A Woman on the Internet Reviews Stranger Things Season 1 Episode 3: Holly, Jolly




Note to self: when discovering a really good show that you think your partner will like, refrain from telling him about it because then he’ll check it out and gently nag you to watch the rest of the show with him, resulting in you having to write not one, not two, but ALL OF THE REVIEWS for every single remaining episode. Good job, me.

The opening scene of this episode has now become my ultimate favorite scene, As Nancy gets busy with Steve (that’s his name, right?) We watch as Barbara wakes up in some other place, but, it actually turns out not to be some other place. It is a bit ambiguous but my assumption was and still is that Barbara wakes up in some sort of alternative reality, still in/by the pool, but not where Nancy is. The creature is there and she attempts to run away, which doesn’t work and she is (highly presumably) killed/eaten. Can we talk for a second about the weird lighting in this episode, with night time scenes having daylight coming through the window…but it’s night time? This was very annoying.


Nancy gets dressed and looks rather sad or disappointed, I can’t exactly pin point what emotion is on her face, gets dressed and leaves Steve’s house, but not before looking around a bit in case Barbara stuck around (you are a terrible friend, Nancy, and this will haunt you for the rest of your life) She goes home and her mother catches her in the act, reminding her that they had agreed on a much earlier time. Nancy is irritable, annoyed, and, again, there is an emotion, something going on with her that I just can’t put my finger on.

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Jonathan wakes up to find his mother talking to Will by herself and explaining that Will is communicating through the dozens of lamps that are in his room. Jonathan seems to think that his mother is doing so badly that she cannot differentiate reality from her imagination, he expresses his concern and presses her to get some sleep, but she doesn’t.

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At Michael’s house the boys are trying to come up with a plan to kill whatever monster is after Will. Lucas brings a pretty impressive arsenal, while Dustin brings an impressive amount and snacks. If you want my opinion, I think Dustin is very underappreciated, snacks are very important, what happens when you get lost in the woods and you’re hungry, huh? Dustin explains that most of the weapons Lucas brought would be completely useless against an actual monster, and reminds them that they have someone with actual powers right there. He tries to ask El to use her powers to make things levitate but she’s not having it because this shit is exhausting, ok? How many nosebleeds do you want this girl to have? Their meeting is cut a little short as the boys have to get to school. But Michael agrees on a time and place for El to meet them at the end of the day.

In school, Steve approaches Nancy who feels like people are staring at her and she asks him if he has told people about what happened the night prior. Steve says that nothing was said, I sipped my tea and it tasted pretty heavy with doubt. When she gets to class Nancy notices that Barbara still hasn’t arrived and asks around to check if anybody has seen her, no one has, and she continues to worry.

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Hopper attempts to bring his search to/into the institute and is turned down, I’m not sure what he was expecting.

In Michael’s home, El is bored out of her mind. She decides to wander through the house, look at the phone and then the TV. The TV surprises and shocks her, she doesn’t seem to completely understand what it is, as if she’d never seen one before. As she flips through the channels, she finds an AD for Coca-Cola and is triggered right back into another memory. Through this memory, we get to learn even more about what was done to El. In one instance she was asked to crush a Coca-Cola can with her mind, and succeeded, getting a smile from “papa”. Breathing heavily, El decides to turn off the TV. It is a very important scene and we will get many of those.

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We return to Joyce who is still at her house and has decided to hang Christmas lights as a way for Will to communicate with her. It’s kind of a scary sight, but is also a beautiful one as we are shown a mother quite simply trying to find where her son is.

Hopper is pretty certain that the missing kid came from the institute and as he watches the tape that was given to him, is even more certain that it isn’t a tape of the night he is trying to investigate. The two other police officers continue to be completely useless. Meanwhile, at that very institute, they are getting ready to send someone into a portal that it into the wall. And that’s sort of that.

El, now in Nancy’s room, is looking around at Nancy’s things. On her face lays all sorts of emotions, perhaps she’s still distraught from her memory from earlier. Perhaps Nancy’s things make her sad or envious, maybe it’s a reminder of what she never had, or maybe it’s a reminder of her loneliness. On one of Nancy’s walls are a bunch of pictures, Nancy as a child, Nancy’s friends, and there El sees pictures of Nancy with Barb and sadness (perhaps even guilt?) takes over El’s face.


At school, Nancy asks Steve’s friend Tommy aka douche #2 if he saw Barbara leave the previous night. He says no and then they proceed to mock the fact that Nancy and Steve had sex, for some reasons.

