“The Flayed” brings its characters closer together, literally and figuratively, as more secrets are revealed and more threats are presented.
This recap of Stranger Things Season 3, Episode 5, “The Flayed”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Stranger Things Season 3, Episode 5 divides its cast into three big groups, each dealing with a separate, though related mystery. Steve, Dustin, Robin, and Erica are still stuck in the elevator beneath the Starcourt Mall; Joyce and Hopper are investigating the Starcourt property acquisitions, joined by the end of “The Flayed” by a Russian engineer and Hopper’s eccentric Russian-speaking friend Murray; and Nancy, Jonathan and the kids team up to find of way of tracking down and defeating Billy, the Mind Flayer, and its possessed army of thralls.
That’s a lot going on, but it’s well handled, and consolidating some of the storylines helps to keep everything clearer. Nancy and Jonathan are better when they’re working with the kids than they are doing their own thing, especially since we know everything is all related anyway. And it helps the characters to not feel stupid. Nancy immediately recognized Mrs. Driscoll’s possession as such because she saw how Will was affected last season; Dustin and Steve, when discussing with Robin why the Russians would choose to base their operation in Hawkins, of all places, jump straight to the right conclusion: It’s related to the Upside-Down, and the Mind Flayer. Of course, Robin doesn’t know about any of that stuff in “The Flayed”, so it’ll be interesting to see her reaction when she finds out.
Hopper and Joyce recruit the Russian engineer from one of the Starcourt properties, where another fight ensures with the big Terminator-style Russkie goon, who pursues them for the rest of Stranger Things Season 3, Episode 5. Their subsequent trek through the woods — and a funny carjacking scene at a Seven-Eleven — is characterized by bickering, as is a lot of “The Flayed”. Between Hopper and Joyce, Nancy and Jonathan, Mike and Eleven, Lucas and Max, and even, I suppose, Billy and Heather, dysfunctional relationships seem to be a theme of this season.
Steve, Dustin, Robin, and Erica are able to escape the elevator by wedging the door open with a canister of the green chemical, which is promptly crushed. After traipsing down an incredibly long corridor they stumble on the Russian base of operations, where they discover that the chemical is being used to power a machine that is — one assumes — attempting to open the portal to the Upside-Down. Steve also wins a fight, which is, according to Dustin, a first for the series.
With Nancy and Jonathan working with the kids in Stranger Things Season 3, Episode 5, things start to move a bit quicker. For instance, Nancy knows Heather and knows that her father is her boss at the Hawkins Post, Tom. (I somehow hadn’t actually noticed this.) They also figure out how the flayed work, including that if there are more than one, it stands to reason that there are many more than two.
At Tom’s house, the gang stumbles on more chemicals, and the kids develop the working theory that the flayed are trying to create a new substance within themselves. Clues also point to a “source”, a different location where the actual flaying takes place, and the next phase of the plan is to allow Mrs. Driscoll to go back to the source, so they can follow her.
Of course, any Strangers Things veteran knows that any location with long corridors and track lighting that can pop and sputter can only mean thing: Danger. While the kids try and build bridges, the flayed arrive at the hospital in the form of Tom and one of the other Hawkins Post staffers and begin chasing Nancy and Jonathan around. During the ensuing fight, it becomes clear that when something happens to one of the flayed — when one of them is, say, struck with a fire extinguisher — the effect is felt by all of them. This allows Nancy and Jonathan to defeat their attackers. Afterward, the bodies dissolve into sentient entrails, which find their way back to each other and reconstitute into that giant, snarling goo monster we saw in the trailers.
Fin. Whatever will the next episode come up with?