Spoilers for Stranger Things 2, up through Episode 5, "Dig Dug," below
Will's possession by the Shadow Monster just took an interesting turn: Based on where Stranger Things Season 2, Episode 5 concluded, Will is now physically connected to whatever is spreading through those tunnels. What was it Mr. Clarke the science teacher was saying about organisms' response to fear again?
If the spooks can't torch the Upside Down vines without hurting Will, that might explain why the Shadow Monster needed to possess him in the first place. Dr. Owens told Nancy and Jonathan that although he can't undo his predecessors' mistake, he can stop its spread. With that possibility neutered, the Monster will be free to do whatever it is he's trying to do--unless they can get him out of Will in time.
"Dig Dug" delivered exactly the kind of plot momentum Stranger Things 2 needed after a relatively slow first half. It hasn't fixed the season's other big foible--a weak set of new characters--but it just might have provided the catalyst that will send the show hurtling forward in the season's second half.
Episode 5 also injected a little more levity, mostly in the form of goofy Bob the Brain, who had more to do in this episode than he has since he was introduced at the start of Season 2. Sean Astin's face when he recognized the lake's shape in Will's puzzle-map was priceless.
Dustin's pleas for help--and his shutdown at the hands of Lucas's little sister--provided some lighter moments too, even if they happened while Dustin was scrubbing his cat's blood from his bedroom carpet. This episode was full of cute moments like that, from Lucas asking his dad for girl advice to Dustin trying to reassure his mom about the cat. (I'll say it again: poor Mr. Mews.)
But the most important development in "Dig Dug" was Eleven's unexpectedly easy reunion with her mother. It felt a little convenient, but on the other hand we likely haven't come close to seeing the limits of Eleven's psychic powers, so why shouldn't it be that simple?
Thankfully Stranger Things Season 2 hasn't persisted with too many flashbacks, but the one Eleven's mother showed her was worth the time, even if we could have easily guessed at what happened there. Dr. Brenner stole Eleven as a baby, her mother tried to get her back, and they gave her an electric lobotomy to make sure it wouldn't happen again.
And Eleven is finally on the path to potentially meet up with her counterpart from the first episode. The show's taken a long time getting here, given that Kali provided the explosive opener for the entire season. That's built up the anticipation, so hopefully their meeting is worth it.
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At the same time, there's bound to be some fallout from the events of this episode. The tapestry of secrets on which everyone's continued safety seems to depend is coming unraveled, whether in Lucas's failed attempt to explain it to Max, or Nancy and Jonathan's divulgence of basically the entire story. And Hopper, Joyce, Bob, Mike, and Will are now in the government's hands.
We're five episodes in, and Dr. Owens still hasn't revealed a darker side. Maybe he's really what he seems to be--a charming, well-meaning scientist trying to make up for his predecessors' mistakes--which would make his outing at Nancy and Jonathan's hands a little bittersweet. Or maybe he'll show his true colors with five of our favorite characters in his clutches, and the secrets he's worked hard to keep seeping out around him like poison into soil.
No matter what, it's Eleven's search for a real home that's slowly turning into the most poignant arc of the season. Yes, she escaped easily from the Upside Down after Season 1's finale, but she didn't crawl out into comfort. Whether in the woods fighting to survive the winter, or trapped in Hopper's cabin like a prison of boredom, Eleven hasn't felt at home--maybe ever. If she thought she'd find a home with her mother, she was sadly mistaken, as her mother's in no state for a real reunion.
Will she find a home with Kali and the weird gang we glimpsed in Season 2's premiere? Onto the next one we go.
Best reference or easter egg:
Hopper made a mad dash for his hat as the spooks pulled him to safety at the end of the episode, mirroring a similar moment in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Wonder how Indiana Jones would have dealt with the Upside Down?