'Stranger Things' - "Chapter Nine: The Gate" Season Finale Recap

Stranger Things season one came out of nowhere. There were no expectations for it to be great or anywhere near as big a pop culture phenomenon as it turned out to be. A second season was like playing with fire. Why mess with a good thing? How could you even go about topping that good thing? Throughout season 2, the Duffer Brothers have shown time and again that this is a world in very capable hands. They’ve created a multi-layered season where every storyline converges into one crazy climax. The question of course is can they stick the landing?

After finally bringing every major character together in “Chapter Eight”, “Chapter Nine: The Gate” has our massive party separate into three groups, each with their own part to play in the defeat of the Shadow Monster. Hopper and Eleven are headed to Hawkins Labs to close the titular gate once and for all. Joyce, Jonathan, and Nancy are headed to Hopper’s cabin with Will to try and exorcise the Shadow Monster from his body. Mike and his friends take it upon themselves to head to the “grave yard” to dispatch all of the demodogs, much to the chagrin of babysitter Steve. All of the plans happen simultaneously in exhilarating fashion.

At the cabin, Joyce is forced to essentially torture her own son to make his body an intolerable host for the Shadow Monster. The plan is a successful one, as the shadow is expelled from Will’s body, leaving the child back to his old self.

At the Byers residence, Mike’s plans to destroy the grave yard are put on hold when Billy shows up looking for his sister, Max. Billy and Steve have a drag out fight, which ends with Billy pummeling that perfectly coifed head of hair into the ground. It’s then Max’s turn to stand up to her abusive step-brother, using one of Will’s sedatives to drug Billy. As he collapses, on the verge of passing out, Max brandishes Steve’s baseball bat and threatens Billy to leave her alone once and for all. He agrees before passing out. It’s a nice moment of triumph for Max, but a bit of a letdown ending for Billy. He’d been built up as a formidable secondary human villain all season, and the payoff juice wasn’t really worth the squeeze. What were his motivations? Why didn’t he like Lucas? Was he racist? Did he just have an irrational hated of nerds? It’s all super unclear. You'd think he'd be happy to have Max hanging out with friends if it meant she was out of his hair. Luckily, the entire character and plotline are singlehandedly saved by a hilarious scene earlier in the episode where Billy pays a visit to Mike’s house in search of Max. While he doesn’t find his sister, he does find Mrs. Wheeler, fresh from a bath and adult novel reading session. You don’t have to be Dustin to see the electricity flying between these two.

After fighting off Billy, Mike and the gang head to the grave yard where they set the entire thing ablaze. Dustin says a final goodbye to Dart as the entire group makes it out of the Upside Down safely.

With Will free of the Shadow Monster and the demodogs taken care of, it now falls on Hopper and Eleven to close the gate to the Upside Down once and for all. It takes all of Eleven’s strength, channeling the anger like Kali taught her, but also harnessing the love of her friends to close the gate and keep the Shadow Monster locked away. And just like that, Hawkins was saved.

In the ensuing epilogue we catch glimpses of how life has progressed after the events of season two. Murray’s plan worked, and the Hawkins Labs coverup is exposed to the world. This leads to a proper funeral for Barb. Hopefully we can now bury #JusticeForBarb right down with her. 

For the kids, the anxiety is no longer coming from how to defeat the demogorgans; it’s how to dance at the school’s Christmas Snow Ball. Lucas and Max end up dancing together. Will is approached by a girl at school to dance with her. Dustin, equipped with all of Steve’s hair product and girl advise, sadly strikes out with every girl he approaches. Nancy, volunteering at the dance, notices Dustin all alone and goes to his rescue. It’s a sweet moment the two share as all of the girls who rejected Dustin now look on in jealously. Of course, that leaves Mike as the last man standing. Just as he’s been all season long, he’s not interested in dancing if Eleven isn’t involved. Fortunately for Mike, Dr. Owens has drafted legal adoption paperwork for Eleven, now known as Jane Hopper. Proud dad Hopper drops her off at the Snow Ball where she shares a dance, and a kiss, with Mike Wheeler. And all was right in Hawkins, Indiana. This final scene at the Snow Ball is an assault of charm, and as a moment of happiness to close out such dark times for these kids, it brought actual tears to my eyes. I don’t know how the Duffer Brothers managed to do it, but dammit if they didn’t somehow surpass season one.


Let us know your thoughts on "Chapter Nine: The Gate" as well as the entire season of Stranger Things 2 below!