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Recap / Stranger Things S2E1 "Chapter One: MADMAX"

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On October 28, 1984, a gang of teenagers commit a high profile robbery in Pittsburgh. The police pursue them through the streets, but the gang is successful in getting away when one of the members uses psychic powers to aid their escape. A wrist tattoo marks the member as "008."

The party meet up the Hawkins arcade, where Dustin is upset to learn that someone with the moniker "MADMAX", has toppled all of his highscores. Meanwhile, Will has a vision of the Upside Down, seeing a violent storm approaching in the distance.

Journalist Murray Bauman is snooping around Hawkins, having heard rumors about Eleven and her powers, believing that he is on the heels of some sort of conspiracy involving a secret Russian weapon. Hopper, knowing better, tries to discourage Bauman from looking deeper into the matter, while he himself investigates a mysterious blight on Bob Merrill's pumpkin patch.

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Mr. Clarke introduces a new girl named Maxine ("Max") to his class. Dustin and Lucas do a little investigation, and find out that she is the "MADMAX" from the arcade, making them interested in recruiting her for the party. They decide to do this behind the back of Mike, who has been in a really bad mood ever since Eleven's disappearance.

At Hawkins Lab, the new head scientist on duty, Dr. Sam Owens, examines Will after his vision. He tells Joyce that Will is probably just experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. Joyce, meanwhile, has gotten a new boyfriend, Bob Newby, a mild-mannered technician, who Will has taken quite a shine to, while Jonathan is more skeptical.

Nancy and Steve have dinner with Barb's parents, who reveal they are selling their house to pay for Bauman's investigation into Barb's disappearance. Nancy is haunted by guilt over this, knowing her late friend's true fate but being unable to reveal the truth to her parents.

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Dustin hears a noise from the trashcan outside his home. Back at home, Will has another vision, seeing an enormous spidery creature in the Upside Down.

Hopper goes home to a cabin in the woods, where Eleven accuses him of being late.


