Wednesday, July 6, 2022

‘Stranger Things’ Recap: Season 4, Episode 7 “Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab”

Episode 7 of the latest season of Stranger Things is a midseason finale of sorts, and it packs all the punches of one. The military has now obtained El’s location, thanks to their interrogation (read: straight-up abuse) of Agent Wallace; there’s a daring escape from the Upside Down, but not everyone makes it out, and a monster from seasons past returns to wreak havoc.

Here’s the recap for “Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab.”

Spoilers below for this episode, so continue at your own risk!

In the Upside Down

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler, Joe Keery as Steve Harrington, Maya Hawke as Robin Buckley, and Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
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This episode opens up on Steve in the Upside Down, getting tackled and overrun by those scary bat-like creatures. When it seems like he can’t fight any longer, Nancy, Robin, and Eddie suddenly appear, having jumped into the lake to save their friend. Armed with boat oars, the four heroes play baseball with the bat-like creatures, successfully killing several of them. But when the creatures call for backup, Nancy tells the others to follow her into the woods.

Taking cover at Skull Rock’s Upside Down counterpart, the chaos subsides somewhat, and Nancy takes some time to patch up a very injured Steve. Robin, a newbie to this world, asks if everything that’s available to them in their world is also available here, like guns at the police station. Nancy says yes, but if they want guns, they can just go to her house. She has two guns in her bedroom.

Finally having made it to the Wheeler house, Nancy and the others run upstairs to her bedroom. She searches for the guns in her closet, but they’re not there. In fact, she notices homework and clothes and shoes that she hasn’t had possession of in years. She reads through one of her journals and realizes that they have somehow traveled back in time, to 1983 … to the day that Will disappeared and the first gate opened. Suddenly, Steve is yelling for Dustin, because he can hear his voice. And when the others join him downstairs, they hear Dustin, too.

Gladiator, but Make It Demogorgon

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Brett Gelman as Murray Bauman, Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers and Nikola Djuricko as Yuri in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Murray and Joyce have made it to Kamchatka, with Yuri in tow. The switch-a-roo works and Murray is able to gain entry through the gate by convincing the guard that he is actually Yuri. Inside, some high-ranking Russians enter the room where Murray and company are. After making nice with the Russians, Murray, Joyce, and Yuri are led to the main show for the evening: the center courtyard of the prison, where Hopper and the other prisoners will fight for their lives against the chittering Demogorgon. This is the first time Joyce sees Hopper since the Starcourt Mall explosion.

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Down below, the prisoners are being told “the rules” for the event that’s about to take place. A buzzer will sound, and the prisoners will be allowed to grab one weapon of their choice. Then, the monster behind the metal doors will enter the arena, and it will be every man for himself. When the buzzer sounds, Hopper fashions his torch from the lighter and Vodka he confiscated earlier. Joyce and Murray watch helplessly from up above.

STRANGER THINGS. David Harbour as Jim Hopper in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

The Demogorgon is released into the courtyard. Almost all prisoners die instantly, but Hopper and Enzo stay the course, with Hopper threatening the monster with his torch, while Enzo tries to harm it with blows from a pickaxe. Upstairs, Murray pulls a gun on the Major and moves them inside the main control room. He threatens everyone in the room to open the main doors so Hopper and Enzo can be saved, but no one agrees to do it, afraid that opening the doors will let loose the monster below. So Murray does the only thing he can do: unleash his black belt power onto everyone in the control room.

With all the guards lying on the ground, Joyce and Murray try to figure out which button on the very large console will unlock the doors below to free Hopper. After pushing every button within her reach, Joyce finds it, and the doors below open just in time. Hopper and Enzo race inside, and the doors close, locking Hopper and Enzo safe inside a metal room.

And then the internal doors of the room open, and Hopper walks through the doors and sees Joyce waiting for him!

