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‘Stranger Things’ Recap: “Chapter One: MADMAX”

Benjamin Frohman ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

After the amazing first season, Stranger Things season two picks up almost a full year after season one ends. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, there’s a robbery, and four masked individuals hurriedly exit a building where an alarm is set off. In a rushed manner they enter a getaway car and a car chase ensues as the robbers attempt to evade the police in a van. A police officer leading the chase follows closely behind. They enter a tunnel and the female in the passenger seat dramatically focuses. The entrance of the tunnel seems to fall, and the main officer stops, causing a car wreck, but it’s revealed that the female psychically made it happen in his head, and the tunnel did not really fall. Her nose starts to bleed and she has the numbers 008 tattooed on her wrist.

Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) are trying to gather enough change to go spend at the arcade. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) is using the walkie-talkie on the channel Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) used to use, but when asked by Dustin, he leaves to go into Nancy’s (Natalia Dyer) room and steals her change. Will Byers’ (Noah Schnapp) mother, Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), drops Will off at the arcade and is extra protective of him after what happened last season. At the arcade, the boys find out that Dustin has been dethroned as number one on a few games by a user named MADMAX. Will goes outside and has a vision of impending doom in the form of a storm and a creature approaching. Mike interrupts him from this vision.

A conspiracist who thinks that the Russians are involved in what happened last season and that they are responsible for Barb’s (Shannon Purser) death visits Chief Hopper (David Harbour). Hopper discredits him and warns the conspiracist not to keep going after the misinformation. A sudden phone call says that there are dead pumpkins at a nearby farm and Hopper leaves to go take care of it. Hopper, meanwhile, investigates the dead pumpkins, which the farm owner says are because of a feud. Hopper hears strange noises in the crops next door. 

Meanwhile, Nancy looks at Steve’s college application letter, and says it’s not good enough. Steve ( gets discouraged and says he won’t even go to college. A new guy and his sister enter the school in a cool car, and are eyed by the whole school. Will opens his locker to find a note saying he is a zombie boy, and is made fun of for surviving his demise. The sister, Maxine (Sadie Sink), or Max as she wants to be called, is introduced to the class. The boys think she is MADMAX by deductive reasoning. Joyce Byers is at work and Goonies star, Sean Astin, who plays a man named Bob Newby, enters to make out with her. Nancy tells Jonathan he should come to the Halloween dance, and then Steve awkwardly interrupts the conversation by making out with Nancy. That night, Mike is scorned by his parents, and they reveal that he has been acting poorly, which is probably due to Eleven’s absence. Mike goes to put his toys in a box for the yard sale and starts talking on the walkie as he has done for the past 352 days, he hears Eleven’s voice through the static.

Concurrently, the four boys spy on Max, who leaves a note for them that says “stop spying on me creeps.” Lucas and Dustin spy on Max and confirm that Max is MADMAX. Will’s mom comes to take him to the creepy doctor at the creepy headquarters of the Upside Down where, promptly afterwards, the doctor is revealed to be suspect and behind more shady Upside Down dealings. One of the lab operators uses a flamethrower to burn some writhing creatures. Will has been clearly affected by the Upside Down and reveals he thinks he is a freak to Jonathan (Charlie Heaton). Jonathan comforts Will. The dynamic between Will, Jonathan, and Bob is revealed, as he’s filled a father role in a way but also is creepy and weird. 

Sadie Sink as Max in ‘Stranger Things’. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Nancy and Steve go to Barb’s parents house, where Barb’s parents reveal that they have hired an investigator to look into Barb’s death. Nancy is clearly not over Barb’s death as she has not revealed that she to Barb’s parents that she knows Barb was killed in the Upside Down. Nancy cries in the bathroom. 

That night, Dustin hears some alien noises in his trash can, but doesn’t open it. The phone rings and Joyce is triggered, as the effects of last season haven’t just hurt Will but also his mom. At the headquarters a bunch of sirens and sounds come from the control room. Will has another vision of a creepy storm and  an impending threat. He is transported to the Upside Down in his mind.

In the end, it is revealed that Harper is hiding our favorite Eggo lover, Eleven, and she has been in his cabin house for the past few months.

This episode is a fresh start to season two. Establishing 008 as a mind hypnotist was unexpected, and was a cool way to open the season. The aftermath of last season is extremely present as Will is still having visions, and the other characters are noticing. The introduction of Max seems a little forced but it is important to have another girl in the mix. Nancy’s character getting so emotional for Barb felt insincere for her character, as she didn’t care about Barb when Barb was alive. However, the tie in for Barb is cool to see, and adds dimension to Nancy’s character. The concept of Hopper hiding Eleven is a bit bizarre, but is a nice reveal. The premiere caters to all of the characters, and even brings up more questions as to where this season will take the viewer.

Episode Grade: A

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