‘Stranger Things’ Season 2 Finale Explained: A Satisfying Conclusion with a Few Loose Ends

You’ve had roughly 24 hours to consume all of Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 2 and the newly minted aftershow Beyond Stranger Things, so now we can get to talking about what the hell just happened. You can take that as your spoiler warning to turn back now if you wandered into our Upside Down explainer by accident and haven’t finished watching just yet. Last chance, because some major spoilers are about to be discussed.

Still here? Okay, then I’m free to talk about all the bonkers Lovecraftian happenings that took place this season, how it all ended up, and where I think the show will go from here. Season 1 saw the introduction of Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and her powers, ultimately ending with the defeat (and destruction) of the terrifying demogorgon. Season 2 saw Eleven’s powers go to a whole new level, but it also saw the rise of multiple demogorgons (growing quickly from slug to demodog) alongside a powerful entity that loomed over the town of Hawkins from the Upside Down like an ancient eldritch god. This time around, however, Eleven used her abilities to simply seal up the breach between the Upside Down and our world, keeping the monstrous creature at bay … but the final moments of Season 2 see it threateningly hovering above Hawkins once again, perhaps plotting its revenge.

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When Eleven sealed this breach (a tough task requiring the bleeding of not one but two nostrils) and severed the tie between the master creature and its demodogs, the soldier creatures (conveniently) dissolved and our heroes were safe once more. Just as important, Will (Noah Schnapp) was finally free of the possession by the mind-and-body-controlling entity, which had been more or less burned out of his body by his friends and family; hopefully this is the end of Will’s rather rough dealings with the Upside Down. In all the chaos, the Hawkins National Laboratory was heavily damaged; their reputation was even worse off, having had their nefarious experiments exposed (sort of) and the blame for the death of Barb Holland (Shannon Purser) laid squarely at their feet. That ties up most of the loose ends, but I still have some questions for the future of Stranger Things that I’d like to talk out, if you’re as curious as I am.

In the meantime, if you need a refresher on Stranger Things, be sure to check out these relevant links:

Now let’s get to it! And as always, feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments.

What About Barb?

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So Season 1 of Stranger Things left people demanding “Justice 4 Barb.” I’m not sure where the crowd stands on how Season 2 dealt with Barb’s death, her parents’ expensive pursuit of the truth, and both Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Steve’s (Joe Keery) decision to expose that truth, but I for one feel 99% satisfied. We’ve seen Barb’s decomposing body in the Upside Down and the slug/proto-demogorgon that crawled from it, we’ve seen “Justice 4 Barb” in the world of Stranger Things since the Hawkins National Laboratory will be paying for (some of) their crimes, and we’ve seen the Holland family get closure. I think Barb’s story is done going forward, and luckily Purser is onto bigger and better (if not Stranger) things.

So ... What's Up with Joyce and Hopper?

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While Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Bob (Sean Astin) were a cute if not completely compatible couple this season, it’s little surprise that Astin’s guest starring role was not going to continue into future seasons. That point is beyond arguing now that Bob Newby (that name!) has been torn asunder by hungry demodogs. (Keep this in mind, as we will revisit the creatures’ behavior later.) So with Bob unfortunately out of the way, will Joyce and Hopper finally just get together already?

These two have known each other since high school and they’ve been through some shit together in the last two years. They worked together to locate Will when he went missing, and they trusted each other enough to go beyond the facade that the Hawkins National Laboratory set up to mask Will’s disappearance. Then, they ventured into the Upside Down together to rescue Will; that’s gnarly stuff, and in the world of fiction, these experiences forge romances in a passionate fire. These two have been resisting their urges for two seasons, but with another supernatural disaster narrowly averted (and after a shared cigarette on school grounds after hours), perhaps Season 3 will see Joyce and Jim sharing more screen time without having to rescue the town from unnatural disaster. Do you ship it?

Dr. Owens: Can We Trust Him?

