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'Stranger Things 2' Chapter Nine recap: Ward and savior

Price Peterson
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Photos: Netflix

Warning: This recap of the “Chapter Nine: The Gate” episode of Stranger Things contains spoilers.

Relief comes in many forms. Over the counter ointments, bathroom breaks, white lies, basic human contact. But probably the best form of relief is the kind that follows extreme terror or unpleasantness. A golden, blissful glad-THAT’S-over with feeling that can only follow a situation you never would’ve wished upon yourself in the first place. Meaning, to feel truly comfortable and cozy and loved maybe we need to stare horror straight in the face and say “I hate you but I’ll feel great later.” The characters of Stranger Things 2 have bravely faced a myriad of unspeakable horrors, so it’s only fitting that we all feel so great right now. Sad, yes, that the season has drawn to a close, but not without a quickened pulse and a throbbing adrenal gland.

Man, what a wonderful season this has been. “Chapter Nine: The Gate” was both complex and simple: The good guys had good ideas, and then they won. Let’s talk about it!

We began with a couple of nice kids hugging as hard as is appropriate in mixed company.

Eleven and Mike were finally reunited and guys? It felt great. Plus Eleven got to show off her hot new look to the entire crew! We should all be so lucky to make a post-makeover entrance as perfect as this one.

It was honestly touching to watch Eleven make the rounds and hug all these people she’s desperately missed over the past YEAR. They were her first friends!

That being said, Eleven was NOT about to play nice with Max, and that honestly made me laugh. Also, I was expecting at some point in this episode or maybe at the end she’d finally shake Max’s hand but NOPE. Not gonna happen. Maybe next year. Or never!

So at this point all the pieces were on the board: We had an enormous rift through which the shadow monster was fixing to enter our world, plus tons of baby teenage demogorgons ready and willing to do its bidding. Also, y’know, Will, who was the shadow monster’s eyes and ears. So that was a formidable team right there. It was now time to formulate a plan!

But before the mayhem could really begin, I loved this throw-away scene between an ultra horny Mrs. Wheeler and perfect Billy.

He was here to track down Max, but of course she was at Will’s place. Still, Billy damn near charmed Mrs. Wheeler right out of her damp bathrobe! Again, fingers crossed for a steamy Season 3 development! Which would continue on into Season 4!

I mostly just wanted to show you what Winona Ryder’s hair was looking like in this scene, but I also wanted to say that at this point she was so ticked at the shadow monster for invading her boy that she was ready to do whatever it took to excorcise it. And right now that meant BURNING it out of Will. (On account of how the shadow monster does not care for warm baths or sweaters.)

It was very bittersweet when Steve more or less told Nancy that he knew she and Jonathan were a thing, and that it was okay. Even though it obviously wasn’t okay and his heart was hurting, but he was such a good guy that he wanted her to be happy. Aw, Steve is definitely the tragic hero of this season. Obviously we’re all happy for Jonathan the underdog, and Nancy is pretty great herself. But what about Steve! Poor Steve.

I also loved this scene between Eleven and Sheriff Hopper, in which they both tearfully apologized for treating each other badly. He admitted to her that he had a deceased daughter, and she admitted she had been a brat. (But she didn’t mention going to Chicago, which was probably for the best.) He also complimented Eleven’s new “MTV punk” look, then they both cried and so did I! This show.

See, Steve really had an episode. I loved when Dustin got him to put the demogorgon corpse into the freezer, and later when the kids got the idea to go set the tunnels on fire he was like “nope!” but was interrupted by perfect Billy looking to fist fight.

And again, Steve did not have a great time here. Billy really whaled on him! Now obviously Billy is a dreamboat and perfect and marriage material but he’s also a total f***ing scumbag and the worst. I was hoping he’d have some late season character turn into hero mode, but that would’ve been ripping off Steve’s season 1 arc! Instead here he was beating Steve’s face into a pulp. Fortunately the kids had some of that leftover anesthetic!

Max knocked Billy out with a dirty needle and as he fell asleep she made him swear to stop being a dick all the time. I’m not sure that’s how it works, but according to this episode it did! Perfect Billy would not be a problem anymore.

Aw, see what I’m saying. Poor Steve! I loved when he woke from his stupor to find that he was in a speeding car being driven by A CHILD.

I really loved that. Anyway, the gang had split into three groups… Will’s family took him to the Evil Dead cabin to burn the monster out of him via space heaters, and Eleven and Sheriff Hopper were headed to the Department of Energy so that she could close the rift with her mind. She had, after all, been the one to open it with one of her energy-blasting screams. Simpler times.

So the remaining kids decided that they’d help Eleven by drawing away all the demogorgons from the facility by setting the underground cavern of bones on fire. And they did! It was good thinking on their part, because suddenly all the demogorgons jumped back into the main hole at the Department of Energy, making it easier for Hopper and Eleven to access the rift. That’s called teamwork.

Speaking of teamwork, I loved that Dr. Paul Reiser (as himself) ended up being a good guy, and also the expression on his face when he realized that Eleven was still alive. I also loved that Hopper made him promise to actually help them, and to help undo all the damage the department had done to Eleven over the years. He agreed, and they stepped over his bleeding body to get down to business.

