Stranger Things 2: Your one-stop guide for all things related to the Netflix show, from a super fan
Before you get down to binge-watching Stranger Things season 2 on Netflix, here's a comprehensive recap of everything that happened in season 1
Pop-culturally speaking, I’m pretty proud of myself for hitching myself up with Stranger Things long before it became the phenomenon that it did last year. See, I’m a huge Winona Ryder fan, so keeping up with her latest movies, TV shows, or ad campaigns, is a matter of course for me. So when I found out, sometime in 2015, that she would be starring in a sci-fi/horror Netflix show, I was suitably stoked, although when I realized that the Duffer brothers would be creating said show, I was also a tad worried.
By now, we all know the Duffers as the cool and mega-geeky creators of Stranger Things, but back in 2015, I’d been watching Wayward Pines, a mystery/sci-fi M Night Shyamalan show starring Matt Dillon, that the Duffers had written four episodes of. Wayward Pines’ first season wasn’t bad, especially the episodes written by the Duffers, but the show in general felt like it had a ton of squandered potential. For Winona Ryder’s Netflix debut, squandered potential wouldn’t be enough!
Released images from Stranger Things’ first season were intriguing — I remember seeing a lot of Ryder in a brown corduroy jacket. It all looked promising, and when the show released on 15 July 2016, I was ready for my dose of Winona Ryder! As I binge-watched the entire season that Saturday afternoon, humming along the title track after the first couple of episodes, I began to realise something that we now know to be true — Stranger Things would be a huge deal! I’m sure everyone who watched it that first weekend felt that way; there was something so utterly joyous about watching a bunch of kids in the ’80s doing their thing — being carefree kids and friends together, playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), fighting a demon — before the word-of-mouth publicity and frenzy that made Stranger Things the biggest pop cultural phenomenon since, well, I want to say Harry Potter.
This time last year, the world was getting ready to dress up as Eleven or the demogorgon or even Eggo waffles for Halloween; this year, most of us will be binge-watching season 2, once again lost in the genre storytelling and the nostalgia of the ’80s. The year 1984, to be precise. If at all you’re a fan like me, you’ve probably already re-watched season one for the 16th time, and you know everything there is to know about the second season of Stranger Things already. For all the others, here’s what you need to remember about season one and know about season 2 before it drops on Netflix.
Important names, terms, and references
Hawkins: The fictional town in Indiana that’s the setting for Stranger Things season 1. It was 1983 when we first met our pre-teen gang of nerds — Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). Will disappeared from the shed at his family home; he’d noticed odd things on his way back home cycling from Mike’s place after a game of D&D, where ominously, he’d had a bad roll of the dice (i.e. the demogorgon got him in the game). Stranger things were happening all over Hawkins then, including a scientist murdered by an unknown creature in a government laboratory.
Worried, Will's mother Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) and his brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) tried to find him, and when they can’t, enlisted the help of local Sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour), who’s fighting his own past demons (namely, the death of his young daughter, and his subsequent alcoholism).
Eleven: Last year’s most popular Halloween costume inspiration! Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is a girl with a shaved head in a hospital gown who escapes from a facility/lab. She has special powers that are kind of telekinetic — she can make things fly, move things with her mind (e.g. a can of Coke, big trucks, a model Millennium Falcon, a human!).
Mike, Dustin, and Lucas came across Eleven while searching for their friend Will; they took her into their group (and also into Mike’s parents’ basement, where she starts sleeping in a makeshift tent).
We later learned that Eleven was kidnapped adopted by a cruel and malevolent Dr Brenner (Matthew Modine), who’s been experimenting with her to train her to be a spy for the US government (as part of “Project MKUltra”) against the Russians. Eleven referred to Brenner as “Papa.”
Christmas lights: A frazzled Joyce started to believe that Will was communicating with her through electric Christmas lights, which led her to buy a bulkload of them and set them up on the walls of her home as a sort of Christmas lights Ouija board.
Turns out, she was right! Will did communicate with her, spelling out “HELP” and “RUN”!
