Spoilers for Stranger Things 2, up through Episode 6, "The Spy," below
It turns out Mike should have listened to Will when he asked him last episode: "What if he spies back?"
The second half of Stranger Things Season 2 kicked off in Episode 6, "The Spy," with an urgency and fun pacing that the season was largely missing up to this point. And that conclusion--Will sending those soldiers to theirs deaths and clearing the way for a full-blown attack--is the kind of cliffhanger that will have viewers jamming on the "next episode" button.
But there's plenty to unpack in this episode as well, and Will's increasingly dire condition is only part of it. Dr. Owens--who, against all odds, is turning out to really be a good guy--laid the situation bare: "All living organisms develop defense mechanisms against attack. They adapt. They find some way to survive," he explained. "It's been spreading and growing beneath us like some cancer."
The virus's hosts are all physically connected, from the tentacles down in the tunnel to Will himself. And now they can't continue torching it because of that little "complication." The kiddo losing his memories only adds to the urgency, making for more tension than we've seen since he went missing in Season 1. Poor little guy can't catch a break!
Several of the other threads Stranger Things 2 has been weaving began coming together this episode as well, from Nancy and Jonathan finally (finally!) smashing faces, to Max at last revealing exactly what she and Billy are doing in Hawkins. The former was satisfying as all get-out, but the latter fell flat.
It was a cute moment between Lucas and Max, but an anticlimactic reveal. After six episodes of buildup and obfuscation, it turns out Max and Billy are step-siblings who had to move here when Max's parents got divorced, and her mother married Billy's father. He blames her, and she blames him. That's it. You have to wonder why the show treated their backstory with so much secrecy and teasing, stretching it out over this many episodes, when it really was about as basic as can be. And that really did nothing for the Billy problem--namely, that he's just a racist villain with no depth or redeeming qualities.
At least Bob the Brain is still the best. Sean Astin is giving quite a nuanced performance as the lovable nerd who, at last, has begun to glimpse the extent to which the Byers family isn't "normal." He's clearly in over his head, so hopefully he makes it out in one piece.
With the way the episode concluded, that's looking like a coin toss. The reveal earlier in the season that Will has likely been puking up baby Demogorgons for an entire year was a subtle one, but those demonic chickens have now come home to roost. Would anything have been different if Will had been honest about the slugs in the first place? Then again, you can't blame him for not trusting Dr. Owens.
As badass as Steve is with that bat, he likely couldn't have stopped them all, so it's a good thing Will sent all those soldiers to die? After all, losing Steve and his current crew now would have meant no more Steve and Dustin, my new favorite duo on the show. Who can say how much more wisdom Steve has to impart to his young protégé, from how to make girls think you don't care about them to what brand of hairspray will make you look like a hedgehog.
There have been some pacing problems throughout Stranger Things Season 2, but if it keeps going at this pace it's going to be over too soon--especially when we go entire episodes without a hint of Eleven. She has a reunion with Kali to attend, after all, before she can even reunite with her friends, which is feeling like finale material at the rate the story is going. That's not necessarily a bad thing, so let's keep watching.
Best reference or easter egg:
It's another Indiana Jones bit! This time, Nancy and Jonathan's separate-but-tandem mutterings mirrored those of Harrison Ford and Kate Capshaw in Temple of Doom.