The boys are looking for a rock. I can’t remember why. They are wondering how El got her powers through the beauty of comic books. El is still called a weirdo, other boys come by to call Will or whoever really, a “queer”, and Michael gets tripped and falls chin first on a rock. Idk, it’s cute but there’s not all that much about the scene.

Hopper goes to the library where we discover that the librarian isn’t super ok with not being called back after dates. She calls him a dick, he agrees with her, and then they move on to look through newspapers registers to find information about the institute and “the missing kid”. There they find that the institute dealt with all sorts of accusations of child abuse, off experimentations, lawsuits, and in particularly, the disappearance of someone’s daughter.

Joyce is dealing with some unexpected visitor, and comes up with some pretty reasonable explanation for the dozens of Christmas lights hang across her house, it’s surprisingly believable, even cute.  Mike’s mom seems worried and like she truly cares, but as she expresses that to Joyce, Holly sneaks off, led by the lights into Will’s room where something legit creepy happens and the wall attempts to grab her, before Joyce arrives.


Nancy decides to call Barbara’s mother to see if perhaps she is at her home, but she isn’t, and she never came home that night. Before she gets to really start worrying, Steve and his friends decide to go after Jonathan after they’ve been told that he may have taken inappropriate or creepy pictures of Nancy. As much as I can’t stand Steve and his gang, it was a pretty reasonable reaction considering the level of creepiness, and even Nancy refrains from really stopping them. After Steve rips Jonathan’s pictures and breaks his camera (which made me a bit sad) Nancy notices something on one of his pictures, takes it and leaves.

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As El waits for the boys to meet here she has another flashback, and it is an intense one. In one of the experimentation they did on her, El was ordered to use her mind to kill a cat and she couldn’t do it, wouldn’t do it. She is tend promptly punished, as she screams for “papa”, taken into the small brown room. Before they can close the door, she kills all of the guards, snapping their necks. “Papa” comes back to her, and touches El in a way that may seem as affectionate. She cries under his touch. He carries her and El passes out, as he walks away with her in his arms.

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It is a complex memory that ends when the boys arrive while yelling her name. As the group travels to get to their destination, El asks Mike about his bleeding chin. Mike explains but gets upset at the thought of El thinking of his as weak, but she quickly clarifies that she doesn’t, and that she understands. It’s so incredibly cute I want to cry into my cup of tea.

Nancy, who previously left school in a hurry because she couldn’t get Barbara out of her head, returned to Steve’s house to, well, I’m not really sure why. There she sees that Barbara’s car is still parked in the same spot, and so she goes behind Steve’s house where they were hanging out last night by the pool. She calls out Barbara’s, which I thought was quite odd. What is Nancy thinking? What is she expecting? As she calls out Barb’s name into the woods, something runs behind her and she runs away in fear.

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In Joyce’s house, the Christmas lights go on and leads her into some sort of dresser. There she finds a set of white lights which she uses to communicate with Will. She instructs him to make the lights blink once for yes and twice for no, and the scene that unfolds was truly beautiful and emotional. She asks Will if he is alive, and the answer is yes, but when she asks him if he is safe, the answer is no. Because Will cannot tell Joyce where he is or how to find him, Joyce decides to hang the Christmas lights on a wall and paint an alphabet in order to give Will the ability to truly communicate with her and help her rescue him.

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At the library, Hooper gets a radio call and they quickly rush out. The gang, not too far, watch as multiple police cars rush down the road and they decide to follow,

Joyce, having finished her alphabet, continues her conversation with Will, and this time it is a terrifying scene that takes place where Will tells his mother that he is right there, and that she needs to run. Immediately after, the creature comes out of the walls and it’s freaky as shit. Joyce runs for her life, right out of the house.

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Meanwhile, the boys are still following the cops and they all arrive on scene, where they all find a body in the water, and it is confirmed that it is Will. Mike, in a fit of rage, blows up at El and blames her for Will, claiming that she was supposed to bring him alive, that she lied to them. As El stares at Mike and the look on her face breaks my heart, Mike bikes away.

On his way home, Jonathan runs into his mother. The episode ends with two scenes happening simultaneously. Michael arriving home and hugging his mother, and Jonathan hugging his mother in the middle of the road, as police car’s lights can be seen and heard, bringing some very sad news.


8/10 – This episode originally started a little clumsy, a little slow, which wasn’t a problem with me at all, but the second half of the episode truly picked up with El’s flashbacks and Joyce’s construction of a way to communicate with her son. There is a lot I could say about the presence of mothers, motherhood, and women in general in the show and the way they shape how emotions are demonstrated and valued in these episodes, but I will touch up on that later.



Women in Gaming

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