When Hopper and Joyce rescue Will from the Upside Down, they find him unconscious with some kind of organic Gorgon feeding tube down his throat. They remove this horrific monstro-slug and carry him back through the portal into our world where we have only small, appropriately-sized slugs.
At the season's conclusion, it becomes clear that Hopper honors his deal with the bad guys and keeps his mouth shut about everything so the conspiracy stays under wraps. Everybody's life returns to normal. Mike, Dustin, Will and Lucas play Dungeons & Dragons. Nancy still loves Steve for some reason. Will is puking up Gorgon slugs in the bathroom sink -- Wait, what?
Yeah, it's a little hard to believe nobody caught on to the conspiracy when an entire hospital staff was exposed to Will whom MUST have had a tummy full of uggo sluggos. It's one thing to explain away a fake corpse and funeral, it's another thing to explain away shreds of organic material from another dimension in a kid's stomach. There's no way any medical professional would see that shit in a child's stomach and say, "Oh, we'll just let him pass those the natural way!"
In the second half of the season, Nancy and Jonathan bond over their fears for Will and Barb and their desire to do something about it. After Nancy visits the Upside Down, they decide to trap and kill the Gorgon. A lot of screen time is given to them hatching their plan, acquiring too many weapons and awkwardly flirting.
Unfortunately, it all doesn't amount to much. Nancy, Steve and Jonathan manage to injure the Gorgon but it continues on its killing spree. Hopper and Joyce rescue Will. Eleven takes care of the Gorgon. Barb stays dead.
If their scenes in the final episode had been left on the cutting room floor, what would be different about the ending?
Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed Nancy teaching Steve a lesson about slut-shaming, but I gotta admit that the teens weren't good for anything but smouldering angst.
One of the most heart-warming parts of the show is Eleven's relationship with Mike, Dustin and Lucas. They introduce her to the world outside the Department of Energy lab, and they are the first real friends she has ever had. They even teach her what the word friend means. Her ignorance shows that she was deprived of a normal, healthy childhood.
Everything adds up until we see her in Nancy's room, looking at pictures of Nancy while murmuring, "Pretty..." Wait, how does Eleven know the word "pretty?"
While she's in the lab, her head is kept shaved and the only clothing she wears are functional hospital gowns and wetsuits. The only adult who shows her any affection or intimacy is Papa (just typing out that name sent chills up my spine). Why would she not know about friendship or trust, but understand something so superficial as "pretty?" Who taught the concept of physical attractiveness to a twelve year old lab rat?
The series takes place in 1983. Putting aside minor anachronisms (pointed out by IMDB dweebs), the strangest anomaly is the characters' lack of awareness about the constant movie allusions happening around them.
Many plot elements are references to famous 80s sci-fi movies, several of which -- The Thing (1982), E.T. (1982), Poltergeist (1982), Alien (1979), Close Encounters of the Third Kid (1977) -- would have been released before 1983. In fact, in several scenes, you can see a poster for The Thing in Mike's basement.
The STRANGEST thing is that Mike, Lucas and Dustin, the nerdy boys who identify as enthusiastic consumers of sci-fi and fantasy, do not point out these allusions. And they're not shy to compare their lives to their favorite pieces of media. They name the other dimension creature after the Demogorgon, and Dustin compares Eleven's powers to the Force. But they don't recognize the unnerving similarities between the government officials who hunt down Eleven and the folks who take E.T. from his human friends?
Also, Joyce buys Will tickets to see Poltergeist, but she fails to notice the bizarre parallels between her communicating with her son and the Freeling family communicating with their daughter?
Anyone who has seen any 80s horror movie knows that if somebody goes missing, the first thing you do is try to uncover a government conspiracy and/or supernatural forces.
Before the final episode, Dr. Brenner/Papa (MY SPINE IS CHILLS CITY AGAIN) and his henchmen try and fail to capture Eleven several times. The first time, Eleven easily defends herself with telekinesis against armed men. So, when all the baddies show up at the school with guns and reveal that their brilliant strategy is to just point their guns at her and wait for her to do something, it makes you scratch your head.
This is what you get when you take aim at Eleven.
She's an incredibly powerful psychic weapon that they trained. Did they not think up a better way to recover her? Even building a giant mouse trap with waffles as bait would work better than threatening her with firearms.
They deserve to have their brains imploded because they clearly weren't using them anyway.
Can Mr. Clarke get some love? Somehow Barb secured a monopoly on the internet's affection and Mr. Clarke was pushed aside, and it's a damn shame. Mr. Clarke is the middle school teacher we all wish we had. He secures his favorite boys a ham radio and he does a great job explaining interdimensional travel in a way that makes sense to their twelve year old brains (and our twelve year old brains).
How do his Favorite Boys repay him? They sneak Eleven into school and blow up his thoughtful gift. There doesn't seem to be any consequences for this. If Mike, Dustin and Lucas don't take the blame for the radio's destruction, then the principal would blame Mr. Clarke and he'd probably lose his job.
I really hope Season 2 spends at least an episode resolving this because our worries about Mr. Clarke's job security is keeping us up at night.