All roads begin to converge in “Chapter Eight: Papa”, as the penultimate episode of Stranger Things lays some explosive groundwork for the finale.
This recap of Stranger Things season 4, episode 8, “Chapter Eight: Papa”, contains spoilers.
It hasn’t been that long since the first Volume of Stranger Things Season 4, but in case you need a refresher both Ready Steady Cut (click these words to see our full archive of coverage) and the show itself has your back. “Chapter Eight: Papa” opens with a two-minute recap and then picks up for a few seconds right where we left off, with “eldrich thrumming”, according to the subtitles, and a bloody-eyed Eleven having just shoved who we now know to be Vecna through a portal to the Upside-Down. Did she create the Upside-Down behind that cracked wall in Hawkins Lab, installing Vecna as its defacto king, or was it already waiting, lurking, for someone as morally compromised and telekinetically powerful as Henry Creel to make a home there? We’ll see. Either way, Martin Brenner’s terrified “What have you done?”, which we’ve been hearing ever since Netflix released that eight-minute preview of the premiere to whet appetites for the new season, takes on a whole new meaning.
Stranger Things season 4, episode 8 recap
Nancy is also in the Hawkins Lab, or at least her consciousness is. Her physical form is still comatose in the Upside-Down, but Vecna is dog-walking her psyche through the scene of the massacre, letting her see where he has been. Next, he shows her where he’s going, which plays out as a frantic montage of red lightning and destruction, and implores her to tell Eleven what’s coming. She snaps awake with a new mission.
Elsewhere, Hopper, Joyce, Murray, and their new Russian allies make their way through a lair of Upside-Down experiments; a Demodog with an opened chest cavity on an operating table, and tanks of preserved Demogorgans. In one containment unit is a frantic black cloud — the Mindflayer in its base form, I think? Either way, they escape through the sewers, but it’s hard to imagine that what they saw there won’t follow them in some capacity.
Eleven also wakes up from her sensory deprivation experience, unhooks herself from the oxygen tank and ECG, and lifts the entire tank up to the roof with nary a nosebleed. I think it’s safe to say she has her powers back.
Between Brenner explaining things to Eleven, and Nancy recounting her experiences in the Upside-Down to the rest of the gang, we begin to get a sense of what Vecna’s plan actually is. If he opens four gates around Hawkins — he’s already on three, remember, since one opens with every kill — he’ll be able to break down the barrier between the Upside-Down and the Right-Side-Up and allow his black clouds and monsters to roam freely. Brenner equates the gates to cracks opening in a dam. Eventually, the pressure gets too much and can’t be contained. That’s what’s coming, it seems.
And with the outline of a plan comes the outline of a solution. The kids theorize that given Vecna/Henry/One is like Eleven, his means of projecting his consciousness must be the same. In other words, he’ll have to leave his physical form behind, vulnerable, in the attic of the house, when he’s out on a killing spree. And that means that if they can predict his next victim, they can attack his physical form while he’s hunting them. And luckily for them — or unluckily, I suppose — Max is still marked for death. If she turns off Kate Bush and allows herself to become bait, the others can take the fight to Vecna where he lives.
There’s definitely a clear sense of roads beginning to converge in this episode. Yuri promises to fly everyone back to America on a virgin helicopter named after his first girlfriend; Eddie and the kids steal a trailer to make their way to a gun emporium called War Zone; Eleven, having watched the kids plot to kill Vecna via her projection power, insists on leaving the facility to return to Hawkins to help them (helped by Owens, despite Brenner being adamant she can’t leave); and Mike, Will, Jonathan and Argyle attempt to use Suzie’s coordinates to track Eleven down in the desert.
Typically, most of these efforts go slightly awry. Yuri’s transport is barely flight-worthy; the psycho religious nutjob basketball team just so happens to be at War Zone, and Brenner tries to prevent Eleven from leaving by taking Owens hostage and threatening her into continuing her work with “Papa”. Having now seen as much as she needs to, she knows that Brenner’s obsession with One and her has led to so much carnage in and around Hawkins; that he’s the monster, not her. But when she attempts to leave, he jabs a syringe in her neck.
Eleven wakes up with a collar around her neck, either to dampen her powers or blow her head up or something, but Brenner never gets a chance to do anything with it since Sullivan and the military locate the facility and storm in, killing everyone inside. Brenner is able to escape with Eleven, and he protects her from a sniper by taking a few rounds in the back, eventually collapsing. The timely arrival of Will, Mike, Jonathan, and Argyle buys Eleven enough time to pull the chopper out of the sky and smash it into the military humvees.
After a tearful farewell to Brenner, who dies in the sand after assuring Eleven that everything he ever did was for her, Eleven and the others set off to Hawkins, as we see Max, Lucas, and Erica being dropped off at the Creel house, ready to enact their plan.