Imagine you got sucked into a portal that took you to a dark, parallel world where you were chased by an unknown monster and barely made it out alive. Be a little shocked, would you? I’d say that’s an understatement. Hopefully watching this show is the closest we’ll ever come to such a thing. At the beginning of this episode this is where we find Nancy physically, and because this is an insanely well written show, we also thematically find the rest of our main characters here as well. The portal has affected everyone at this point. Now it’s time to figure out what to do.
Our story is rounding third base and headed for home, but just before the turn our characters are in an important holding pattern. For Joyce and Chief Hopper, they’re establishing a partnership while struggling to understand some valuable new information. For Mike, Dustin, and Lucas, they’re struggling with differing opinions of how to move forward and find their friend. Even for minor characters like Steve, who is dealing with his distrust of Nancy, everything is all just a bit lost.
The monster seems scarier by the minute, but it’s becoming more evident that the real enemy to the inhabitants of Hawkins is isolation. The crack in the fabric of the universe has produced a chaotic series of events that have uprooted the normalcy of everyone’s lives. Yet things are most in jeopardy when they split away from each other and try to combat the chaos on their own. As Eleven goes off alone in the woods, she fights with her past. As the boys split their alliance, they lose ground on finding their friend.
While this is far from a perfect parallel, we can draw similarities to how we deal with tragedy in our lives. “The monster” can be substituted for any kind of evil or misfortune. We’ve all dealt with it on personal levels, whether with our own trials or those of friends and family. National tragedies seem increasingly frequent and more shattering each time they appear. It’s a broken world and we can’t escape tragedy. We have no choice but to act in the aftermath.
Eleven: “Mike- the gate, I opened it. I’m the monster.”
Mike: “No, El. You’re not the monster. You saved me.”
I’m no expert on tragedy, but through the trials I have faced and what I have witnessed those close to me endure, I know that no one will ever be better off alone. It’s so easy to blame ourselves for what we’re going through. We need a counter to our self-scapegoating. This is where I see a great divide between religion and what Christ does for us. Religion disqualifies. Christ qualifies. Religion blames. Christ took our blame. The power of this is lived out in community and that’s why we are called to it no matter the personal cost.
It’s evident by the end of this episode that Mike, Lucas, Dustin, and Eleven are better off together. Nancy and Jonathan need each other’s help more than they realize. Joyce and Hopper are starting to get real results by believing in each other. Look back to episode one and these relationships were laughable. But community mends together everyone despite your beliefs, personality, culture, or age. That’s where the power lies. No matter what portals we walk through or what universe we find ourselves in, there will always be monsters. But if we can find community, we can always defeat them.