Chapter Five: The Nina Project
Episode 5 of Stranger Things Season 4 starts with pure drama for our California crew. Agent Harmon is bleeding out and urges the kids to phone Owens and let him know. In order to do that, they need to get in touch with someone called ‘Nina’.
Eleven was AWOL from episode 4 but she’s still with Dr Owens, being led out to the dusty ruins of Nevada. This subplot is 12 hours back from our current timeline and is peppered throughout the chapter. However, for the purpose of this recap, we’ll add all of Eleven’s story here.
Dr Owens drives her out to a strange doorway that leads down to the depths of their lab, which is hidden away under the desert. This facility was originally used to house missiles but now it’s home to something far more powerful – Eleven.
Remember what we heard about Nina? Well, it turns out Nina is actually the codename for this project they’re working on, including a large tank just like the ones we saw in the past, which they’re housing underground. Dr Brenner suddenly shows up and suggests they work together to get her powers back.
Eleven freaks and tries to escape but without her powers, there’s not much she can do. After being sedated, she begins experiencing a whole stack of hallucinations.
Brenner is convinced that she’ll manage to withstand all of this while a worried Dr Owens watches on from afar. The visions continue, with Brenner communicating from the real world and encouraging El to concentrate.
Here, we’re graced with more flashes from the past, namely that involving Eleven harnessing her powers. However, those visions soon bleed into showing something far worse, as Eleven’s nose starts bleeding, she sees all the bloody bodies in the hallway and she spirals out of control.
In Alaska, it’s a case of deja vu as Hopper is tortured and beaten for his efforts. His superior promises that he’s going to experience “much pain.” This time though, Enzo is in the cell with him.
Hopper starts to lose hope though, believing that the closer he gets to Joyce, the more danger he puts her in. Hopper is convinced that he’s a curse, reflecting back on all the horrible trauma he’s been through.
Joyce and El were his lifelines back then; a way of breaking free from the darkness consuming his life Now that he’s brought Joyce into helping him escape, he believes he’s brought her over to die.
Speaking of which, Joyce and Murray knock out Yuri and attempt to fly his plane back, eventually crash-landing hard in the wilderness.
Eddie is still held up at Rick’s place and he tries to connect with Dustin, needing a food delivery. They’re all still on “Max watch” right now though, with Max trying to draw out what she saw in the Upside Down.
Max points out Vecna didn’t want her in his castle. Dustin throws up a reference to Nightmare on Elm Street, which is pretty meta given Robert Englund, who plays Freddie Kreuger, is actually in this season playing Victor Creel’s character.
Anyway, just like what we aw last season, Max’s disparate pictures are all part of a larger whole. All the pictures combine together to form a magnificent house. But not just any house – Victor Creel’s house. This appears to be the key to all of this and could well be the point of origin for everything that’s happened so far.
All our kids show up and begin looking around, and in doing so their flashlights begin creepily blinking out. It turns out this is Vecna’s doing, and as the camera slickly rotates around upside down, we see Vecna’s base of operations is this very house.
The basketball boys all start to track down the information we’ve known for several episodes – Eddie’s whereabouts at Reefer Kick’s pad.
When they show up, Eddie manages to get away from the boys, heading out onto the lake. However, Patrick is possessed by Vecna, with his limbs cracking and distorting just like before. Only this time, there are far more witnesses here to see Eddie isn’t part of this after all.
While Jonathan, Mike, Argyle and Will bury the deceased agent, they realized the pen he gave Mike before he died is actually a clue to all of this. Inside happens to be the number they need to ring. They only get code though, leading the group to realize they need to bring on a master hacker to try and decipher this – Suzie. It looks like we’re on course for another road trip!
As the episode closes out, we cut back to Eleven who awakens inside the facility and tries to run away. When guards arrive, Eleven uses her powers and knocks them all down! She’s back! Well… kinda.
Her powers have limitations and in order to fully understand them, she’s going to have to trust Brenner and the others. She holds his hand and walks back into the facility as the episode comes to a close.
The Episode Review
With all our characters separate and off on their own adventures, episode 5 shows both the strengths and weaknesses of this season. The whole Hopper situation has been dragged out now and it’s not helped by scenes like Murray and Joyce having a jokey conversation on the plane.
Likewise, the basketball boys just seems contrived and a bit of a waste of time, seeing them off investigating the exact things we’ve already uncovered. Their story continues to meander on, with investigative reveals we’ve know hours ago. Thankfully that ending with Patrick seems to hint that everything is going to start tying together nicely now.
The ending seems to hint that they’re going to have a bigger stake in this story after all. The hunt for Vecna is on and as a result, everything is leading up to a big, dramatic fight. The moments involving Eleven are certainly welcome, helping to flesh out more of her past, while there are some nice moments with the kids bonding too.
The self-aware bromance with Dustin and Steve is a particular highlight. Everything here is leading up to a dramatic couple of episodes to come, and it’s anyone’s guess just what direction this one will take next.