But where was he? If he was alive, why were they unable to find him?
Upside Down: The alternate dimension that Will was trapped in. It looked like Hawkins, but also a lot as if Hawkins had been turned into the set from Alien. The Upside Down was dark, slimy, cold, and was accessible through several portals around Hawkins. Eleven coined the term while watching the boys play D&D.
Demogorgon: The other favourite idea for a Halloween costume last year! The demogorgon is giant creature that escaped the government laboratory, and wreaked havoc all over. The kids named the creature the “Demogorgon” because, well, D&D! The demogorgon had been wreaking havoc in the normal Hawkins as well as the Upside Down.
Barb: Last year’s oddest pop culture cult favourite, Barb (Shannon Purser) was a friend of Mike’s older sister Nancy (Natalia Dyer). There was a love triangle between Nancy, Jonathan, and a popular high-school guy Steve (Joe Keery) who we were made to think was a villain but who turned out okay. Steve looked a lot like Jean-Ralphio Saperstein from Parks and Recreation, but because this was 1983, he didn’t talk in autotune, so thank god for that!
Barb disappeared from Steve’s backyard one night when she was there with Nancy, and Jonathan happened to catch her disappearance (and a little bit of the demogorgon) on his camera. He then teamed up with Nancy to find Will. Steve also kind of helped.
Will’s fake dead body: A fake dead body that was made to look like Will’s. Joyce didn’t believe it was Will, and neither did his friends (who’d heard Will singing through their walkie-talkie, and who believed he was still stuck in the Upside Down). Hopper decided to trust Joyce’s motherly instinct, and cut through the body to find it was fake. Clearly, this went deeper down and higher up than any of them first assumed!
Will’s rescue from the Upside Down: Joyce and Sheriff Hopper convinced Brenner to let them enter the Upside Down by telling him where he could find Eleven. When they eventually found Will, he was trapped by the Demogorgon’s tentacles, one of which had gone down his mouth/throat. They revived him and brought him back to the normal dimension.
Eggo waffles: Eleven’s favourite snack, and our one hope that Eleven was still alive, when we saw Sheriff Hopper leave a box of Eggos in the woods towards the end of season one. Earlier, as Brenner’s men came for her, Eleven killed most of them; in order to save her friends, she then used the last of her powers to disintegrate the demogorgon to pulpy smithereens, before she herself disappeared. Nooooo!
Post-dinner slug throw up: Will, who by the end of season one was back with his family, was not quite alright. Not only was he experiencing flashes from the Upside Down, he also threw up a slug one night after dinner (suffice to say, it wasn’t as amusing as when something similar happened to Ron Weasley!). Dun dun dun!
Questions we want answered this season
Where has Eleven been?
We know from the trailers that she isn’t dead (as if they could afford to kill her!) and that she has grown her hair so that she wouldn’t need to wear a fake blonde wig. But where has Eleven been all this while? That bit in the first Stranger Things season two trailer, where Eleven reaches her hand through a slimy hole in a wall at Hawkins Middle School (where she last disappeared) seems to suggest that she’s been in the Upside Down all this while.
Of course, there are many questions about how she survived; after all, she is just a kid still! Sheriff Hopper had been leaving Eggo boxes, presumably for Eleven; but how did she access them? And if she could come get the Eggos, why couldn’t she come meet her friends. Especially Mike, who’s been missing his friend and is also a tad lovesick.
Is Will going to be okay?
That last scene of him coughing up the slug-like creature did not look good! Netflix’s numerous social media posts make it seem like Will’s mental and physical health, and his adjustment to life post-return from the Upside Down, are going to be the key topics this season. Will he ever fully recover? Or is he scarred for life because of his experience in the Upside Down? Is he looking to Eleven for guidance on how to deal with it all?
A teaser trailer for season 2 had suggested at the common thread binding Will’s disappearance to other international conspiracies around that time, such as the Russian boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, New Coke, Reagan’s Star Wars program, sunspots etc. Intriguing!
