Warning: This recap of the “Chapter Two: Trick or Treat, Freak” episode of Stranger Things contains spoilers.
Of all the classic horror matchups — Frankenstein vs. the Wolfman, Freddy vs. Jason, Jigsaw vs. sequel fatigue — no clash has been more important and thrilling than “Why?” versus “Don’t tell me.” That is ultimately the biggest conflict in entertainment, especially good entertainment. The more we enjoy a mystery, the more we demand answers. That is simply how our brains work! These semi-functioning, pink flesh computers we carry around in our skulls need info, so when a horror film presents a confusing or mysterious thing to us, our brains are like, “Explain yourself, sir!” even when we don’t even need that explanation. Unfortunately, and this is perhaps a personal opinion here, but let’s go with it: Mysteries are better than answers. They’re scarier! Also, sometimes answers are just so disappointing.
Unfortunately, “Chapter Two: Trick or Treat, Freak” went and proved this point. I think we all knew Eleven would return to the story after heroically vaporizing herself in the Season 1 finale to kill the Upside Down monster. It was the devastating moment of self-sacrifice the entire season had been building to, but I assumed Stranger Things 2 would come up with some incredible, creative way to bring her back for Season 2. Nope! Instead, Eleven’s return was somehow the dumbest and most disappointing thing in this show’s history so far. Counterpoint: Eleven’s back! Who cares how. Anyway, despite the villainous “Why?” winning out over “Don’t tell me,” this chapter was still extremely fun, funny, and moving. Let’s talk about it!
We began with some quick flashbacks of Eleven running toward the monster, embracing it, and destroying it while also disintegrating herself! It was a bold move and it WORKED.
You were probably wondering what would become of Eleven! Well, here’s what happened, and it’s a little complicated, so stick with me for a second: She went to the Upside Down. But she was fine now. That’s about it!
Within minutes, she forced her way back to the regular world via a goopy rift in the dimension and found herself in the school hallway once again. And apparently all the cops and government officials were done here, so nobody was around. Just blood stains and silence. (Quick question: How come Eleven was simply transported back to the Upside Down, but the monster was dead? How does that work? Actually, never mind, it’s fine, don’t care.) It meant Eleven was now free to roam across town looking for her bestie Mike.
Unfortunately, when she arrived at his place, the house was overrun with government officials informing his family they’d just had a top-secret encounter with a Russian agent in the form of a bald, telekinetic girl. Everyone nodded, like “Sure.” Mike, meanwhile, thought he saw Eleven staring back at him through the window, though nobody was outside when the agents ran out to check. But this glimpse was enough for Mike to keep faith alive that his dear, beloved, self-sacrificing friend was not dead.
Which brought us to current events: It was Halloween and Eleven really wanted to leave the house for once. She even devised a very good costume that would help her remain anonymous! Unfortunately, Sheriff Hopper wouldn’t allow it, saying it was too risky to go into public. But he did promise to buy her a ton of candy and they’d have a chill night in. Eleven was disappointed and skeptical, but hey, at least she had stayed secretly alive for nearly a year. Her adoptive father clearly knew what he was doing.
Back at Will’s house, Winona Ryder (as herself) was doing her morning routine of running from room to room all wild-eyed looking for Will. (He was peeing.) But she found his stunning eyewitness sketch of the sky-leviathan he’d encountered in the previous episode. He claimed it was definitely NOT a terrifying creature that he couldn’t stop seeing and that wants to kill humanity, and she believed him. Good save!
I loved the montage of each of the boys’ mothers taking photographs of them in their Ghostbusters costumes before school. And I especially loved Lucas’s little sister, who was a straight-up bully in my opinion, but I need to see more of her. (First of all, I love any and all reminders that Lucas has a family because he is low-key my favorite of the boys, but it’s like he has no plotlines of his own usually?) So yes, big fan already. Who are you, girl?
Also, I loved the lampshading of the idea that Lucas has seemed like the only black person in Hawkins at times and I laughed out loud when he took umbrage at the idea that everyone expected him to be Winston. Whatever anyone wants to criticize about this show, you can’t really argue that it’s not self-aware. But the most brutal part of this Ghostbusters gag was how the rest of the students eerily had decided not to dress up for Halloween, leaving these four looking like true dweebs. That’s honestly an existential nightmare for any child to endure. So mortifying.