At the Wheeler Residence

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Cara Buono as Karen Wheeler, Rob Morgan as Officer Powell, John Paul Reynolds as Officer Callahan, and Priah Ferguson as Erica Sinclair in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

In the Wheelers’ living room, the police are questioning Lucas, Dustin, and Max about their presence at Lover’s Lake. They don’t give any straight answers, knowing that the truth would be laughed at. But Erica is there to call out everyone on their bull. “The whole couch is on fire!” she proclaims. Then, the room devolves into a screaming match with literally everyone participating, and Chief Powell decides to interview the kids separately.

While Max is being questioned, Dustin joins Lucas in the kitchen, and Erica demands to be filled in on what’s really going on by threatening Lucas that she’ll tell Dustin what she found under his bed. That’s all it takes to get Lucas singing about absolutely everything: the dark wizard from the Upside Down, the gate in Lover’s Lake … everything. Erica is completely unimpressed by all this information, and she asks why the commies would open a gate in a lake. This question gets Dustin thinking: since El and the commies are not opening gates this time around, maybe Vecna is with each of his kills. His psychic connections with the murder victims might be tearing the fabric of time and space, which means that a gate would exist wherever a person was murdered by Vecna.

A Connection is Made

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Priah Ferguson as Erica Sinclair, Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson and Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas Sinclair in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Dustin is still working out his Vecna logic when Erica notices something weird happening with the kitchen light. On the other side, Nancy and the others are trying to communicate through the lights, kind of like what Will did when he was captured. As they reach toward a chandelier, the individual bulbs increase in intensity. Eddie starts signaling “S.O.S.” using Morse code, and Erica catches it.

Dustin, Lucas, and Erica grab little Holly’s Lite Bright and run upstairs to Nancy’s room. Lucas plugs it in, and Nancy and the others see the illumination on their side. Nancy then begins drawing letters in the field of light, which Dustin and company can read. Through painstaking work, Nancy tells Dustin that they’re stuck where they are, and they can’t go back to the Lover’s Lake gate, because it’s guarded. Dustin tells them (by yelling in his shrill voice) that each murder site has its own gate. So they all agree to meet at their respective Eddie Munson’s house, where Chrissy died.

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Priah Ferguson as Erica Sinclair, Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson, Sadie Sink as Max Mayfield, and Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas Sinclair in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

In the living room(s) of Eddie’s house(s), the fissure in the ceiling has opened up, and both groups of friends can see and talk to each other through it. Dustin throws a rope made of knotted sheets through the fissure to give Nancy and the others some way of crawling out. (The physics are really wonky here: Dustin throws the sheet rope straight up, and it lands with a thud on the ground in the Upside Down.) Robin crawls up and then … down the rope and lands safely in the correct world. Eddie follows and is also safely on the right side.

Nancy then begins her climb, but she lands somewhere we haven’t seen since the first season: the swimming pool where Barb was killed. Vecna’s voice then breaks through. He tells Nancy that whenever he kills someone, he never forgets about it. “Have you already forgotten?” he asks Nancy. Meanwhile, Steve is standing next to the sheet rope, trying to wake Nancy out of her trance.

Under Vecna’s power, Nancy makes her way to the place where Max ended up during her spell: at the Creel house in the Upside Down. She enters the house and learns the true story of what happened there.

The Truth Comes Out

STRANGER THINGS. Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

It’s like season one all over again, with El at the lab trying to crush a can of Coke with her mind. She’s failing because her memories of the slaughter that occurred at the lab when she was younger are plaguing her mind. Brenner visits El in her room and tells her that he believes she is regressing. He asks her to trust him and travel back into the past, one more time. We then see the tank on Nina lift, and El descends into the water below.

It is now 1979, on the day of the massacre at Hawkins Lab. El is in the Rainbow Room, trying to move objects with her mind, but she is continuously unsuccessful. Then, Peter, the creepy orderly, walks up to her and sets her down to a chess game. While they’re playing the game, Peter tells El that some of the other “siblings” are planning on attacking and killing her, and Brenner is going to let it happen. He tells El that Brenner is frightened of her because she is stronger than the others. And Peter then tells El that he will help her escape, but it has to happen today.

