Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 Episode 4 lunged straight into the many mysteries that seem to be unfolding in Hawkins at the same time, and Episode 5 masterfully shows the unfurling of the same, with our protagonists getting a little closer to the truth, eventually.
With so many parallel stories, it was inevitable that the Duffer brothers would make the narratives intersect at some point in order to make for a more cohesive ending. What pleases us most about this, is the fact that we see all our main characters begin to come together and take a stand against an alien force, be it the Russians, or the creatures from Upside Down. Titled ‘The Flayed’, this episode focuses mostly on the greatest of horrors, that comes from the monster from the Upside Down, that the Hawkins group have dubbed the Mind Flayer.
Episode 5 picks up pretty much where the previous episode had left off. We see our Starcourt squad hurtling downwards in an elevator while attempting to investigate the Russian involvement in the newly built mall. Hopper and Joyce are shown to be hot on the trace of the assailant and to find out why Joyce’s magnets keep on falling. Meanwhile, two of our storylines intersect, when Nancy realizes her diseased rats are related to the Upside Down and immediately calls Jonathan to check on Will’s safety.
Meanwhile, the kids realize they will need some more help, but El confirms that Hopper is on his own adventure, and headed to ‘Ill-annoy’ (Illinois). Dustin too seems unavailable, and rightly so, because he is trapped in the secret Russian elevator. Anyhow, with no one to turn to, our Hawkins gang shoulders the responsibility to stop this monster, and this time, they realize that purging the monster is not enough, they have to kill it, else it will just find another host. With this comes the realization that the only person who can perhaps do that is El.
Around this time Nancy and Jonathan join in and the gang together decides that need to track the monster to its location to stop it. This leads them to the hospital to Mrs. Driscoll, the crazy rat lady, and they are in for a nasty surprise. Speaking of nasty surprises, Hopper and Joyce have their fair share, when they track the assailant’s hideout and begin to scratch the surface of the same mystery that our Starcourt Squad is handling when they find a secret passageway to underground tunnels where Russians are hard at work. Hopper tangles with the assailant from the lab again, and now that we get a closer look at him, he looks like a Russian version of the Terminator.
Another fascinating fight ensues, and Hopper manages to hold a bit of his own this time. However, the Russian Terminator is not so easily deterred. When Hopper and Joyce escape with a Russian scientist, Alexei, or Smirnoff as Hopper calls him, Russian Terminator begins to track them. This will inevitably lead to a more violent confrontation in the upcoming episodes. However, for now, our duo has managed to take Alexei to a person who can understand Russian, who is none other than Murray Bauman, the PI we saw in the earlier seasons.
Speaking of unexpected surprises, the Starcourt Squad gets one, just when they begin to believe they might be trapped in the elevator forever. When two Russians come to offload the elevator, they use this opportunity to escape and find themselves in an underground facility run by Russians. The gang plays a good game of hide and seek, and Steve even knocks out a Russian guard, in an attempt to escape and discover the truth. Their suspicions are confirmed that the Russians are indeed trying to open a portal to Upside Down, and the green stuff in the canisters help power a machine to open the portal.
However, in an episode that has its fair share of moments that will make you hold your breath and excellent action sequences, the best part still remains when the gang goes to the hospital and meets a new kind of monster. The flayed or infected people begin attacking Nancy and Jonathan, who go to free Mrs. Driscoll to track her back to the monster. While this happens a couple of floors above, the kids are oblivious to this. Some jittery amateurish fighting ensues, and ends in the formation of a new and scarier monster than what we have ever seen on ‘Stranger Things’. With Nancy and Jonathan trapped in a hallway with this creature, will they make it out alive? Episode 5 ends on a note that will make it almost impossible not to immediately move onto the next episode.
Episode 5 has made it clear that the Duffer brothers are not going to be slowing the pace down, now that they are in the final stretch of the season. However, even in this fast-paced episode, they manage to pack in moments of humor and sweetness that makes ‘Stranger Things’ the uniquely balanced series that it is. We see Mike and El repair their relationship, as does Nancy and Jonathan. Joyce and Hopper make an impressive duo with their bickering and awkward coordination. One of the moments that stood out, was when Joyce proves to be a notch above Bauman on the eccentric scale when she gives him an earful and makes it clear that she is very concerned about what is happening to her fridge magnets.
Coming to points of concern, we do not know how the Starcourt Squad is going to make it out of the Russian facility, but if anybody is keeping score, Steve has won his first fight and that too against a Russian soldier. We would also like to point out that we officially love Robin and her nerdiness. Catching Dustin’s Promethium reference and linking it to Cyborg from DC comics is the exact deft touch that makes ‘Stranger Things’ so enjoyable.
However, things are not as good on the hospital front, where we do not know if Nancy and Jonathan will survive the creature, that looks like something out of John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing‘. Having said that, the CGI has to be praised here, and before the creature is formed, the duo takes down two of their bosses from The Hawkins Post, who have been possessed. It is refreshing to see Nancy literally smash the patriarchy when she takes down one of the most condescending superiors from her workplace.
Overall, this episode has started to bring more of the monster into the light, and within the next couple of episodes, we are likely to witness the might of the Upside Down, as the heroes of Hawkins have to stand united against it. However, what we are still unclear on is the core mystery of the Upside Down, or why Hawkins is so important in the bigger picture, because as Robin says, at best, the town is a toilet stop on the way to Disneyworld.
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