Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin
Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin (Netflix)

It’s Halloween in Hawkins, and there’s something strange in neighborhood. The day starts relatively normal for the “Stranger Things” gang in their “Ghostbusters” costumes when they go to school. Only problem is that they arrive and find that everyone is dressed normally. It’s every kid’s worst nightmare. That, and learning that an ominous squid-like monster is terrorizing your already traumatized friend.

“Trick or Treat, Freak” has all the hallmarks of Halloween masterpiece: Kids arguing over the best candy; high school house party drama; and an interdimensional being threatening the town. The second season of “Stranger Things” has seamlessly built on the success of the first, even if its characters are having a hard time adapting to the town’s new normal. “Nothing’s going to go back to the way that it was,” Hopper tells Joyce when she finds Will’s drawing of the shadow monster.


That sadly means her son is the target of a new monster more frightening than the Demogorgon. But rather than hide in the shadows of the real world like the Demogorgon, this monster is in plain sight and takes up the whole sky of the Upside Down. But don’t hold your breath, real world. Within time, this monster will likely break through the dimension and hunt for more people to eat other than Will.

As Will is trick-or-treating, masked bullies shout “freak” and “zombie kid” while lunging at him. He then falls flat on his back and finds himself in the Upside Down. There, he sees the shadow monster has arrived in Hawkins and is within tentacle’s reach of him.

Will runs away and hides under the stairs, only for the tentacles to chase after him. He’s inches away from being grabbed until Mike awakes him, bringing him back to the real world.

Fading in and out between dimensions is the grim reality that Will now faces. He compares it to a view finder getting stuck between slides. “One side’s our world, and the other slide,” he tells Mike, pausing in horror, “the other is the Upside Down.”

Mike can almost relate, as he is caught between two radio channels blurred by static when he uses his walkie talkie to contact El. It almost works. Since Hopper forbids her from leaving the house, even dressed as a ghost where she would blend in trick-or-treating, she induces herself into a trance to speak to Mike in another dimension.

Calling out his name, she reaches to touch his face. Mike faintly hears and senses her, but second-guesses himself and walks away. Hearbroken, El comes back to the real dimension and cries. Bittersweet moments like this are why “Stranger Things” is an instant classic.

Mike and El’s tender coming-of-age and love story is fraught with an overprotective father figure and evil government officials who are just as scary as the monster. But if Mike wants to save his princess locked away in the cabin, who’s he gonna call? Hopper? No, El has to escape on her own.

More Highlights from “Trick or Treat, Freak”

Best Dustin one-liner: “‘Presumptuous,’” he swoons, after Max calls him that. “It’s a good thing, right?” Dustin asks Lucas. Try again.

Corniest Bob one-liner: “I hope it doesn’t suck!” he says, impersonating Dracula while wearing fake vampire teeth for his Halloween costume.

Most badass scene: El pushing her way through the Upside Down membrane portal that’s in the middle of a mural of a paw, the high school’s mascot.

What about Barb?: The guilt of Barb’s death is weighing on Nancy, and she wants to come clean. Steve, however, wants to move on for his safety and his family’s. Kudos to “Stranger Things” for not pulling a Steve and walking away from the Barb plotline. Ignoring her death would have been easy, but it would have made for a less satisfying season.

Rough night: Poor Steve. First he loses his status as Keg King to Stanley, Max’s unhinged brother, then he finds out his girlfriend doesn’t love him. “It’s [expletive],” she drunkenly slurs when Steve asks her if she loves him. Ouch. There are nicer ways to tell your boyfriend you’re pissed at him, Nance.

One of the guys: Initially rebuffing them, Max joins the gang to go trick-or-treating. Probably out of guilt that her certifiably insane brother tried to run them over on the road. Yikes.

Pumpkin wars: The pumpkin farmers’ crops are being burned or poisoned, and the locals chalk it up to petty feuds. But Hopper knows nothing is as it seems in this town, and it has to be from the lab or another world. Odds are that it’s either from the fuse that burned out in the Upside Down or an interdimensional being that got hungry.


Grossest scene: In one of El’s flashbacks, she’s roasting a squirrel over a fire when a hunter finds her and asks her who she is. She levitates the burning rodent and hurls it at his face, knocking him out. Whether he survived that attack is uncertain, but I’m not sure who’d want to live after that.

Trash can surprise: The episode ends with Dustin opening the trash can to find something rustling inside. And this is why you need to take out the trash more often. Not sure what it is, but based on his startled reaction, my guess is that it’s another interdimensional being.