A little shaky in places, but this episode introduces a great new character and paves the way for the future.
It is no secret that everyone who loves Stranger Things has already finished the second season. We, like Eleven, have been counting the days since we first set foot in Hawking, Indiana, longing to return. As such, it’s no surprise that this season has been written with its audience’s voracious appetite for supernatural horror in mind and that is no less true of chapter seven: ‘The Lost Sister’.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Duffer Brothers have publicly defended this divisive episode and I can understand why fans are a little miffed. Compared to the rest of the season so far, ‘The Lost Sister’ is a little strange. Taking place parallel to Episode 6 which saw Mike, Will & co. in danger at the lab, this chapter is quieter and more character-driven. Ordinarily, I’m in favour of this as I like to see characters grow, but taking such a drastic step away from the action when the stakes and suspense were so tangible left me feeling restless. As much as I love Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and want to learn more about her, I just wanted to know what was happening at the lab more. And this wasn’t helped by the fact that ‘The Lost Sister’ felt more like a pilot than anything else.
As it is, for what ‘The Lost Sister’ lacks in action it makes up for in its exploration of Eleven and her origins. However, it also prompts more questions than it answers suggesting loud and clear that Netflix is already penning a third (and possibly final) season. Opening in the aftermath of Episode 5, Eleven is on a journey of self-discovery that takes her to Chicago in search of the little girl in the rainbow room from her mother’s fractured memory.
Kali (Linnea Berthelsen) is the headstrong, independent young leader of the gang we met in the opening scene of this season’s premiere. As we saw, Kali possesses similar abilities to Eleven which enable her to manipulate the minds of those around her to see whatever fiction she projects.
In her own right, Kali is an incredibly engaging character and something of a scene-stealer. Hard on the outside, this psychic is the matriarch of misfits who credit her as their saviour having used her powers in some way to rescue them from their inner demons and then provide them with purpose. But within, Kali is still a broken little girl scarred by her experiences in the laboratory where she was subjected to animalistic testing before her escape.
Consequently, Kali has developed her own sense of justice as she uses her crew to track down and punish anyone who harmed her at the lab. This introduces an interesting complexity as Eleven, forced through the same torment, as she is given the opportunity to choose between running with Kali or returning to Hawking. It’s clear that Kali wants Eleven to stay with her as she sees her own mistakes in the younger girl, but it must to be her choice.
Choice is an important theme in this chapter as this is something Eleven has never really been given. Kali sees revenge has her right, justifying the murder of lab technicians as a method to protect herself and others like her. This forces Eleven into a difficult position as she too desires vengeance against the man who harmed her mother but does not wish to become a monster.
Whilst we’ve seen Eleven kill before, this is the first time where she is presented with a choice but what is really interesting is that as much as Kali pressures her to avenge her mother, Eleven is still allowed to make the decision for herself.
Ultimately, Eleven’s choice to stay her hand was a relief as for much of season one, Eleven saw herself as a monster saved only by Mike’s belief in her that she could be something more: his friend. Given that we are yet to see the two united, it was touching to see that even absent, the intrepid D&G player still has a huge influence on Eleven’s respect for herself.
Her final decision to return to Hawking is a welcome one as it is her choice rather than a necessary act she is destined to carry out, proving that she has an agency all her own. Brown does an admirable job carrying ‘The Lost Sister’, but Berthelsen ultimately steals the show to bring us an intriguing, complex and powerful character that I cannot wait to see again in the future.
Overall, ‘The Lost Sister’ is an intriguing episode that provides and intimate look at Eleven and her journey from conception to bad-ass but is perhaps weighted down by nods to the inevitable third season.