Two episodes into Season 4 and Stranger Things has given us new characters, elevated smaller roles, and introduced a new villain. But the endgame still isn’t clear and the Hawkins gang is spread pretty thinly. And Episode 3, The Monster and the Superhero, promises to bring back another character. Does the title’s ‘superhero’ and ‘monster’ refer to Eleven and Vecna, respectively? Or does the title refer back to Season 4’s first image of Dr. Brenner asking an angry, young Eleven, ‘What have you done?’
The Monster and the Superhero Gives Us a New Human ‘Monster’
In addition to its demogorgons and the Mind Flayer, Stranger Things has always had a human monster or two. Dr. Brenner is dead. Maybe. And Billy died – and kind of redeemed himself – in Season 3. At the start of The Monster and the Superhero, Stranger Things introduces us to Lt. Colonel Sullivan. He shows up unannounced and uninvited in a chopper to Dr. Owen’s house. He’s pretty intent on finding Eleven and assumes Owens is either hiding her or knows where to find her. As far as Sullivan is concerned, Eleven is the ‘monster’ responsible for everything bad in Hawkins. It’s a short, but important scene, that introduces a new wrinkle – two competing factions of the US government want to find Eleven.
Hopper Plans His Escape From Mother Russia
Meanwhile in his Soviet prison, Hopper hatches a plan to escape with guard Dmitri, who’s the same ‘Enzo’ that reached out to Joyce. Unfortunately for Hopper, it’s not much of a plan. Once Dmitri gets his $40 thousand dollars, Hopper has to find his own way to Joyce and a plane. And his ticket back to America hinges on a Russian smuggler named Yuri. But before he can escape, Hopper needs to trades his soup and bread to another inmate. In return, the inmate uses their sledgehammer to break Hopper’s ankle just enough to let him slide off the chain-bracelet off.
Murray Makes a Mean Risotto in California
Things aren’t going much better in California. After the roller rink fiasco, Eleven et al. come home to find Murray cooking risotto. Not surprisingly, it’s an awkward dinner – Mike and Eleven are on the outs, Jonathan is as high as a kite, and Joyce is oblivious to everything. She’s too focused on convincing the kids she’s going to Alaska for a Britannica convention when she’s in fact she’s planning on dropping off ransom money in exchange for Hopper. By the next morning, Joyce and Murray are on a plane, Jonathan’s in charge, and Mike is trying to get Eleven to open up. It goes horribly – Eleven confronts him about why he won’t say, “I love you”. Mike dodges the question and instead tries to assure Eleven that she’s better than her bullies. “You’re a superhero” he reminds her.” “Not anymore,” she replies.
She’s [Joyce] too focused on convincing the kids she’s going to Alaska for a Britannica convention when she’s in fact she’s planning on dropping off ransom money in exchange for Hopper.
Before Mike can convince her otherwise, the local police arrive to arrest Eleven for her assault on Angela. That turns out to be big mistake. Now that Eleven’s in the system it alerts both government factions looking for her. The police van never makes it to the juvenile detention center. Out in the middle of the dessert it’s stopped by several black sedans and men in suits who assure the officers that they can Eleven off their hands. Fortunately, it’s Dr. Owens who finds Eleven first. At a road stop diner, he asks her to help him fight a war that’s coming to Hawkins, promising that he can restore her powers. It’s a powerful scene that ends with Eleven leaving with him.
The “Monster” in The Superhero and the Monster Finds Its Next Victim
In Hawkins, Dustin, Steve, Max, and Robin bring Eddie up to speed on the Upside Down and Vecna. After they leave Eddie safely hiding at Reefer Rick’s, they find Nancy to brainstorm next steps. But it’s Max who starts putting together the pieces – both of Vecna’s victims complained of nightmares, nosebleeds, and strange visions. They were also seeing the school counselor. Though it’s a stretch, Max visits the counselor at her home. Not surprisingly, Ms. Kelly tells Max that she can’t share other students’ private information. But Max doesn’t need it because she finds the counselor’s office key on her way out the door.
Too bad his rantings about a vengeful demon is exactly the kind of thing that lands you in a psychiatric hospital.
While Steve drives Max and Dustin to the school, Nancy and Robin follow up on the legend of Victor Creel. They find old news clippings and learn that poor Victor claimed he never killed his family. Too bad his rantings about a vengeful demon is exactly the kind of thing that lands you in a psychiatric hospital. Thinking that there’s a link between Creel’s demon and Vecna, Robin and Nancy decide to try and visit him in the hospital. And poor Lucas is stuck running interferences for his friends while the basketball team tracks down Eddie. The team doesn’t find Eddie, but they do find some of his friends who give up Dustin after Jason roughs them up a bit
The Monster and the Superhero is a Bit of a Filler Episode, But No Less Compellng
As The Monster and the Superhero ticks down to its final minutes, everyone in Hawkins seems to be heading for the school. But it’s the final scene that sets up the emotional stakes for the next episode. Max knows that she has all the same symptoms as Chrissy and Fred and, just as she makes this connection, we hear the grandfather clock ticking. Disconnected from her friends, Max finds the clock embedded in the wall at the end of the hallway. Before the credits roll, Vecna’s voice calls out to her.
Though it’s a bit of a filler episode designed to set up what’s to come later, The Monster and the Superhero continues to balance Season 4’s large cast and story threads. Most importantly, The Duffer Brothers display a remarkable knack for creating characters that are easy to cheer for. Case in point, Murray is quickly becoming a low-key MVP this season. Most importantly, the episode balances the laughs of its dinner scene with Dr. Owens’ powerful speech and the potential heartbreak of its final reveal.