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Stranger Things "Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly"


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:mac_alert:  SPOILER WARNING: This is a discussion on the third episode of Stranger Things. It contains spoilers for the series through S1:E3. Do not read this page if you do not want to know what happens through the end of Chapter Three.




Stranger Things "Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly"


"What are you thinking?"

"I Don't know. But they're lying."


Season 1, Episode 3   51m





















An increasingly concerned Nancy looks for Barb and finds out what Jonathan's been up to. Joyce is convinced Will is trying to talk to her.


Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Matthew Modine

TV Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Director: Shawn Levy


Soundtrack: Waiting For A Girl Like You (Foreigner), Heroes (Peter Gabriel cover)






Unanswered Questions:

  • What is the other dimension / alternate reality that Barb was sucked into, and is Will Byers there too?
  • What are they really working on inside the "Emerald City" and why did they lie about the video tape?
  • What is the giant "hive" in the wall at the Hawkins National Laboratory?
  • How is Will Byers signaling to his Mom that he's still alive if they found his body in the water?
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"Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly" has turned out to be what I think is the best episode so far. As much as I love this show, in the first two episodes I was struggling with Joyce’s histrionics and the cops being stereotypical idiots to the point of Hopper being a pill-popping drunk. I was looking forward to "seeing Winona Ryder in a show set in the 1980s" but Joyce wasn't exactly what I was expecting. Chapter 3 begins to tie it all together nicely with some nice character development that I think adds depth to Joyce, Hopper, and the rest.


Eleven's scene with the Coke commercial sent chills up my back. It was the perfect mix of analog signal noise and horrible memories perceived in an altered state. The flashback showed us much of what we need to know about Eleven's life up to this point.


The scene with Chief Hopper leaving Hawkins National Research Laboratory hit me. As they’re leaving, Hopper observantly points out that on the night of the 7th they had a search party out looking for Will and that it was raining. Officer Powell asks him “What are you thinking?” Hop responds “I don’t know. But they’re lying.” That was the moment I bought into the show for good. 


Tertiary character development can be found hidden elsewhere. Lucas' army gear "from 'Nam" suggest his dad served in the conflict. Lucas could have been born shortly after.


The music at 10:45 during Nancy and Steve's chat at her locker is the sort of thing that takes us to that special place in space and time that makes this show so great. 


I’m not a huge fan of Peter Gabriel’s remake of Heroes, but in that final moment it was perfect.


Chapter 3 brought it home for me. I consider this show to be a gift. Something unexpected and truly special. This episode anchored my appreciation for what The Duffer Brothers have done in telling a new story in a classic formula that Hollywood, and even Steven Spielberg seems to have forgotten. Strange Things has given me something wonderful that I can watch with my kids one day, and I'm really excited about that.


Spielberg movies of the 1980s often presented us with ordinary people placed in extraordinary circumstances. "What if this really happened" was a common thread woven through most Amblin films. Chief Brody, Roy Neary, Elliott, Marty McFly, and the cast of Jurassic Park in the 90s were all mostly normal people faced with extraordinary circumstances that they dealt with in believable ways. Twenty minutes into the movie, just as we're getting to know them, aliens, time travelers and dinosaurs send them on the ultimate adventure. (And sometimes there's a bully.) Typically the fictitious ordinary characters were from fictitious ordinary towns. They were relatable. This formula resulted in some of the most loved movies from that era. 


I never thought of that form of storytelling as "retro" or "classic". It just feels like someone in Hollywood sent out a memo about ten years ago saying "we won't be making movies like that anymore. Make everything bigger, sexier, more action-packed." I was just saying to my mom a few weeks ago that I don't know why Spielberg has abandoned the methodology that made us love his work. I feel like everything has become big movie studios churning out billion dollar action movies that have lost much of the soul and intellect that I connected with. Stranger Things delivers some of that, and in a way that feels genuine. It feels less like a traditional TV show and more like a movie trilogy. 


Oh, and that scene in the Library was great:




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Yep.  That about covers it.    I'm on Episode 6, and to be honest what specifically happened in which episode is starting to blur.   

In order not to spoil anything, I'm going to err on the side of caution. 

"For you - Rowsdower from the 70 - have been appointed Omnivisioner of the Game Grid."  ~ Atari Adventure Square

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The opening scene with Barb struggling to get out of the pool was a big reveal. Not only did it clearly show us that we're dealing with an alternate reality or another dimension of some kind that's out of phase with our own, it told us that the writers are capable of delivering compelling answers as we go along, and not force everything to be built up to an underwhelming last-ever episode.

I've mentioned before that I was a huge fan of Lost. I still am. Though I understood the ending, a big problem with Lost was how they would string us along for weeks and even seasons at a time with hardly more than a hint to an answer. What I love about Stranger Things is that the story moves along pretty fast and they get to the point. Reveals are paced out to give us what we need as we need them. Characters develop quickly.

The opening scene of episode three shows Barb struggling to get out of an empty pool, that pretty clearly is nested in a cold dark mirror of the normal 1983 where Nancy is shown at the house with a pretty pool full of water and no sign of Barb. They didn't drag this out for six episodes after Barb disappeared to give us a hint of what's going on, they gave us a cold open showing us exactly what we needed to see to draw our own conclusions. I like this sort of a writer/viewer relationship where they give us what we need but trust us to figure it all out.

I thought the scene at the end was very moving when Hopper and the kids watch as they pull poor Will's body out of the water and they played Peter Gabriel's cover of Heroes. It doesn't make sense yet but it was moving.

Looking forward to watching the next episode this weekend!

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