Stranger Things has largely been commended for its triumphant second season, but it hasn't been without controversies, chief among them the polarizing seventh episode of the season. The series producers are defending the episode as the sort of creative risk they need to take to keep the show fresh.
Stranger Things came out of nowhere in 2016 to become arguably Netflix's most popular series, and a genuine sensation. Eleven's love affair with Eggo waffles, Dustin's endearingly toothless grin, and Steve's breathtaking hair became immediate pop culture touchstones. Anticipation for season 2 has been building to a fever pitch, and for the most part, it did not disappoint, doubling down on many of the things that worked about that first season and upping its game with a truly fantastic climax. However, the seventh episode of the season was a jarring shift, interrupting the escalating situation in Hawkins to tell a largely self contained story about Eleven finding another superpowered adolescent like herself in Chicago. It's an interesting episode that tells us plenty about Eleven, but there's no denying it's in a strange spot in the season, delaying the massive confrontation with the demaodog army by an episode.
The Duffer brothers are defending their decision to stick a bottle episode right before their epic, climactic battle. In an interview with EW, the brothers acknowledge that the episode might not work for everyone, but they felt it was a creative risk they needed to take.
"Whether it works for people or not, it allows us to experiment a little bit. It’s important for Ross and I to try stuff and not feel like we’re doing the same thing over and over again. It’s almost like doing a whole little other pilot episode in the middle of your season, which is kind of a crazy thing to do. But it was really fun to write and cast and work on.”
The producers also claim the episode was crucial to Eleven's personal plot and, by extension, the bigger plot in Hawkins.
“Our test of the episode was we tried to pull it out of the show just to make sure that we needed it because I didn’t want it in there as filler — even though some critics are accusing us of doing that. But Eleven’s journey kind of fell apart, like the ending didn’t work, without it. So I was like, whether this works or not, we need this building block in here or the whole show is going to collapse. It’s not going to end well. The Mind Flayer is going to take over Hawkins.”
It seems likely this episode will continue to be a point of contention for fans of the show going forward, especially if season 3 continues to explore new characters associated with Eleven's past. Maybe next time the show can figure out a way of telling those stories without them feeling so disruptive to the overall plot.
Stranger Things 2 is available in its entirety on Netflix.