This article contains affiliate links; if you click such a link and make a purchase, Digital Trends and Yahoo Inc. may earn a commission.
Since its debut in 2016, Stranger Things has become one of the most popular shows on Netflix. The series has provided fans with several iconic episodes that rank among television’s best of the 21st century. Signature episodes include Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers, the unforgettable pilot; Chapter Nine: The Gate, season 2’s action-packed finale; and Chapter Four: Dear Billy, also known as the episode featuring Running Up That Hill.
Besides the standouts, Stranger Things contains several underappreciated episodes that add to the show’s prestige. Here, we rank the seven most underrated episodes of Stranger Things. Our picks include an homage to Ghostbusters, a love letter to a mall, and the birth of the show’s best duo. Reminder: All episodes of Stranger Things are available to stream on Netflix.
7. Chapter Two: Trick or Treat, Freak (season 2, episode 2)
Considering the young cast of Stranger Things are all in their early 20s, it’s hard to remember when they were young teenagers portraying kids in middle school. In season 2’s Trick or Treat, Freak, the boys are shown in an adorable montage of them dressed as Ghostbusters for Halloween.
Watching Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) argue over who gets to play Venkman is a reminder that the boys are still funny and immature kids, even if they saved the world from a Demogorgon. Also, the episode drops the breadcrumbs for the moving father-daughter relationship between Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Hopper (Violent Night‘s David Harbour).
6. Chapter Eight: Papa (season 4, episode 8)
Season 4 was the most cinematic of all the seasons. The runtime of the final three episodes mirrors the length of movies, not episodes in television. Papa, the eighth episode, clocks in at a whopping 85 minutes and feels like a Stranger Things action movie. In the Russian storyline, Hopper, Joyce (Winona Ryder), Murray (Brett Gelman), and Yuri (Nikola Đuričko) successfully escape from the Demogorgons. Meanwhile, the Hawkins crew plans to stop Vecna from bringing the Upside Down into their reality.
The standout action sequences occur in Nevada, with Eleven going full 1980s action hero by destroying a helicopter. After betraying Eleven, Dr. Brenner’s (Matthew Modine) luck finally runs out and he dies in the desert, a satisfying conclusion for one of the show’s true monsters.
5. Chapter Two: The Mall Rats (season 3, episode 2)
One of the best aspects of Stranger Things is its ability to authentically capture the 1980s. From the music and clothing to the movies and games, Stranger Things accurately portrays the look and feel of the 1980s. The Starcourt Mall is a perfect example of how the show uses a location to enhance the story.
The mall is the backdrop of season 3. Although the mall will eventually become the site of an epic battle, The Mall Rats is a fun episode where the group doesn’t have to fight any supernatural entities. They can be normal kids who run around the mall and loiter in the stores. Stranger Things is at its best when the group squares off against the Upside Down, but the Material Girl montage is a fun reprieve from the eventual deaths and violence.
4. Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat (season 1, episode 5)
Season 1 remains the best season of Stranger Things. Episodes 3-4 and 6-8 all have a strong case for a spot in the top 10 episodes of the series. However, episode 5, The Flea and the Acrobat, should not be overlooked. Stranger Things is a sci-fi show with an emphasis on fiction. However, science takes center stage in episode 5 as Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Mike, and Lucas visit their science teacher, Mr. Clarke (Randy Havens).
With the help of a paper plate, Mr. Clarke explains parallel universes using an analogy involving an acrobat and the flea. Mr. Clarke shows the boys how it could be possible to travel to another dimension through a “gate.” This effective three-minute scene is a simple, yet clever way to explain a complex scientific theory to the boys and the audience.
3. Chapter One: The Hellfire Club (season 4, episode 1)
After a three-year hiatus, Stranger Things kicked off its fourth season with The Hellfire Club. The primary gang is separated to start season 4. Joyce has moved to California with Will (Noah Schnapp), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and Eleven. Meanwhile, Max (Sadie Sink), Dustin, Lucas, and Mike are facing the challenges of high school in Hawkins.
The episode’s opening moments tease Eleven’s origins at the Hawkins National Laboratory, which come into play toward the end of the season. However, the biggest takeaway from the episode and why it’s on this list lies solely on the shoulders of Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn), the charismatic leader of The Hellfire Club, who quickly became a fan favorite after his memorable introduction. The episode also spawned Chrissy, Wake Up, a catchy song inspired by Chrissy’s (Grace Van Dien) possession.
2. Chapter Six: The Dive (season 4, episode 6)
Season 4’s biggest weakness was separating the core group and telling the story in multiple locations. The show is at its best when the entire gang is in Hawkins battling the Upside Down together. The Hawkins storyline in the fourth season is far superior to the plots in Nevada, Alaska, and California. The Dive reaffirms that sentiment as the Hawkins’ crew attempts to find a gate to the Upside Down.
For someone who once called his girlfriend a derogatory term and let his friends plaster the word on the town’s marquee, Steve (Joe Keery) turned out to be a stand-up guy. Faced with a dangerous mission, Steve volunteered to dive to the bottom of Lover’s Lake and explore the gate, which pulled him into the Upside Down. Robin (Maya Hawke), Nancy (Natalia Dyer), and Eddie dove in after Steve before reuniting in the Upside Down and setting the stage for an epic fight in the following episode, The Massacre at Hawkins Lab.
1. Chapter Six: The Spy (season 2, episode 6)
The Spy marks a turning point for two of the show’s integral relationships: Nancy and Jonathan, and Steve and Dustin. Never in a million years could anyone have guessed that Murray Bauman would be why Nancy and Jonathan hook up for the first time. Murray’s blunt honesty forced the young lovers to finally admit their feelings for each other, resulting in a passionate night shared between the two.
While Nancy and Jonathan may have the most romantic relationship, the best relationship in the show belongs to the “bromance” between Steve and Dustin. Steve’s shift from a conceited jerk to a lovable brotherly figure is one of the show’s best decisions. The friendship between Steve and Dustin only increased with each episode, but their bond was born on the train tracks, with the elder statesman dishing out relationship advice to his younger pupil.