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Recap / Stranger Things S 3 E 8 Chapter Eight The Battle Of Starcourt

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Terror reigns in the food court when the Mind Flayer comes to collect. But down below, in the dark, the future of the world is at stake.

This episode provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Dusty-bun and Suzie-poo respectively.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The Soviet prisoner being taken by the guards. Given that he seems to know he's going to be fed to a Demogorgon, it's hard to blame him.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Murray crawls through a super-spacious duct system.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Sure, Billy was an abrasive dick, but he didn't deserve what the Mind Flayer did to him.
  • Ankle Drag: When she tries to escape, Billy grabs Eleven by the ankle and pulls her back into the Mind Flayer's combat range.
  • Anyone Can Die: Both Billy and Hopper are seemingly dead. Though in the case of the latter, The Stinger may suggest otherwise. Grigori, on the other hand, is very definitely dead.
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  • Big Damn Heroes: Just when Billy is about to run his car at full speed against the car where the Party is hiding (and with Nancy standing in the middle), Steve appears out of nowhere with the car he's driving and crashes into Billy's.
  • Bittersweet Ending: With more emphasis on the "bitter" than "sweet" part. Our heroes are able to close the Gate, killing the Mind Flayer's human flesh proxy before it can kill everyone. However, 28 innocent people died to give the Mind Flayer its flesh avatar, Hopper seemingly gave his life to close the Gate, and Billy sacrifices himself to allow the Party a chance to run. Eleven is taken in by the Byerses, but with the economic fallout of Starcourt opening, the Byerses are forced to take her when they move out of town, separating Eleven and Will from the rest of the Party. On top of being devastated at losing Hopper, Eleven also seems to have lost her powers, but she and Mike have admitted that they love each other and are planning to have a Long-Distance Relationship (which, given what they've been through, is likely more of a minor inconvenience to them than anything else). The Stinger opens the possibility that Hopper may be alive but held prisoner at a base in the Soviet Union, where the Soviets also have a living, adult Demogorgon imprisoned for unknown purposes.
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  • Blood from the Mouth: Billy, after the Mind Flayer pierces him several times in the torso.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Downplayed. Hopper kills a bunch of Soviet guards with a hail of gunfire, but later when he and Joyce are wearing some of the dead men's uniforms, they sport only a few red spots on their clothes as a result of the bullet holes.
  • Brick Joke: During the Final Battle Dustin contacts Suzie, his girlfriend in Utah and a plot point the audience had probably forgotten about with everything else going on. He ends up having to sing the theme song to The NeverEnding Story with her during the Final Battle in exchange for a valuable piece of information.
  • Brought Down to Normal: El gets an infection in her leg by a chunk of the Mind Flayer, which she removed with great pain using her powers. But afterward she finds herself unable to even crush a soda can, and the characters have to fend off the Flayer's Flesh Golem without them. In the Time Skip three months later her powers still haven't returned, although Mike expresses confidence they will eventually.
  • The Bus Came Back: Dr. Owens returns with the US Military in tow - sadly too late.
  • Car Fu: Billy tries to ram the car the Party's trying to flee Starcourt in, only to get t-boned himself by Steve and Robin.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: Dr. Owens arrives with the US military only after the Mind Flayer has been defeated and the Soviets have escaped.
  • Character Death: Billy dies in an act of defiance against the Mind Flayer; his death buys critical time for Joyce to close the gate.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Cerebro, which the kids mounted on a hill in the first episode, now comes in handy when Dustin has to request the digits of Planck's constant from his girlfriend.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • When trying to crush a coke can, Eleven has a Flashback Cut to ''Season 1 showing her perform the task with ease while still in the lab.
    • A tabloid news show outlines the events of the last three seasons that have entered the public knowledge, including flashing pictures of deceased characters Bob and Barb.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Billy being skewered by the Mind Flayer's tentacles.
  • Defusing the Tyke Bomb: Billy is overwhelmed by Eleven's emotional reflection on his childhood memory along with the touch of her hand on his face. It's the sort of affection he has been lacking since his mother walked away and experiencing it now enables him to break loose from the Mind Flayer's mind control.
  • De-Power: Eleven appears to have lost her powers, at least for the time being. Even three months later they haven't returned, though Mike is optimistic that they will come back in time.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: After Billy's Heroic Sacrifice, Max goes to his side and begs him to get up. He only manages to say he's sorry before he succumbs to his wounds.
  • Distant Duet: Dustin and his girlfriend Suzie perform the theme from The Neverending Story together over the radio from Indiana and Utah respectively.
  • Distant Epilogue: The finale gets wrapped up in a scene that takes place three months after the events of the season.
