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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Static Thoughts - What to Expect from Stranger Things Season 2

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Edited by Robert Beach

With the summer season drawing to a close, the time has come to look back on the many success of the last few months and inexorably ask: what’s next? For some, that may be a difficult question for Netflix’s Stranger Things, the breakout TV success of the summer. The answer is obvious: Season 2.  

As anyone who’s seen the show knows, there was a lot of dangling elements left in the retro sci-fi adventure series to be developed for the second season. Netflix has already announced plans for a follow-up to the massively popular series. Even though there are some obvious places to go with things, the question of what the second season will be about looms large over the production. As such, I’ve come up with a list of 5 major possibilities for what Stranger Things season 2 could be about. Obviously, there are spoilers to follow.

This one is easily the most possible, especially given the nebulous nature of the final fate of Stranger Things breakout hero Eleven. When she uses her psychic powers to defeat the otherworldly nightmare creature in season 1’s final episode, it’s not exactly clear what she does to the monster or where it and her end up after they slip out of frame.  

It’s possible that they were both destroyed, but it seems far more likely they were warped off to the Upside Down dimension or some similar fate. What’s more, one of the multiple ending scenes that set-up the second season featured the Sheriff leaving Eggo waffles, Eleven’s favorite food, out in a box in the woods, presumably for her to retrieve. This ending suggests Eleven has survived and would fit with the Sheriff’s unseen conversation with some nameless government types. 

Regardless, Eleven pretty much has to return for there to be a Stranger Things season 2. While the Duffer Brothers could make season 2 just surrounding the weird sci-fi stuff from season 1 (like the alternate dimension or the nightmare monster); there’s no way they’d do that and risk alienating the massive fan base Eleven has generated. She’s the face of the show at this point aside from Winona Ryder. Her return has become guaranteed. How she returns is still a lingering question, but I doubt getting her back will be the season’s entire arc as it’d be too similar to the "rescuing Will" story from season 1.   

This is another major season 2 plot point teased at the end of season 1. In a brief scene of Christmas at the Byers household, we see the young boy Will, who had been trapped for the whole show in a terrifying alternate dimension, has the power now to warp back to that other world and is coughing up mysterious black ooze. It’s a pretty dark and creepy scene that serves to undercut the storybook nature of the ending in a nice tone shift.  

If Will’s ability to move between worlds does come up again in season 2, it’ll probably tie to the nightmare creatures of the dark dimension were force-feeding him during his time trapped in their reality. We see, during Will’s rescue, the monsters have some organic hose forced down his throat and are pumping him full of ooze in a manner similar to the Xenomorphs in Aliens.  

If Stranger Things season 2 wanted a killer hook for the new season that wasn’t just a retread of season 1, they could have Will be some host or living gate for the monsters of that other world. It would certainly make the situation a lot more complex than the static gateway from season 1 and would turn the whole question of “saving” Will on its head.  

Most importantly, it’d be an easy way to preserve Will’s importance as now that the show has done so much to save him the issue of “was it worth it” is always going to hang over this character, making that issue the fulcrum of the season-long story would nicely subvert audience expectations. 

This element wasn’t nearly as heavily addressed as the previous two possibilities, but it’s still a major question looming over the possibility of a second season.  Whatever the ultimate point of the facility where Eleven was being experimented on, it seems pretty clear that it was an official government lab working under the military supervision of some kind.  

We see major generals show up at the lab for a demonstration, and the reach of their power suggests they can’t be a rogue operation, rather a legitimate branch of the US government. Something that big, unique, and integral to national defense going dark, with its department head getting murdered by otherworldly monsters from the fourth dimension, wouldn’t just go unnoticed by the higher-ups in Washington. Even if the main test subject disappeared, the threshold to the Upside Down still exists, and there’s no way the government would just let that power go. 

We briefly saw the Sheriff step into a car with some government folks in one of the closing scenes of season 1, but we never heard their conversation. Tthe government’s stance towards the town of Hawkins is ambiguous at best. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to learn they haven’t left at all, for they are more embedded in the shadows, complete with newly formed ties to the Sheriff as their “man on the inside” of local law enforcement. Whatever role they now have, you can be damn sure they’ll be involved in whatever sci-fi hooliganism informs season 2. 

One of the central hooks of Stranger Things was the creepy dark dimension that the show introduced.  Between this and The Flash alternate dimensions have become all the rage, so I think it’d behoove Stranger Things to bring its nightmare reality back for the second season but why stop there?  

Once you’ve opened the door to pocket dimensions, altered realities, and parallel universes, there’s no telling where that particular brand of storytelling could lead.  The show namedropped the many worlds theory in the episode ‘The Flea and the Acrobat.’ Even though Stranger Things doesn’t seem to be set in a multiverse, they could still explore the idea of weird dimensions with unique laws of physics and freaky relations to real space. 

The closest thing we have to an explanation for the Upside Down dimension in Stranger Things is just that it’s an upside-down inversion of the primary time-space continuum. We perceive it as normal space.  Assuming that explanation was accurate, it is made up on the fly by a high school science teacher, that leaves the possibility of additional alternate dimensions existing at other odd angles to the main reality.  

The Upside Down may exist 180 degrees from normal space. What about lateral dimensions located at 90-degree turns or more discrete realities found along non-Euclidean geometries.? That type of angular dimensional transport was the crux of a lot of Lovecraftian horrors, and that manner of storytelling is pretty core to Stranger Things’ horror elements. I’d expect a greater explanation of why the Upside Down reflects the human-made structures of normal space and how they got there in the first place. 

This strikes me as the least liking thing to happen but the one I most want to see in season 2, especially because it would combine elements of the government response and multiple dimensions.  In season 1, we see that the government is employing Eleven’s psychic abilities for espionage purposes, spying on a Russian operative for some unknown purpose.  

Given that level of power was once at the Government’s fingertips, I doubt they’d limit their psychic and sci-fi research to Eleven.  That level of espionage impact (military generals tour Eleven’s facility) wouldn’t go unnoticed from the Soviet Union. Making the crux of the second season efforts by the Russians to counter the US’s research into psychic powers and parallel dimensions would be an amazing twist and throw everyone for an absolute loop. 

Like it or not, the Russians have pretty much reclaimed their place as America’s all-purpose international bad guy in a manner we haven’t seen since the ‘80s. Embracing that parallel would be a smart move for Stranger Things as their entire cultural cache is based around embracing ‘80s tropes in the pulpiest of manners.  

Casting Russia as a villainous force seeking to manipulate American goings on through psychic children and lateral realities would give the new season an innate bad guy, a shockingly relevant set-up, and continue to ground the proceedings in ‘80s cultural touchstones.  What’s more, it’d be an easy theme to yoke together the possible story points for what comes next, especially if the Russians were interested in getting their hands on Eleven. 

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