Taking my birthday to watch more episodes quickly. Remember, I review but I don't recap; there are great recaps all over.
Acting: Harbour, Ryder, Heaton, and Wolfhard were all good to great. Matarazzo stood out - the kid was great in this one. McLaughlin, Havens, and Keery are great journeyman actors and have good instincts - I really like Havens; the man will be a 'HITG' before you know it. Brown was great in the flashbacks but struggled in the contemporary scenes with how little she has to work with.
And Dyer. That girl. She had a few good scenes, holding out hope.... Perhaps she is finding her feet, perhaps her issue is direction? Let us hope she isn't just doing a head fake.
Cinematography: I knew Ives was back before I looked at IMDB. His style isn't intrusive (quite the opposite) but it is distinctive; like Lindsey Buckingham on guitar. The cinematography keeps being great and the use of light was very good in this one.
Editing: Unfortunately, I also immediately saw that Ross was editing. While there is nothing wrong with his editing and use of jarring cuts, I prefer a less intrusive editing style. Hell, I think he deserves a big action movie where his style would rock. But here I am damning him with the faint praise of 3.5 out of 4 stars
Directing: The Duffers are back so the kids are in general better directed, which has its own problems (see below). Great directing overall and, well, you'll see my issue.
Characters: Hopper got some great scenes in both ep.4 and in this one, showing he is decisive and damn near foolhardy. Also, it seems you do not want him to punch you. Jonathan got some solid development showing both a hidden intelligence and resentment of those who have been judging him. He also is quick to accept reality and come to his mother's side. Nancy got some nice growth, although it turns out the character is rather bleak and cynical. Mr. Clarke gets a great scene where he reveals he is a D&D nerd, a decent science geek, and a good teacher. Very fun.
Lonnie turns out to be a rather bigger scumbag than we thought, but Joyce knows she has people who believe her, by the end. Dustin gets some great scenes, as does Mike. But Lucas....
I mentioned previously that Lucas is turning into a rather unlikeable character and initially attributed this to directing. Nope; the Duffers are back and he is worse, not just verbally abusing his own friends but physically threatening them.
While we learn a great deal more about Eleven's backstory (which was gripping) she is not yet developing very much. The difference is that backstory is to flesh out where a character starts in the arc of the story. Slow reveal of backstory can add depth to ongoing development but does not replace it!
Story: Hopper learning about kids in the lab, seeing the evil tree, and then waking up in his trailer? I loved it, it reminded me of the very best of the paranoid conspiracy movies of the '70's/'80's, like I mentioned last time. Him tearing up his place, then Joyce's, and finding bugs reminded me of The Conversation, the involvement of damn near everyone in the government is like Capricorn One, the overall paranoia is very Parallax Finding out that seemingly every place is bugged....
Sidenote: I was in electronic warfare for military intelligence for 8 years. When the entire 'the NSA is listening to everything' stories came out my neighbor asked me why I wasn't freaked out. I told him I thought everyone just knew already.
The 'Vale of Shadows' seems to be a replacement/alternate name for the Plane of Shadow, which is a ton of fun for us.
The 'let's go find Will' bits for both the kids and Jonathan/Nancy was interested, if marred by more drama than action. I am getting annoyed by how the boys, supposedly smart and curious, keep making the idiotic mistake of not asking Eleven what she knows. I mean, she is right there, obviously willing to help in general, and capable of speech. Why aren't they asking her more questions? OK, she is leading them in circles, why not ask her 'why'? It is getting ridiculous, in my opinion. These guys are rpg'ers, we ask questions.
And the bit with Nancy and Jonathan started out promising, then - bleh. Jonathan was good throughout, written and acted very naturalistically and realistically, even with some bitterness seeping out. Nancy just suddenly opens up her darkest fears of her family to a guy she barely knows? Odd. She climbs into a tree that is deeper than it is in diameter and doesn't tell Jonathan? Unlikely.
Don't get me started on the entire 'girl picks up weapon, is preternaturally good with it' bullshit, either. It is the laziest of lazy writing. Want her to have the gun? Point out she is a wee lass and thus it makes sense that she has it.
And - a protagonist does, indeed, go through a gate into the Plane of Sha... Uh, the Vale of Shadows.
Notes: The Evil Dead was already big in Indiana in 1982-1983 because the Raimis are from southern Detroit, the premiere was in Detroit, and it even hit some theaters in the area. And when Fangoria started talking about it in late '82 it really exploded!
The shout-outs to Stephen King's The Body and to Carpenter's the THing were great fun.
I was rght; the lab, Will's house, and Steve's house are all close together, meaning the monster has a limited range.
-Nancy gets away; it is too soon for a showdown and if she dies she needs to redeem herself, first.
-Nancy and Jonathan will continue to bond, even though they just emotionally chewed on each other.
-That Nancy gets to redeem herself
-That Lucas gets a more sympathetic portrayal
-That Hopper gets to one-punch more bad guys