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Hey, remember when I talked about the behavior of the demodogs a minute ago? Well, I’ll remind you that the pack of these vicious creatures were tearing ass across Hawkins and the lab, eating or attacking pretty much everything in sight … except for Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser). They conveniently left him alone with little more than an injury to his leg. Sure, Hopper left him with a handgun, but shotguns and assault rifles barely kept the creatures at bay, so how did the perhaps not-so-good doctor manage to survive? Sheer, dumb luck?

I don’t think so. And knowing Reiser’s role in Aliens, which heavily influenced this season of Stranger Things, I’d imagine there’s more to this fellow than we’ve seen so far. Dr. Owens was a duplicitous character in Season 2: he was seen caring for the ailing Will during most of the season and even ended his run by gifting Hopper the birth certificate for Eleven … but he was also secretly taping his chats with Will and overseeing expeditions into the Upside Down in order to control the portal between the two worlds. So is he just a morally gray character who made good on his sins in the end? Or is there more to Dr. Owens that we’ll find out about in a future season? Time will tell. I’m hoping there’s more to his tale … but his ambiguity might have just been chalked up to an editing decision and/or a choice to not kill him off, simple as that.

Will Other Super-Powered Kids Join the Fight?

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One of the most divisive storytelling decisions in Season 2 will likely be the departure from the Hawkins storyline in order to follow Eleven on her journey to discover her past, her parentage, and her sorta sibling. Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), a.k.a. 08 or simply Eight, is certainly a character we’d like to know more about and one that the Duffer Brothers would not have introduced unless they had much more mythology for her and her ilk in store for the future. We probably have the most questions about this line of the narrative, so let’s break it down a bit.

Clearly there are at least 11 test subjects that are around Eleven and Kali’s age, though it’s unclear how many of them actually survived. Eleven has some serious psychokinetic powers and Eight has incredible powers of illusion and mind-trickery, so the first question is this: What other MKUltra test subjects are out there and what powers do they exhibit? That question opens up a host of others like, what side of the (presumed) fight will they take, where are they, and how will they all cross paths? If the Season 3 threat is bigger than Eleven can handle (which would make sense considering she’s pretty much a solo badass at this point, and that will tire quickly next season), perhaps she’ll need to call in super-powered recruits to help out the folks of Hawkins, IN. And if that happens, maybe the monsters in the Upside Down will end up controlling some of those young adults, or maybe they’ll be recruited by another side altogether. There’s a lot of fog in this narrative arc, so I fully expect that to be explored in future seasons.

What Does the Master of the Upside Down Have in Store for Season 3?

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The only thing more mysterious than the question of the state of the other super-powered kids out there is just what the mega-monster in the Upside Down has in store for Hawkins next season. Clearly it’s pissed that the doorway to so many tasty morsels has been shut and it will do whatever it has to in order to open it back up again. How it will do this, either through force of will (or force of Will?) remains to be seen, but I’d imagine it has something to do with other super-powered kiddos out there in the world.

Ultimately though, what does this thing want? Does it just want to spread its decay and darkness across our world in order to extend its territory? It got pretty close to that in Season 2, having extended its tendrils/roots/nerve fibers throughout Hawkins, but I’ve got to imagine that it has bigger plans in store. Conceivably, the show could have started shifting away from the Upside Down into a story about Eleven and her super-powered brethren, but that final stinger scene suggests that the Upside Downers have more story to tell yet. Perhaps that’ll be wrapped up before transitioning into a narrative about living and growing up with super-powers in a world that hates, fears, and doesn’t understand them.

And if the time jump stays similar (which it might not, considering that the kiddos are getting older in the real world), we’d be in 1985. What iconic movies came out in 1985? Back to the FutureWeird ScienceThe GooniesThe Breakfast ClubRambo IITeen WolfRocky IVCocoonExplorers, and Real Genius, just to name a few. Some of these have already been borrowed from quite a bit to form the connective tissue of Stranger Things, but Season 3 will likely pull from these films and more in order to flesh out its tale. You’ve got about a year, at least, to start forming your think-pieces, hot takes, and deep dives. Get crackin’!

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