'Stranger Things 2' Chapter Five recap: Tangled and strangled

Price Peterson
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Photos: Netflix

Warning: This recap of the “Chapter Five: Dig Dug” episode of Stranger Things contains spoilers. 

At least in a metaphorical sense, we all know what it’s like to be grabbed from every direction by slimy vines that pin us to the ground and strangle the life out of us. It’s called MARRIAGE LOL — but seriously folks, life is hard out there sometimes. Just when things seem fine you’re suddenly stuck in a tunnel with poor air quality and giant fungal blobs are sneezing on you, then here come those vines again! They’re called CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS. Haha just kidding — but listen, I’m in a lot of trouble, much like Sheriff Hopper getting nearly strangled to death by vines, which nonmetaphorically happened in “Chapter Five: Dig Dug.” Let’s talk about it!

We began with Will coming to the realization that he’s basically possessed by a cosmic evil that can now spy on the real world through his eyes. Sort of like the ’80s version of Facebook location tracking.

But as Mike pointed out, this was a two-way haunting: Will should look on the bright side and realize that he can look into the dark side also! That definitely put a brighter spin on things. Especially when Will had the sudden vision that Sheriff Hopper was trapped in a tunnel somewhere!

Because yep, Sheriff Hopper’s underground tunnel hike had gotten very unfun very fast. At first he didn’t seem overly concerned when a bunch of vines blocked the hole he’d made to enter. Maybe he’d been feeling nostalgic for that one time he hung out in the Upside Down, because now here he was, breathing that bad air and getting sneezed upon by giant spore monsters. (Which confirmed that the floating particles in that hell-place are actual fungus!) But now it was pretty clear he was over it.

It wasn’t long before Sheriff Hopper decided it was naptime, so he found a nice soft pile of slime that he could rest his face against for some much-needed z’s. I completely related and was borderline jealous. Rest up, gentlefriend.

Nancy and Jonathan, meanwhile, had taken their tape recorder full of incriminating evidence and hit the road in search of… something. For now they were sharing a motel room and remembering the time they cut their palms and bled all over each other. Simpler times. But now all was not well between them, presumably because they were teens and their emotions were c o m p l i c a t e d. So they just sort of both flipped over and went to sleep. Nothing to see here. To be continued.

Dustin decided that enough was enough. Dart had crossed the line when he ate the family cat. So Dustin tricked his distraught mother into going to look for the cat across town, and then lured Dart outside using a trail of strategically placed baloney slices. I myself have been lured into traps in the same way, so I can vouch for its effectiveness.

And Dustin was able to trap the baby demogorgon in the storm cellar! Now it was time to alert his friends as to what was going on, but when he tried to reach Lucas via walkie-talkie, this happened:

Lucas’s little sister is definitely an MVP this season. Love her.

It turned out that Nancy and Jonathan were going to go pay Brett Gelman a visit, and upon arrival they discovered he’d been keeping one of those yarn-’n’-pushpin serial killer boards related to Barb’s disappearance and also Eleven sightings. I loved that Nancy seemed appreciative of his ambition but still casually told him everything that was wrong. She had the facts and he was about to get educated.

Lucas had decided that it was tearing him up inside that he’d been keeping Max out of the loop with regards to all the stranger things happening in town. So he called in a favor with the dude at the arcade to get Max into a secret meeting in the manager’s office. But how would Max react to all of his true but insane stories? Stay tuned.

Eleven was not ready to give up on communicating with her mother, and if telepathically linking with her from a distance wasn’t an option, then hitchhiking to her home was! This gave us another chance to check in with the poor, catatonic woman and her beleaguered sister (the great Amy Seimetz), and obviously, it was incredibly emotional to see Eleven come face to face with the mother she’d been yearning for. But she wasn’t very responsive and they’d have to try harder to communicate. Just my opinion.

I loved when Sean Astin (as himself) came over to bring Will some get-well-soon brain busters and Winona Ryder (as herself) at first tried to get him to leave, but then realized that maybe his puzzle-solving skills would come in handy. Like maybe he could help look at Will’s vine map and figure out where the eff Sheriff Hopper was! Spoiler: Sean Astin helped and it was very cute.

