Stranger Things Season 3 Episode 2 Review: “Mall Rats”

Stranger Things season 3 episode 2 review

Episode 2 aka “Mall Rats’” of the third season of Stranger Things ends up being one of the best episodes of the whole series so far and puts all things 80s front and center.

Things are progressing pretty fast with the development of the kids – especially Mike and Eleven – and we finally get to meet the mayor. At the same time, Billy is transcending pretty quick into whatever it is he’s about to become.

But if you haven’t caught up with everything yet, you can read my review of Stranger Things season 3 episode 1 right here.

O.K, let’s get right into this.

Billy Meets Billy?

Episode 2 picks up right where episode one leaves off and it seems that, so far, the series is playing out in a daily order. Billy has been dragged into the steel mill and we see the hell that he goes through in it.

He escapes out and tries to use a pay phone (kids ask your parents what that was) and notices a light flickering. Whenever lights flicker in Hawkins, it’s usually a bad thing. He then sees a bunch of people walking toward him down the road and he ends up seeing an exact version of himself. 

Roll the intro music.

We then see Karen Wheeler looking like she’s heading for the pool while at the same time Eleven is phoning for Mike. Since Mike has been threatened by Hopper to keep a bit of distance from Eleven, he makes up a lie that he has to see his sick grandma which Eleven is seeing right through. You might not want to lie to a girl with telekinetic powers…

Jim’s plan is working as he’s eating a bowl of Honey Smacks and he goes to the general store to celebrate this win with Joyce – and while on the way is listening to the song “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” by Jim Croce, and that’s just awesome. 

What Does Joyce Think Of All This?

Joyce thinks that Hopper has to cut the kids some slack, but while in the store she notices that magnets are falling the same way they did off her fridge at home. It’s interesting in the general store as we see a Radio Shack sign hung up which I’m thinking Joyce took from the now-closed Radio Shack store as a reminder of Bob.

We also see some iconic 1980s cereals in the general store including Mr. T cereal and Pac-Man cereal, and if you want to read more about some amazing 80s cereals check out my article here

Nancy, Jonathan & More At The Mall

Nancy has decided to investigate the issue of diseased rats that had been brought to her attention, and she’s going behind the back of her boss at the Hawkins Post to do so.

Meanwhile, Dustin has reunited with his mother Steve and wants to share everything he’s picked up via the HAM radio in regards to all the Russian secrecy. Robin, who also works with Steve, has found out about this and wants on board to decode the Russian messages.

Eleven is also pissed at Mike for lying and seeks out the advice of Max who goes through similar crap with Lucas. Max decides to take Eleven to the mall to show her what teenagers should be doing as we hear the Go-Go’s “Get Up and Go” while they ride the bus to the mall. 

I kind of miss riding the bus to the mall as a kid.

How Far Is Billy Spiralling?

We then head back to the pool where Billy is in pretty rough shape. Karen Wheeler confronts him in a back room and Billy imagines a scenario where he takes her out with a Karate Kid side chop. Billy is clearly infected somehow and is starting to fade.

We now see Nancy and Jonathan arrive at the home of Dorris Driscoll who is the lady that contacted the Hawkins Post about the rats and their disease. The rats have eaten through bags of fertilizer which – if you’re not up on your rodents – is not normal. Dorris has managed to capture one of the rats though that is bugging out inside a small cage. Also, the rat sounds a lot like a gremlin when it’s trapped in its cage.

We then get our first introduction to Mayor Kline who is not impressed with all the locals who are protesting the Starcourt Mall. They are saying it’s killing the downtown small business which – spoiler alert – most malls all over America pretty much did.

Mayor Kline has brought Hopper in to try to get rid of them and, since he’s up for re-election, is planning a big Fourth of July celebration. 

Bring On The 80s Montage

Eleven and Max arrive at the mall to the wonderment of Eleven. She and Max go clothes shopping and we, of course, hear “Material Girl” by Madonna as they try on clothing in a classic 80s style montage. 

We’re starting to see a lot of the Memphis Design in Stranger Things which was the main style that dominated the 80s aesthetic. You can see it in the clothes and in the backdrops in the photobooth they use. I recommend checking out my article all about the Memphis Design as it’s a very interesting story behind the look of the 80s. 

Nancy and Jonathan have left the rat house just before the rat explodes but is still able to move – as a liquid basically – and escapes from the cage. It then is able to move a lot better and seems to be transforming into something that looks like Dart from season 2.

Meanwhile, Billy is having a flashback to meeting his duplicate self that is telling him “to build what we see”. What he sees is his fellow lifeguard Heather before he blacks out. 

Dumping Your Sorry Ass

Hopper has plans for a non-date “date” with Joyce and at the same time, Eleven has run into Mike, Will, and Lucas at the mall where she realizes he has lied and proceeds to dump him. This scene obviously includes the song “Cold as Ice” by Foreigner – as any good break-up scene does. 

Joyce has also started researching electromagnetic fields and has sought out the help of the boy’s teacher, Scott Clarke who is revealed in an amazing scene with Weird Al Yankovic’s “My Bologna” playing. This was one of the Weird Al’s first parody songs and is an obvious copy of “My Sharona” by the Knack.

Joyce has ended up standing up Hopper at dinner and we catch a glimpse of what looks like one of the Russian enforcers who has a strong Terminator resemblance at the bar of the restaurant. Speaking of Russian, Robin, Dustin, and Steve have cracked the code and what it reveals are the following sentences:

“The week is long

The silver cat feeds

When blue meets yellow in the west

The episode ends with lifeguard Heather tied up in the steel mill with Billy about to unleash some sort of monster on her. Is this a demogrogan? A demodog? Or is this a new creature altogether??

Some More 80s References In Episode 2

It’s interesting to point out the stores we’ve seen so far in the Starcourt mall as many of them are long gone but here’s a few I’ve noticed:

  • JC Penny
  • Sam Goody
  • Walden Books
  • A Taco Bell coming soon!
  • Esprit

It’s also cool seeing the old “Kodak Processing Center” in the general store as it’s funny to remember how you had to drop off film, then wait like two weeks to see if you actually took any good pictures. 

In Mike’s basement, there’s a poster for “The Thing” which is interesting because Stranger Things takes a ton of influence from that movie. We also hear “Matter of Love” by Altitude Music during this episode. 

Max also rides a Madrid Skateboard which came out in the later 70s but, interestingly, is what Marty McFly rides in Back to the Future. BUT, according to this episode, it’s four days out from July 4th, 1985 and Back to the Future came out on July 3, 1985. Maybe it’s still an homage but it would have been a popular choice among teenagers like Max or Marty.

Final Thoughts

So that’s my Stranger Things season 3 episode 2 review! This was an awesome episode and it feels like things are picking up really quickly – but with only 6 episodes left in this season, it really has to.

“Mall Rats” was unmistakable for reminding us we are smack dab in the middle of the 80s and is really celebrating the mall culture which was such a focal point of our lives then. If you want to read more about 1985 specifically, I have an article on the 19 things that made it the best year of the decade.

So Billy is clearly engaged with the Upside Down, Dustin, Mike, and Robin are cracking something to do with the Russians, and Joyce knows something is up with the electromagnetic field in Hawkins.

Buckle in.

I give Stranger Things season 3 episode 2 a solid A