Why ‘The Lost Sister’ is the Best Episode of Stranger Things 2
Like any responsible Netflix viewer, I watched Stranger Things 2 in two days and thoroughly enjoyed all of it. I found it in many ways an improvement over the first season and I felt like there wasn’t a single weak episode. It was only when I talked with friends and read articles that I found there was a general consensus that “The Lost Sister” (Episode 7) was by far the weakest episode. A lot of critiques of the episode were unfair and failed to acknowledge the many positive aspects of the episode. The Lost Sisters is, in my opinion, the best episode of the season.
A legitimate criticism: The episode was framed as a stand-alone episode which opens the possibility of a spin-off show.
I’m not a fan of spin-offs and I certainly hope it wouldn’t be following Kali’s gang. While that is a fair possibility, I thought that the stand-alone episode was a test to see if it was possible for Eleven (El) to carry a show on her own, which is something I would be cautiously optimistic about.
There were a lot of complaints about the tone of the episode and how it was abruptly different from the rest of the show. Like with so many successful nostalgia-based content, Stranger Things excels in presenting unnatural events clothed within the familiar trope of Eighties horror movies. One of the ways Stranger Things 2 capitalizes on this is an obvious and timely reference to Ghostbusters. The Lost Sisters draws upon nostalgia in a similar way but it just draws from a different genre of movies coming out in the mid-eighties like Desperately Seeking Susan. The Lost Sisters’ grimy run-down aesthetic along with the odd neon lights flashing is clearly influenced by such movies. The director of the episode, Rebecca Thomas, includes subtle homages such as an intimate conversation on the rooftop with the city in the background, an establishing shot with the protagonist blending into the setting and classic fish out of water trope. I found the change in tone appropriate as a clearer delineation of El’s journey as an individual. Other criticism of the weakness of Kali’s gang feel like an indication that the episode was meant to be focused on Eleven.
Stranger Things is based on a plot with very little manoeuvrability. There are supernatural things occurring and the only way to stop the supernatural is with El and El alone. In the Stranger Things Universe, El is the most powerful character (we’ve met so far.) But the majority of her life has been controlled by the male characters around her [aka the patriarchy]. The Lost Sisters marks a fundamental change in El’s character arc where she reclaims her agency and literally disrupts the entire flow of the season. The significance of the show stopping to focus on one character, whereas in every other episode it is a weaving together of storylines, adds to the power of El’s transformation. El is the foundation on which the entire show rests. There are significant dilemmas raised by El’s powers which needed a separate episode to properly establish them and the show managed to communicate the change phenomenally.
The thing that puts the episode over the top is the more Millie Bobby Brown in an episode the better.
Jing Bo Yu (2L) is Culture Editor.