Man, I love Mike and Nancy’s mom. She is a true superstar. Anyway, Dustin came over to find Mike, but Mike wasn’t there. And at the same time Steve came over to apologize to Nancy, but Nancy wasn’t there. So Dustin enlisted Steve to come help him with a situation that might require his modified baseball bat. What a duo! Buckle up.

Speaking of fun, Sheriff Hopper was no longer having any. He was now tangled and strangled by these damn vines! Hurry, Sean Astin, hurry!

After what must’ve taken hours of explanation, Lucas’s story of everything that had happened came to a close. Max was into it, but she seemed confused about how it felt similar to many movies and novels that were currently in release at that time.

Just kidding, I was only funnin’, she wasn’t that harsh. But this was a very meta scene and seemed to be openly commenting on the show itself. But it didn’t matter because Max simply did not believe any of it. Until later, when she could tell how freaked out Lucas was that she was now in danger for knowing what she knew. Also, Perfect Billy once again looked infuriated that she was hanging with Lucas, which is either racist or because he’s some sort of operative who knows what’s up. Can’t be sure yet!

After presenting Brett Gelman with her incriminating recording, Nancy was bummed when he explained that some things are just too unbelievable to the public. If they wanted to take down the Department of Energy, they couldn’t make claims about rifts in the dimensions or flower-headed flesh eaters or psychic girls. They’d have to “water it down” and claim that the government had exposed the town to radiation like something out of Erin Brockovich. It wasn’t the best plan, but it was a start! They were now going to work together to expose this whole thing, or at least kind of expose this whole thing.

Back at the lab, Dr. Paul Reiser (as himself) discovered that the soil samples they’d gathered from the rotten pumpkin patch were like, alive? Meaning when they heated up some soil, it rose up and swirled around in its beaker, and even the neighboring beakers would do that, perhaps out of sympathy. Stranger things have happened! (Did you ever notice that the title of this show refers to all the odd events that occur in this town? Pretty clever if you ask me.)

After Eleven noticed that many of the household lamps would flicker one at a time, and then also noticed that her catatonic mother was bleeding from the nose, she realized that her mom had powers similar to her own! It was time to tear up some dish towels and get blindfolded for a psychic pow-wow!

In a wrenching montage, Eleven aka Jane watched her pregnant mother lose her newborn to the dastardly Matthew Modine (as himself), and then after her lawsuits against the Department of Energy failed, she resorted to waving a gun around to find her daughter.

Aw, look at baby Eleven on the left there! And something tells me the kid on the right might be the Eight we saw in the premiere. Were they best friends in the lab? Can’t wait to find out.

And it was obviously upsetting to see Eleven’s mom get nonconsensual shock treatment until her brain was too fried to do anything but repeat the same unrelated words over and over again. As it turned out, each of the words had been related to her quest to find Eleven, which meant that even though she’d been irreparably damaged, she still dreamed of her girl. Man, so devastating. Matthew Modine was an even bigger villain than we’d realized.

Finally Winona Ryder and Sean Astin located on the vine map where Sheriff Hopper was likely to be, and seemingly within minutes they too were in the Upside Down untangling him from the vines! And coincidentally Dr. Paul Reiser and his team showed up only minutes later, probably because of the swirling dirt back at the lab.

They did what they do best: flame-showered the whole area. Which was a relief at first: Those vines sure are nasty. But then things took a turn.

Will began having a painful scream-seizure! He was apparently linked to the tunnel vines somehow, so hurting them meant hurting Will. Man, the poor kid just cannot catch a break!

In what is now a recurring theme, watching Will in pure agony was a shocking way to end the episode. Personally, I gasped “Jesus Christ!” out loud at the screen. This show does not mess around sometimes. Overall, “Chapter Five: Dig Dug” was a setup episode, but the ticking clock of Sheriff Hopper’s predicament kept things lively and tense. Let’s hope this season can keep it up!

Stranger Things is streaming now on Netflix.

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