The Billy Redemption Arc Begins in 'Stranger Things 3' Episode 6 (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Stranger Things Season 3 "Chapter Six: E Pluribus Unum"]
As Stranger Things heads into the homestretch of Season 3, you can sense the storylines beginning to converge as the characters learn more about what’s going on in Hawkins. The revelations come thick and fast this episode, appropriately titled “E Pluribus Unum,” which serves as a double meaning, describing the separate groups moving towards the same mission, as well as the Mind Flayer literally becoming one, out of many.
In an effort to find the source of the flayings, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) risks permanent brain damage by jumping back in The Void and into Billy’s (Dacre Montgomery) conscious. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Max (Sadie Sink) start an ethical debate over whether it's safe to keep sending El back into nose-bleed city. Max argues that Eleven knows her abilities and is her own person with her own free will, a point backed up by Nancy (Natalia Dyer). Mike, however, claims it’s an abuse of Eleven’s powers and could kill her. “I love her and don’t want to lose her again,” he blurts out, revealing the real reason for his concerns.
While in The Void, Eleven locates the source, at the Steel Works, but she also learns a whole lot more about Billy as she strolls through his memories. She sees a young Billy and his mother spending the day together at the beach. It's a moment of pure happiness. Perhaps Billy's last joyful memory before everything became grim and depressing. We see that he grew up with an abusive bully of a father who physically attacked him and his mother. It’s something which El can relate to given the abuse she suffered in her own life as a human lab rat.
For as much crap as I’ve given Billy in previous recaps, I will say that his character is growing on me like a demonic tentacle. Montgomery is doing some fantastic work in showing Billy’s vulnerability while under the control of the Mind Flayer. Even when he's menacing and evil, you can still see the human in the eyes, trapped and frightened. It’s a much better use of his character than just being the racist, cocky jerk he was last season. The question of whether his character deserves this kind of redemption arc, though, is an ethical debate of its own.
Billy tells Eleven that it was her that “let them in” in the first place, and now she must let them stay. At the same time, the flayed citizens of Hawkins are summoned to the Steel Works, where one by one they dissolve into goo and attach themselves to the ever-growing Mind Flayer blob monster. “First we’re going to end you,” Billy warns Eleven. “Then your friends. And then everyone.”
Hopper (David Harbour) and Joyce (Winona Ryder) also start to get some answers out of Alexei (Alec Utgoff), the cartoon-loving Russian scientist they recently took captive. After some bickering about cherry versus strawberry Slurpees and more blatant product placement, Alexei reveals that the Russians have built what he calls The Key (aka that huge-ass laser blasting a rift between worlds). “You remind me of fat Rambo,” he tells Hopper, as he explains that the lab is located at the Starcourt mall in an underground fortress guarded by the greatest warriors. “Breaking in is impossible,” he laughs, as we hilariously cut to Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Erica (Priah Ferguson) scurrying around that so-called impenetrable lab.
The Scoops Troop is momentarily separated when Russian guards capture Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke), allowing just enough time for Dustin and Erica to escape. These pairings allow for some nice character growth. Dustin and Erica bond over maths wizardry and My Little Pony, which makes Dustin realize that Erica is exactly what she claims to hate: a nerd. And while tied together and facing potential death, Robin opens up to Steve about how she used to be “obsessed” with him at school, despite him being an “a**hole” that never gave her the time of day.
“Even though we don’t admit it, us losers just wanna be popular, accepted... normal,” Robin confesses. Steve, who, like Erica, often puts up a front and struggles to let his guard down, admits that being popular doesn’t make life any better. “All those things are bulls**t,” he says, before telling his ice-cream slinging sidekick that he's enjoyed being her “schmuck” at Scoops this summer. The story isn't over yet though for Steve and Robin. While they're tortured and injected with some kind of serum (which sends them into a giggling fit), they survive thanks to Dustin and Erica and an electric cattle prod.
All the groups are appealing in their own way, but where Joyce and Hopper's squabbling can sometimes grate, and Mike and Eleven's relationship troubles can be a little trite, the Scoops Troop are just insanely fun, and are a massive part of why this season has been so enjoyable. And if any of them come to any harm I will be writing a strongly worded tweet to Netflix. That said, I'm ready for these separate groups to come together in the remaining two episodes for an epic mall melee with the Mind Flayer.
-The Mind Flayer dissolving and slithering under the crack of the door was a brilliantly disturbing bit of business.
-Mayor Kline (Cary Elwes) officially opens the county fair ahead of the July 4th celebrations. He's also attacked by Russian Terminator and ordered to find Hopper.
-Joyce's code name when calling the military: "Wheelbarrow."
Stranger Things, Streaming, Netflix