In the penultimate episode of Stranger Things Season 3, “Chapter Seven: The Bite,” viewers are treated to glimpses of one of the greatest movies of all time: Back to the Future. Also, the gang is finally coming together!
As Mayor Kline (Cary Elwes) kicks off the big fireworks show at the 4th of July Fun Fair, the kids are holed up at Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) house in the woods nearby. The fireworks boom overhead, heightening the tension of her sharing what she saw in her encounter with Billy (Dacre Montgomery) in the psychic space.
Just as they realize that Billy appearing to her in a bizarro version of her own living room means that the Mind Flayer knows where they are, a noise begins to distinguish itself from the fireworks and the hairs on Will’s (Noah Schnapp) neck stand up. It’s there.
The kids arm themselves to the best of their ability and shut themselves indoors, covering the windows and standing back to back as they wait for the attack. When it comes, Mind Flayer tentacles that terminate in mouths shoot into the house through windows and walls, grabbing for Elle.
Nancy (Natalia Dyer) uses a shotgun on it, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) and then Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) chop at it with an axe, but it’s strong and resilient. It’s Elle who finally drives it back… a bit.
When it comes in through the roof, opening its fang-rimmed mouth and reaching for her with a mouth-ended tongue, it manages to grasp Elle by the leg and lift her off the ground. Most of the kids pull at her arms while Nancy shoots and Lucas hacks away. Where they do finally free Elle, allowing her to blast the creature with the full force of her power, she is injured and has a wound that needs attention.
They escape in the station wagon while the monster regroups, taking refuge in a closed grocery store. Inside, Max (Sadie Sink) steps in as an effective doctor, knowing how to clean and bandage the gashes on Elle’s leg due to her many skateboarding mishaps. Nancy and Jonathan deduce that the creature they just met is composed of the gooey remains of the flayed. Lucas and Will come across a display of fireworks and load a grocery cart with a generous supply, and Mike (Finn Wolfhard) stumbles through trying to express his love to Elle.
Before Mike succeeds in getting the actual words out, the walkie comes to life and there’s Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), breaking up badly due to a low battery, but managing to get across that he’s at the mall and needs a ride. And something about either “the gate” or a movie being “great.” (Both are true!) In any case, the kids load back into the station wagon and head to Starcourt.
The mall crew has managed to get out of the labyrinthine Russian base, but there are goons searching for them so they’re still trapped. Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke) are loopy from truth serum, so Dustin hides them in the movie theater, asking Erica (Priah Ferguson) to babysit while he tries to call for help. When he returns from his semi-successful contact with Mike, the drugged duo are gone.
Fortunately, they’ve only left the theater to drink water at the drinking fountain and then throw up in the bathroom. The puking helps sober them up some, so they test each other’s sobriety with questions and confessions. This creates an opportunity for Steve to tell Robin how much he likes her, and for Robin to tell Steve she’s a lesbian. He takes it in stride, and the two are fast friends by the time their keepers find them.
Once reunited, they try to blend into the crowd leaving the movie theater, but the Russians are there looking for them. They backtrack, but they’re spotted. They slide down the escalators and hide in the food court. Just as the Russians are closing in on them, help arrives!
A new convertible on display in the mall starts going crazy, attracting the Russians’ attention. Then it shoots across the food court at them, knocking them down like so many bowling pins. On the landing above, looming over the destruction, is a bloody-nosed Elle.
The refugees emerge from hiding, rejoicing at their salvation. Dustin and the core crew are emotional about being reunited. They all quickly fill each other in on the pieces they’re missing in the puzzle, notably letting the new arrivals know about all the Russians in the Mall’s basement area.
Then Elle staggers away from her friends, covering her ears as she falls to the ground wailing about her leg. Mike rips the dressing from her wound, where some part of the Mind Flayer has gotten into her and is trying to push its way out through her skin.
Meanwhile, Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) make it back to Hawkins with Murray (Brett Gelman) and Alexei (Alec Utgoff). Joyce requires a stop at the Fun Fair, hoping to find the kids there. They don’t, but they are spotted by Mayor Kline, who immediately tips off the Russians.
As the concerned parents seek their children, Murray gives Alexei a taste of America by setting him up with enough tickets to enjoy playing a round of carnival games. Murray goes off to buy them corndogs, and just as a happy Alexei approaches him golding the massive Woody Woodpecker he’s won, the biggest of the Russian thugs spots him and quietly shoots him dead.
Murray runs for Hopper, raising the alarm that the Russians have come. Hopper leads them into the fun house as Joyce and Murray collect the car. On their way to their stolen convertible, Joyce sees Mayor Kline and thanks him for his action by clocking him in the face and nuts.
Hopper takes out one thug and empties a recovered gun into the chest (and bulletproof vest) of his nemesis. A swarm of thugs wends its way into the fun house after him, and he manages to evade them by jumping into a twisty slide that deposits him where he needs to meet Joyce out back. He’s confiscated a walkie talkie from the thug he knocked out, and with Murray’s help they translate a message between Russians saying that the children have been located in the mall and are on the ground floor. Next stop: Starcourt.