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TV Review: Stranger Things 2.05 "Dig Dug"

EPISODE: 2.05 "Dig Dug"

SYNOPSIS: Nancy and Jonathan swap conspiracy theories with a new ally as Eleven searches for someone from her past. "Bob the Brain" tackles a difficult problem.

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REVIEW: Stranger Things 2 continues to get mired in the same things that befall every sequel. While The Duffer Brothers have tried to provide more in terms of scale, characters, and tension, the stakes somehow feel lower at this point in the second season than they did in the first. In fact, between the fourth and fifth episodes, there seems to be only enough material for one chapter of the saga. The story is beginning to feel like there is too much going on and that there simply won't be enough time this season to make it all pay off. But, I will be damned if the characters are not so damn engaging and likeable that even when they are mired in tedious plot contrivances, I still want to keep watching to see what comes next.

Continuing the trend of having our characters split into different story arcs, this chapter finds both Eleven and Hopper as far away from the rest of the characters as possible. Hopper, whom we last saw exploring the gateway to the Upside Down tunnels in the pumpkin patch, is acosted by the alien vines which shoot spores in his face and knock him unconscious. While asleep, they close over the entry point he used to gain access and eventually wrap him up tight, surrounded by the bones of prior victims. This puts Hopper out of the story for the majority of the episode while Joyce, Mike, Will and eventually Bob Newby have to band together to find him. Using the drawings Will made of the vine network, the team eventually uses Bob's skills at puzzle solving to realize that Will created a map of Hawkins with the paths eventually leading them to locate Hopper.

Meanwhile, Eleven hitchhikes her way to the home of her mother, Terry Ives. Meeting her Aunt Becky, Eleven finally comes face to face with her mother. It is a nice payoff for the scenes last season involving Joyce and Hopper finding Terry. This time, Eleven is able to use her powers to connect with her mother after seeing the lights flicker, the same sign Will used to tell Joyce he was communicating last season. Eleven uses her blindfold technique to communicate with Terry who shows her visions of how baby Jane/Eleven was taken from her by Dr. Brenner. Terry eventually went back to Hawkins Lab and shot her way into the facility, finding her daughter alongside another young girl. Brenner then used electroshock therapy to subdue Terry into her current state. Eleven leaves when she overhears Becky calling Hopper for help and takes money to get away. Using the message from her mother, Eleven plans to head off to find the other little girl whom she feels can help her figure out her place in the world.

Across Hawkins, Dustin is left on his own to clean up the mess from Dart the Demogorgon having eating his cat. Shooing away his mother, Dustin puts on hockey gear and lures Dart into a storm shelter. Calling for help, none of his friends respond. Mike is obviously busy with Will but Lucas doesn't answer either as he tricks Max into meeting him at the arcade where he reveals the truth about what happened to Will the previous year. Max thinks it is all a made up story but Lucas assures her it is true. With Billy waiting outside, Max eventually says she believes him and has to hide who she was talking to from her abusive stepbrother. Lucas makes it home and gets the message from his sister that Dustin put out a red alert and rushes to find his friend. Dustin manages to find some aid in Steve Harrington who busts out the nail studded baseball bat and heads into the storm shelter to face Dart.

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Nancy and Jonathan make their way to Chicago to see Murray Bauman with their tape of Dr. Owens' confession. They all exchange knowledge and theories and eventually decide to reveal the truth, partially, to the media in the form of anonymous tapes claiming that Barb was killed by the Department of Energy, but not by alien beings but rather an experimental chemical.The episode closes with Joyce and Bob descending into the Upside Down tunnels to rescue Hopper. But, when all hope seems lost, the cavalry arrives in the form of Owens' soldiers and scientists after he sees the effect of the gateway on the soil samples taken from the pumpkin patches. With Hopper saved, the soldiers begin to burn the infestation which sends Will into a convulsive state, his body intrinsically linked to the giant monster from the other dimension.

Directed by Andrew Stanton (FINDING DORY, JOHN CARTER), this is a very well helmed episode that suffers from way too much going on. Between this and the prior episode, there was only enough material for one hour. Spread thin, it feels like the momentum has completely stagnated this season. But, every episode so far this cycle has ended with one hell of a cliffhanger, this chapter no expection. All of the Murray Bauman scens feel unnecessary and exist only to further something that will come by the end of the season. The same goes for Max and the relationship she has with her brother. Billy still feels like a two dimensional character and has been given virtually nothing to do except his best impression of Johnny from THE KARATE KID but with better hair. I still don't feel engaged by Eleven's storyline even though I should be bought into her arc simply based on the fact that we learned very little about her last season. And, for as much as I love Sean Astin, he feels like he only exists to serve as a deus ex machina for the story and as a go between to hold off the romance between Joyce and Hopper until season three. Like I said at the start, I am still going along for the ride this season but it is beginning to lose me with each new outing.

Next on Stranger Things: 2.06 "The Spy" Will's connection to a shadowy evil grows stronger, but no one's quite sure how to stop it. Elsewhere, Dustin and Steve forge an unlikely bond.

Source: JoBlo.com

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