Who or what is this season’s big bad?
Eleven may have destroyed the Demogorgon, but clearly, the dimensional rip still exists. And the effects of the Upside Down are felt by everyone in Hawkins; most of all Will who, from the trailers, is still seeing flashes of the Upside Down.
He’s also seeing glimpses of a huge multi-armed or multi-headed creature that seems to be much bigger in size than the demogorgon. The young actors apparently refer to it as “The Shadow Monster.” Eeeks, is that real or just in Will’s head? Something tells me it’s real!
Hillary Kelly of The Vulture has an interesting theory about the turn of events in season 2 and how they’ll be connected (once again) to the kids’ game of D&D:
“This season’s monster, which we briefly glimpse when Will steps outside the arcade in the trailer, seems to be modeled after a Thessalhydra, a multi-headed serpent of Greek mythology. If you remember, when the boys gathered for a Christmas Eve D&D campaign in the season-one finale, it ended with Will destroying the Thessalhydra with a fireball. Mike reported that the Thessalhydra’s seven heads were then put in a bag and delivered to King Tristan. Dustin and Lucas groaned that the campaign had ended too soon and had unresolved business, like “the lost knight,” “the proud princess,” and “those weird flowers in the cave.” Just as Will’s D&D battle with the Demogorgon foreshadowed season one, maybe season two will mimic the game-table throw down with the Thessalhydra. Except there’s already one major problem: The Thesselhydra has eight heads and Will only chopped off seven in the game. If those heads can regenerate, this season won’t merely be an issue of decapitation.” Ugh!
Also, is Dr Brenner still alive? Most likely he isn’t, since we know that Paul Reiser is going to be the chief malevolent scientist this season. Is the Hawkins laboratory shut? From the trailers, looks like it isn’t. So how high up does this clearly-government-sponsored experiment go?
Are there more dimensions besides the Upside Down?
In season one, the boys’ teacher Mr Clark explained to them how access to the Upside Down worked - apparently, a flea on a tightrope can walk across the top and the bottom, as well as anywhere along the sides. The Upside Down is Hawkins with a dimensionally opposite twist; what other dimensions might be along the sides then? Will we find out about a dimension besides the Upside Down in season 2? The Duffer brothers have hinted at four seasons of Stranger Things, so there’s certainly scope for a wider multidimensional reality. Stuff of dreams, I tell ya!
What will be the biggest pop cultural trend following season 2?
After the world got hold of season 1 of Stranger Things last year, Halloween costumes, retro (i.e. '80s) themed parties, games, music etc. became the trend. The Ghostbusters outfits that the boys wear in the trailer for the new season may seem too overdone for millennials, so what then will be the biggest trend post-season 2?
Things we know for certain about Stranger Things season 2
1. The second season takes place about a year after the events of season one. We begin on Halloween 1984.
2. Joyce has begun dating a former classmate, Bob (Sean Astin of The Lord of the Rings, but more importantly of The Goonies — in keeping with the ’80s references!). Sheriff Hopper is trying to keep the events from season one under wraps, besides leaving Eggos for Eleven.
3. James Cameron is a huge inspiration for season 2. While season one paid homage to movies like T., Alien, and The Goonies, season two is apparently inspired by Cameron’s movie sequels, i.e. Aliens or even Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
4. We know the titles of the episodes, of which the first six titles were recently changed:
- Trick or Treat Freak
- The Pollywog
- Will the Wise
- Dig Dug
- The Spy
- The Secret Cabin
- The Brain
- The Lost Brother
5. A third season of Stranger Things is guaranteed!
6. ’80s cultural references will be aplenty in season two: from retro posters to glimpses of Pac-Man and Dragon’s Lair, and Stephen King references, it’s a nostalgia fest alright!
7. The season 2 soundtrack is already available The band that provided the score for season one (Survive) is back this year as well.
That’s about it. And now we wait for 27 October. Until then, I’m going to go play my Stranger Things retro pixel game and fuel up my nostalgia some more!
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