Dear Billy Finds Max ‘Running Up That Hill’ in a Strong Episode of Stranger Things

And here’s the episode that has had Stranger Things fans – and the larger media – talking. This is the episode that pushed Kate Bush’s 1980s single, Running Up That Hill, into the public consciousness. Every bit as ambitious as Season 4’s first three episodes, Episode 4, which is entitled Dear Billy, boasts the same massive scope. After The Monster and the Superhero left us on a cliffhanger, The Duffer Brothers give their narrative a big push forward.

The Byers Family Don’t Have Much Luck in Dear Billy

Back in California, Mike, Will, and Jonathan argue over what to do about Eleven. Recall that the last time we saw Eleven she opted to go with Dr. Owens to “learn how to be a superhero again”. But their FBI agent babysitters aren’t in a rush to let the boys leave. So Jonathan makes a special pizza delivery call to his friend, Argyle. It’s not much of a plan – sneak out the back and hitch a ride in the Surfer Bro Pizza van. Before Argyle shows up, however, Lt Colonel Sullivan’s men find the Byers home. A shootout follows leaving one of the agents dead and the other seriously wounded. When a confused Argyle arrives, Jonathan et al drag the wounded agent to the van and hightail it out of Lenora, California.

Over in Russia, things are looking up for Hopper. After intentionally breaking his sledgehammer, the former Hawkins sheriff convinces a guard to let him grab a new tool from a shed. Things don’t go entirely as planned. But Hopper still escapes and finds refuge at a nearby church. While he enjoys a jar of Jif Peanut Butter, Joyce and Murray arrive in the Soviet Union and meet up with Russian smuggler Yuri. And that’s when everything falls apart. Though he’s eccentric, Yuri isn’t stupid. He’s figured that he can keep the ransom money to himself … and make a tidy profit turning in Enzo and three Americans to the KGB. Before Dear Billy ends, the Russians have re-captured Hopper and caught Enzo, Joyce, and Murray.

Dear Billy Finally Introduces Us to Victor Creel

Most of the significant action in Dear Billy unfolds in Hawkins. Once again our group splinters as Nancy and Robin leave Steve to babysit while investigate the legend of Victor Creel. As far as pairings go, Nancy and Robin are quickly becoming as fun as Season 2’s unlikely duo of Steve and Dustin. Posing as psychology graduate students, they convince the head of Pennhurst Asylum to give them an unsupervised interview with Creel himself. On the way to Creel’s room, Dear Billy does some serious foreshadowing when head psychiatrist Dr. Hatch mentions to the girls that music therapy has had a significant calming effect on his patients. In a scene reminiscent of Silence of the Lambs, Nancy and Robin finally meet the infamous Victor Creel, played by horror icon Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street).

As far as pairings go, Nancy and Robin are quickly becoming as fun as the unlikely duo of Steve and Dustin from Season 2.

While he’s initially reluctant to talk, Creel shares how his family’s dream home in Hawkins became a nightmare. First, mutilated corpses of animals started turning up. Soon thereafter nightmares of a demonic figure haunted Creel and his family. During dinner, an unseen force snatched his wife, Virginia, from her chair up to the ceiling. All Victor could do was watch helplessly as her limbs snapped one by one. His children suffered a similar fate. He remembers being caught in a nightmarish replay of a traumatic war memory. What saved Creel from suffering the same fate as his wife and children? The voice of an ‘angel’ – Ella Fitzgerald – signing “Dream a Little Dream” brought him back to safety. And that’s all Nancy and Robin get before Dr. Hatch figures out they’re imposters and kicks them out.

Dear Billy Finds Sadie Sink Shining in Her Role

Poor Max. First she’s had to deal with her brother’s death. Now in Dear Billy she spends most of the episode getting ready for her own demise. Most of this preparation involves writing letters to each of her friends and family. Thus far, Sadie Sink (Fear Street 1984) has consistently delivered some of the season’s most emotionally resonant moments. There’s something deeply affecting watching Max hug her mother tightly after giving her one of the aforementioned notes. Next stop – Max sits at Billy’s grave and reads him her letter revealing just how much guilt she feels. Throughout Max’s ‘farewell tour’, Vecna isn’t too far behind. And when’s made peace with Billy, dark clouds roll in and she falls into the same dreamlike trance we’ve seen trap each of Vecna’s past victims.

Thus far, Sadie Sink (Fear Street 1984) has consistently delivered some of the season’s most emotionally resonant moments.

Trapped in the Upside Down Max sees a version of the Creel house alongside the corpses of Chrissy and Fred bound up in tangled vines. Meanwhile Steve, Dustin, and Lucas desperately try to shake Max out of her trance. As Max’s body hovers over her brother’s grave, Dustin calls Nancy and Robin on his walkie-talkie and, thankfully, they think they know how to save Max – play her favourite song. As it turns out, Lucas hasn’t been that bad of a boyfriend because he knows that Max loves Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’. And when they slap headphones on Max, the faint sound of the song opens up a sliver of the real world in the Upside Down. Despite Vecna’s best efforts, Max runs towards the music and Dear Billy ends with her eyes snapping open.

Dear Billy Stands Out as One Stranger Things’ Best Episodes To Date

Four episodes into this season and Stranger Things fans can set aside concerns about bloated episodes. Simply put, Dear Billy stands out as of the best episodes The Duffer Brothers have produced. The episode balances humor, narrative progression, suspense, and emotional heft effortlessly. Each episode has felt cinematic and – aside from brief moments – nothing has ever felt like filler. Whether The Duffer Brothers can tie together all of these characters and stories into a satisfying finale remains to be seen. But so far, Stranger Things is firing on all cylinders.

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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