And in case there was any doubt that Paul Reiser (as himself) is the new Matthew Modine (as himself), he was definitely shown to be running the joint down at the Department of Energy. At this point, a man dressed up in a lit-from-within space suit ventured into the Upside Down while broadcasting black and white footage back to the command center. So yes, that’s a lot of Aliens references in one scene, and I was not mad about it. Nor was I mad about you. That’s Paul Reiser’s thing.
Speaking of ’80s references… 1980s POP QUIZ ALERT!! Can you spot the 1980s reference in the above photo? Look hard or you’ll miss it!
That’s right, it’s pencils! Pencils were huge in the ’80s. Pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners. Man, those were crazy times. Anyway, Nancy was having pencil difficulties (not even ’80s kids were good at using pencils) and had to sharpen her pencil, and she spotted someone who looked like Barb from behind and then just spiraled into hysterics about how she didn’t want to go to a Halloween party because her friend was dead and she’d killed her because she’d been super horny. It was a lot for a teenage girl to deal with, but Steve had a very good counterpoint: Partying is fun. So they were going to go to the party now and Nancy was frowning about it.
Meanwhile, Dustin and Lucas worked up the courage to invite Max trick or treating with them, and this scene was just nonstop awkward. First, Max is not very nice or charitable in conversation and openly ridiculed them for reaching out to her. Also, Dustin didn’t know what “presumptuous” meant and took it as a compliment. And you know what? If you presume that a new friend might want to go trick or treating, then that is a nice gesture and it is a compliment. So there, Max. Anyway, she rolled her eyes and walked off. And Californians are supposed to be chill.
And if you thought Max was unchill, did you get a load of her brother? Yes, he is a perfect angel dreamboat and a bodacious bo-hunk from beyond and was at one point a Red Power Ranger, but he is also apparently a psychopath. (Aren’t they all?) From his abusive tirades while driving we gathered that the two had fled California for unknown family drama reasons (that they blamed each other for) and also he truly demonstrated his dick-osity by running our heroes off the road!
On the plus side, this caused Max to pity them, so… Whatever works, right?
Throughout the episode, we got these cute little flashbacks of how Eleven survived in the woods all by herself for several months before moving into Sheriff Hopper’s secret cabin. For one thing, it’s apparently easier to hunt for wildlife when you can use ESP to bash critters against trees. Also, when curious farmers approach you while you’re roasting a squirrel, you can launch flaming logs at their heads and steal their coats. In other words, Eleven was a survivor. Though I’m sure she’d quickly begun to miss the hot square meals in the Department of Energy’s secret basement. Still, she was free and sometimes that’s better than warmth, nutrition, and lingering hugs from Matthew Modine.
Sheriff Hopper, meanwhile, was out investigating a plague of rotten pumpkins and dead trees covered in slime. This had happened to multiple farms and in his opinion, it was one of the stranger things he’d encountered. (Get it, like the title.) It was all very disgusting and unsettling, but more than that it gave him the sense that something bad was starting to happen. Hawkins was, once again, in danger, girl.
As much as Winona Ryder’s boyfriend Sean Astin (as himself) is presented as a sort of dorky joke, I loved the scene in which he attempted to woo her by offering to move her family to another state. How reasonable! Except come on, then there’s no show. Nice try, Sean Astin. But I also am really digging this love-triangle-but-with-responsible-adults thing that’s starting, especially because Winona Ryder, Sean Astin, and Sheriff Hopper all went to high school together. They were the ’60s answer to Nancy-Jonathan-Steve! Like any rational person I’m a Winona Ryder-Sheriff Hopper endgamer, but Bob is a very likable and good guy. Rooting for everyone!
We were then whisked to everybody’s favorite source of joy and nightmares: a high school party! And since this scene began with Max’s brother Billy doing a keg stand, we knew it was going to be a good night. Yes, he seems truly repugnant in most ways, but Billy is also literally perfect, so it’s a tough call. Billy forever!
And as you had probably hoped and expected, guess who decided to meet the boys for some trick or treating after all! Huge points to Max for going as one of the best movie villains of all time, Albino William Shatner. But as elated as Dustin and Lucas were, Mike took her presence pretty hard. It mostly reminded him that Eleven was gone, but so too was the simple, uncomplicated friendship the boys shared. Ugh, growing up is the worst sometimes.
