Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab
Does Steve survive in the Upside Down?
Episode 7 of Stranger Things Season 4 starts with Steve being attacked by those monstrous bats. Nancy, Robin and Eddie show up though and manage to fight them off, saving Steve. Robin is concerned that he may have rabies, but the rest of the gang are convinced that plot armour will prevail.
Despite taking out those bats, more begin descending on them from the horizon, forcing the group to hurry off to safety. Shirtless Steve is suffering badly from his wounds, leading angsty Nancy to start bandaging him up. However, there is some clear sexual chemistry between these two.
Needing some firepower, the four head off to try and track down some guns. The initial idea is the police station but as fate would have it, Nancy actually has guns in her room, so they decide to head there instead.
On the way, there’s a really nice conversation between Eddie and Steve. The former praises Steve for his bravery – and for Nancy’s too. He urges Steve to take a leap of faith and reach out to Nancy, pointing out how she dived into the water without a moments hesitation to save him. Not only that, but he also admits that Dustin is always praising him.
What happens to El? Who caused the massacre in the Lab?
Back in our world, Wallace’s torture reaches critical levels. After being trapped in that locker for most of the season, the poor officer reveals Eleven’s location. This inevitably adds some pressure to an already tenuous situation, as Dr Owens verbalizes our concerns with these flashback scenes. Owens is worried that they’re not seeing enough progress with El, who is still not able to control her powers despite that little outburst.
This pushes Brenner to face Eleven, urging her to confront her past and not to be afraid any longer. El agrees, and Brenner sifts through dozens of tapes to one that’s the most important. This one comes in the form of Brenner torturing El’s bullies, demanding the truth about what happened to Eleven.
The thing is, this is all Brenner’s plan, strategically moving all the puzzle pieces around to strike El and have her killed by the other test subjects. Brenner knows he can’t control Eleven and wants to try and kill her before it’s too late. So through these flashes, we see Eleven concoct a plan to escape, skipping out before she’s killed, with help from the orderly.
The thing is, this orderly can’t join Eleven given he has a chip in his neck that stops him from going too far. He too is a prisoner. Eleven helps destroy the chip in his neck and free him from this torturous ordeal.
Guards soon show up and corner the pair. It turns out this orderly actually has powers as well, something that appears to have been stifled by the chip in his neck. He shows off his wrist, which has etched the numbers 001. He’s test subject number 1. The orderly encourages Eleven to hide out in a closet while he keeps her safe. It’s now apparent – especially from the screams in the hallway – that he’s the one who slaughtered everyone, not Eleven. This reframes everything from the flashback at the start of episode 1.
Does Hopper survive the encounter with the Demogorgon? Is he reunited with Joyce?
The rest of the kids are brought in for questioning with the police, as Dustin, Max and Lucas all fumble through their stories. They claim they haven’t heard from Eddie but Erica speaks up and debunks that completely. Unfortunately, this also causes all three of them to be questioned one by one over what they may be hiding. Max is up first.
Over at the prison, Hopper and Enzo weigh up their options and whether they’ll come out of this as iconic monster slayers or dead meat. One thing’s for sure, they need a miracle. A miracle wrapped up in the form of Joyce, Yuri and Murray riding in perhaps?
While Murray works his magic, turning the tide of battle in the prison, down in the courtyard Hopper holds the line with his flaming stick as the Demogorgon comes at them. It’s a tense encounter, one that sees each of the prisoners killed one by one. Enzo and Hopper manage to get to safety, and in doing so Hopper finds himself face to face with Joyce. Finally, after seven long episodes, we get our touching reunion after all.
How does Dustin communicate with the Upside Down?
Back in Hawkins for now though, and Dustin figures out that these psychic connections are the key to what’s happening around Hawkins. It seems like the Mind Flayer is using Vecna to open up links with different kids, which in turn opens more gates. More gates = more opportunity for the Mind Flayer to return.
Speaking of psychic links, this is exactly what Nancy figures out when she heads home in the Upside Down. Nothing is quite right; the gun isn’t in the shoebox, the diary entries stop at 1983 and items are in her room that she sold months back.
