How does fear drive us? Does it make us do things we didn’t think we were capable of? We like to think we will step up when the pressure is on but is this always the case?
In Stranger Things episode 5, “The Nina Project,” Eleven has to go through a journey-both physically and psychologically-in pursuit of regaining her powers. She’s had to resort back to her previous self and even though it may seem like a regression, appears to be critical if she’s going to move forward.
So what is Nina, and how does it/she play into all this?
In this breakdown of “The Nina Project,” we will review the plot, explore some themes, and observations, and point out some of the 1980s references.
“The Nina Project” Plot Summary
This episode is intense right off the bat. Eleven is in danger and we hear of a mysterious “Nina.” It turns out, that 12 hours prior to the events of the last episode, Eleven was taken to a top-secret location in the desert. She and Sam go to an underground bunker, which is like an old missile silo. Very War Games-ish, which will come up again in a bit.
Surprise! Brennen is back, and they begin the training of Eleven. This involves her resorting back to her shaved head state. Back in Russia, Hopper is getting worked over, and Joyce and Murray are on the plane with Yuri to be sold.
In Hawkins, Max is drawing what she saw in the Upside Down the same way Will did when he discovered the map. Her drawings connect together to reveal the Creel house.
Back at the lab, Eleven is stuck in a labyrinth that keeps repeating itself, but this is her subconscious as she’s back floating in a sensory deprivation water chamber. This Machine is Nina. She can’t escape from the rainbow room and we learn that project Nina relates to the opera.
In this opera, her lover was killed in a duel and she buries the memory as if it never happened. Has Eleven done the same thing with her murderous rampage from 1979? Suppressing this memory also suppressed her powers. She might not be able to move on until she makes peace with this and stops suppressing it. This seems to be the point of Project Nina.