensions to break through the barrier.
Mayor Kline helped the Russians set up the Starcourt Mall, but as this episode showed, he has no power over them or any real knowledge about their intentions. The mall is their main base of operations, which is where the Scoops Troop has infiltrated. However, the Russians also have other labs around Hawkins, which lead Hopper and Joyce to Alexei. In the coming episodes, he plans to help them infiltrate the main base at Starcourt Mall. But first, Joyce and Hopper are off to find “their kids” at the Fourth of July Fun Fair.
The Russians’ machines haven’t succeeded in fully opening the Gate, but they have opened it just enough to allow that fragment of the Mind Flayer to awaken. Presumably, this was unintentional, and the Russians know nothing about the other subplot. The Mind Flayer started by using passing rats as hosts, then upgraded to Billy. He in turn infected others, all of whom were overcome by the compulsion to eat massive amounts of chemicals and fertilizer. Though it’s not explicitly stated, it seems the fertilizer is the key to the malleable aspect of the Flayed. It allows them to change their own matter, and exist both as brainwashed zombies and liquefied flesh.
Nancy and Jonathan first looked at the case because of the rats and missing fertilizer. Eleven and Max were investigating Billy’s odd behavior and thoughts, as well as his missing coworker Heather. The boys began investigating because Will’s status as a previous host of the Mind Flayer allows him to sense its presence. And now they’re all working together, and waiting in Hopper’s cabin for the Mind Flayer and its disgusting meat monster to come find them!
Sound good? Make sense? Good!
What did you think of Stranger Things Season 3 Episode 6? Were you worried about any characters’ fates? Who did you side with in the fight over Eleven? Let us know in the comments, or share your thoughts with us on Twitter!
All three seasons of Stranger Things are currently available on Netflix.