However, as they all convene in the lounge, they start hearing Dustin’s voice filter through into this world. It’s here the kids realize they can communicate just like Will did with Joyce, and reach out to touch the lights. Eddie gives out an SOS message, which Dustin and the others interpret as our group heading through “Watergate.”
The group are clever, setting up a Lite-Brite Magic Screen to communicate with one another. Through this, Dustin encourages them to head off and get to Eddie’s trailer. On the way, they sabotage the police cars so they can’t follow. It’s just like ol’ times, with a lovey shot of the bikes in the Upside Down and in our world heading for the portal to get free. It’s actually one of the best visual shots in the whole episode.
Do Nancy and Steve make it out of the Upside Down?
The gang eventually make it to the portal and communicate with one another, as Dustin laughs gleefully upon seeing them there. Robin is first out, followed by Eddie. Nancy is next, but as she heads through the portal, she flies through darkness… and ends up back in the Upside Down again. It seems like Vecna has reached her and as a result, separated her from Steve.
Barb’s dead body is there too (#justiceforbarb) and it seems Vecna has also not forgotten what happened to her. Vecna taunts her about Victor, and how he’s been too busy to check in on how he’s getting on.
Who is Vecna? What happened to him?
Vecna gives Nancy a trip down memory lane, as the angry reds blur out and are replaced with those earlier flashbacks with Victor Creel. This time though, we gain a lot more context over what really happened. It turns out Henry didn’t actually die in that house – he is test subject number 1, the orderly at Hawkins Lab!
This reframed perspective is a massive shocker as we see that Henry actually found a black widow nest in the house and like those spiders, found himself becoming ever-more independent and ruthless. Henry became disillusioned with this life, even finding madness in the passing of time (explaining the recurring visual motif of the grandfather clock.)
Victor believed it was a demon that was causing issues in his hose but that’s not true. It was actually Henry using his powers. He framed Victor for killing his sister and mother but in his comatose state, awoke to find himself in Hawkins lab under the care of Dr Martin Brenner himself.
Eleven has essentially awoken Henry from his stifled power slumber. This inevitably leads to a fight between the two, especially when El refuses to join the dark side.
This flashback ends with Eleven being held up by her neck and twisted and contorted just like the other victims of Vecna. Only, she fights back. El controls her powers, pulls herself together and throws Henry through the window, shattering the glass as he’s held up against the wall.
How does episode 7 of Stranger Things Season 4 end?
El harnesses her powers and destroys Henry (One), splitting him apart. As his center turns red, Eleven kills him but unaware that in doing so, she’s ripped through the first gateway to the Upside Down. The familiar vines and angry red of the portal is left standing.
As the camera tumbles into the Upside Down as well, we see him blasted with bolts of red lightning and turned into the Vecna we know today. The camera zooms into the 001 on his wrist (incase you hadn’t guessed by now!) and everything is left on a tantalizing cliffhanger ready for the next 2 episodes in July.
The Episode Review
My oh my! What a lovely little twist and something that reframes all of Eleven’s flashbacks and the Victor Creel situation into a new light. It’s certainly been a slow burn to reach that point but the season has done an excellent job making this worth the wait.
Less worth the slow burn though is the whole Hopper and Joyce reunion. While it’s great to see them together, there’s still a Demogorgon on the loose in the facility, they’re not technically out the prison just yet and Hopper hasn’t really gone anywhere. I’d imagine they’ll make it back to Hawkins soon but I can’t help but feel this whole plotline has been dragged out across the seven episodes needlessly.
However, there are some nice moments with the kids in this, namely that involving Steve and Eddie who discuss Dustin and, more notably, Nancy. Jonathan has barely been in this season so I guess it makes sense to rekindle the Stancy love angle, although with 2 episodes left we’ll have to wait and see where that leads next.
Either way though, Stranger Things has been solid this year, an improvement over season 3 which dipped a little in quality. Season 4 takes things in interesting new directions and although there are parts of this that don’t really get much of a payoff and other subplots that meander too much, we’re only halfway through this season (technically anyway, there’s 2 more episodes after this!) and so it makes sense to have everything escalating into one big conflict to come,
What this means for our characters is anyone’s guess but one thing’s for sure, Vecna is likely to strike hard in the next couple of chapters.