The truth about the woods
What is roaming around, creeping in the corners of these dark woods and stealing kids away? On this episode we get a closer look at the odd things happening in the woods. There’s some validity to the voices Joyce Byers is hearing and the lights turning on in her house. Nancy and Jonathan realize they both saw something in the woods. Jonathan Byers’s photos reveal a figure emerging from the dark, and Nancy swears she saw someone moving when she was searching for Barbara.
The mysterious, murky happenings in Hawkins, Indiana are becoming undone. Just as a funeral seems the likely reaction to the discovery of Will Byers’ dead body, his best friends discuss the possibility of an alternate world. The three are in Mike’s basement, believing Will is alive somewhere, and wondering how to reach him after having heard his voice through a radio transmission.
Based on that evidence, they conclude that Will must be in another world, similar to the Valley of the Shadows from Dungeons and Dragons. They make the connection between their game, and a place that is “an echo of our world.” The kids become more than side players in the story, and are determined to solve the puzzle, using the people and objects that surround their childhood: their game, bikes, walkie talkies, neighborhood hideouts and a friendly science teacher. As a throwback to childhood adventures, and 80s films such as The Goonies, Stand by Me, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, in a similar fashion these kids are caught up in their own mystery, and rightly so, grownups should not underestimate them because of age or lack of experience.
For the longest we doubted Joyce Byers’ claims that she could communicate with her son through the lights in he house. Though she tried to tell everyone that Will was alive, no one believed her. Others thought she was going crazy, buying lights, and running around the house using code to communicate with Will. But in this episode we realize her paranoia was based on something real though unexplainable at first. Winona’s portrayal of Joyce made me jump up from the start, her emotions are raw and disturbing and absorb you into the story; they convey something primal about a mother loosing a child. It’s rewarding to see she she won’t stand for her ex-husband’s sugary coated words as he tries to persuade her to forget her motherly instincts.
During the night, Nancy and Jonathan explore the woods for the first time. Nancy is no longer hanging out with the cool kids or with “bad boy,” Steve Harrington. We see Nancy in a different light: she’s not the kind of girl who will sit by while her friend is missing, which allows her to make some aggressive choices, like target practice with Jonathan in the woods or crawling through a questionable tree passage. This one lead her to the Upside-Down world. Nancy is feisty and independent without giving away her feminine, docile side. She doesn’t want to be like her parents who settled for a normal suburban lifestyle. But when she begins defending her boyfriend, Steve— Jonathan contradicts her, and tells her, she’s settling for normalcy like her parents and will probably end up marrying a typical high school jock.
The flea and the acrobat
“We’re in mourning,” says Lucas awkwardly to his science teacher, Mr. Clark. Lucas, Dustin, and Mike are trying to hide their suspicions about Will’s whereabouts, who is probably in an alternate world, but how does one to travel there? Mr. Clark is an honest adult figure—at times naïve but ultimately caring about his students. The boys make a reference to Carl Sagan’s Cosmo and Hugh Everett’s many-worlds interpretation to get Mr. Clark on the right path to an answer. Mr. Clark uses the metaphor of an acrobat walking a tight rope to tell them, the acrobat can only go forward, but a flea would be able to go anywhere, even upside down. He informs them that in order for the acrobat to get to the other side, a massive amount of energy would be required to make a tear in time and space, creating “a gate”. “We would know if there was something like that,” says Mr. Clark. “Science is neat but not very forgiving.” This ultimately sparks a light bulb for the kids, and off they go.