Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Sadie Sink, Noah Schnapp and Finn Wolfhard.
Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Sadie Sink, Noah Schnapp and Finn Wolfhard. (Netflix)

“Stranger Things” has yet to disappoint so far this season. Each episode is more terrifying than the last, and yet, I can’t look away. Episode 3, “The Pollywog,” takes all of the crazy nightmares you had as a kid and brings them to life with vivid details and haunting performances from a stellar cast.

And what a fantastical beast this is. The monster’s giant legs are dust storms of swirling tentacles, or a squidnado. It’s the last thing you’d want to encounter, but Will took the awful, yet well-intentioned advice from Bob.

Advertisement

As a kid, Bob was terrified of Mr. Baldo, a carnival clown who haunted his nightmares. To make it stop, Bob faced his fears the next time he saw him.

“Only this time I didn’t run,” he tells Will. “This time, I stood my ground and I said, ‘Go away, go away!’ And just like that, he was gone.”

Except this isn’t a nightmare — it’s real life in a different dimension. What happens in the Upside Down impacts the real world. And when he faces down the shadow monster, echoing Bob’s heroic yet foolish words, it very well could be his demise. The shadow monster’s squidnado limb envelopes him, and its tentacles go down this throat, gripping his entire body.

This can’t be the end for Will. It’s too early in the season to kill of a major character, especially one who outlived the Upside Down last season. But I don’t have much faith he’ll make it to Season 3.

In science class, Mr. Clarke tells his students about Phineas Cage, the railroad foreman who had a rod drive through his head and was lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) to live to tell the tale. Cage’s brain damage changed his personality so drastically that scientists studied him extensively until his death from an epileptic convulsion, another side effect of the injury.

Cage’s horrific accident is a metaphor for Will being held captive in the Upside Down last season. Will also survived a gruesome ordeal, and now this trauma has altered who he is.

But I wonder if this is more than a metaphor, and is foreshadowing for his recent encounter with the monster — or if it’s alluding to something more grim. If he does outlive the squidnado attack, how will the compounding trauma further affect Will’s personality? And will it cause his death later down the road, just like Cage?

The shadow monster isn’t the only interdimensional being that the gang has to worry about. Dustin adopted an amphibious-looking critter he found in his trash can, which reminded me of a Gremlin — a spot-on ’80s reference to an adorable pet that turns into murderous monster.

Dart hasn’t murdered anyone … yet. But he’s growing bigger exponentially, and Dustin is protecting him under his hat on top of his head. That’s a lot of blind faith he’s putting in a creature from another world. If Dart doesn’t eat his brains, hopefully Dustin will make the right call and let one of his friends put him down.

But how did Dart make its way into this dimension? Where Will found him in the corner of a bathroom stall might be a hint. The shot of Will walking into the school bathroom with the sinks and mirrors is a striking resemblance to the end of last season, when he threw up the squirming piece of tentacle in his bathroom sink.

Dart could be that piece of tentacle that made its way down the drain. Or it’s one of the shadow monster’s spawns that snuck out of the same dimension portal that the Demogorgon did. If that’s the case, then the gang should be ready for more Darts to come their way.

More Highlights from “The Pollywog”

Best Dustin one-liner: “I am on a curiosity voyage, and I need my paddles to travel. These books are my paddles,” he tells the librarian when he checks out more books than allowed. She won’t budge on her rule, so he distracts her and runs out with the books. “I need my paddles!” he shouts as he scampers to the door.

Corniest Bob one-liner: “What do you say, big guy? You wanna go for a ride in the Bobmobile?” he asks Will when offering him a ride for school. No. Please stop.

Cabin fever: El has been waiting 326 days to see Mike again, and Hopper hasn’t delivered on his promise to reunite them. Fed up with his broken promises, she leaves the cabin and heads to town to find Mike. Even if she’s smart enough to walk over the tripwire, she’s still stupid for leaving. Love will make you do that.

Advertisement

Pettiest/funniest scene: El telekinetically yanking Max’s skateboard as she’s boarding around Mike. If she only knew that Mike was telling Max how he didn’t want her in their party, and that he was singing El’s praises. Now that El feels betrayed by Hopper and Mike, I wonder if she’ll hang around the school or run away to somewhere else.

Stupidest move: Nancy calling Barb’s mother to tell her the truth. She says she wants to meet her in person, since she knows talking on the phone isn’t a smart idea. Then why did she call her? And, of course, the evil government lab has her phone tapped, and heard the whole conversation. Now instead of running away from the Demogorgon, she and Jonathan will be hiding from the government henchmen this season.

The pumpkin problem: Hopper notices that the damaged pumpkins form concentric circles around the lab, and demands that Dr. Owens run tests. Though denying it has anything to do with the lab, Dr. Owen says he’ll help. Not sure what good he’ll do. I’m still convinced that it has something to do with the burnt fuse that the evil lab techs were fixing in the Upside Down.

Double vision: Though Will is not having PTSD flashbacks, the trauma of last year’s event could be what triggers his “true sight,” or ability to see into the “ethereal plane,” as Dustin describes it. Is there a way for him to control when he wants to access it or not?

Sketchy figures: Joyce watches the video of Will getting bullied while trick-or-treating and notices a static outline in the sky. After drawing an outline of the static, she compares the figure to the monster Will draw, and sees it’s the same thing. She rushes to the school to find him. But will it be too late for her to rescue him?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement