If you, like me, spent the weekend binge-watching all nine episodes of Stranger Things 2 — and the entirety of its aftershow, Beyond Stranger Things — on Netflix, then you probably have a few questions. Mainly, is it over already? Only Stranger Things could make nine hours of television feel so fleeting. (Spoilers ahead.)
From the very beginning, creators Matt and Ross Duffer approached Stranger Things 2 as a cinematic sequel, so everything about it feels bigger, darker, and, well, stranger in the way that good sequels often do. It's clear that the season was influenced by both 1986's Aliens and 1980's Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back — two sequels that raised the stakes and forged unlikely new character dynamics.
And the stakes for Mike, Will, Dustin, Lucas, Eleven, and the entire town of Hawkins, Indiana, have never felt more insurmountable than they do in Stranger Things 2, which leads to quite a spectacular conclusion (more on that later). By the end of season, there's even a sense of closure. Each character's storyline is more or less wrapped up — Mike and Eleven are properly reunited, Will's demons are (mostly) exercised, Hawkins National Laboratory is closed, and Dustin gets to dance with his dream girl, Nancy Wheeler.
Of course, the Duffer Brothers didn't completely leave us hanging. As we saw in the season's closing moments, there's still a giant Shadow Monster looming over Hawkins in the Upside Down. With that in mind, let's examine the most pressing questions following Stranger Things 2, starting with the big one:
Is The Mind Flayer the show's Big Bad?
Remember the Demogorgon? Well, that asshole was just a taste of what the Upside Down had in store for our heroes. Stranger Things 2 introduced two significant new creatures: demodogs, four-legged Demogorgons; and The Mind Flayer, otherwise known as the Shadow Monster, a giant arachnid-like monster who appears to be the powerful final boss in the Upside Down. It's kinda like the brain down there. The Mind Flayer, named after a Dungeons & Dragons creature with psionic powers, first appeared to Will in visions, or "now-memories," and it later possessed him, linking them and gradually turning little Will Byers into a serious threat over the course of the season.
Even though the monster is eradicated from Will's body by the end of the season, thereby allowing Eleven to close the main gate to the Upside Down, it's not gone for good. In the final moments of the season, The Mind Flyer is seen lurking over Hawkins Middle School in the Upside Down, no doubt plotting the destruction of Hawkins and its protector, Eleven.
While it's unclear if The Mind Flayer is the show's ultimate Big Bad, it's almost certainly going to rear its ugly head again in the third season. The Duffer Brothers have been candid about their four-season plan, so unless there's another monster hiding in the Upside Down, it's safe to assume that The Mind Flayer is the key to all that nonsense. But maybe — just maybe! — there are multiple Mind Flayers.
Steve, you're gonna need a bigger bat.
Is there still a link between Will and the Upside Down?
Since his time in the Upside Down, Will has been experiencing episodes of "True Sight," a phenomenon that allows his mind to travel to the Upside Down. This made him vulnerable to The Mind Flayer's manipulation, but it also turned Will into a spy — he could see what The Mind Flayer could see in his "now-memories." Now that The Mind Flayer has been exorcized from Will's body, does that mean his connection to the other dimension has been broken? Or will those lingering affects from spending so much time in the Upside Down continue to haunt him?
If he learns to control these abilities, they could be a major asset in the battle ahead. Not to mention, it gives Eleven and Will — two characters who have inexplicably never said a single word to one another — a hell of a compelling story line in future seasons.
How much time will pass between seasons?
The Duffer Brothers have already confirmed that the third season will take place after yet another time jump, and given the one-year jump between the first and second seasons, Season 3 will most likely begin a year after the events of Snow Ball at the end of Stranger Things 2. This means Mike, Will, Lucas, Dustin, Max, and presumably Jane (a.k.a. Eleven) are headed to Hawkins High School.
As for the exact month, it would be cool to see them at the beginning of their high-school journey, sometime in late August or early September 1985 — just after the summer release of the highest-grossing film of the year, Back to the Future.
Are Joyce and Hopper endgame material?
That's kind of obvious isn't it? In Season 1, I bought their platonic relationship. Joyce was far too consumed with her son's true whereabouts and Hopper was still dealing with the emotional trauma of his daughter's death. But from the very first episode, Joyce and Hopper's chemistry was palpable. They've got all of the prerequisites for an onscreen romance: fire chemistry, shared trauma, and similar sensibilities.
Hopper understands Joyce's particular brand of crazy. Not to mention, Hopper was totally flirting with Joyce in that scene outside of the Snow Ball. Let's be real: A tiny bit of Hopper is probably happy Bob the Brain is dead. But who is Joyce Byers when she's not worried about her son? We're (hopefully) going to find out.
It would also be yet another way to bring Will and Eleven together.
Does Eleven have any more siblings out there?
Speaking of Eleven's extended family, Stranger Things 2 introduced Eleven's "sister," Kali, a fellow Hawkins lab escapee. Kali, or Eight, has the power to cast illusions. Regardless of how you felt about "Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister," it expanded the world of Stranger Things outside of Hawkins, and that's probably going to set a precedent for what's to come. If Kali is out there, then who's to say that Eleven doesn't have any more super-powered siblings on the run from the government?
Kali was also instrumental in helping Eleven harness and strengthen her power. (Think of her as the Yoda to Eleven's Luke Skywalker.) If not for her help, Eleven might not have been able to close the gate.
Is Dr. Brenner still alive?
"The Lost Sister" also suggested that Dr. Brenner, a.k.a. Papa, is still out there somewhere, biding his time. Since we didn't actually see Brenner die in the Season 1 finale, this is entirely plausible — and it makes sense that Kali would be searching for the "man who calls himself [her] father" on her personal crusade to eliminate all of the "bad men" who experimented on her. But if Dr. Brenner really is out there, then it's possible that he's also building a new army of super-powered kids. His intentions were always shady, so it would be nice to get proper closure between him and Eleven next season.
Does Steve go to college?
As much as I want to see Steve Harrington succeed in life, he's become so imperative to the show's success that I don't want to lose him to higher learning. Steve seemed to contemplate working with his dad, but that was when he thought he'd be dating Nancy next year. But now that Nancy and Jonathan are dating — or at least making googly-eyes at each other in the Season 2 finale — Steve is a free man. Would he stick around in Hawkins for a girl that doesn't even want him? Probably not. But here's hoping he'll stick around to spend more time with Dustin. With Dusty headed for high school, he's going to need all of the Steven Harrington advice he can get.
Can Billy just, like, go away?
I understand the Duffers' desire to have a human antagonist in the form of a chiseled teen sociopath, but Billy is such a cartoonish villain. He's a walking 1980s stereotype, complete with a curly mullet, tight jeans, and one — just one! — earring. He's basically Season 1 Steve if he hadn't redeemed himself. But there's something even worse about Billy. He's mentally, and seemingly physically, abusive towards his step-sister Max, and he hates Lucas for no discernible reason other than he's black. Not to mention, he's completely inessential to the plot.
Will Dustin continue this hair-care routine, or was it a one-time thing?
I'm bracing myself for some significant style transformations in Season 3. Don't get me wrong: The AV Club will always be a band of nerds, but 1985 was a transgressive year for fashion. It's only a matter of time before Dustin starts rocking double denim and a pair of Nike Bruins à la Marty McFly. And those curls? They're in desperate need of a few more spritzes of Farrah Spray.
Will the Byers ever know life without their home being destroyed on a yearly basis?
Seriously. The gradual destruction of that home is as essential to the Stranger Things DNA as the Upside Down and Eleven's affinity for Eggos. First, there was Joyce's homemade ouija board — and all those holes in the walls, courtesy of the Demogorgon — and in Stranger Things 2, there's Will's abstract map of Hawkins, which consumes every room in the house. It wouldn't be a season of Stranger Things if the Byers home did not get absolutely trashed by the end.
Will there be #JusticeForBob?
Forget Barb. (Seriously, forget her already.) Sean Astin's Bob Newby deserved more than to be gruesomely devoured by a pack of demodogs mere feet from salvation. What makes Bob's death so brutal is that he was just a nice guy who wanted to do the right thing — from giving Will a bit of (bad) advice to going along with Joyce, no questions asked. He was also enthusiastic about everything, adding some much-needed levity to the season. But at least he got to go out a hero, saving Will, Joyce, Hopper, and Mike from being demodog food.
Let's pour one out for Bob Newby, founder of the Hawkins Middle School AV Club, puzzle-solver extraordinaire, king of the dad jokes, speaker of BASIC, and all-around good guy. You will be missed.