Stranger Things is arguably one of the best Netflix Original series. At least, I think so. Given that it was an overnight success of which people binged on relentlessly, it seems quite a few people would agree.
If you were one of those people, then you probably already know the good news; at the end of October, season 2 is dropping - all at once, binge-ready. In case you missed it, here's the trailer - featuring Ghostbusters suits and Thriller, what more could you ask for?
To prepare myself for Stranger Things 2 I recently rewatched the first season (for the third time, don’t judge me. I felt it was necessary). Now, even though I could probably quote most of the episodes word for word, it became quite clear to me that the first season leaves quite a lot of questions unanswered. At other times, you have to pay really close attention to get an idea of what may have happened. “That is purposeful”, according to Ross Duffer, who stated in an interview that “by the end of the show they [the characters] don’t know or understand everything”. Obviously this approach to telling the story has worked - we’re all hooked.
Below are some of the questions which were cryptically answered, and some of the questions I hope we’ll see answered in Stranger Things 2.
[From this point on, expect spoilers...]
What is the ‘Upside Down’?
Eleven flips the boys’ Dungeons and Dragons game board over, using the analogy to tell Mike, Lucas and Dustin that Will is hiding from the Demogorgon in the ‘Upside Down’. The boys realise that she is talking about an alternate dimension… As D&D is the window through which the boys interpret their world, they liken this dimension to the ‘Vale of Shadows’ - “...a dimension which is a dark reflection, or echo, of our world. It is a place of death and decay… it is right next to you and you do not even see it”. This description is spot on, judging by what we as viewers have seen of the Upside Down; we’re shown a dark, gloomy version of Hawkins which has a toxic atmosphere and a disturbing ecosystem. However, the theory that the boys come up with is just that, a theory; at no point do we get an actual explanation regarding the nature of the Upside Down from someone who can explain what’s going on. Fortunately the Duffer brothers have said that they have a 30 page document which is “pretty intricate in terms of what it all means”, referring to the Upside Down, so it sounds like Season 2 will give us some more details.
Why did the ‘gate’ open in Hawkins?
Judging by what we see happening in Eleven’s flashbacks, and one of her conversations with Mike, it seems like she attracted the Monster. In episode 5 (The Flea and The Acrobat) we see her in one of the sensory deprivation chambers in Hawkins Lab, spying on the Russians using her telepathic powers. She encounters the faceless, humanoid monster which inhabits the Upside Down and loses control. Dr Brenner sends her back later, with the intention of reaching out to the monster (he even says, “today we make contact”... probably not the best idea). We know that Eleven made contact… and it's implied that the Monster follows her back to Hawkins lab, ripping open a hole in time and space. Then the trans-dimensional shit hits the fan. None of this is absolutely confirmed though, forcing me to ask the question: did Eleven really draw the Monster’s attention, or was something else going on which led to the portal opening?
What's the deal with the creatures living in the Upside Down?
Seriously. There's a monster, with a weird flower-head but no face who goes around snatching up kids for some reason. There's some really big, yellow, creepy looking eggs. Slugs, slugs, and yet more slugs. A big snake-like tendril thing that was down Will's throat. None of these… things… are ever explained to the viewer; we're just left feeling uncomfortable and morbidly curious. The trailer for Stranger Things 2 shows some huge creature in the sky, so it seems we’ve only seen the tip of the disgustingly slimy iceberg.
Where did Hopper get taken at the end of the last episode?
As our favourite Chief leaves the hospital, inevitably lighting up yet another cigarette, a car pulls up - obviously it’s a black car with blacked out windows. The CIA seem to love black cars. Hopper looks more annoyed than usual as he gets in. So where did he go? What's he doing now? The trailer for season 2 showed someone who looked suspiciously like Hopper, smoking away while he listened in on people's phone calls. Maybe he's been ‘persuaded’ to join the CIA after demonstrating some seriously badass skills in season 1. Hopper is one of my favourite characters, so I can't wait to see how his story develops in Stranger Things 2. David Harbour (who plays Chief Hopper) did reveal some information about Hopper’s future in an Ask Me Anything. For those who are hoping he gets it together with Joyce, you may be out of luck...
Are there others with powers like Eleven out there?
Eleven is a badass. A telekinetic badass.
From episode 3 onwards, observant fans will know that Eleven’s powers were a result of government-funded experiments, which Hopper and Joyce investigate further. You may have heard the term ‘MKULTRA’ thrown around, and some ranting about thought control and ‘expanding the boundaries of the mind’. This wasn’t a fictional government program created for Stranger Thing; as they stated in an interview with IGN, the Duffer brothers were inspired by real projects. Project MKULTRA was the top secret designation used to refer to a number of covert operations run by the CIA during the Cold War. To combat the Russians, the CIA (and several institutions which were CIA fronts) allegedly researched some really dodgy stuff, like truth serums and torture methods, as well psychic capabilities. As a lot of the files related to their work were destroyed by the Director of the CIA around the same time as the Watergate scandal, MKULTRA is a conspiracy theorist’s dream. In the world of Stranger Things it seems like the CIA managed to accomplish their goal… Does that mean there are more individuals like Eleven out there? The ‘11’ tattoo could definitely suggest there were at least 10 others? When there's a young girl flipping vans with her mind and making bullies pee themselves, anything is possible.
Is Will going to spit up slugs for the rest of his life?
I'm not a doctor. However I suspect that spending a week in another dimension, which has a toxic atmosphere, is bad for your health. I also suspect that spitting up slugs and flickering between realities is also not good for you. So is Will going to be alright? Stranger Things 2 trailer suggests that he may be in for even worse times unfortunately… at some point you have to wonder if he’ll ever catch a break? Speaking with IGN, when asked if Will was going to be okay, Ross Duffer replied simply with “No”. He also suggested that we should be worried about the other characters who ventured into the Upside Down…
Will we ever get #justiceforbarb?
The most important question of all. Barb became a fan favourite after she was cruelly snatched from Hawkins by the Monster, and no one really seemed to mind that she vanished! Shannon Purser was essentially cast as monster-food, even if she did get an Emmy nomination. When Nancy is done getting it on with Steve and decides to try to find her buddy, what a surprise, she can't find her. The police assume she's run away. We only see Barb once more, and she doesn't look like she's had a great time. Decomposing and spewing slugs doesn't look fun. Will got a vigil and search parties, so we better get #justiceforbarb.
To get you even more hyped for the strange goings on in Hawkins, throughout October keep checking in for Stranger Things things (like an extended soundtrack cover, check it out), and hit me up in the comments with your predictions for Stranger Things 2!
Blog header artwork by the very talented Damian Buzugbe