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Stranger Things 2 Review: Episode 3, "The Pollywog," Is Not Dustin's Finest Moment

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So that's definitely a Demogorgon, right?

Spoilers for Stranger Things 2, up through Episode 3, "The Pollywog," below

Dustin finally found someone who likes nougat as much as he does. Unfortunately, that someone is a baby Demogorgon--right? It hates the light, it's clearly molting and growing into something bigger, and Will seems to recognize it as his alien slug baby when Dustin shows "d'Artagnan" (a Three Musketeers reference) to the gang.

Honestly, as much as Stranger Things is about alien dimensions, psychic kids, and fantasy monsters, the most implausible thing about Season 2 so far is how unskeptically attached Dustin immediately got to this creature. With what they've all been through, Dustin would realistically be as wary as the rest of them, even if it's cuter for the show if one of them decides to treat the thing like a pet.

Either way, the end result is the same: Where there's one baby Demogorgon, there will be more. And although it's not immediately clear how these events are related, by following Bob's very bad advice Will allowed the Shadow to violently invade him in the upside-down. What could be worse than puking up slug babies for a year? Looks like we'll find out soon.

Eleven's little field trip was the episode's other standout plot mover. After being cooped up for a year, Eleven uses this taste of freedom to be as conspicuous as possible while stalking Mike around the school. Her interference in what she must have interpreted as a cute moment between Mike and Max--even if Finn Wolfhard's character was actually being as petulant as ever--calls to mind movies like Ghost and The Sixth Sense, where a dead loved one manipulates the physical world to c***block the living. Thankfully, Eleven is still alive, and it was a mildly touching scene nonetheless.

The continued flashbacks provided a little levity, especially as Eleven and Hopper cleaned the place up and made it habitable. That said, flashbacks are often a crutch, and we didn't learn anything new from these. The show may have been served better if they'd streamlined the flashbacks a bit and constrained them to a single episode; Hopefully they don't persist in the next one and beyond, or Season 2 might start to feel even more mired in the past than it already does.

Three episodes into Stranger Things Season 2, it's starting to feel like it's time for things to get moving. There are a few plotlines that have advanced only incrementally since Episode 1:

  • Nancy is still wrestling with how to deal with Barb's parents, and the plan she and Jonathan set in motion in "The Pollywog" seems, uh, flawed, at best.

  • Hopper is still dealing with the "poisoned" pumpkins, and he's only just convinced the government spooks to take an interest.

  • Max is still struggling to gain a foothold in "the party," and we still know next to nothing about her or her brother--who's apparently not her brother, according to him? There had better be some payoff for all this obfuscation.

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That's not even to mention Kali--AKA psychic kid number 008--who hasn't made so much as a cameo since the premiere.

It's not so much that Stranger Things 2 is starting to drag, as that it's simply time for it to get moving. It's exciting to see Nancy and Jonathan team up together again, just like when they went Demogorgon-hunting in Season 1. Clearly Nancy isn't happy unless she's doing something to fight her circumstances, and Natalia Dyer is really selling the character's combination of grit, nervousness, and pure determination. Jonathan's just along for the ride, but given his extremely obvious feelings about Nancy, that makes perfect sense--even if it means putting himself in danger yet again.

Paul Reiser's Dr. Owens, meanwhile, is either playing dumb, or is way too nice for the position he finds himself in. For a moment there when Hopper was threatening him, it seemed like the doc's teeth were about to come out, but he backed down when he apparently realized that Hopper has a point. Is he another government stooge there to cover things up, or does he really want to help? Owens is one of the more inscrutable characters in Season 2 so far, and that makes him compelling, too.

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A special nod goes to Randy Havens' Mr. Clarke, the kids' engaging, enthusiastic, open-minded science teacher. If we'd all had one like him growing up maybe the world would be a more accepting place. The Phineas Gage reference--the real life story of a man who survived a metal rod being jammed through his head--was a nice little illustration of how Will is feeling at the moment. After the accident, which caused severe brain damage, Gage was like a different person, and after his own experiences, Will is questioning whether he's still himself.

That question is more pertinent than ever given where "The Pollywog" left us. With her discovery of the Shadow's outline in the Halloween video, at least Mama Byers will know for sure it's not all in Will's head--so to speak, at least.

Best reference or easter egg:

Joyce having to call Bob at the RadioShack to figure out how to play a mini VHS tape was a hilarious reference to the technology of the '80s. Imagine having that problem today!

Check out our Stranger Things 2 Funko Pop giveaway, and then head back to our Stranger Things 2 hub for more episode reviews, theories, references, easter eggs, and more!

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mrougeau

Michael Rougeau

Mike Rougeau is GameSpot's Senior Entertainment Editor. He loves Game of Thrones and dogs.
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