|This is a guest blog post from Smithers @ TheChumpcast.com – looking for an entertainment podcast with a bit more ridiculousness than GlitchCast has to offer? Check out The Chumpcast on iTunes, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!|
If internet reviews are any indication of popular opinion (“Of course they are!” he yelled sarcastically), you hated Stranger Things 2 Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister. I’m asking that you watch this episode again with a new perspective. Don’t get this sentiment twisted; it’s certainly not a masterpiece. The Lost Sister is not The Dark Knight. There is no Joker performance from a Heath Ledger. It’s more in line with the wildly underappreciated 1989 Batman starring Michael Keaton. I refuse this notion that The Lost Sister is the Stranger Things equivalent of Batman & Robin. You will not put vestigial nipples on this Batsuit.
I won’t implore you to always see things from a writer’s point of view, but it helps in this case. The central argument for internet outrage seems to be that this story was unnecessary or that it could have been dispersed amongst multiple episodes. It may have been possible to shoehorn these revelations in episodes throughout the season, though I would argue that they would not have had the same impact on the building of this universe, let alone the development of Eleven. Doing so likely would have detracted from the story. Jumping from Dustin and Steve in Hawkins to Eleven in Chicago would be disorienting. Leaving Kali and crew to show Billy seducing Mrs. Wheeler would be downright mean.
Just look at everything we witness in this episode:
- Eleven meets her Momma (Terry Ives), deciphers the gibberish words that Momma has been drooling out for years, learns her own origin story, and gains the information she needs to find her “sister”.
- Eleven sees files upon files of similar missing persons cases amassed by her mother, further implying that there are more children in her situation.
- Once we meet Kali, we see that her power set is different than that of Eleven. This opens an entire world of possibilities for these test subjects.
- Kali teaches Eleven to dig deeper and use her anger as a source of power, setting up for the climactic showdown we see in episode 9. She even plants the evil Dr. Brenner vision in her mind for use as fuel later on.
- Speaking of douchebags, POPPA BRENNER COULD STILL BE ALIVE. Cue bombshell:
- Even after all the terrible experiences of torture at the hands of scientists and orderlies, Eleven is still capable of compassion, forgiveness, and empathy. She has killed, but she’s not a murderer. She’s killed out of necessity.
This brings us to Eleven’s character development. She’s a sponge at this point, even more so than a normal pre-teen girl. She has been totally deprived of any social influence outside of Hopper leaving her home alone to watch Days of our Lives. Venturing to The Windy City to meet the most angst-ridden group of punks imaginable and get a bitchin’ makeover allows for rapid growth that you won’t find in a Hawkins pumpkin patch. Eleven’s experiences with Kali show her the dark road down which anger and revenge can lead.
Back to the narrative itself: incapacitating Eleven was necessary to raise the stakes for the rest of our characters. If she’s in Hawkins while the Demidogs are hunting down Hopper and company, the threat is lessened. She would just Darth Vader Force Choke them all and head straight to the rift. What’s the alternative to her Chicago voyage? More Days of our Lives on Hopper’s couch?
You also can’t set the stage for a possible world-ending scenario by only showing a tiny, shithole town in Indiana. Especially when that town is comprised almost entirely of pumpkin farms, for some reason. Prior to the introduction of Kali in S2E1, we’d only ventured outside of Hawkins twice. We have no idea where Momma lives, but we can assume it’s another garbage town. Other than that, we only see Jonathan Byers venture to see his deadbeat father in S1E2: The Weirdo on Maple Street. You forgot about that scene, didn’t you?
In an Entertainment Weekly interview with co-creator Matt Duffer, he defends the decision to leave the episode in the final series:
“Whether it works for people or not, it allows us to experiment a little bit. It’s important for Ross and I to try stuff and not feel like we’re doing the same thing over and over again. It’s almost like doing a whole little other pilot episode in the middle of your season, which is kind of a crazy thing to do. But it was really fun to write and cast and work on.”
They’re on a curiosity voyage, and experimental episodes are their paddles. THEY NEED THEIR PADDLES!
Seriously though, the Duffer brothers did entertain removing the episode, eventually deciding that Eleven’s story didn’t make sense without it. I think I’ll defer to the pros on this issue as opposed to all the Twitter eggs insisting that they could have done better.
At this point, you may chortle and say “You’re stupid. You haven’t even addressed XYZ, and that was the worst part of the episode.” The prior point is valid, but let’s address the latter with some rapid fire.
Point: Why introduce an entire group of characters and then relegate them almost entirely to a single episode?
Counterpoint: I’m fairly confident that this isn’t the last you’ll see of Kali and crew. We already know that we’re getting at least two more seasons, during which the stakes will have to be raised even higher. This episode foreshadows several potential threats going forward.
Point: Why make this a single episode and draw us away from the main story in Hawkins?
Counterpoint: You’ve clearly never watched any kind of reality competition show. The dramatic pause before announcing who has been kicked off the island is not there for Jeff Probst to catch his breath; it’s there to build tension. If you’re mad about where this episode landed in the season, it’s likely because you were anxious to get back to the gang in Hawkins. I seriously doubt that you lost interest in their situation after a forty minute layover in Chicago.
Point: All of the characters in Kali’s crew are ridiculous, one-dimensional clichés.
Counterpoint: Go on…
Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister is central to the advancement of the plot and development of characters and does not deserve the hate it is receiving. It succeeds in upping the ante and building suspense for viewers. Without it, you miss out on useful information, timeless 80’s tracks from Bon Jovi and The Runaways, and this magnificently over-the-top scene:
Nothing is perfect. Stop dealing in absolutes like some kind of mouth breather. It doesn’t have to be the best episode you’ve ever seen, nor the worst. Take something good away from this, like a weird Tom Hardy Bane impersonation. Let it be your Dark Knight Rises.