“Hop is alive,” it says. Hop is alive! Listen, I’m aware this isn’t some big reveal. We’ve known our intrepid, Miami Vice–loving sheriff survived that blast in the Russian bunker since the end of season three, but as someone with a schoolgirl crush on Jim Hopper that knows exactly zero bounds, I’m just glad Stranger Things didn’t hold back that information from the other characters until like halfway through the season. Thanks to that creepy doll and the magazine-cutout note signed by “Enzo,” Joyce and Murray know there’s hope. Who cares who sent the note — there’s no way they’re not going to do something about it. Okay, actually, we all care who sent that note because Joyce and Murray’s story line for this entire episode is about figuring it out. But you know what I mean. Friend or foe, they’re coming for Hopper.
Here’s the thing: Hopper might be alive, but only barely. We get a look at what’s happened to our chief, and it’s, uh, not great. After that heartbreaking nod in which Hopper sacrifices himself (which I honestly did not want to relive because I’m fragile), we learn Hop took a last-ditch nosedive away from the blast. He survives it, but when he comes to, he’s surrounded by Russian soldiers (did the U.S. soldiers not do a full sweep of the area?). He’s tortured and interrogated, and they try a baby bit of suffocation with this mask called “the elephant” that will probably haunt my dreams. They want him to give up Joyce’s name, but Hopper never breaks. “You want to die for this woman?” they ask. But folks, they don’t know he would! Of course he would die for this woman!
So Hopper survives all of this, and as a treat, they send him off to a work prison in Kamchatka, which one guy insists is the same as sending him to hell. So that’s fun and cute.
Meanwhile, in Lenora Hills, California, Murray Bauman has arrived to help Joyce figure out what this note means. Murray is concerned since there’s no proof Hopper is actually alive, but Joyce points to the fact that it’s signed “Enzo” and only she and Hopper knew they had set up a date at Enzo’s. It has to be a signal from him. All they can do now is call the number on the note. The number goes to a pay phone, and it’s answered by some guy who wants them to bring $40,000 from Hopper’s trust for El to a man named Yuri in Alaska, who will then give “Enzo” the money. Only then will he send Hopper back to them. They have two days.
The phone call leaves them even more confused until Murray is able to translate a woman speaking in the background who they picked up on their recording of the call. She’s yelling at this Enzo guy and uses a slang term equivalent to calling cops “pigs.” It turns out Enzo is a prison guard in Kamchatka whom Hopper bribed. It’s all a risk, but if this is the one shot at getting Hopper home, then Joyce and 40 grand are headed up to Alaska. Something tells me nothing about this will be easy, but, you know, one can hope.
One can also hope they move quickly because it seems as though the people back in Hawkins may need some backup soon. Since Chrissy Cunningham was found dead in Eddie Munson’s trailer, things have been spiraling. Since Eddie took off, he is clearly the No. 1 suspect. Thankfully, Max was right across the way the night Chrissy died. Not only did she see Eddie flee and notice he looked scared out of his mind while doing so, but she also noticed the lights flickering in an “Oh, no, this is Upside Down related, isn’t it?” kind of way. She immediately tells Dustin, who knows with 100 percent certainty that Eddie couldn’t have done this (okay, his story about how Eddie was the only one nice to him and Mike when they started school is so sweet), a monster from another dimension is the only explanation. And you know what? On this show, that makes total sense.
Thanks to some help from Steve and Robin, some phone calls to Eddie’s friends, and the fact that our movie-rental choices might say a lot more about us than we want to let on, they track Eddie down in the boathouse of his drug dealer, Reefer Rick, near Lover’s Lake. Eddie is petrified people think he could’ve killed Chrissy and is scared they won’t believe him when he tells them what really happened. They’re all like, “Try me” — which, sidenote, is kind of a badass thing to say. Eddie tells them what he saw happen to Chrissy, snapped bones and all, and they tell him about the Upside Down. They know the two are related even though they were under the impression there was no way for the two worlds to “bleed” together with the gate closed. They know Eddie is innocent. Now all they have to do is figure out a way to prove it.