  • Dramatic Irony: Keith asks Robin if she had a thing for Steve, as Robin basically secured Steve's job even when he was a jerk to them at high school. As we came to know in the last episode...
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Hopper and Joyce put on some Soviet uniforms to better move around the Elaborate Underground Base. Since they don't speak a word of Russian, Baumann orders them to just politely smile and nod if spoken to. Much to their surprise, it works.
  • Dying as Yourself: Eleven manages to break the Mind Flayer's control over Billy (even getting rid of his Tainted Veins) by reminding him of one of his happiest memories. This allows him to resist the Mind Flayer long enough to fight it and allow Eleven a chance to run.
  • Epilogue Letter: The epilogue has a voiceover montage of Hopper reading his letter set to scenes of the gang packing up the Byerses' belongings and saying goodbye.
  • Extra-Long Episode: At 78 minutes, it's the longest episode yet.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Hopper accepts his death as he understood he won't make it in time, smilingly signaling Joyce to go ahead with destroying the collider. Might be Subverted in The Stinger...
  • Fatal Fireworks: Downplayed; the characters hurl fireworks at the Mind Flayer, but they are minor annoyances to it at best.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: The episode, and the season, ends with Hopper presumed dead and Eleven moving to a new town with the Byers, breaking up the Party. However, this is Downplayed as they plan to stay in regular contact, with Will promising to return and Mike and El establishing a Long-Distance Relationship and since the two are able to casually talk about and plan monthly visits it's implied that the Byers aren't actually moving that far away.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: That Steve and Robin have become this is cemented by the end of the episode, where we see them applying for jobs at a local video store together.
  • Foreshadowing: There's a moment where Joyce excitedly says how everyone will live free and happy after the Gate and the Mind Flayer are dealt with, with Hopper hesitating for a bit. Not only does the trip Goes Horribly Wrong for them, the teaser shows Hopper is captured by the Soviets.
  • Friendship Moment:
    • Dustin rejoins with his friends at the mall and they all have a hug while verbally confirming how they missed each other.
    • After Will puts his D&D manuals in the donation box, Mike asks what if he wants to join another party. Will tells him that this is "not possible." Mike is touched and breaks out into a big grin, which Will returns.
  • Gas Leak Cover-Up: The deaths of the people the Mind Flayer used to create its weapon, and Hopper's apparent demise, are covered up with a "fire" at Starcourt Mall. According to a sensationalist news report, there are fringe conspiracy theorists which claim the Hawkins residents who died were all victims of a Satanic cult that was probably caused by Dungeons & Dragons, and was also probably behind Barb and Bob's deaths in prior seasons.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: When Eleven removes the Mind Flayer embryo from her leg, she screams in pain which causes a glass wall in their vicinity to shatter. It's not clear though whether the glass broke because of the sonic pressure or Eleven's Power Incontinence.
  • Group Hug: Mike, Will, Dustin and Lucas have a group hug after they are reunited at the Mall, signifying that their friendships are all back to normal after some tension between them earlier in the season.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The Soviet guards in the base prove to be extremely unobservant as they don't only fail to notice that Hopper and Joyce don't speak a work of Russian, but that the uniforms they're wearing are full of visible bullet holes.
  • Hand Behind Head: Mike assumes this pose during his uncomfortable good-bye talk to Eleven.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Billy, who literally holds off a thirty-foot monster for the several seconds it takes Joyce to turn both keys and overload the Gate machine.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Billy, who distracts the Mind Flayer from the kids and gives Joyce enough time to destroy the Gate machine, and Hopper, who takes out Grigori but doesn't have a way to make it back before she blows it up.
  • If It Bleeds, It Leads: The sensationalist TV news program talking about Hawkins gives off this vibe.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Max attempts this with Billy, but fails, as Billy grabs Eleven and takes her to the Mind Flayer. Eleven later successfully does this to Billy which breaks him from the Mind Flayer's control, resulting in Billy's death as he lets Eleven run from them.
  • Indy Ploy: After Hopper has shot the guards, Murray asks him what he is doing. Then there is a Spielbergian close-up to Hopper's face as he says with determination "I'm improvising".
  • In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: The Russian engineers, who enter in red hazmat suits to check on the malfunctioning laser gun, have their faces illuminated inside their helmets.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Hopper takes a wild swing with a submachine gun and instantly kills five Russians. Justified, he's a veteran.
  • Is the Answer to This Question "Yes"?: This exchange between Dustin and Suzie over the radio:
    Dustin: Do you know Planck's constant?
    Suzie: Do you know the Earth orbits the sun?
