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TV Review: Stranger Things 2.06 "The Spy"

EPISODE: 2.06 "The Spy"

SYNOPSIS: 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.

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REVIEW: In the second of the two episodes helmed by Oscar winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton (WALL-E, FINDING NEMO), shit finally starts going down. After more than half the season has held us anticipating the big showdown between the residents of Hawkins and the monsters of the Upside Down, we get...another cliffhanger.  But, this one sets up the final round of episodes to be quite intense with an hour of build-up that focuses on Dr. Owens and the scientists at Hawkins Lab preparing for what is coming through the now expanding Gate. It is also an episode that does a lot of character development for Steve and Dustin, two characters who became fan favorites after the first season. But, it is once again an episode that could have been condensed and fit in with the plot developments from episodes four and five into a single episode. Plus, there is no Eleven in this episode at all, a first for Stranger Things.

Wrapping up Nancy and Jonathan's trip to meet Murray Bauman, the pair spend the night at the conspiracy theorists home since it is too late to drive back to Hawkins. Murray teases them about their on-off flirting and calls out every character trope they have displayed on the show. Between Murray's comments this episode and Max calling Lucas' summary of last season derivative, it almost seems like the writers are making some meta-references to the show itself. Personally, I liked Stranger Things when it wasn't as self-referential as it just adds to the fact that the show feels like it is stumbling a bit more. So, Nancy and Jonathan do end up sleeping together after a well-executed scene that pays homage to a similar sequence from INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM. The next morning, Murray unceremoniously ushers Nancy and Jonathan out of his home and slams the door in their faces. Nice.

The episode also spends a lot of time with Steve and Dustin after they discover that Dart escaped from the storm shelter after molting again, likely into a larger sized Demogorgon. Steve has quickly evolved into a decent guy, nothing like the douche he presented himself as for the majority of the first season. In fact, he gives the lovelorn Dustin lots of advice on how to get girls and even the secret to his trademark hairstyle. It is a very heartwarming series of scenes that eventually culminates in the pair meeting up with Max and Lucas at the abandoned bus they hid at last season. The truth eventually comes out that Dustin hid Dart as well as the fact that Lucas told Max the truth. The four put their animosity aside to join forces to prep the junkyard to capture Dart. They reinforce the bus and lay out meat laced with gasoline to capture and kill the monster which also affords time for Lucas and Max to talk and get closer to one another. While I was not quite bought in to Max as a character, Sadie Sink has started to really add some depth to her performance and I am appreciating her role more and more.

Back at the Lab, Will has come out of his trance and seems to not recognize those around him. Joyce rails against the scientists for not knowing what is wrong with Will and Hopper gets a first hand look at the level of danger they are in with the Gate. Descending into the entry to the Upside Down, Hopper sees that it is beyond what he could have imagined. But, they also deduce that the creature possessing Will is linked to him by a hive consciousness; any damage done via burning to the Upside Down in turn hurts Will. The other scientists demand that he be an expendable cost to stop the spreading dimension, but Owens does not want to sacrifice the boy's life. I was ambivalent towards Dr. Owens at first but now I see he truly is a good guy trying to do the right thing in this impossible situation. Eventually, Mile convinces Will to be their spy on the monster and Will agrees. He gives them intel of where to go inside the maze of tunnels to destroy the monster for good. Owens sends a squad in as he and Hopper watch on the monitor.

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At once, the two standoffs commence. Steve, Dustin, Lucas and Max find themselves facing down Dart but he won't approach. Instead, Steve uses himself as bait and prepares to fight the monster when they notice there is a whole pack of the demodogs. Steve defends himself but retreats inside the bus. The foursome brace for impending death at the jaws of the monsters, but suddenly something calls them off. At the lab, Hopper and Owens watch in horror as Will's intel turns out to be a trap. Will even admits as much to Mike and says the monster made him lie. The soldiers are all slaughtered by the demodogs and the ascend the pit, the episode ending with the claws of one of the monsters reaching out.

Overall, this episode was saved by the ending which posed a predictable twist but still an exciting one, nonetheless. I am still of the feeling that some narrative streamlining could have been done to reach this point in the story quicker as six episodes in is far too long for the story to finally be picking up the pace. As much as I enjoyed the character development in this and the previous two episodes, it comes as a sacrifice for pacing. Yes, Dustin and Steve had some great back and forth. Yeah, I like the romance between both Jonathan and Nancy as well as Lucas and Max, but it is just going too slow. We spend at least fifteen minutes of this episode watching Dustin and Steve walking around and talking which works on a show like The Walking Dead which has twice as many episodes to work with. The final act here sets up one hell of a final trio of episodes which hopefully have better momentum than the three that came before.

Next on Stranger Things: 2.07 "The Lost Sister" Psychic visions draw Eleven to a band of violent outcasts and an angry girl with a shadowy past.

Source: JoBlo.com

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