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Jamie Campbell Bower as Peter Ballard and Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Later, El escapes from under the watchful eyes of the guards in the Rainbow Room and is able to get downstairs to the basement, using a keycard that Peter swiped for her. In the boiler room, Peter is waiting for her. He takes her to an opening of a large pipe that he tells her will lead her out to the woods behind the lab. El realizes that he isn’t going to be able to come with her, and this upsets her. Peter shows her a small lump in his neck and tells her it’s a tracker called Soteria. So even if he were to leave with her, Brenner would find him.

El removes the tracker from his neck with her mind. But as soon as she does, the guards find her and Peter. They run back upstairs, trying to escape, but more guards stop them. When the guards approach them to detain them, Peter begins throwing them against the walls and ceiling with ease. He has the same powers that El does! After killing all the guards, Peter hides El in a utility closet. El asks him how he was able to do what he did. Peter pulls back his sleeve and shows her his wrist tattoo.

Peter is 001!

The Creel Connection

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Tyner Rushing as Virginia Creel, Kevin L. Johnson as young Victor Creel and Livi Burch as Alice Creel in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Tina Rowden/Netflix © 2022

While pacing inside the closet, El hears the overhead alarm blaring outside. She leaves the closet and begins walking through the halls. They are filled with the dead bodies of guards, nurses, and orderlies. She walks into the Rainbow Room and sees her siblings all dead, mangled heaps of bones and blood. Ahead, 001 is holding 002 in a trance, high above the floor and against the wall. 002 then drops dead.

001 tells El his story. While 001 narrates, we walk with Nancy through the Creel house and learn immediately that 001 is Victor Creel’s son, thought to have died the night of the murders. He was having difficulty in school and socially, so his family moved to Hawkins for a fresh start. In that house, 001 learned to sharpen his telepathic skills. But these skills showed 001 who people truly were, all their secrets and lies — including his own parents. The visions that Victor told Nancy and Robin about at Pennhurst, those visions were actually brought about by 001.

While Victor believed a demon was causing the visions, 001 says that his mother somehow knew it was him. She talked to a doctor to have him locked away because of it. This left 001 with no choice, he says, but to kill her. His father was arrested and blamed for the murders, like 001 had planned. But 001 fell into a coma, having pushed the limits of his powers too far. When he awoke, he realized he was in the care of the very doctor that his mother wanted to lock him away: Dr. Martin Brenner.

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Jamie Campbell Bower as Peter Ballard and Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

El becomes infuriated with 001 because he tricked her into letting him roam free. She also now knows that she has never been to blame for the Hawkins Lab massacre — it was 001’s doing all along. He tells her that she’s a prisoner in the lab, just like he was, and if she goes with him, she’ll be truly free. She tells him no and throws him against the opposite wall with her powers. A battle ensues, and at first, they appear to be pretty evenly matched. But 001 takes the upper hand and literally wipes the floor with El. But just when it appears that El will suffer the same, bone-crushing fate as Chrissy, Fred, and Patrick, El musters the focus and strength to throw 001 through a mirror and against the wall, keeping him lifted off the ground. The force with which El throws 001 is so massive that a fissure forms in the wall and 001 eventually disintegrates into it, dissolving and disappearing into nothing.

STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

We then see 001 falling through the Upside Down, slowly transforming into a new creature, becoming absorbed by the roots and creatures in the alternate reality.

We witness 001 turn into Vecna before our very eyes.

Stranger Things season four, volume one is available to stream right now on Netflix. Volume two will be released in less than a month, on July 1. And while it will only consist of two episodes, they will be super-sized: “Chapter Eight: Papa” has a runtime of 1 hour and 25 minutes, and “Chapter Nine: The Piggyback” will clock in at 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Follow our episodic recaps here, and check out all of our past and present Stranger Things coverage here.

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