There are many things Stranger Things 2 did so well this year. In particular, the season is full of some of the best character moments thus far. Steve playing “babysitter” to our crew, Bob being Bob yelling “woo!” at a VHS copy of Mr. Mom, and in this episode, Dustin going all Wayne Gretzky on Dart the mini Demogorgon. Moments like these are what I liked best this season. It’s at episode five, however, where we attempt to dig deeper (literally) into what’s really happening, and we start to see that there really aren’t going to be many answers.
At over half way through the season it feels like we’re being led along to no end. While a strength of the show is leaving the mystery of the upside down largely unknown, at some point there has to be meaning. If that eventually is the plan, then I don’t mind waiting. But in this episode, I began to feel that the digging was a bit listless. Like the rules are being made up as we go along. Eleven’s mom has some sort of mental power, I guess? Hawkins lab finds something swirly about the dirt in their test beakers. The vines are maybe sentient, maybe not. It’s all meandering a bit too much.
Hey, I’m not here to rant. This is Stranger Things, after all. It’s still a blast to be in Hawkins to see what comes next, and this season wins because the already strong characters get stronger. Steve’s development is arguably the most organic and refreshing, Lucas’ makes some great strides, and Eleven solidifies why she is the anchor of the show. And while, yes, I still have some complaints that others like Hopper and Mike essentially go nowhere, the digging deeper leads us to observations of our own longings.
“Most people… they don’t spend their lives trying to get a look at what’s behind the curtain. They like the curtain. It provides them stability, comfort, definition. – Murray Bauman”
I think the answer to almost every existential question we raise in life is rooted in our desire as individuals to be truly known. The gospel’s power to transform is in direct relation to being fully known and accepted by God. Innately, we desire the truth in everything. It’s a hunger that is evident in all that we do. Even, and especially, when we try to hide from it. Conspiracy theorist Murray Bauman may seem crazy on the surface, living in a bunker will give that impression, but he’s got one thing right- we like our curtains.
I say I want to know the reason why everything is happening in Hawkins, what the upside down really is, who is behind it, etc. But do I really? How much do I want to keep the curtain up because it keeps me in suspense? Unfortunately, that’s how we as people often treat our neighbors. We maintain a bubble and an image because being known is scary. As Christians, we’re called to love our neighbor as we love ourselves partly for that reason, because being known allows grace to abound.
The curtain is opening a bit more on our characters, though, and none more so than Eleven. Finally seeing what happened to her mother gives her arc so much more weight for the future. If there were more morsels of answers like this one along the way this season I think I’d like the curtain more than I did. But it’s hard to keep the balance of tension in a show this layered. And for any mistakes in story development, the Duffer Brothers still do know how to tease our desire to know things very well. So I’ll happily keep digging in to see what lies ahead.