Warning: This recap of the “Chapter Three: The Pollywog” episode of Stranger Things contains spoilers.
Those of us lucky enough to have had pets know that the love we feel for them can rival relationships with actual humans. You’ll never forget the way your golden retriever used to nuzzle you when you were sad, or how your tabby rescue would reach a paw under the bedroom door until you relented and let her sleep in the bed with you. And who among us can forget the first time we vomited our beloved slug into the sink and watched proudly as it grew into a slithering abomination that shrieks in the shadows? In many ways pets are our first loves, but that goes double for anything that we’ve ever gestated following a stint in a nether dimension. You know?
We’re three for three, friends. With “Chapter Three: The Pollywog,” Stranger Things 2 continues its winning streak by adding new and exciting spins on its formula of truly compelling character work. Also, Lucas jump-kicked a door open and I nearly fell off my sofa with delight. Let’s talk about this episode!
We began where we’d left off on Halloween night: Dustin had discovered SOMETHING in the trash can outside, and he didn’t look so much terrified as delighted. Now he just had to sneak it inside the house without anybody noticing!
His mom might’ve been gullible, but guess who wasn’t falling for his lies?
Yeah, Dustin had brought a wriggling, chirping little CGI creature into his home, and despite giving it a chill terrarium to hang out in, it did not seem overly stoked to be exposed to either bright lights or the Three Musketeers bar Dustin insisted on feeding it.
As established in the previous episode, only complete weirdos crave a Three Musketeers, and this thing — which he named Dart, short for D’Artagnan — reluctantly ate this confectionary swill and I immediately felt bad for it. From a trash can to THIS? What a night.
Meanwhile, over in Sheriff Hopper’s Evil Dead cabin, Eleven was starting to get sick and tired of Hopper’s promises that she’d see Mike again someday. It had apparently been nearly a year, and he still wouldn’t allow her to leave the cabin. And even though we knew that the Department of Energy still had shadowy goons keeping the Upside Down under wraps, it seemed to be much less interested in murdering citizens and finding Eleven. So what was the big deal?
Elsewhere, Sean Astin decided to cheer up Will by giving him a pep talk about HIS childhood nightmares and how he’d gotten them to stop. In his case, he ran up to his personal bogeyman (which was definitely not Pennywise, even though it definitely sounded like Pennywise) and told him to GTFO or whatever. And that’s all it took! Bad dreams over. Will seemed skeptical of this method but was grateful anyway.
I loved when Lucas kinda filled Max in on what had happened during Season 1, and I realized I had FORGOTTEN that a boy’s body had been dredged up from the quarry, mistaken for Will, and given a proper funeral. I don’t know why, but I assumed the Department of Energy had somehow fabricated a hyperrealistic doll, but Lucas claimed it was just some other boy. BUT WHICH BOY? Why was nobody concerned with the mysterious dead boy who died in Hawkins? Was there another, parallel story being told about another group of friends avenging their friend’s death? Will there be a crossover event when the two series converge? These are questions I have.
We also continued to learn more about Eleven’s life with Hopper over the past year. After one of his waffle drops, she’d emerged from the shadows and trusted him when he took her to his grandfather’s abandoned cabin. We even got a cleanup montage! Man, just incredibly moving to see this gruff guy demonstrate so much care and concern for his newfound surrogate daughter. And the bullet-in-the-mousetrap alarm was just a good idea. Gonna try that sometime. These scenes were intercut with Eleven deciding to break every rule and leave the cabin for the first time! She had a mission to see Mike, and no amount of loyalty to Hopper was going to stop her this time.
As I have said before and will state again, Billy is the Platonic Ideal of a human being. Just look at him! Perfection personified. Yes, he is a disgusting piece of mean-spirited garbage and wants to I guess destroy Steve for some reason, but come on. It’s Billy! All aboard the S.S. Dreamboat! Am I right?
Steve was having a rough day all around, first getting bullied and dunked on by the new BMOC (big man on campus), but also getting nagged by Nancy, who’d told him that he and their relationship were bulls*** only the night before! Her defense was that she was drunk and also “deal w/ it,” but Steve’s feelings were still hurt. And when he asked her to perhaps confirm that she was still in love with him, she stuttered and didn’t actually say it. Whuh-oh! Trouble in hormonal paradise.
Dustin transported Dart to school in his little Ghostbusters trap and showed it to the boys (and Max). They were all confused by this little squeaking wad of chewing gum and accepted that it was probably just a rare pollywog of some kind. And despite its little screaming leech-mouth, it WAS kind of adorable. Docile, even! Nothing to worry about at all. Never mind that it was pulsating and mutating before their very eyes. Stranger things had happened in this town. (That was a play on the title. Did you like it?)
I also liked this sweet scene between Sean Astin and Winona Ryder (again, so cool that they’re appearing as themselves in Stranger Things — very meta) when they talked about how Sean Astin had been bullied in high school, but at least he grew up and got to do sex with the prettiest girl in school, Winona Ryder. So yeah, it DOES get better. Aw, they’re such nice people. Hope it all works out for them. Oh, wait, am I rooting for Winona Ryder to get with Sheriff Hopper? Sometimes!
