Though Netflix hasn’t officially renewed their breakout hit series Stranger Things for a second season yet, that seems all but a formality at this point. Considering the streaming network’s tendency to renew all their original properties (especially ones as popular as Stranger Things), and the fact that series creators Matt and Ross Duffer have been openly discussing potential Season 2 plans in interviews, it seems pretty likely that we’ll be heading back into The Upside Down before too long.
And thank god for small miracles, because while Stranger Things‘ first season was an absolute delight that wrapped up its narrative nicely enough to serve as a single, well-told story, the Duffer Brothers laced plenty of intrigue into the final episodes, leaving a lot of burning, unanswered questions. If you’re anything like me, all things Stranger Things have been racing through your head the last couple weeks, especially those dangling threads. So toast up an Eggo and let’s break down the major questions that need to be resolved in Season 2.
1. What Happened to Eleven?
Last we saw everyone’s favorite little superpowered weirdo (and resident E.T. stand in,) she sacrificed it all to bring down the Demogorgon and undo the evil she brought into the world. Or did she? If a Season 2 is on the way, we can make a safe guess that the portal to The Upside Down hasn’t been closed forever and the monstrous threat is far from over. There’s also that suspicious behavior from Chief Hopper in the finale. If Hopper is placing foodstuffs and (most suspiciously) Eggos into a forest hatch, are we meant to believe that Eleven is out there somewhere feasting on regular Hopper-prepared care packages? Perhaps even stranger, Hopper doesn’t just leave the food in the middle of the forest, he puts it in a very specific box. The Eggos are a clear hint at the intended recipient, but how does Hopper know she’s still out there, if he does at all, and what does it mean that he’s putting the food in such a singular, hard-to-find location? On that train of thought…
2. What the Hell Is Up with Chief Hopper?
With Stranger Things, David Harbour finally got the role he’s long deserved. After years of killing it as a character actor, and an outstanding recent turn on the devastatingly short-lived Manhattan, Harbour got to step into the role of an Indiana Jones meets Brody/Quint hybrid hero (with a darker past and significant substance abuse problem). Sure he’s presented as a bit of a mess and womanizer, but before his personal trauma he was, by all accounts, an excellent father and a rock for his daughter during her illness. Likewise, the minute he accepted the reality of Joyce Byers’ loss, he never waivered from the case. But the finale cast some doubt on that hero status when we saw him totally sell Eleven out and end up in league with the government. However, we don’t yet know the extent of that relationship or why he would toe over that line of conscience. At first glance, it seems it might be a product of the agreement he made at the Hawkins Lab to get Joyce and himself into The Upside Down, but who would be left to uphold it? Eleven killed a few key players of that faction herself, and the Demogorgon did a whole lot more damage, so who’s calling the shots now and who’s left to remember the deal? Did Hopper enter into a dangerous arrangement, or is he on the path of something we don’t yet understand?
3. Is Will Really OK?
To put it crassly, it seems like The Upside Down will fuck you up. Not just because of the monsters and their mysterious down-throat gestation(?) system, but the scientists clearly said, “the atmosphere is toxic.” Will was in there for quite a while.
Of course, it’s always possible that time doesn’t move on the same continuum as our dimension. Maybe it skips around, maybe a second there is an hour here, but Will definitely spent the most time there…and without the benefit of a hazmat suit. He came out looking mighty pallid and purple, and that post-rescue hospital bed coughing spell doesn’t bode well, not to mention the Christmastime visions slug-vomiting dancing through his head. Is something more lurking in Will? It would be a little beyond the pale of Stranger Things’ tone if Will ended up with full-on chest-burster syndrome, but the signs point to lasting repercussions from his time in the other dimension.
4. Are There Other Psychic Children Out There?
You don’t start at the number eleven. El, née Joan Ives, was the product of government experimentation, taken from her mother and put to use in what appears to be a highly confidential and experimental surveillance program. What were the numbers that came before Eleven? Were they assigned to people? Other children? Judging by the way Matthew Modine‘s Dr. Martin Brenner reacted to El’s abilities, it’s likely that she was the most powerful subject they had seen, but was she the first and only? Furthermore, if you’ll indulge me in a little conspiracy, could the monster be the result of government experimentation? It’s telling that The Upside Down seemingly reflects our world rather than the other way around (a fact that’s most obvious when we see Joyce and Jim navigating the alternate dimension version of her home, the image of her refrigerator tangled in dark branches). Was El able to open a portal to The Upside Down because of her tremendous ability, or because she and the monster share a common thread? And if she is still out there, where is she and what is she doing?
5. Did Nancy Make the Right Choice?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say yes. Bear with me. There’s been a lot of hate towards Steve, and he certainly deserves it to an extent, but the kid’s not all that bad. Sure, as the internet has pointed out at length by now, he shares a little too much in common with Jean-Ralphio, but he ultimately had one of the best character arcs in the series. Steve starts out as a total stereotypical high school dickbag, fully ready to try and pressure, charm, and manipulate the smart, beautiful girl into getting down. He continues to be a consummate fuckface when he and his horrible friends bully Jonathan and defame Nancy as a “slut” on the local marquee. But after that, Steve comes around in a big way. He not only literally cleans up his own mess on the marquee, he goes to apologize face-to-face for the horrible things he said to Jonathan (and I think it’s a show of character that he went to apologize to Jonathan before trying to win Nancy back over). In the process, he comes face-first with a full-scale monster, and instead of running, he gets very brave and very swoon-worthy when he smacks the Demogorgon down with a baseball bat.