At this point, Sheriff Hopper realized he was about five hours too late to meet Eleven at their promised hang time, so he attempted to buy a boy’s Halloween candy off of him for $5 before racing home.
But to be fair, did you know that, factoring in inflation, $5 in 1984 is equal to nearly $8,500 today? And assuming that this child invested the money wisely he is very likely a multimillionaire by now. We’re talking Lambos, beach houses in every city in Florida, extreme debauchery, and more designer drugs than you could find in El Chapo’s panic room. It’s a sad tale, and Sheriff Hopper should be ashamed.
Later, Will got separated from his friends and some local bullies pushed him down, which zapped him to the Upside Down where, you guessed it, the shadow behemoth in the sky woke up from some kind of slumber and came for Will! We got a better look at it this time, and it seemed to be made of smoke or shadow, and it reached its swirling tendrils towards Will! Honestly a terrifying moment in my opinion. Luckily, Mike snapped him out of it, and sensing the opportunity to ditch his suddenly girl-crazy friends, helped Will home.
The scene between Will and Mike in which they bonded over their shared feelings of going crazy was one of the best of the episode. I loved that they sat there in front of a pile of candy and commiserated over not being able to trust their own brains, and how if they’re each going crazy — Will seeing the Upside Down still, and Mike feeling that Eleven is still out there — then at least they’ve got each other. And that, my friends, perfectly summed up this show. As wild and horrifying as the subject matter can be, it’s still essentially about people who love each other and want to help each other get through tough times. If only real life were so comforting!
Friends, things did not go well at the teen Halloween party. For one thing, Nancy tried to drown her sadness over Barb by guzzling the noxious communal punch and then generally behaving like a drunken buffoon. We’ve all been there. But it was when Steve accidentally caused her to spill her punch on her white blouse, things took a turn.
Even though Nancy was as drunk as possible, she was still able to repeatedly tell Steve that this party, their relationship, and he himself were all bullsh*t. This did not make him feel great and he ditched her right then and there! Fortunately, Nancy’s gentleman friend Jonathan had just finished chatting up a cutie in Siouxie Sioux drag and was able to take her home.
Awwww. Nancy even woke up for a second to note that Jonathan had taken care of her. But even he knew this drunken episode was not going to mean anything in the morning. She’d probably sober up and mend things with Steve and they’d be back to status quo. Still, for a fleeting second, it was nice to see Jonathan put his fondness for her into action. Just a good guy.
Eleven was rightfully disgruntled at Sheriff Hopper breaking their promise to hang out on Halloween, so she did what any ticked off preteen escaped lab experiment would do under those circumstances: She tied on a blindfold and projected her consciousness through time and space!
We were back in the all-black room from Under the Skin, and Eleven was attempting to contact Mike. But despite her efforts to reach him, he decided reaching out to her was a lost cause and shuffled away, to her devastation.
It was incredibly sad. Man, at this point we’re all just waiting for their eventual reunion, aren’t we? Like, monsters are fun and all, but let’s get these two back together stat! Their mutual angst is too much.
The episode ended with confirmation that the weird noises everyone had been hearing around town were some kind of weird creature we haven’t seen yet. And we didn’t see it here either! Dustin opened his rattling trashcan and looked immediately shocked at what he found. Was it related to the slug that Will coughed up in last season’s finale? Was it related to the rotten pumpkins all over town, or the supernatural chittering we’d heard both on the farms and in the Upside Down? Probably!
“Chapter Two: Trick or Treat, Freak” was another lovely and thrilling hour in Hawkins, a good time only slightly dampened by how uncreative Eleven’s resurrection had been. It wasn’t that I needed something complicated to explain how she’d evaporated and then un-evaporated. I just needed it to seem special or weird or memorable. Oh, well. She’s back, and that’s good enough. Now if we can just get her back into the story all will be well again. Maybe next episode?
Stranger Things is streaming now on Netflix.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter One recap: Return that frown to the upside down
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Two recap: Going crazy together
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Three recap: Reunited and it feels so slimy
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Four recap: What happened to Baby Jane?
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Five recap: Tangled and Strangled
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Six recap: They’re heeeere
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Seven recap: Baby’s day out
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Eight recap: Blackout forever
• ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Chapter Nine recap: Ward and savior