And here we come to the most controversial and divisive episode of not only this season, but the entire run of Stranger Things to date.
As Eleven jettisons out of her mother’s memories, she and her aunt uncover the identity of the girl in her mother’s tormented visions, and after Eleven is able to induce her own vision of the girl in the void, Eleven raids Aunt Becky’s purse and escapes, heading on a bus to Chicago.
Once she touches down, Eleven makes short work of tracking down her psionic sister in a disused garage, where Eleven manages to show her true colours to Kali’s riotous gang and instantly bond with Kali herself, who confirms her abilities of mental manipulation to Eleven (or Jane as she’s going as for now) during a rooftop conversation.
As Kali pushes for the gang to include Jane in a fresh raid and chance for revenge, Jane dreams of Hopper’s heartbreaking radio messages through the void. Kali argues that the gang’s raids – killing the people associated with the Hawkins experiments – is a form of justice. This leads to a cheesy but worthwhile training sequence where Kali digs deep into Jane’s trauma and pain, allowing her to pull a train car telekinetically, and psyching her up to take down Ray Carroll, one of Terry Ives and Kali’s tormentors.
With that, the group race off to find Carroll, stopping off in time to give Jane a new punk look and rob a gas station. before they break into Carroll’s apartment. A terrified Carroll promises to take them to Brenner who apparently survived his demogorgon attack last year, but it’s only the discovery of Carroll’s daughters that slakes Jane’s bloodlust, sparing Carroll’s life as the cops race to them, the gang only just escaping.
In the final sequence of the episode, Kali pushes for Jane to stay and resolve her trauma and avenge her mother with the help of a psychically-generated Dr Brenner (Matthew Modine in fine sinister form). However, as Eleven begins to psychically connect to the drama in Hawkins – namely Mike’s ‘it’s a trap!’ moment from last episode – that the police raid the garage.
Kali’s gang manage to reach their van, pinned down, but soon free thanks to a conjured castle wall from Kali herself; however, Jane refuses to join their escape and flees, leaving behind a heartbroken Kali to depart with her crew, and heads on the next coach back to Indiana, aware that while her friends can’t do anything to help her, she can certainly help her friends.
It’s not hard to see why this episode is considered the weakest by the general viewing populace – it’s clunky in places, with a hearty smattering of cheesy dialogue that could have come out of an ‘X Men’ movie, and Kali (Linnea Berthelsen) verges on being annoying with her blind focus on vengeance, although her more contemplative moments are more palatable. Meanwhile, her gang are half-baked Eighties bit-characters who seem surprisingly cool with murder, however justified, and there’s a sense of being copied from a much older template with the episode, hitting the same beats as a ‘very special episode’ of any other network drama.
However, the good parts of this episode do make it worthwhile – Eleven’s journey into understanding the choices that we make and the repercussions of those choices, as well as the good old trope of the road not taken. Millie Bobby Brown shines here, with ‘The Lost Sister’ a solid showcase for her, and while it’s a clear sign that the show shines with an ensemble, it’s an interesting change of pace. So while it’s definitely the weakest episode to date, it’s still a good episode of TV, and one that doesn’t deserve the vitriol it’s received from some corners of the Internet.
Now, thank God she’s heading back to Hawkins though, right? Right…