This is a one-act episode inside of the bigger story. The arc follows Hopper as he is stuck in the tunnel struggling to survive. It shifts from unconsciousness and death (well, where death would be a mercy) and back to life. The monster is a supernatural creature bent on annihilation.
Once more, be warned. Spoilers Ahead.
- Inciting Incident. (From the previous episode) Hopper thinks Will is drawing vines and goes to investigate. He ends up in the tunnels. On a global scale, Will and Mike decide to spy on the monster.
- Turning Point Complication. Hopper tries to escape and can’t. The vines overtake him and he is unconscious. (Shift from life to unconsciousness where death would be a mercy).
- Crisis (comes before the TP in this case). Should Joyce tell Bob about what’s going on with Will? If she does, she’s letting him in on a dangerous secret that could cost her, but if she doesn’t Hopper could die wherever he is.
- (Comes after the TP) Alternatively, should Will give in to the “now memories” and put himself at risk of letting the monster know he’s spying, or should he try and shut himself away and potentially let Hopper die?
- Climax. Bob figures out what the drawings actually are: a map of Hawkins. They use it to find Hopper.
- Resolution. Joyce and Bob save Hopper with help from the Hawkins Lab scientists.
- Inciting Incident of the next storyline: The scientists burn the vines and Will writhes in pain as they do.
To make up for the short scene analysis, here’s a deeper look at the sub-plots and what they mean to the overall story.
Dustin (Dart, Mews, and Steve)
Dustin is on his own this episode. Mike is with Will who is having a mental crisis and Lucas is telling Max the truth about what happened last year. That leaves Dustin alone to deal with a morphing Dart who has eaten his mother’s beloved cat. He has to trick his mother into going to look for the cat, clean up the mess, trap Dart, and find someone to help him. That matches Steve with Dustin for the next episode. Despite the loss of Mews, this subplot is humorous and further complicates the central plot.
Lucas (and Max)
Max feels left out at having been denied the truth of what went on last year. Lucas takes pity on her (because he has a crush) and goes through the trouble of telling her the truth despite the risks. The is a setup for the central plot as they have another ally to deal with the Demogorgons.
Nancy and Jonathon (Barb’s death and their romance)
Nancy is stuck on getting revenge for Barb’s death. Her and Jonathon gather evidence to prove the men at Hawkins Lab are culpable. Along the way, they finally become romantically involved. This subplot furthers the central plot and provides a break from the horror that’s going on around them.
Eleven (her momma)
Eleven is on her own journey during this season. She’s discovering herself and what she’s capable of. It’s tangential to the central plot and that’s partly why the episode that follows her journey comes as such a frustration to the audience. It takes away from the central story even though the development of her abilities is important to everyone’s survival.
Will (what is going on with him)
Will’s continued entrapment by the monster and the Upside Down is the central spine of this season. The mystery of what’s happening to him allows him to save Hopper, but in the next episode, is the very thing working against everyone. He’s the connection between the monster and provides a constant reminder of what will happen should the monster take control.