Stranger Things 3, Chapter 5: ‘The Flayed’ recap and review – the most violent episode ever?

Spoilers ahead - obviously! Don't say we didn't warn you.

While the individual missions from Chapter 4 continue, Chapter 5 is the one in which the scale of the challenge facing the gang  becomes clear: “We don’t just have to stop Billy, we have to stop the Mind Flayer.” Here’s the highlights of this action-packed episode. 

The big talking points

We have a name for those people affected by the Mind Flayer

It’s the Flayed. Works for us. Symptoms: excessive sweating, visions, paranoia, violence, increased strength, appetite for fertiliser.

Jonathan, Nancy and Hopper shoot to kill

When Hopper has a gun at the Russian assassin’s head, he pulls the trigger. The Russian manages to dodge it, but this is still quite shocking – Hopper shoots to kill.

When Jonathan and Nancy are being attacked by Tom and Bruce, both from the newspaper and both Flayed, they too aim to kill them, with scissors and blunt objects. Except it turns out you can’t kill the Flayed so easily. 

Steve knocked a Russian out

Finally, he didn’t get his butt kicked. “Dude! You Did it! You won a fight!” says Dustin.

Stranger Things

The meat goo makes monsters

Editor Tom and journalist Bruce – the horrible Boris Johnson-y one with the blond hair and boorish, bullying attitude – are, apparently killed. Actually, they turn into miasmic meat goo, which coagulates and reforms into a demogorgon-y thing. 

You shouldn’t use the green goo tubes as doorstops

That’s what the gang at the mall do when escaping from the lift shaft at the mall. It smashes, unleashing god knows what into the atmosphere. 

The Coke product placement in this season is real

See if you notice it. 1984 is when the company unleashed a new Coca Cola recipe on the market, in what was considered the greatest example of anti-marketing ever. Coke fans revolted, the company released Coca-Cola Classic to appease them and sales rocketed. In Stranger Things, you’ll notice the red cans most times a fridge opens, and it’s what Hopper and co grab to sate their thirst when they happen upon a 7/11 having trekked through the woods. Shout out, too, to M&Ms, seen bringing Eleven and Mike back together.

Murray Bauman is back – but did we need him?

Bauman is the survivalist/conspiracy nerd who lives in the woods, first encountered in Stranger Things 2. Hopper and Joyce take their prisoner, Alexei, to him as Bauman speaks Russian, but really it’s just a chance for some (jarring) light relief.  

The big questions

What are the Flayed making with the chemicals they chow down on?

Mrs Driscoll was eating fertliser, other flayed have been tucking in to a range of strange substances – but why? Remembering Mr Clarke’s science lessons, the kids reckon they’re using a mix of chemicals to make something else – but what?

WTF is going on beneath the mall?

It’s obvious they’re trying to re-open the portal to the Upside Down, but the corridors under the StarCourt are vast. What’s the end-game for the Russians? Are they, as the kids speculate, building nuclear weapons?

Why did Billy disappear from Eleven’s vision?

It seems like Billy can evade her power. How? 

Where is the flaying taking place, and what’s the process?

We’ve seen Heather’s mum and dad being face suckered. Is that how all of the flayed are made?

Stranger Things Heather

The best bits

Best Nickelodeon reference: The Secret World Of Alex Mack

Curious ’90s kids’ TV series about a girl who could turn herself into a puddle and creep under doorways, much like the meat monsters. 

Best ‘80s cartoon reference: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Anyone else think the vials of green goo look a lot like the radioactive gunk that mutates Splinter and co?

Best ubiquitous ‘80s movie item: wood-panelled station wagon

As driven by Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation and Nancy in Stranger Things 3

Best ‘80s film cliche: Hopper’s burning car explodes

This, apparently, almost never happens. But that never stopped filmmakers. 

Best nerdy reference: Promethium

“It’s what Victor Stone’s dad used to make Cyborg and cybernetic components,” Dustin explains. Victor Stone is the superhero Cyborg from the Justice League

Best ‘80s insult: “Hey, dipshits” – Jim Hopper

Best worst racial slur

Hopper referring to Alexei, the Russian, as “Smirnoff over there”

Other best worst racial slur

Man in 7/11 to Alexei: “No shit, Krushchev” 

Other other best worst racial slur

Bauman on Alexei: “Soviet scum”. Well, it was the ‘80s

Best villain: The Russian who fights Hopper

This guy is hard as nails, like Terminator-level hard. 

Hopper and Joyce in Stranger Things

Best movie director homage: David Cronenberg

Canadian director Cronenbourg was the master of gross-out transformations and body horror in the ‘80s thanks to films such as Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983) and The Fly (1986), in which Jeff Goldblum plays a scientist who starts turning into a human/fly hybrid. The manifestation of the new monster was a clear homage. 

Best quote: Murray Bauman to Hopper and Joyce

“You have dragged an enemy of the state into my home as carelessly as a child drags in shit on his shoe.”

Tin foil hat moment: is Starcourt Mall a fictionalised version of Denver International Airport?

Conspiracy theorists are obsessed with Denver International Airport because of its suppose links to the illuminati and New World Order. Whatever you think, it’s certainly very strange: it’s littered with masonic symbols and strange murals, has a giant, red-eyed statue of a rearing mustang and was built by the “New World Airport Commission” – an organisation of which there’s almost no information available. Hmmm. Some theorists speculate that the airport covers up cavernous underground chambers used for nefarious purposes by shadowy elites – much like Starcourt Mall. 

This wouldn’t be the first time the Duffer Brothers have borrowed from conspiracy theories – Eleven’s very existence is informed by the story of the MK Ultra project. 

More episode recaps:

Stranger Things 3, Chapter 1: ‘The First Day’ review and recap – snogging, Russians, rats and rumblings from the Upside Down

‘Stranger Things 3, Chapter 2: The Mall Rats’ recap and analysis – boyfriends do lie, rats do turn into meat patty monsters and magnets do stuff

Stranger Things 3, Chapter 3: The Case Of The Missing Lifeguard recap and analysis – it’s getting darker

‘Stranger Things 3, Chapter 4: The Sauna Test’ – recap, easter eggs, theories, references and more