After a slow start to the second season of Stranger Things, ‘The Gate’ has finally built up to a tense and dramatic third act. The finale is particularly fantastic, with all of the main characters equally appearing on screen.
While Billy has done nothing much but strut around looking mean, the penultimate episode finally shed some light on his motives by showing an interaction with his father. After a very charged and flirtatious scene with Mrs Wheeler – a peculiar but entertaining way for Billy to get the Byers’ address – we finally see his brutality unleashed. In a fight, Steve, Lucas and Max all get their moment to confront this season-long rivalry. It perhaps wasn’t necessary but did at least deliver a climactic end to the plotline, with Billy apparently listening to Max’s threat.
The lab scenes nevertheless prove to be tense, emotional and visually stunning
After being paired with Hopper for most of the series, it is pleasing to see Eleven finally reunited with Mike, who unleashes his full anguish over the year-long deception by Hopper. This reunion is short-lived, however; we see Hopper and Eleven paired up yet again on a final trip to Hawkins Lab, finally patching up their differences during the touching drive. Despite relatively minimal action with the ‘demodogs’ and Eleven’s somewhat cliché flashbacks as she closes the gate, the lab scenes nevertheless prove to be tense, emotional and visually stunning. The scenes are climactic without descending into an overblown CGI demodog battle.
The freeing of Will in an Exorcist-style heating was (for lack of a better word) chillingly done. With genuinely disturbing scenes, Will screams inhumanly and tries to strangle his own mother. The editing of this scene, along with the fire lit by the other kids and Hopper’s almost-encounter with the demodogs, was incredibly well done and produced a real sense of urgency. The reunion of the family was particularly sweet, juxtaposed with the creepy black smoke that escaped out of the hut.
Stranger Things takes a sentimental and rather sweet turn as the kids chase romance
The viewer is treated with the surprisingly emotional return of Dart, wrapping up his storyline as Dustin feeds him nougats one last time. It remains to be seen whether Dustin being squirted by black gunk in the Upside-Down will have any impact on future seasons. We also got a surprising number of developments in the epilogue. The amiable Dr. Owens provides a means for Eleven to get a proper life and to not be separated next season. However, the closure of Hawkins lab suggests that the show will veer into new territory next season rather than recycle the evil lab trope again. Stranger Things takes a sentimental and rather sweet turn as the kids chase romance while ‘Time after Time’ played. The long-awaited kisses from Mike and Eleven, as well as Max and Lucas, however the somewhat random coupling up of Will means a peculiar focus on poor Dustin being alone, potentially setting up a romantic arc for him next season.
Several plot threads are now wrapped up pretty satisfactorily in the finale of Stranger Things 2, and so it will be to see what direction the show takes in future series. The brilliantly executed final shot of the ‘Mind Flayer’ suggests there certainly is more to come – and I will be looking forward to the show’s return.