Chapter 3: Holly, Jolly
Poor Barb… We start off with her in a place that looks like a gloomy nightmare, reminiscent of what the xenomorphs do to the colony in James Cameron’s “Aliens”. There’s strange fungal, creeper vegetation all over like what we see in the basement level of the Hawkin’s Lab. What’s more is, we can clearly see that she’s trapped at the bottom of an empty swimming pool. Let’s recall she was taken by the monster while sitting on the diving board of Stevo’s pool. Interesting…
Something is there with her and we get our first full look of the monster for a brief moment. Cue Barb’s survival instincts and she does all she can to escape her nightmare situation. Meanwhile, Nancy is losing her religion to Stevo with Foreigner serenading them.
Again, I say poor Barb because the last we see of her is trying to climb out of the pool and being pulled back in, screaming for Nancy and for help.
Jump to Jonathan waking up the following morning and he hears his mom talking to someone, which he thinks is Will. What does he find instead? His mom talking to the lights in full belief that Will is communicating with her similar to the adults talking to the little girl through the tv screen static in Spielberg’s “Poltergeist”.The boys got a plan, thinking Eleven knows where to find Will. Lucas goes on the offensive with supplies, most notably the wrist rocket, which calls back to Stephen King’s IT (the novel). Dustin, however, is quite the practical one, gathering food supplies, providing some levity in a show that could use quite a bit.
We get more levity from Dustin as he asks Eleven to make a toy Millennium Falcon float in the air (reference to Luke Skywalker making the X-Wing levitate in The “Empire Strikes Back”). She does but only after the boys leave for school. Alone in Mike’s house, Eleven begins to snoop about, which is what any of us would do–let’s be honest and truthful here. She goes to the tv and we see her exposed to President Reagan, He-Man, and a Coke Cola commercial that triggers another flashback, showing us her ability to crush a can with her mind but also causing her nose to bleed.Eleven continues to explore and finds herself in Nancy’s room. There’s a lot happening in this moment as Eleven looks at the life of another “normal” girl. Lots of emotions are taking place. She has no idea what it is to be a girl in the real world.
Nancy at school reveals she’s somewhat self-conscious about her night with Steve and also worried about Barb after she doesn’t show up for class or school for that matter. Jonathan is developing film from the party night, gets caught by another student, and runs off with the pics. That, however, doesn’t stop Stevo and his friends from finding out, confronting Jonathan and breaking his camera. Nancy shows up during this, tries to stop it, but fails only to find a picture of Barb on the diving board and taking the ripped pieces, leaving Jonathan to mourn the loss of his camera (maybe don’t be a creeper taking pics of Nancy while she’s changing… yeesh).
Hop the Cop and his deputies go to Hawkins Lab to see what’s going on there. Hop does the cop thing and gets in to talk to the head of security. They assure Hopper there’s no way Will came through a drain pipe to access the grounds. Security cameras show nothing but Hop is suspicious after the video feed does not show the storm of the night they searched for Will. He knows they’re lying and gets his investigation on. He goes to the library and goes through old newspaper clippings looking for leads on the Hawkins Lab. He gets the names of a Dr. Brenner (white-haired Matthew Modine) and a woman named Terry Ives. More on those two later.
The boys collect rocks at school but not before getting bullied; Mike is tripped, cutting his chin open on the ground. They catch up with Eleven after school where she learns a new term “mouth breathers” for the bullies who hurt Mike. Before she leads them to where Will is, Eleven has another flashback after seeing a cat that shows us the Lab folks were trying to get her to kill a cat with her powers. She refuses, gets hauled off to the dark room but manages to hurt one of the orderlies and kill the other (mental neck snap!), which garner her some affection from Dr. Brenner, which just makes us all hate the guy.
A lamp just isn’t enough. Joyce decks the inside of the house out with Christmas lights in order to better communicate with Will. Mike’s mom shows up with a casserole (WHY IS IT ALWAYS CASSEROLE!!!). And things get creepy as Mike’s younger sister, Holly, walks around the house, following the lights and gets super close to being swiped by the Monster through the wall (that Freddy Krueger in the wall effect is crazy!). I did not like watching this part. Too freaky! But nothing happens to Holly, thank the Lord.
Nancy ditches Stevo and finds Barb’s car where they left it. She checks Stevo’s back yard–just in case, I guess. She doesn’t find any sign of Barb but she does get a nice glimpse of the monster before running away. She’s convinced now more than ever that something horrible happened to Barb.
Coming to the end of the episode, we get a lot of cuts between story lines. Hopper gets a call while in the library and he hurries off. Eleven takes the boys to Will’s house leaving them confused while she says he’s hiding there. They see and hear the sirens of the cops and follow on their bikes. And Joyce is talking to Will again through the lights (great call back to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the communicating through lights in the Spielberg classic).
She fashions an alphabet on the wall so Will can spell out words to her and we come to my favorite part of the episode. Joyce’s talking to Will with the alphabet is one of those things that becomes iconic to the show. He tells her he’s “RIGHT HERE” which confuses her and then when she asks what she should do, he tells her to “RUN” and she does after the monster manages to burst through the wall this time. Such a great suspenseful moment!!!
The episode closes however on a very sad, heartbreaking note as the cops and the boys get to the bottom of the quarry to find Will’s body being fished out of the lake. Mike is furious at Eleven, believing she lied to him while Lucas and Dustin can only try to console their friend. Hopper is just as defeated as he looks upon the body and knows things have changed dramatically for them all.
Reaction: So I don’t think I can talk about my reaction to this episode without talking about the beginning and end. Barb’s situation and apparent demise is one of those sequences where you just want more. She’s in this crazy place that looks like a nightmare inverse of the real world and I want to know more about it. Then at the end, I have to go with the tragedy of Will’s body being fished out of the bottom of the quarry. At this point, you want to believe Joyce is indeed talking to Will yet here is his body. You can’t help but push play to watch the next episode.
80s Refs: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Poltergeist, IT