“Chapter One: MADMAX” is the ninth episode of Stranger Things, and the premiere episode of the second season. It premiered on October 27, 2017, along with the rest of the season.
As the town preps for Halloween, a high-scoring rival shakes things up in the arcade, and a skeptical Hopper inspects a field of rotting pumpkins.
Chapter One: MADMAX
October 27, 2017
On October 29, 1984, a group of masked individuals flee a building in Pittsburgh and get into a van. They drive away from the police and are about to be caught when one of them encourages a woman named Kali to “do something.” She instructs them to go through a nearby tunnel.
When the police follow them, she appears to cause a rockslide, causing the police cars to hit each other. It is revealed that the rockslide was a hallucination caused by Kali.
As the individuals cheer and escape, Kali wipes her now bloody nose on her sleeve, revealing the number 008 tattooed on her forearm.
Dustin, at his house, is searching for money. In frustration, he calls Lucas, who tells him he has money from mowing lawns. Dustin contacts Mike (who was on an odd channel and sitting alone in El’s fort), who tells him to call Will and “borrows” money from Nancy‘s piggy bank.
Mike, Dustin, and Lucas meet at the Palace arcade, with Joyce driving Will. The boys play a game of Dragon’s Lair with Dustin at the controls. Dustin fights a dragon and manages to get a sword, but his character is killed by the dragon’s fire.
Lucas boasts that since he has a high score, he gets the game’s main character’s love interest, Princess Daphne, all to himself. Dustin counters with the fact that he has the high scores on Centipede and Dig Dug. The arcade’s employee, Keith, overhears and tells Dustin that his scores have been beaten.
Dustin panics and checks both machines, realizing Keith is telling the truth. His score has been beaten by someone named MADMAX, whose score on Dig Dug is more than 100,000 points more than Dustin.
Keith offers to tell them who MADMAX is if Mike can set him up with Nancy. While Mike refuses, Dustin and Lucas seem fine with it. As they argue, Will notices that it appears to be snowing outside.
When he turns to ask his friends if they see it, he suddenly sees the Upside Down, with the arcade abandoned and a red thunderstorm outside. Mike’s voice lapses him out of it, and he goes to play Dig Dug.
As Hawkins gears up for Halloween, Hopper is intercepted in the police station by Murray Bauman, an ex-journalist turned Russian conspiracy theorist investigating Barb‘s death. He tells Hopper of reports of Eleven‘s activities, such as her shattering the doors at Bradley’s Big Buy and her hiding in Mike’s basement.
He falsely believes her to be a Russian weapon and believes Barb was abducted by Russians when she learned of Eleven. Hopper, as one would expect, dismisses this theory.
Before Murray can go further, Flo informs Hopper that Merril’s pumpkin patch has been contaminated and blames his neighbor, giving Hopper an excuse to get away from Murray.
Nancy is checking over Steve‘s college essay while they discuss his future. Steve believes he will not get in, but thinks of it as a positive, as he will be around for Nancy‘s final year of high school.
They kiss just as Billy pulls in with a red-headed girl around the boys’ age. The high school girls are clearly impressed by him as the girl gets on a skateboard and rides in the direction of the middle school.
At his locker, Will finds a “The Boy Who Came Back to Life” newspaper clipping, with ‘X’s drawn over his eyes and the words “ZOMBIE BOY” written on the article.
He crumples it up and goes to science. In class, Mr. Clarke discusses the human brain when the redheaded girl walks in. Mr. Clarke introduces her as Maxine from California, but she claims that she goes by Max. Lucas and Dustin make the connection to MADMAX via her name.
At Melvald’s General Store, Bob, Joyce‘s new boyfriend, walks in. He and Joyce make out in the backroom, talking in between about how Joyce had no idea Bob existed in high school. When they finish, Joyce reminds him that movie night will be tonight before he leaves.
Hopper arrives at Merril’s Pick Your Own Pumpkin patch, finding the pumpkins hollow and rotten. Merril claims that his neighbor, Eugene, did this, as the two had been feuding over the Pick Your Own Pumpkin business. Hopper hears something coming from Merril’s corn maze, but it is revealed to be a crow.
Nancy is given an invitation to a Halloween party, but asks for two and gives one to Jonathan, who has no interest in going. She tells him that she will not let him sit alone on Halloween. They continue talking, but Steve intercedes and Jonathan leaves. Nancy looks back at his retreating form will Steve talks to her.
The boys watch Max on the blacktop as she skates, arguing whether she is MADMAX or not, with Will and Mike stating “girls don’t play video games.”