There was also this heartbreaking flashback moment when Sheriff Hopper had to kinda-sorta break the news to Eleven that her parents were out of the picture and she might as well consider them dead. We know her mom is still alive but possibly catatonic, and the less said about her father, the better. But she seemed so sad at this! And it hurt that she’d been reminded of this memory when she encountered a local woman playing with her own daughter.
I guess this was very triggering for Eleven, so she had a think-fast! moment and jangled a swing set to distract them and then ran away! Good save.
Winona Ryder decided to watch the videotape Will had filmed the night before, and it was hilarious that the show devoted an entire scene to the fact that she couldn’t figure out how to play the tiny VHS tape. But once she did, she noticed a strange pattern of static onscreen during the part Will had been in the Upside Down, and upon tracing it with a crayon realized the monster he’d been drawing was REAL.
Yes, kind of a far-fetched chain of events, but it was still great to see how tuned in and smart Winona Ryder was about these things. Her boy was in danger yet again and she had to do something!
We also learned a tiny bit more about that mysterious bargain Hopper had cut with the Department of Energy at the end of last season. Even though it seemed like he’d maybe been brainwashed or had shaken hands with the devil or whatever, it turned out he’d simply made a gentleman’s agreement to, like, help keep the department’s secrets from the townsfolk. In exchange, he was now demanding that they look into this rotten pumpkin situation. For some reason, Paul Reiser REALLY did not want to bother with this very obviously paranormal issue yet finally agreed to take some samples. But it also meant that when Hopper got word that Eleven had been spotted by a local woman, Dr. Reiser ALSO became aware that she was out there somewhere. Whoops!
And even though this was a brief moment, it involved Billy, so here goes: He told his lady friend here that Max wasn’t his sister. Wait, what? Then who are they to each other? What are their secrets? Expect a big reveal soon, hopefully! Also marry me, Billy. You’re awful, but I don’t mind.
Nancy had also come to realize it had been Jonathan who’d brought her home from the party, and she obviously was feeling conflicted about it. He’s a great guy and all, but what was she supposed to do? She already had a boyfriend! They shared a can of Pringles and a Tab on the hood of his car, and then she got the idea to do something about her angst over Barb’s death. She decided to arrange a meeting with Barb’s mom, knowing full well that the government was eavesdropping and would track her every movement. What was Nancy planning? Stay tuned, in my opinion.
That’s when Dart got loose at school! But it happened shortly after Will took one look at it and realized it was probably the same creature that he’d spit up in slug-form at the end of last season. Also, it made the same chirping noises he’d heard in the Upside Down (and WE had heard in the rotten pumpkin patch). So was this the slug creature that he’d been impregnated with while he was abducted? And if so, was its existence in the regular world going to be a problem? Well, it already was, considering it was now skittering through the hallways of the middle school!
I will admit I screamed when Lucas, for no apparent reason, jump-kicked open a classroom door and frightened a teacher. So good and perfect.
In a poignant misunderstanding, Eleven arrived at school to look for Mike, and just when we began to brace ourselves for an emotional reunion to end all emotional reunions, Eleven instead stumbled upon Mike getting badgered by Max, and it wasn’t what it looked like! Unfortunately, Eleven couldn’t help but get a little petty about it.
Mike had a feeling Eleven had caused this, but when he ran into the hallway to find her, she was gone. Awwwww. Kids.
We then concluded with a truly disturbing scene that might haunt my nightmares. Will had been chasing after Dart (which was eventually lovingly scooped up by its rightful owner, Dustin) and found himself in the Upside Down being pursued himself by the enormous shadow monster. Then, remembering Sean Astin’s advice to simply stand his ground against his foe, he did just that. Reader, it did not work.
Our last image was Will’s screaming face getting invaded in every orifice by smoke tendrils! What was happening? Was Will in danger? I am thinking Will was in danger! Man, this kid just can’t catch a break. Winona Ryder, where are you?
“Chapter Three: The Pollywog” was still very much a fun ‘n’ games episode of Stranger Things 2 — the Dart subplot was especially cute/scary — but man, that final moment. This season is not messing around, and depending on whatever’s happening to Will I’m guessing things are going to start shifting into high gear now. But what exactly is that giant creature, and how are the pollywogs related? There are still so many connections left to be made, so let’s just dislocate our jaws and keep bingeing this thing!
Stranger Things is currently available to stream on Netflix.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter One recap: Return that frown to the upside down
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Two recap: Going crazy together
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Three recap: Reunited and it feels so slimy
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Four recap: What happened to Baby Jane?
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Five recap: Tangled and Strangled
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Six recap: They’re heeeere
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Seven recap: Baby’s day out
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Eight recap: Blackout forever
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Nine recap: Ward and savior