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I am Groot!
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I thought it was great the way (spoilers because it's stuff that's revealed in the finalé, and I see a number of people who haven't gotten there are reading the thread) the orderly, One, Henry Creel, and Vecna all turn out to be the same person. But it definitely took them way too long to get there.

For those who have finished, I'm a little confused by what Little Eleven does at the end. Does that open a doorway to the Upside Down...or create it?

I'm impressed with the actor they got to play Little Eleven. She really nails Millie Bobby Brown.

And of course Robin steals every scene she's in.

Will has always struck me...oddly. He was so important when he wasn't there, but once he became a part of the regular cast (i.e., came back from the Upside Down), he just didn't seem to be...there. Such a bland, inconsequential actor (or at least performance). It took me several appearances this season before I even remember who he was. And I never really cared.

The Russian stuff went on way too long. That could have all been one episode. Watching Hopper struggle painfully and never get anywhere was just torture porn.

And the heavy-handed Satanic Panic plotline was tedious.
 

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I am Groot!
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Did they? I thought it was CGI deaging. It had a bit of uncanny valley to my eye.
There was some of both. Brown deaged was mostly in short, static scenes. Often, they just used regular Brown (with the kid showing up in mirrors). And sometimes they used the kid.

I suspect the kid wasn't much of an actor, because they didn't use her for many (maybe not any) of the speaking scenes.
 

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I am Groot!
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What they did was kind of similar to how they did Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian. They used the young actress as a stand-in who was then post processed via CGI into young Eleven. Her name is Martie Blair, and this is what she looked like at the Stanger Things premiere:


See the source image
There were some scenes that were clearly just the kid (again, ones where she didn't speak). And many that were just adult Brown in place of the kid. I only noticed a few that were the CGI blend.
 

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I am Groot!
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This way everyone can take a few weeks to get through the first seven episodes and be all caught up when the final two drop. That way it's easier to see the ending without being spoiled if you don't have time to binge watch 9 long episodes all at once; you just have to watch those last two at the same time as everyone else.
Plus Netflix gets to draw viewers on two weekends, not just one.
 

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I am Groot!
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And I have to say this- I know this is a sci-fi/horror/fantasy show and you have to suspend almost all disbelief when watching a show like this- but it is almost comical at this point how smart and brave these kids, and almost every single character in the show, is. I am almost rolling my eyes at times. We were joking last night that I don't think even the Avengers could defeat these kids in a battle- lol. But I get it- you have to suspend disbelief- but it is incredible what these kids pull off and figure out.
There's a sci-fi/fantasy trope that this show has bought into from the beginning, at first subtly but over time it's gotten out of hand. That's the idea that sci-fi/fantasy fans, by virtue of their reading and knowledge, are far more capable when unexpectedly thrust into sci-fi/fantasy situations than normal people are.

(As if knowledge equals competence...which, if true, would make geeks a lot more powerful in real life than we they actually are. ;))
 

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I am Groot!
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At the start of Episode 7 we had all these different groups we had to keep track of and continue to check in on:
El (in the underground desert bunker)
Dustin/Max/Lucas/Erica (in Hawkins)
Nancy/Steve/Robin/Eddie (in the Upside Down)
Mike/Will/Jonathan/Stoner (in Utah, heading for Nevada)
Hopper and Jaqen H'ghar (in the Siberian gulag)
Joyce/Murray/Yuri (in the middle of nowhere, Siberia)

Typically, as a story starts to reach a climax, they'll get try to consolidate the different plot threads to a more tight, cohesive story. I guess they kind of did that with Dustin and crew figuring out how to pull the others from the Upside Down, and with Joyce and Murray infiltrating the gulag. But overall, it seems that the plot threads of this season are still way too spread out. We've got characters in Russia, Indiana, and Nevada and somehow they need to all get back together to make for a satisfying ending to the season. It just seems a little unwieldly.
Maybe they're not setting up the end of this season, but rather the end of the series in Season 5..? So a little bang in the final two episodes this year to set up the big bang next season...
 

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I am Groot!
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I think it is totally and completely believable that seeing his friend die in a supernatural way in close proximity to Eddie after already believing Eddie is the leader of a satanic cult would entirely affirm your belief that Eddie is responsible.
Especially if you're a few beers short of a six-pack, as most of those jocks seemed to be...
 

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I am Groot!
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The reason for the jock storyline was to give a reason as to why Lucas couldn't save Max. It's a long setup, but without it, Lucas could have just put the headphones on Max and saved her. There needed to be a barrier to that, thus the jock storyline.

To be honest, I had forgotten about the jocks until that one showed up and chased Erica. For the entire last two episodes Max kept listening to her Walkman and I thought the peril would be in it running out of juice when it was needed the most. But they tied up the jock storyline nicely.
I agree that it had a payoff...but I don't think it was worth it. It would have been relatively easy to come up with a different obstacle to saving Max.
 

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I am Groot!
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I think this was meant to be another homage to the '80s, when rumors of Satanic cult sacrifices were a fad of sorts. And D&D was regarded with great suspicion (see Mazes and Monsters etc.).
Oh, absolutely. But it was, as noted, handled in a very cartoonish manner that was very jarring given the amount of screen time devoted to it, and how minor the payoff was. I'm generally a fan of the show, and a fan of its 80s nostalgia, but AFAIC this particular example was a big swing and a miss.
 

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I am Groot!
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Also if your recall, during the 80s that was a HUGE thing. Lots of rock music demonized as demonic, cultist music, folks playing D&D were thought of similarly. So the story line for a seemingliy strraight laced jock (in his mind) looking at the "freaky looking D&D playing kid" as satanic is straight out of the 80s. I just thought they could have used a different way to get to the ultimate payoff, but the more I think about it, the more I'm OK with it.
I'm OK with the concept (as you say, Satanic Panic was a big thing in the 80s, and given the show's obsession withe 80s nostalgia it certainly fits). I just think it was very, very badly done. Way too cartoonish for its importance to the plot.
 

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I am Groot!
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I played D&D in college in the early 80s and nobody I knew or any story I read ever associated it with evil. It was a nerd game that the cool kids made fun of us for playing but probably secretly wished they played.
Really? You must have been very sheltered. In the mid-80s it was huge.
 

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I am Groot!
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The Goldbergs. On one episode Adam joins up with the jocks to play against his nerd friends. Adam was more popular that year at least in part due him dating one of the hottest girls in HS. Adam's group of friends were similar to the kids in my HS who played D&D.

"The Goldbergs" Dungeons and Dragons, Anyone? (TV Episode 2016) - IMDb
Well, frankly, a show from five years ago doesn't make very good evidence for social attitudes from 30 years ago... ;)

I can assure you, Satanic Panic around D&D was a very big thing in the 80s. There was even the obligatory cautionary TV movie cited above (starring Tom Hanks!) warning of the dangers of D&D.
 
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