At this point the episode turned into the straight-up EXORCIST as Will’s body began to writhe and scream and eventually reject the shadow monster’s tendrils!

It was touch and go for a minute there when it felt like Will was possibly going to die from the trauma. But once the shadows had disappeared into the night sky, he opened his eyes and was himself again. They’d done it!

Since Will’s life was now disentangled from the hive mind, it was now Eleven’s time to shine. She and Hopper lowered down to face the rift directly. The shadow monster was clearly looming just beyond the gate, ready to enter our world, so it was time to zip this thing back up!

But the tunnel party suddenly had to deal with the consequences of their demogorgon trap. Especially when they came face to face with a hungry one!

But it turned out this was Dart! And it seemed to remember Dustin, and also seemed to really want more Three Musketeers! I had a feeling something like this would happen but I was still smiling so hard when it did. Not saying Dart was a NICE creature, just that it was predisposed to enjoying candy bars and that was enough for our heroes to slip by it. So Dustin’s foolishness ended up saving their lives in the long run.

Remembering what Kali had taught her about channeling her anger, Eleven cycled through all the trauma she’d experienced over the years and zipped that gate the f*** UP.

The shadow monster even tried to reach through but she shut that s**t down RIGHT AWAY. Stay out of here, you giant spider creep. And that’s how they eventually closed the gate! And once that happened, all the remaining flora and fauna from the Upside Down promptly died. You know that scene in Magnolia with the frogs? This was like that but with demogorgons.

Unfortunately that meant Dart also passed away. Farewell you growth-spurting abomination!

We then flash-forwarded a month, and things had CHANGED. The Department of Energy had been officially shut down, as Brett Gelman’s plan had proven very effective. Going full Erin Brockovich, he and Nancy had framed the facility for having poisoned Barb to death, and this was a PR nightmare they couldn’t recover from. Goodbye, jerks!

The downside was that Barb’s parents had to finally accept that their daughter had died. And once again I have to applaud Stranger Things for not only NOT finding some lame way to resurrect Barb (not even a dumb flashback or dream sequence!) but it also honored her death by making it integral to the characters’ motivations, and the Department of Energy’s eventual downfall. In a show full of good writing, I think this was the most thoughtful and emotional element of the season. Well done, guys. (Also R.I.P. forever, girl.)

Meanwhile, Dr. Reiser came through with his promise to help make Eleven’s life easier. In this case he produced an official birth certificate for her, meaning she’d be able to live a normal life and pay into the Social Security program and everything! But he warned Sheriff Hopper to maybe keep her off the grid for another year, just to be safe. Something tells me she won’t be super into that idea.

And lest we forget the season’s big casualty, rest in peace, poor Sean Astin (as himself). What an utterly good guy and nice man. I admit his death was NOT what I was expecting and in a way I’m more sad for Winona Ryder than anything. Man, this family has really been through a lot, and Sean Astin was offering an escape plan. But at least it frees her up to date Sheriff Hopper! (Sorry.)

But because Stranger Things 2 can’t end without one last sequence of terrifying teen angst, it was time for a school dance! Obviously Lucas finally got to dance (and kiss!) Max, and even Will found himself dancing with a cute girl who did not seem turned off by his ‘zombie boy’ moniker.

Unfortunately, despite a sweet new hairdo courtesy of Steve, Dustin was not having much luck with the ladies. And just when Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” had begun to crest and he had no choice but to sit on the bleachers with tears in his eyes, the most beautiful and popular girl at the neighboring high school asked him to dance.

Awwww, so good. Nancy told him that he was her favorite of Mike’s friends. I’d forgotten that Season 1 began with Dustin having an outright crush on Nancy, so this was a nice bookending scene. Things were clearly still good between Nancy and Jonathan (if their cross-room glances were any indication), but that left poor Steve alone and crestfallen. Oh man. Let’s make things happen for him in Season 3, all right?

Out in the parking lot, Winona Ryder was fighting the urge to run into the dance wild-eyed to check on Will. That’s where Sheriff Hopper found her, and enticed her with a cigarette like in their old high school days. She wasn’t doing great following Sean Astin’s death, and all Hopper could really do was hold her. Sometimes the most low-key scenes are the most devastating. These poor people! Rooting for ’em.

But it wouldn’t be a closing scene without Eleven’s arrival at the dance. She and Mike immediately found each other and decided they’d learn to dance TOGETHER. Awwww. Also they kissed on the mouth, but it was pretty chaste seeing as they’re literal children. Still, though, it seemed like, at least for the time being, everything was gonna be all right.

Oh, except for the shadow monster creeping on everybody from the Upside Down. Aside from that, everything was fine.

Look, I’m not expecting you to agree with me, but I think this season of Stranger Things was even better than the first (which I loved). It felt deeper and more ambitious and better paced and better acted and better everything. What a pleasure to behold, seriously. The creators clearly took time and care to write storylines that made each character shine, and it expertly wielded our affection for the residents of Hawkins to terrify and overjoy us. I can’t say enough good things about what I’ve binged. But I can say one bad thing: I can’t believe we’ll have to wait another year at least for more of this madness! How very rude of Netflix. Shame. Just kidding. I loved this. Great job.

And thank you very much for reading these. Meet me at the quarry to discuss further?

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