“E Pluribus Unum” allows everyone to take a (slight) breather, but it builds to a shocking conclusion.
This recap of Stranger Things Season 3, Episode 6, “E Pluribus Unum”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
“E Pluribus Unum”, the title of Stranger Things Season 3, Episode 6, is also the motto of the United States. You’d think, given the show’s Cold War undertones, that this is some kind of political statement, especially since Russians are holding Americans hostage and, by the end of the episode, Hopper has gone to his own government for aid. But it has a more literal interpretation. The quote is Latin, and translates as “Out of many, one.” As we discover, this is how the Mind Flayer plans to destroy Eleven, her friends, and presumably the world.
As “E Pluribus Unum” opens, Steve and Robin are captured during their attempt to escape the Russian base, but they buy Dustin and Erica enough time to escape. Those two share a number of amusing scenes as they try to figure out a means of breaking back in and breaking their friends out; they make a great double-act, but I’m starting to suspect Gaten Matarazzo would make a good double act with anyone. You have to give Priah Ferguson her share of the credit too, mind.
Nancy and Jonathan are still being pursued through the hospital by the reconstituted slime monster, which can break itself down into gloop in order to squeeze through gaps and under doorways. This is how it eventually escapes. After Eleven arrives just in time to throw it around and out of a window, it slimes its way through a drain.
Meanwhile in Stranger Things Season 3, Episode 6, Mayor Kline’s Independence Day festivities are being prepared. The Russians are strongarming him into finding Hopper, but Hopper is still off the grid with Joyce, Murray, and Alexei, the latter of whom is being especially awkward, sending Hopper off on errands to Burger King before he’ll talk. Hopper loses it and throws him out, reasoning that the Russian is so scared of his own people that he won’t dare leave them. It looks for a while like he might have called Hopper’s bluff, but no — he returns and begins to explain about the machine tunneling through to the Upside-Down.
Eleven is trying to locate the source of the flayed, but she’s pushing herself to her limits and the kids are arguing amongst themselves about what’s best for her. Max is still convinced that Mike is trying to control her, inadvertently or otherwise, but Mike knows he has her best interests at heart; he admits that he loves her and can’t lose her again, which is a touching — though rather obvious — revelation. I like how the others immediately leave off him once he has said this, knowing that in saying that out loud he has obviously opened up to a degree that he usually wouldn’t. It’s a nice touch that helps to convince the audience that these are really long-time friends who know each other very well.
Robin and Steve spend most of “E Pluribus Unum” in captivity, being tortured and interrogated. While there, they have a frank conversation. Robin admits that in high school she was obsessed with Steve, and longed to be noticed by him; she was beneath the attention of the cool, popular high-school star, but Steve insists that having the popularity and the hair and the confidence doesn’t really amount to much once you leave high school and enter the real world. He has a point. The pair are soon injected with truth serum by the Russkies and much of the rest of their exchanges are played for laughs; one assumes so that the idea of torturing two teenagers wasn’t overly heavy for such a mainstream audience. Either way, Dustin and Erica are able to rescue them.
Another theme of the season continues in Stranger Things Season 3, Episode 6, with Joyce shouting down another man; I haven’t mentioned this thus far, but Winona Ryder has been putting in work during virtually every episode, ensuring that she doesn’t get talked down to or bossed around or ridiculed by anyone, let alone some government pencil-pusher at the other end of a phone. Needless to say, backup will arrive for Hawkins.
And then “E Pluribus Unum” gets weird. Billy is trying to lure the kids into a trap by making himself easy for Eleven to locate, but having seen through this, Eleven comes up with a different idea. She believes she can locate the source of the flayed by venturing into Billy’s memories. While there, she sees snippets of his traumatic childhood with an abusive father and the departure of his beloved mother. When she believes she has located the source, the Mind Flayer begins to communicate to her directly, through Billy, explaining how this was all for her, and how through her, everything will be destroyed. At the end of the episode, we see many citizens of Hawkins making their way hypnotically to the source, where they dissolve and allow themselves to be absorbed by the Mind Flayer. The monster grows so large that it takes the roof off the steelworks.