  • Kill It with Fire: A visually spectacular version when the gang uses a cart full of fireworks to attack the Mind Flayer's earthly form.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Robin immediately groans upon reading the "TODFTHR" license plate in the Cadillac they're about to use.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: Steve summing up the Mind Flayer's Flesh Golem origin:
    "Okay, so, just to be clear, this... this big fleshy spider thing that hurt El, it's some kind of gigantic... weapon? But instead of, like, screws and metal, the Mind Flayer made its weapon...with melted people."
  • Long-Distance Relationship: Eleven is moving out of Hawkins with the Byers, but given that Mike and Eleven didn't let an Alternate Dimension full of monsters, a Government Conspiracy, Hopper forced to fake her death for 353 days to protect her, or the Soviet Union keep them apart, they are planning to have this, and Mike's already arranged to come visit on Thanksgiving. It's also likely that Nancy and Jonathan will attempt one as well.
  • Long Last Look: Joyce, before leaving her bungalow for good.
  • Love Confession: While packing up the Byers house, Eleven tells Mike that she did overhear him confess that he loves her in "E Pluribus Unum", and tells him she loves him as well. Like at the Snow Ball, this is also Sealed with a Kiss.
  • Meat Grinder Surgery: When the group sees something moving under Eleven's bite mark, Jonathan flash heats a butcher knife to cut her leg open, with the poor girl's only pain management being a wooden spoon to bite down on and Mike and Max's hands to squeeze. After Jonathan fails to get it out using his fingers, Eleven uses her powers to rip out what's inside her leg. Given the alternative was the Flayer's parasite tearing her apart from the inside, this isn't treated as the correct way to remove it but a desperate panicked last resort.
  • Mission Control: Due to their familiarity with the Russian underground base, Dustin and Erica act as mission control for Hopper, Joyce and Murray.
  • My Car Hates Me: Outside the mall, Billy threatens to ram Nancy and Jonathan. The tension is heightened by Jonathan's car failing on him due to sabotage.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Inverted. Steve put his mother as a reference because she's highly respected in town.
  • Never Found the Body: After supposedly being electrocuted to high heavens following the machine's explosion, Hopper leaves no corpse or any kind of physical remains behind. The Stinger implies that there might be a reason for that...
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Hopper finally takes out Grigori by throwing him into the spinning gate machine. Unfortunately for Hopper, this damages the machine to the point that it's blasting out arcs of electricity that would kill him if he tried to make it past them to the safety of the control room.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Heavily implied with Hopper. The characters assume he was disintegrated when the Gate machine exploded, but just who is "the American" being held in the gulag?
  • On Three: Hopper starts counting to three to synchronize himself with Joyce when both attempt to close the gate via a Two-Keyed Lock. Grigori interrupts them on "two".
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: For about 2 minutes right in the middle of the Final Battle this show turns into a musical.
  • Parallel Conflict Sequence: The kids fight the Mind Flayer at the mall while Hopper, Joyce and Murray try to close the gate while fighting off Russians at the Elaborate Underground Base.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Played With. The password to the keys to the Gate machine is the first few digits of Planck's constant, a very famous number, so ideally Joyce and Hopper should have no problem getting the keys. The problem, however, is that Murray gets the number wrong, and so the characters waste time in a game of telephone trying to get the correct digits.
  • Please Wake Up: Following his Heroic Sacrifice, Max desperately begs Billy to get up.
  • Real After All: Dustin finally gets in contact with Suzie during the battle, proving she does exist.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Billy's sense of self is restored before he sacrifices himself to save Eleven.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: The conspiracy theorists mentioned in the news report at the end of the episode are correct that the supposed fire at Starcourt Mall is a cover up, and that the deaths of the flayed, Bob and Barb are linked, but incorrectly attribute these events to the work of a Satanic cult.
  • Satanic Panic: Implied with the epilogue that has a television special suggesting that a Satanic cult may be responsible for the strange occurrences at Starcourt Mall.
  • See You in Hell: Hopper's Pre-Mortem One-Liner to Grigori.
  • Sequel Hook: In The Stinger, a pair of Soviet guards go to retrieve a prisoner, one moves for a door, but his partner tells him "No, not the American." The implication here is that Hopper may still be alive as a prisoner in the Soviet Union.
  • Shown Their Work: The Conspiracy Theory of the Satanic cult is a reference to the real-life "Satanic panic" of the era, which fittingly uses Dungeons & Dragons as a scapegoat.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Erica and Murray, probably the two snarkiest characters in the series, go head to head for a few moments before the others interrupt.
    Murray: I'm sorry, why is this four-year-old speaking to me?
    Erica: I'm ten, you bald bastard!
  • So Much for Stealth: When Eleven, Max and Mike try to sneak out of the mall behind the Mind Flayer's back, they bump over some metal rods which alerts the monster of their presence.
  • The Stinger: There is a Sequel Hook midway through the end credits showing us that the Soviets are in possession of an adult Demogorgon. And there is an American prisoner important to the Soviets...
