Monsterland Episode 2 tackles hate groups and extremists in this disturbing tale of a teen who believes he’s being stalked by a shadow.
In Monsterland Episode 2, our story takes place in Eugene, Oregon. We meet our central protagonist Nick Smith (Charlie Tahan) at a pharmacy where he’s trying to purchase his mom’s medicine. But, as devious as American healthcare is, her insurance suddenly doesn’t cover it anymore. Using all the spare cash he has on hand, Nick is only able to buy a few pills.
At home, Nick and his ailing mom play a game of cards. He’s much different around his mother than the frustrated, angry kid we saw at the pharmacy. They have a nightly ritual of playing cards and eating dinner together. His mom likes to ask Nick how his day was and he lies to her about succeeding in school and having lots of friends.
In reality, Nick is a lonely kid who skips school to work in a fast-food restaurant and spends his nights playing video games with other online players. It’s pretty much his only social interaction apart from his mom.
Monsterland Episode 2 recap: Nick meets a shadow.
One night while gaming Nick notices a sinister shadow figure standing in the corner of his room. He takes a picture of it and shares it on Reddit. He’s instantly guided to a subreddit called Shadow Watchers. There, Nick meets two other guys and a girl. They call themselves Dagr, West (Ben Rappaport) and FinalGirl.
According to them, these shadow creatures are deadly and once you start seeing them in the house — they’ve already got their hooks in deep.
Staying up late chatting with the group and learning more about the shadow lore makes Nick over two hours late for work the next day. He gets fired, as a result. That night, he sees the shadow beneath his mom’s bed.
Nick begins deepening his bond with the group. We learn Dagr was suicidal at only 12-years-old and West, the group’s de facto leader, had to talk him out of killing himself. As for West, he claims he doesn’t have a shadow, but his brother did, which is why he died.
After West and Dagr retire for the night, FinalGirl stays up to chat with Nick. He sets up extra lights in his room to keep the shadow at bay. Nick tells her how his mom had a sudden stroke last year and he’s been taking care of her ever since. His dad left them when he was only 5 and his mom never really got over it.
Monsterland Episode 2 recap: Nick makes a plan to kill the shadow.
Later that night, the shadow returns. Nick uses a flashlight to scare it off and it seems to make a beeline for his mom, startling her out bed. Nick calls the EMTs and they tell him she’s had a night terror, possibly caused by only having half of an Atavax, but it’s not like Nick can afford more. He tries adding some lights in front of her door for protection.
To make matters worse, the Smith residence loses their internet due to nonpayment, cutting Nick off from his new friends.
He resorts to using the school library to contact them but since Nick is no longer a student there and looks pretty shady shuffling around with a hoodie and bulky backpack, the staff suspect the worst. Security is called to investigate and check his bag, but all that’s in it is his gaming system. He plans to pawn some things to pay the bills.
Once the internet is back up and running at home, Nick vents all of his problems to his friends. They encourage him to do something big, to kill his shadow. But even that isn’t enough, says FinalGirl. They need to go even bigger — send the shadows a message. Make them the ones cowering in fear. Nick suggests they livestream it.
Of course by now, if the parallels to real mass shootings weren’t obvious enough (I mean Nick chooses “LoneWolf” for his screen name) he gears up with a weapon to search and destroy shadows. It’s just an amalgamation of household items to cast a bright light, but the assembly gets all the noises similar to someone loading their up their gun.
His friends are impressed with the design. West even suggests uploading it online.
But then Nick starts to have misgivings about becoming a killer and the other members of the group get upset. What? He wants to be part of this group without doing his part for the cause? Did he expect them to fly across the country and kill his shadow for him?
Monsterland Episode 2 recap: Nick goes shadow-hunting.
Then they tell him that Dagr found his father, Mark Smith. Nick envisions him in an expensive home with a perfect new family, including another son, and it pushes him over the edge. He’s finally motivated enough to do what needs to be done.
Nick says goodbye to his mom, telling her there’s a war and he needs to do his part. Then the hunt for the shadow is on, and Nick’s camera-helmet livestreams it the internet. He starts skulking the corners of his house like he’s part of a secret raid, searching for the shadow.
And ultimately, even chillingly, Nick finds the shadow and kills it, even as it surrenders. From off-screen, his mother asks where he went.
Monsterland Episode 2 ending explained
As creator Mary Laws revealed to the Los Angeles Times, this particular episode was written in response to her fears regarding mass shootings. Many shooters are discovered to have ties to fanatical and extremist groups who strategize and plan in dark web forums.
What’s even scarier is how pervasive that dogged and volatile thinking is and how very accessible. Nick stumbles upon the Reddit sub with just a few clicks of his mouse. In this day and age, danger like that lurks on every corner and every page of social media. People exchange ideas expeditiously online without ever needing to meet face-to-face.
And what’s especially disconcerting about this episode is the ending. A shadow is just a shadow, a benign entity in this case, but an easy one for Nick to blame all of his problems at the end of the day. The shadow is a stand-in for all the disenfranchised groups that extremists often hate for no real reason. The underdogs often receive misplaced blame for their problems — immigrants, gay people, etc.
When Nick remembers making shadow puppets with the monster, he questions his new group authority, and they push him farther into radicalization until he’s prepared to pull the trigger. Even if it’s just to a flashlight.
What did you think about Monsterland Episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
All eight episodes of Monsterland Season 1 are now streaming on Hulu.