This episode provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Keith, the slovenly employee of the arcade, who promises to give info about "MADMAX" to the boys if Mike sets up a date between him and Nancy. Mike, who stole his sister's piggy bank contents, is not amused.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The Pittsburgh car chase. There is no Poplar Street in downtown Pittsburgh, and even the one that's in the suburbs doesn't ever cross a Main Street. There is a 7th Avenue and 7th Street, but they don't have tunnels. There are however many tunnels like that in other parts of Pittsburgh, and in Atlanta where the scene was filmed.
  • Bathroom Stall Graffiti: Discussed around the dinner table at Mike's house when his mother berates him for having graffitied one of the school's bathroom stalls, to which Mike replies that everyone was doing it. Then his father comes in with "So if your friend jumps off a cliff, you're gonna jump, too?" upon which Mike rolls his eyes and gives up.
  • Brick Joke: When he meets Joyce at the store where she works, Bob asks if they stock any non-orange plastic pumpkins in the back of the store. It's clearly just a pretext for the two of them to sneak away for some making-out time, but when they're finished and he's about to leave Bob is amused to find that the store actually does stock non-orange pumpkins.
  • Brutal Honesty: When Jonathan calls himself a freak, Will asks, "Is that why you don't have any friends?"
  • Chase-Scene Obstacle Course: During the opening chase scene, the van hits a stack of cardboard boxes for effect.
  • Compartment Shot: Will is shown from inside his locker at school in the scene where he finds the newspaper clipping with "zombie boy" written on it.
  • Continuity Nod: Mike's father gives him the old if your friends jumped off a cliff line. Mike really did jump off a cliff in the last season in an attempt to save Dustin.
  • Damned by a Fool's Praise: As Jonathan is comforting Will about feeling like a freak by saying that it'd be more fun to hang out with David Bowie than Kenny Rogers, Bob walks by and chimes in "Someone say Kenny Rogers? I love Kenny Rogers!" He also loves Mr. Mom, one of the "lamer" videos Jonathan had rented for them.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": When Maxine is introduced in Mr. Clarke's class, she corrects him when he introduces her this way and says she prefers to be called "Max."
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: While trying to shrug off Murray Bauman, Hopper helps himself to a donut, but Flo takes the donut away after one bite and gives him an apple.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Barb's parents have hired Murray Bauman to investigate Barb's disappearance, unaware she had been killed by the Demogorgon.
    • Almost everything Murray Bauman posits in his theory to Hopper is accurate, except for the part about Eleven being a Soviet operative. In fact, he's also right about the Russians having a presence in Hawkins, just not in the way he thinks they are. Not only that, but Hopper is secretly hiding Eleven at a cabin he owns in the woods near Hawkins.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: The girls watching Billy arrive at school openly admire his ass.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Dr. Sam Owens engages Will in friendly conversation about candy before his examination, establishing him as at least seemingly a better sort of person than his predecessor Martin Brenner.
  • Feet-First Introduction: Billy's arrival. The camera focuses on his boots as he exits his car, then pans up to show the rest of him.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Murray's investigation so far has led him to believe there's "a full-on Russian invasion right here in Hawkins!"
    • There's a brief mention of Merrill's pumpkin patch in the newspapers shown being dropped on the streets in the establishing shots that lead into Hopper's intro scene.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Defied in the case of Barb. Her parents are still looking for her, and Nancy breaks down in tears when reminded of her.
  • Happy Ending Override: Even a year after everything that happened, there are still consequences running.
    • Will suffers from PTSD after spending a week in the Upside Down without food, exposed to its toxic atmosphere, hiding from the Demogorgon and used as a host for an insectoid parasite.
    • Joyce gets nervous when the phone rings.
    • Barb's parents are still trying to look for her, and Nancy is still affected by her best friend's disappearance and death.
    • It's implied that Mike has been acting out at school over the previous year due to grief and trauma over what happened, particularly with regards to Eleven's disappearance.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: One of Owens' crew is apparently stupid enough to play music on his headphones loudly enough to drown out the sounds of the instruments telling them something bad is happening. He doesn't notice anything until enough lights begin flashing that he sees them on the wall.
  • Human Weapon: Discussed early on when Murray Bauman suspects Eleven to be a Russian weapon.
  • Insistent Terminology: Mike insists he is "borrowing" cash from Nancy, not stealing. Neither she nor their parents see it this way.
  • "Jump Off a Bridge" Rebuttal: Mike's father offers this when Mike protests over being punished for graffiting a bathroom stall on the grounds that everyone does it. Of course, even if it is a cliche, it might have carried a little more weight had Mike not literally jumped off a cliff for one of his friends the previous season.
  • Jump Scare: A crow in the maize field gives Hopper and the audience a good scare.
  • Lemming Cops: The opening Chase Scene ends with three police cars crashing into another in front of the tunnel after Kali gives the lead car's driver an illusion of the tunnel collapsing right in front of him, causing him to slam on the brakes.
  • Meaningful Look: After being kissed by Steve, Nancy lets her gaze follow Jonathan for a bit, indicating she's not entirely honest with her feelings.
  • Metaphorgotten: Mike's parents are giving him a stern talking to about his troublemaking behaviour. They say they've been very patient with him, and he's up to "strike twenty" now, to which Mike's father follows up "If it'd been my coach, you'd be lucky to still be on the team." Mike gives him a very pointed "What are you even talking about now?" look.
  • New Transfer Student: How Max is introduced in class.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: How Hopper reacts when Callahan begins talking about Eleven in front of Baumann.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The workers at the facility seem on pretty friendly terms with each other, even if they're still poking around in things they shouldn't. Possibly justified, as none of the people on Brenner's team survived the first season, and this group was presumably assigned there to try and clean up Brenner's mess.
  • Samus Is a Girl: The party is rather stunned to learn that the mysterious "MADMAX" is none other than their new classmate, Maxine.
  • Serious Business: Collecting coins for their arcade night is clearly a big deal for the boys. Lucas takes it the most seriously, as he actually works to get money.
  • Wham Shot: Three:
    • Joyce, Will, and Hopper meet after Will's latest episode. At first it looks like Hopper is going to provide Will some amateur counseling, but then the camera pans up to show them outside the "Department of Energy" building.
    • Hopper drives to a small cabin in the woods. He enters, dodging tripwires as he does so. He gets a drink from the fridge and starts talking to someone in another room. The camera pans down to a dinner table, where a half-eaten Eggo is lying on a plate. Eleven comes in shortly afterwards.
    • The introduction of 008, who is not only substantially older than Eleven, but also running with a crew of criminals.

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