Major spoilers for Stranger Things 2 follow below. Turn back now if you’re not caught up.
While Stranger Things 2 introduced some major new antagonists for our characters, it appears the Big Bad of Season 1 may not be completely out of the picture just yet. Matthew Modine’s Dr. Martin Brenner ran the Hawkins National Laboratory and raised resident badass Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) under terrifying conditions, but Brenner met a messy fate at the end of Season 1. If you’ll recall, the Demogorgon snatched up Dr. Brenner at Hawkins Middle School, where Brenner and his agents had come to take Eleven back to their lab. Brenner’s fate was left somewhat ambiguous, but all that blood seemed to indicate the guy was a goner.
However, Modine makes a surprise cameo in Stranger Things 2 during the episode “The Lost Sister”, where Kali (aka Eight) and her crew—along with new member Eleven—track down a former Hawkins scientist and attempt to enact revenge. But the scientist insists that Brenner is still alive, pleading for Kali and Eleven to spare his life in exchange for Brenner’s location. Their plans go sideways, but back at the hideout Kali uses her powers to manifest a fake Dr. Brenner in Eleven’s head, which is how we get that Matthew Modine cameo.
So was the scientist lying? Apparently not. Collider’s own Steve Weintraub recently spoke with Stranger Things executive producers Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen for an extended conversation about the new season, and they confirmed that yes, Brenner is still alive, while also revealing that future seasons of the show will be leaving Hawkins behind:
“[Future seasons leaving Hawkins] is definitely something we’ve talked about. There’s only so much evil that can happen in that lab… [Showrunners] Matt and Ross make the joke that then makes us and the world very uncomfortable which is eventually, move outta Hawkins! Things are never gonna be great here! But yes the lab is shut down…”
Levy made the Brenner confirmation while discussing the divisive seventh episode of the new season, “The Lost Sister”:
“We took a big swing for instance to open the show with a car chase in another city, then Episode 7 goes to another city for an entire episode. Whether or not people feel that episode was entirely successful, the Duffers want to take some swings, and they know that they’re not gonna please everybody. But that feeling of the world getting a bit bigger especially coupled with the fact that it now seems clear that Brenner is alive, Brenner is out there. I for one think that that one scene with Modine and Millie in Episode 7 is one of the juiciest scenes, and it kind of brought me back to how haunting Modine is in that Brenner role. So that’s a major unanswered question, and also we’ve now confirmed that Eleven isn’t the only one. There are other numbers.”
So it seems clear that Brenner still has a major role to play, as do other test subjects from the laboratory. But while the mythology seems to be tying together quite well, Levy says they still haven’t gotten around to writing a series bible:
“There probably should be [a bible] (laughs). Someone should write that bible but we have never gotten around to it. We’ve talked about it. We’ve met Eight and we’ve met Eleven, there’s lots of other numbers between those.”