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: El leaves town with the Byers. It doesn't matter how much of a psychic she might be, to most of the world, legally, she is an minor who must have an adult responsible for her. Since there is no family available, it is either a state facility or with Joyce Byers.
  • Tempting Fate: Hopper and Joyce finally patch everything up, just in time for Hopper's Heroic Sacrifice.
    • After Eleven assures Hopper that her "battery" (ability to use her powers) will recharge and that she can fight, she discovers that she's actually overtaxed herself to the point that she's completely depowered and defenseless, and it takes the rest of the Party to stop the Mind Flayer.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: When Dr. Owens finally arrives with the US military, upon finding the scorched wall where the Soviets were trying to open the gate, all he can do is stare in utter disbelief and abject horror. The last time he dealt with it, nearly everyone died. He himself almost bled out. And they barely managed to close it. It's particularly devastating for Dr. Owens since he pointed out that this very thing could happen in season 2 should the Soviets discover what they've done. Another one of his worst fears came to life, and it's likely things aren't over yet.
  • Trapped with Monster Plot: The kids and teens are trapped by the Mind Flayer in the Starcourt food court.
  • Trash the Set: Starcourt Mall is totally wrecked by the Mind Flayer.
  • Uncertain Doom: Despite the above-mentioned Heroic Sacrifice, The Stinger provides evidence that Hopper may still be alive, albeit as a prisoner in the Soviet Union.
  • Unintentional Final Message: As she is preparing to leave Hawkins with the Byers family, El receives the ultimately unused script Hopper wrote in preparation for his talk with her about her romantic relationship with Mike. It turns out to be a surprisingly heartfelt and loving letter about how change is difficult but necessary. Reading the letter helps the El come to terms with his death as well as her move away from her friends.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Murray recounts the plan to destroy the machine in great detail and finishes just as it goes awry.
  • Up Close with the Monster: Occurs when the Mind Flayer has Mike, El, and Max cornered inside a Gap store at the Starcourt Mall. Though the creature itself is too big to fit inside the store, it sends in several toothy, tentacle-like appendages to search for the hiding kids. One of the tentacles passes within inches of Mike's face where he's crouching behind a display stand, the "mouth" at the end hissing and shrieking before Lucas distracts the creature with a well-placed slingshot volley.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: The reason the Wheelers' car won't start is because Billy stole the ignition cable. They eventually manage to restore it by using the ignition cable from the car in the mall, which Eleven wrecked earlier.
  • [Verb] This!: Lucas' one-liner "Flay this, you ugly piece of shit" before feeding the Mind Flayer a firecracker.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: By the time Dr. Owens arrives with The Cavalry, the Soviets have already evacuated their base.
  • Vodka Drunkenski: Discussed. Murray, in disguise, mentions to one of the Soviet guards that they won't need sunlight as long as they have each other and a bottle of Stolichnaya. Both laugh hard.
  • Voiceover Letter: The speech Hopper intended to give Eleven and Mike at the beginning of the season is instead shown to the audience in his voice as Eleven reads through it.
  • Walkie-Talkie Gag, Over: Hopper, Joyce and Murray utilize Dustin and Erica's assistance as Mission Control as they infiltrate the Russian Elaborate Underground Base. The kids agree on the condition that Murray's code sign would be "Bald Eagle", and milk the gag for all it's worth.
  • We Need a Distraction: Right when the Mind Flayer tentacles are about to detect Eleven, Max and Mike who are hiding behind a counter, Lucas uses his sling to pop a balloon that lures the Mind Flayer away.
  • Wham Episode: Billy dies a hero's death, Hopper is presumed dead, Eleven loses her powers and is taken in by Joyce, and the Byers move out of town, taking Will and Eleven and breaking up the Party, and the Soviets have a fully grown Demogorgon in their control. When they said one summer can change everything, they meant it.
  • Wham Shot: The Stinger at the end shows that the Soviets have a nearly fully grown Demogorgon that they are keeping in captivity and feeding prisoners to. Given that their attempts to open a Gate were failures, where they got it is anyone's guess.
  • With Due Respect: Erica uses this line before starting her rant regarding Murray.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Everyone who hears Dustin and Suzie singing the theme to The NeverEnding Story. Special mention goes to Joyce, who balls her hands and leans her head against the wall in frustration, Erica, who is sitting next to Dustin in open-mouthed shock while he sings, Steve, who looks like he's considering jumping out of the car so the Mind Flayer can kill him, and Hopper, who look like he's so freaking done with the kids.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Mind Flayer kills Billy immediately after he resists his control, even though he controlled Billy to do everything to be where he was then. Fortunately, this becomes a Villain Ball as the Party manages to sabotage the Gate in time.


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