On the flip side, Jonathan isn’t the golden boy a lot of people have painted him as, and his arc isn’t nearly as impressive. Paint it in all the tortured-teenage-boy light you want, but he definitely went full-on creep when he took pictures of Nancy as she was undressing. And ultimately, he didn’t seem to learn much from that experience. Thanks to the monstrous threat, his sins were fast forgiven. In fact, the finale sees Nancy and Steve giving him a new camera, which is all kinds of messed up. So yeah, I’m team Steve for the moment, but no doubt Nancy’s ambiguous expression at the end was intentional.
6. Is Poor Barb Really Gone for Good?
Unfortunately, this one’s pretty much open and shut. Yes, she is. We all fell a little bit in love with Shannon Purser‘s incisive, morality-driven teenager. She’s awkward, she’s unfashionable, and she tries to be Nancy’s Jiminy Cricket, but she’s so wildly identifiable that she’s become an internet phenomenon with, even with her brief screen time. But sad to say, yes, Barb is straight up monster food. The Duffer Brothers have confirmed in multiple interviews that Barb is dead dead, but they also recently promised that “If there’s a Season 2, there will be some Barb talk. Don’t worry. She will not be forgotten so easily.” Justice for Barb.
7. Can We Just Take a Moment to Celebrate the Genius of Casting Director Carmen Cuba?
Ok, I cheated. This is only a semi-question, but there’s no way I could talk about Stranger Things without addressing the phenomenal casting work in the series. Let’s get the obvious out of the way, hiring Winona Ryder for a role in a nostalgic genre series is a stroke of brilliance, and as I mentioned before, David Harbour has been earning a role like this for a long time. However, it’s the actors that landed in the younger roles that really cemented this as a piece of casting excellence.
Stranger Things is a tri-generational story, and while the adult portion relies on proven talented actors, Cuba honed in on a phenomenal cast of unknowns for the younger roles. Millie Brown and Natalia Dyer are indisputable breakouts, and the trio of young boys at the heart of the action carry the story with a charisma and competence that belies their age. While the work of a casting director is always important, this is one of those cases where a miscalculation could sink the entire series. Fortunately, Cuba got every single piece right, lining up an ensemble for the ages. It’s so good that it makes you wonder what posslbe treats could be in store for Season 2, when the cast is bound to get a little bigger. And maybe, if we’re lucky, even a little better.
8. Are There More Monsters?
Hopper definitely walked by a hatched egg in the season finale, which was not only one of many Aliens references, but a definite point of intrigue. It could be the egg that hatched the monster we got to know in Season 1, but it could also be the nesting ground for an entirely new beast. There’s a lot about the creature mythology that was left to the imagination Season 1, but this specimen seems to suggest that there might be more than one breed of interdimensional beastie lurking in The Upside Down. We saw slugs crawling from the mouths of Barb and Will (in a vision, at least), which one would assume have something to do with the wormy, throat-crawling creature, so does the egg mean a new breed of terror or could it be that the throat-worm isn’t a breeding device, but something else entirely? One thing’s for sure, there’s got to be a reason no other monsters came out of the portal once it was opened, but the egg certainly hints at more creepy crawlies in the other dimension. After all, it wasn’t the Demogorgon that the boys faced in their final round of Dungeons and Dragons, but a multi-headed Hydra — a gentle reminder that there are monsters a plenty in the realms of fantasy.
9. What Are the Long-Term Effects of Opening a Portal?
One of the most popular fan theories going around at the moment is that Eleven not only failed to solve Hawkins’ monster problem, but the town is now beginning to merge with The Upside Down. It’s a catchy theory, and I like it, but I’m not sure how much credence I’m willing to lend it. The theory is based largely on Will’s sluggy vision and the fact that “winter snow” could be concealing the fact that The Upside Down is encroaching on our real world. Unless it’s a slow transition, the finale time jump makes me call this theory into question, but there’s almost certainly going to be a fallout from opening a pathway to a new dimension. There’s a lot of ways they could go here; there could be even more dimensions to be explored, there could be beastly reinforcements coming from deeper in The Upside Down, but it’s pretty likely that the second season would continue to explore the thrills and chills that come with opening the door to new realms.
10. What Will the Soundtrack Sound Like?
We all want Stranger Things to come back, but nobody wants a re-tread. Least of all, it seems, The Duffer Brothers, who have consistently referred to the potential next chapter as a sequel rather than a second season. Because the series is largely centered around groups of children and teenagers, there can’t be too much of a time jump in the second season. That said, music trends can change greatly over the course of a couple years. The soundtrack was one of the highlights of the first season, from the period-appropriate music cues to the enchanting score, so how much will a second season soundtrack play off the popularity of the first and how much will the passage of time open doors to a new sound?
What about you guys? What are the lingering questions that have been on your mind? Do you think Will’s fully back to normal? What’s up with Hopper’s meals-on-wheels? Team Steve or Team Jacob (or Team Barb if you know what’s up)? Sound of in the comments with you thoughts, theories, and questions.