It certainly doesn’t do Eddie any favors that after this evening, a second high-school student is added to the mysterious snapped-bone-and-missing-eye murder list. That’s right: Vecna claims his second victim, and it is … Fred Benson, Nancy’s right hand at the school paper.
Nancy and Fred head over to the trailer park to get the scoop on Chrissy’s death, but as soon as they pull in, Fred starts to have the same type of hallucinations Chrissy did. His, however, have to do with some hit-and-run he was involved in. Instead of haunting him about his weight, as Vecna did with Chrissy, Fred is haunted by the guilt of killing someone. He follows the sound of the ticking clock into the woods alone (another teen walking into the woods alone? In this climate?!) and finds the same grandfather clock Chrissy saw, this time in a coffin. Zombie people chant “Murderer!” at him. He finds himself in a deep grave with the corpse of the guy he killed. And then Vecna shows up. He remains very unpleasant to look at. When Fred asks what he wants, he tells him “to join me.” We see Fred run out into a deserted road, and it’s not long before he’s levitating. His bones snap. His eyes are pulled into the back of his head. It’s over so quickly.
Now why did Nancy leave Fred alone in the first place? Well, she was trying to get information from Eddie’s uncle. Mr. Munson has an interesting theory as to what really happened here: He tells Nancy about a man named Victor Creel, who, when Munson was a kid, went insane and killed his wife and kids. They, too, were missing their eyes. Creel is alive, and though he was sent to the Pennhurst Mental Hospital, he could’ve escaped, Munson thinks. Like, of course this town has an insane asylum, and you can bet your butts we’re going to end up paying the place a visit at some point. But still! Victor Creel is a real lead — one that could end up helping Eddie. It is the silver lining in all of this. Well, the silver lining for us. There is no silver lining for Fred Benson. That boy is real dead.
More Strange Things!
• Mike arrives in California for spring break in a truly unhinged outfit, and El continues her charade of pretending she loves her new life. She’s friends with Angela! She parties at the roller rink! Mike learns the hard way that his girlfriend is lying: He watches as Angela brutally bullies El in the middle of the rink, having everyone swarm around her to the tune of “Wipe Out” until another kid dumps a milkshake on her. They videotape the entire thing. There are a lot of disgusting things that happen on this show, but this one had my stomach churning.
• El hides with embarrassment but then decides to demand an apology from Angela. Instead, Angela decides to make fun of El for having a dead dad because Angela is a monster. And so our El, unable to control her rage — it feels so primal, doesn’t it? — slams a roller-skate wheel into Angela’s head! It is wild. No wonder when Mike runs up yelling “What did you do?” we flash back to that bloodbath in the lab with Brenner asking El the same thing. This is not good for anyone!
• I’m sorry, it’s well past 1976: Have none of these Lenora Hills teens seen Carrie? These assholes should know what happens when you mess with a girl with telekinetic powers!!
• What’s up with Will and his painting? And also his general mood?
• We have a new ominous figure in town: Lieutenant Colonel Sullivan arrives in Hawkins to review the details surrounding Chrissy’s death. Is he a good guy, or should we be worried?
• Jason finds out Eddie could have something to do with his girlfriend’s death and decides that Eddie’s Hellfire Club must be a cover for Satanic worship and he must be stopped. Lucas tries to explain that D&D is just a game, but Jason is too far gone down this path. He gathers the basketball boys to go “freak hunting.” Lucas is going to have some problems here.
• Does anyone care about Jonathan being so angsty about his relationship with Nancy? Not even Nancy seems that concerned! Jonathan confesses to Argyle that he’s going to go to community college to stay close to his family instead of heading off to Emerson as he and Nancy planned — but he’s scared that if he tells Nancy, she’ll change her plans for him. Nancy doesn’t strike me as that kind of girl, but okay. If this is the end of Nancy and Jonathan, I will not be heartbroken about it.
• Speaking of, Steve and Robin have a convo about how Steve is dating around with no luck because he doesn’t know what he wants. Is that because he’s still in love with Nancy? Now that I would be very interested in. It’s time the babysitter got his big hero arc, baby! Truly living for how jealous Steve is that Dustin has “another older male friend” in Eddie.