Warning: the following article contains spoilers for Stranger Things season four episode five, “The Nina Project”.
This episode opens with a federal agent rapidly bleeding to death, and it only gets worse from there. Hooray!
Existence is a prison
The armed men ransack the Byers family home, and Lt. Colonel Sullivan starts interrogating the surviving agent, eventually kidnapping him so he can question him further.
Dr. Owens is driving El through the desert to a lab in a top-secret location where she is, distressingly, reunited with her former Papa, Dr. Brenner. El immediately tries to run away but is thwarted and drugged.
Hop can probably relate to both of them since he’s back in prison and being interrogated about his escape attempt. Meanwhile, Yuri prepares his little plane to fly across the Bering Strait while Joyce and Murray are tied up in the back.
To recap, the number of different characters currently being held against their will is four, although it’s much higher if you include all of Hop’s fellow inmates. Technically five if you include Eddie being forced to hide in Rick’s shack with no food.
Nancy pieces Max’s drawings of Vecna’s lair together and realizes she recognizes it: it’s the Upside Down equivalent of the Creel home, which was abandoned after the murders. Eep!
Memories are a prison
El’s in a sensory deprivation tank and trapped in a loop of her memories of her time in Hawkins Lab. The California Crew (that’s their name now, according to me) are having to bury the agent’s body in the desert, and Argyle is not coping with his first taste of life as a character in Stranger Things. Mike figures out that the agent’s final words pointed to a number hidden in his pen.
Hop shares some of his story with Enzo, including tales about his time as a soldier in Vietnam preparing Agent Orange and how it potentially affected his daughter’s health.
Dr. Owens’ friends visit the Munson home while the majority of Hawkins residents attend Chrissy’s funeral. The basketball team brainstorm a list of people to interrogate about Eddie, probably because basketball season is over and they have too much free time on their hands.
The Hawkins gang explores the Creel home, finding the grandfather clock from Max’s visions. Steve continues to call Vecna a wizard despite the fact he doesn’t wear a pointy hat. Somewhere in the air above the Bering Strait, Joyce and Murray are trying to figure out an escape plan that doesn’t involve them piloting a plane they have no idea how to operate.
El is still trapped in the same memory, and Brenner informs her that she has to focus and find her own way out, which she finally manages to do in order to proceed to the next memory. The California Crew call the number they found, only to be met with a dial-up tone, which they only recognise because of WarGames. Mike suggests visiting the closest (and only) hacker they know, Dustin’s girlfriend Suzie.
Everything’s a prison
While the basketball bandits search Rick’s house for signs of Eddie, who is hiding in fear in the shed, the Hawkins Homies (I’m trying this one out, I’m not married to it though) continue to explore the Creel home, and there are a couple of absolutely adorable moments between former flames Nancy and Steve and Lucas and Max. Don’t get my hopes up Duffer Brothers!
Back inside El’s brain, we see some of the experiments Dr. Brenner used to conduct on El and the other Hawkins Lab kids. After successfully completing the experiment, El’s nose starts to bleed, and she finds that her hand is covered in blood. Exiting the now-empty room, she enters a hallway full of bodies with blood on the walls. Her physical reactions to reliving this memory convey just how traumatizing she finds it.
Up in the air, Joyce manages to free herself and Murray, the latter of whom uses his black-belt skills to subdue Yuri. Unfortunately, he was too effective, and now they don’t have a pilot. Cue them having to pilot a plane they have no idea how to operate.
Somehow, they don’t die despite crashing the plane into the ice; that’s Hollywood, baby! In a similar instance of cinema sorcery, the Hawkins Heroes don’t die despite finding the heart of Vecna’s lair, the attic.
Elsewhere in Hawkins, Eddie has fled the shed and taken to the water, only for two of the basketball bandits to follow him. Patrick, who has been dealing with headaches and visions, is finally overcome, shooting up into the air as Vecna kills him. Since the others are in his lair, they see the lights explode as Vecna kills Patrick.
El is resuscitated and again immediately tries to escape, except this time she’s able to use her powers to overpower some of the guards. This means Dr. Brenner’s experiment worked and reliving some of her memories gave El a small amount of power back. I hate it when jerks are right.
Stranger Things is available to stream on Netflix. The first seven episodes of the new season are out now, while the final two eps will drop on July 1.