However, Lucas and Dustin are convinced she is MADMAX, with Dustin even believing she is “awesome” due to her skateboarding. Max writes a note, crumples it, drops it in the trash, and leaves.
The boys fish it out, revealing that Max wrote: “Stop spying on me, CREEPS!” Will is called out to the front of the school, being told Joyce is out front. As he walks through the halls, he gets wary looks from the other students. As he leaves, the trio speculates on Will’s health.
Will and Joyce drive to the lab, now under the control of Dr. Sam Owens. They meet Hopper there and go in for Will’s medical examination. A lab employee measures and weighs him to do a blood test then checks his blood pressure before hooking him up to a machine that monitors his brainwaves.
After some small talk to make Will feel comfortable, Owens asks Will about his episode at the arcade. Unbeknownst to Will, the conversation is being recorded and monitored by a room filled with lab personnel.
As Owens goes further, Will’s brainwaves start to increases activity. As Will tells him about the storm his brainwaves increase even further. Will tells him he was “frozen with fear” when he saw the storm. He “felt an evil” (his brainwaves spike) and Owens asks him what he wanted.
He answers with the evil’s desire to kill. When Owens asks “To kill you?” Will responds with “Not me. Everyone else.”
The session ends, and Owens tells Joyce and Hopper that Will is experiencing extreme PTSD, and it is getting worse due to the anniversary of Will’s abduction coming up. Owens tells them to let it happen, and Will will get over it eventually.
Outside, Joyce states her dislike of Owens and his methods to Hopper. To take her mind off things, he asks her how Bob is, referring to him by his high school nickname, “Bob the Brain.” Joyce tells him that it is going well, and he tells her to come to him if anything happens.
Back in the lab, it is shown that Owens is sending a man named Teddy into the room with the Gate opened by Eleven to burn it and keep it from spreading.
Outside the arcade, Dustin and Lucas wait to see if Max will show up. Max and her stepbrother, Billy pull up. They argue and Billy drives off, with Max giving him the finger and going into the arcade. Inside, Max is confirmed as MADMAX as Dustin and Lucas watch her play Dig Dug with incredible skill.
At the Wheeler’s, Mike is forced to pack two boxes of his toys for their yard sale, with a discussion revealing he has been having behavioral issues.
Nancy and Steve visit Mr. and Mrs. Holland but notice a For Sale sign in the front yard of their house. The Hollands tells the duo that they are selling the house to pay Murray Bauman to investigate Barb‘s death.
Nancy excuses herself and thinks about her last words, to Barb, telling her to go home. Nancy is clearly distraught over this and blames herself. She sits on the toilet and sobs.
Mike is packing his toy boxes and chooses to keep the Millennium Falcon that El made fly. He looks at the fort, goes to it, and attempts, like every day since El vanished, to contact her through his walkie-talkie. He states it is “Day 352”.
As usual, Mike gets no answer. As he walks away, he hears a brief crackle of static and El saying his name. Mike attempts to contact her back but instead gets Dustin, who informs him that he and Lucas were correct about Max. Mike disregards it.
Dustin rides home and walks to his door, but hears a chirping, squelching noise. He believes it to be his cat, and hearing no further noise, he walks away. As he enters his house, the trash can rattles violently.
Bob is filming Joyce making dinner with his camera while Will sits alone on his bed, drawing an un-dead version of himself with the title of “Zombie Boy.” Jonathan walks in and correctly guesses that kids are making fun of him again.
Will is sad, saying he feels like a freak. Jonathan tells him that he is, but the upside is that he isn’t normal. As he puts it, “I would rather be best friends with Zombie Boy than a boring nobody.”
Bob interrupts, noticing the titles Jonathan his selected, and the family watches Mr. Mom together. The phone rings, worrying Joyce, so Bob tells her to ignore it.
At the lab, the main technician is laying around when all of the alarms start flashing. Will wakes up right after midnight to use the bathroom and sees red flashes of light outside the door. Will goes outside and sees the storm again, with the light illuminating a large, spider-like creature looming in the clouds.
At night, Hopper drives out to a cabin and enters it after knocking the door. He switches off the TV, gets dinner and notices that someone has left a half-eaten Eggo out.
Eleven revealed to be alive and safe, sits down and accuses him of being late. Hopper apologizes and promises to signal her next time. He also gently reminds her that they had talked about the rule of eating dinner before dessert. Eleven acknowledges the rule, and they eat dinner together.