Stranger Things season 3 will face one significant challenge; it will have to redeem the controversial seventh episode of season 2, "The Lost Sister." There's a sense in which that entire episode was essentially setup, introducing viewers to Linnea Berthelsen's Kali, a new psychic character who had also been a victim of Eleven's twisted "Papa."
The Duffer brothers used a narrative technique that will be familiar to any Star Wars fan, taking Eleven on a journey of self-discovery that felt vaguely akin to Luke Skywalker's in The Empire Strikes Back. They subverted the classic tropes, though, using clever symmetry to tell viewers that Kali was no Yoda; rather, she's an ultimate antagonist. Like Eleven, Kali has a group of four gathered around her. In contrast to Eleven, though, they seem less like friends and more like members of a cult, bound to the one who claims she has saved them "in heart and mind."
Related: Who is the Lost Sister?
The episode was greeted with controversy, but Matt and Ross Duffer were unapologetic. "Whether it works for people or not, it allows us to experiment a little bit," Matt insisted. He went on to suggest episode 7 was "almost like doing a whole little other pilot episode in the middle of your season," a comment that briefly led fans to believe the entire episode was intended as a spinoff. That wasn't the case; the episode is no spinoff, rather it's a hint of what's to come. Let's take a look at the problems with "The Lost Sister," and then explore how Stranger Things season 3 could redeem the story.
- This Page: The Good and Bad of "The Lost Sister"
- Next Page: How to Fix the Problems from Episode 7
The Problems with Season 2 Episode 7
At its heart, the purpose of "The Lost Sister" was a simple one; to expand the world of Stranger Things, in order to provide a foundation on which future seasons could be built. It succeeded in this goal, but it did so in a strange way. Eleven is a child like no other, powerful almost beyond measure, but she actually has significant limitations. The character hardly has any idea how the world works; she had the ultimate sheltered upbringing, and is still struggling to get to grips with the world she has just begun to enter. And yet, in episode 7 Eleven makes her way, unaided, to Chicago. She then navigates the city with ease, finding her "sister" Kali with no real difficulty at all.
It didn't help that Stranger Things showed a cliched version of Chicago, proving that the Duffer brothers would be wiser to stick to Hawkins in future. Worse still, while Kali was an interesting villain, her cultist followers simply didn't present well. The Duffers were so busy presenting homages to the '80s that they didn't develop them effectively as characters at all. It didn't feel nostalgic at all; rather, it felt overdone.
Compounding this problem was the fact that the Duffer brothers underestimated what they've actually achieved in Stranger Things. Hawkins has become an integral part of the story, a central location that is every bit as much a character as Will or even Eleven. Few TV shows actually manage to build such a strong sense of place, but the Duffer brothers have pulled it off. That meant the contrast between Hawkins and Chicago was stark.
Eleven's Siblings are the Future of Stranger Things
Some viewers have argued that "The Lost Sister" was little more than "filler," but that's a failure to understand what the episode really accomplished - or, indeed, its importance in setting up the main narrative for future seasons. Season 1 had shown Eleven as an isolated example, apparently the only success in Dr. Brenner's years-long campaign to unlock super-powers. Now we know that isn't the case; he'd been finding genuine psychics by the time he got to Eight, so it's likely there was a Nine and Ten as well. The revelation that Brenner is still alive mixes things up nicely, suggesting he may still have other psychics under control. After all, who's to say Eleven was the last? There could be a Twelve out there, or even a Thirteen.
Without these psychics, Stranger Things faces a difficult problem. Eleven has grown in power to the extent that she can overpower the Mind Flayer, meaning no creature in the Upside-Down can truly threaten her. The only way future seasons could build suspense would be to sideline her, before bringing her back for the denouement. But adding other psychics into the plot means she can be equaled, perhaps even bested. Kali, of course, is perfectly positioned to be the yin to Eleven's yang, the darkness to her light; and her power to cast illusions is able to trump even Eleven's psychic defenses. Suddenly the show's resident superhero has genuine enemies who can challenge her power.
It's clear future seasons of Stranger Things should exploit the dynamic between Eleven and Kali. To use an X-Men metaphor, they could be the Charles Xavier and Magneto of the series, their different ideological views bringing them into conflict. There's a sense in which episode 7 was indeed a backdoor pilot - for Stranger Things season 3.