Stranger Things 2 (“The Gate”)

Season 2, Episode 9
Date of release: October 27, 2017 (Netflix)

It was a fine season finale, and it even worked well as a series finale, if Netflix had chosen not to renew the show for some weird reason. The episode really had the “end of the world” vibe the first season might have needed every once in a while, and there was enough action and thrill to sustain a couple of thriller shows that maybe haven’t had this kind of suspense and thrill in their final episodes. Even a couple of emotional moments brought the characters close to each other, giving a sense of closure at the end, despite the camera moving towards the Upside Down, showing one last glimpse of the mind flayer, because maybe it will be the frontrunning antagonist for the next bundle of chapters. If your dogs can’t do the work for you, maybe you should do the work yourself. Something the First Evil should have thought about, because maybe then it would have managed to defeat the last defenders of Sunnydale, back in season seven of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Then again, the First Evil wasn’t really a thing, but neither seemed the shadow monster, as it only seemed to be consisting of … a shadow.

Never make Max mad again!

As expected, Eleven turned out to be the hero of the hour once more, but in a somewhat unexpected twist, she survived the experience. Now I know why Sean Astin was hired for this season in the first place. Get a new character in, who is charming and loving and definitely not the villains (as I have theorized), and kill him or her off close to the finale, for the added extra touch of an emotional gut punch. But really, after two seasons I would have expected for another one of the main characters to get killed off, even if it would have just been Billy, the asshole, whose nuts deserved to be hacked off his dick when he confronted the kids. Or maybe even Steve, to give Nancy something to think about and not see Jonathan as her savior in love and relationships. It would have been dramatic to find out that Steve died protecting the kids as he was supposed to, and it would have been something of a bittersweet ending if he had died while actually protecting the kids — sacrificing himself because of a promise he made to Joyce and Hopper. But I guess the snow ball needed happy times, and no tears in the background, so everyone survived, everyone got to dance, everyone got to see 1985. And Eleven even got to be a normal human being for once. That doesn’t mean though the government won’t be knowing of her in the future. Hell, if Kali is still out there, then people will wonder if there are other kid with a three-digit number on their arm, and the government is creepy enough to look for them and find them. Or even repeat the experiment. At least nine kids could still be out there — what if they are completely different from Eleven and Kali? And will we get to call Eleven on her birth name with the next season?

The climax of the story was pretty solid. As it was the case midway through the season, the writers separated the character again and had them go through their own major crisis and fight. And I kinda loved it. At first I was worried that the kids would really sit this one out, which is why I celebrated that they got the idea of flaming up the hub of the tunnel system. I was also worried that Will would be overheated and burn up, which is why I pushed my thumbs for Joyce that she would see her son alive at the end of the road, especially when she pushed the heaters to the max and was risking all of it just on a hunch. I was also worried that stuff would go sideways back in the lab, but I guess everything went fine. Even if the final moments of the climax happened to be pretty convenient. The dogs came to eat up Hopper and Eleven, stop them from closing the gate (the mind flayer behind it looked kind of like H.R. Giger’s Alien creature), but the kids and Steve were right on time with their flames, and the mind flayer definitely didn’t kill Will, even though his family was roasting the hell out of him. Meanwhile, the image of Steve and Dustin in the middle of the dogs running toward the gate looked kind of cool. I was really thinking that Steve was dead, when Mike was looking don, eyes wide open. But no, Eleven needed to be right on time as well. Fantastic coordination on multiple sides! That’s how you save the world in style. That’s how you execute a game plan in a “Hail Mary” fashion.

Tiny humans against huge gate.

At the end of the day, the Billy drama wasn’t really needed though, again. What it gave to this season was a back story for the newest member of the party, but I got the feeling there was more to Billy than the writers wanted to make apparent for the viewers. His abuse on the hands of his father is a major back story, but the only way that worked for the narrative was for Billy to go to the Joyce house and almost beat Steve to death (poor Steve, gets almost dismembered by a confused boy once a season), and for Max to have that final moment of kick-assery, turning her into a full-fletched member of the party. But Billy had a little too much screentime for being that kind of plot device. Although it was kind of fun to see him flirt with Mike and Nancy’s mother like that, even if I realized once more that 1980s assholes with shaved chests can go screw themselves. I don’t like these type of people. I cannot understand what women were seeing in these dicks of men.

After two seasons, the characters have definitely changed. Steve is a good guy now, and boy, is he a good guy. He cares for Nancy enough to let her have what she wants. The kids have proven that it pays out to be a geek, because their knowledge of the world of Dungeons & Dragons made their party get closer to the supernatural antagonists and clean up house. Joyce has become an overprotective mother to a son who might not even know where up and down is – Will’s insecurity on the dance floor was hard to watch, and even I wondered how he will make it in life later, with that kind of back story and trauma hanging above his head for the rest of his future. And then there is Eleven, who visited the site of her experimental abuse, and decided nonetheless to fix her accidental mistake of opening the gate. I can only hope she and Hopper checked the entire building for other cracks that might have still been open, because who knows what lurks in the darkness of Hawkins. I mean, the shadow monster inside Will escaped out into the woods — what about that little convenient fact that could easily become the center point of next season’s narrative?

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