Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly
Warning! Full spoilers for the episode below.
We also finally got a few better glimpses of the “monster” in Chapter Three, and the design seems very inspired. There are bits of Silent Hill, even within the “other realm” of de-saturated colors and falling snow/ash/whatever, which the monster appears to exist in and out of. There are little hints of something that the master, Guillermo del Toro himself could have crafted. Even in the glimpses we get in the latter half of the episode, the face of the monster almost appears to be fungus-like, akin to some of the creations within The Last of Us. While it has still only been in shadowy glimpses and stretchy wallpaper moments, each of the monster moments in Chapter Three were just as effective as the next. It has been a slow burn stretching reveal of the “monster” through three episodes, but it has been a hugely effective burn, and I can’t wait to see more.
I want to give a shout-out to Mama Wheeler as well. While Nancy and Mike have both taken center stage throughout the first three episodes, Stranger Things gave Mama Wheeler the chance to shine. She’s just a mom who wants to be there for her children, who wants her children to be able to talk to her. She’s just a mom. So often series and shows try to present mother characters as the absolute kindest or the utmost coldest, but Stranger Things presents Karen Wheeler as honestly as can be. She just wants to be there for her children, and she had some small, but powerful moments in Chapter Three.
As for the other mother in Stranger Things, Joyce has had motherly moments as well, but on the far far side of the spectrum. We see Joyce manically purchasing Christmas lights after her arrangement of lamps didn’t do the trick. We see Joyce inside of a cabinet begging Will to talk to her. We see Joyce creating an Ouija board using lights in order to communicate with Will. As Stranger Things continues on, Joyce’s behavior begs the question, “How much is too much?” when it comes to Will. Can you challenge a mother’s love? Her employer certainly didn’t as she feverishly purchased every single Christmas light. Although we can all presume that yes, Will is still alive on the “other side” it differs quite a bit for Joyce. How long can she go on with this behavior? How will she continue on after the apparent revelation at the end of Chapter Three? Winona Ryder continues to impress as Joyce continues to spiral. As heartbreaking as it is to watch, I just can’t look away.
Eleven is certainly becoming my favorite character in recent memory. While the “child experiment” cliché has been done time and time again, Eleven is such a standout in Stranger Things. Millie Bobby Brown has done such a phenomenal job. From interacting with Mike and company, to Eleven’s quiet moments home alone, Brown shines in each and every interaction. We were given more bits of Eleven’s past at Hawkins Lab as well, and the parallelism between past and present continues to shine through.
But now, we must enter into Kevin’s Speculation Corner. This week, we speculate that Eleven is actually Hopper’s daughter Sarah. I’m not sure that Hopper has ever talked about her exact age, but I think it was mentioned that she passed three years prior. Obviously this Speculation Corner is only speculation, but would it be that farfetched that Hawkins Lab would do such a thing? As we learned in this episode while Hopper actually put in some strong police work, “MK Ultra” and past child abductions are linked to Hawkins Lab. One newspaper headline also featured “They took my girl.” Is Hopper linked to Hawkins Lab more than he knows? We’ve seen bits and pieces of Hopper emerge more and more with each ensuing episode, and we may be heading for a big reveal down the line.
“They took my girl.”
The final sequences in Chapter Three were good, but served more as catalysts to move the plot forward, and didn’t feel as strong as some of the previous moments. I thought that the sequence with Joyce and her Ouija board of Christmas lights was heartbreaking and tense, but that the scenes at the quarry when Will’s body was found weren’t nearly as successful. While the scene at the quarry was vital to moving the plot forward, and Mike and Eleven had a painful confrontation, the moment passed before the effect of the discovery could, well, have much of an effect. On the other hand, with Joyce finally seeing the monster in a much more real way, and only being able to listen to Will’s simple message to “run” and nothing else, it was a much more effective horror sequence that Stranger Things has continued to deliver on. It was just unfortunate that the two different scenes took place at the same time, because they ended up taking the impact away overall.
Chapter Three contained good narrative bits, but focused just ever so slightly more on plot instead of characters. This made Chapter Three feel a bit lesser than the previous two chapters. Yes, the parts and bits contained should prove interesting in the long run, but in the moment it took away from the fantastic character interactions that have made Stranger Things feel so alive and spectacular.