Ever since Stranger Things 2 debuted in late October, the new episodes have been ruthlessly dissected, analyzed, and debated. The story of Will, Mike, Eleven, and the rest of Hawkins, Indiana’s best and brightest has been critiqued in plenty of other places by much more qualified people.
But I know why you’re really here: you want to know the definitive, scientific, empirically researched ranking of every episode of the second season. Say no more—your wish is my command. As a bonus, this is done in honor of Mews, the dear dear cat of Dustin’s mom. RIP Mews.
The Definitive Stranger Things 2 Rankings Spectacular
9. “Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister”—We’re supposed to be cool with Eleven joining up with a gang of hardened (and weirdly whimsical) murderers who look like wannabe Defenders? This episode is alternately unbelievable—getting into a shootout with the Chicago PD that ends in multiple cops experiencing one of Eight’s visions is much too large to go unnoticed, even in 1984 Indiana—and disturbing (El’s sister reverse-Yodas her into Force-choking an old Hawkins employee!). Better forgotten altogether, I say. Score: 1/10 Mews
8. “Chapter Three: The Pollywog”—Bob the Brain’s brave attempt to inject some normalcy into the Stranger Things universe backfires horribly, but it makes for one heck of a showdown between Will and the Mind Flayer. We’re also introduced to Dart, the cutest lil’ Demogorgon this side of the Upside down. Score: 4/10 Mews
7. “Chapter Four: Will the Wise”—“Will the Wise” is one of the scariest episodes in the entire series. Will’s gradual changes (his aversion to warm water, his announcement that the Mind Flayer is somehow inside him) build dread at an agonizingly slow rate. Over at Dustin’s house, Dart has been growing—and he’s hungry. The slow pan the camera makes across Dustin’s bedroom, from the cage across the carpet and over the armchair, is perhaps the most deliciously tense shot of the new season. Score: 6/10 Mews
6. “Chapter Two: Trick or Treat, Freak”—Two things stand out about “Trick or Treat, Freak”: the delightful extended Halloween sequence and the kegger Nancy and Steve go to. The party breaks Steve and Nancy apart, setting them both on wildly different paths the rest of the season. Watching the characters dress up—Eleven as a ghost (nice ET reference, Duffer Brothers!), the boys decked out in their sweet Ghostbusters costumes, Steve as Tom Cruise, even Bob as Dracula—is proof that this show hasn’t forgotten the debt it owes to Steven Spielberg’s 80s pantheon. Score: 7/10 Mews
5. “Chapter Five: Dig Dug”—Honestly, this episode should be as far as Eleven’s curiosity voyage goes. She finds her mother, learns how she ended up at Hawkins, sees Eight in the flashback, and that’s it, end of story. At least we’re reintroduced to King Steve of the Nail-Bat (forever may he reign). Score: 8/10 Mews
4. “Chapter One: MADMAX”—This episode functions as a great reintroduction to everybody’s favorite small-town inter-dimensional portal. We catch up with the gang, are introduced to the mysterious Max and her psychotic older brother, Billy, and get to see Eight (Kali) in action. Dr. Owens, The new head of Hawkins Lab, is just oily enough to be untrustworthy. All in all, it’s a pretty perfect way to hook fans back in. Score: 8/10 Mews
3. “Chapter Six: The Spy”—Now we’re cooking! King Steve–stumbling in his role as Nancy’s boyfriend and alpha dog of Hawkins High–is forced to evolve into his new form: Mom Steve! Who knew the Dustin/Steve matchup would be so rad? Forcing Steve to protect Lucas, Max, and Steve into the bus in the junkyard provides a mini-bottle episode and some much-needed relationship building in an otherwise action-packed episode. Score: 9/10 Mews
2. “Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer”—Things go from bad to worse for Hawkins, but man, is it fun to watch. Bob, we hardly knew you; your innate goodness was a bright light throughout the season, but you were too pure (or naïve) to survive a gang of hungry Demo-dogs. Seeing Team Steve and Team Joyce combine forces to battle the Mind Flayer through Will was simultaneously nerve-wracking, emotional, and hilarious. If it weren’t for the finale, “The Mind Flayer” is the best episode of the season. Score: 10/10 Mews
1. “Chapter Nine: The Gate”—This episode earns the top spot for so many reasons, but I’ll point out one of its strongest traits: visual artistry. Steve and co.’s feverish run through the tunnels, the Exorcist-like expulsion of the Mind Flayer from Will’s body, the brutal showdown between Steve and Billy—all of these scenes are beautifully shot and exert a powerful visual force on viewers. But the framing of the gate closing—with a tiny Eleven looking inconsequential against the vague, terrifying outlines lurking on the other side—is the best shot in the entire series. Plus, who doesn’t love Cyndi Lauper at the Snow Ball? Score: 13/10 Mews
There you have it: the definitive, scientific, empirically researched ranking of every episode of Stranger Things 2.