It’s that time of the year! Pull out the Eggos and walkie-talkies because Netflix just released the second season of Stranger Things. A spoiler alert is now in effect, so read at your caution.
Season 1 recap
Set in the 1980s in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, “Stranger Things” follows kids Mike Wheeler, Lucas Sinclair, Dustin Henderson, and Will Byers. After a night of playing and Dungeons and Dragons, Byers is kidnapped by a creature called the Demogorgon and taken to the alternate world, the Upside Down. As this happens, a young girl with psychokinesis named Eleven (or El) escapes from a secret lab in Hawkins and encounters the group of boys. Along with Joyce Byers (Will’s mother), Jonathan Byers (his brother), and Nancy Wheeler (Mike’s sister), the boys and El work together to get to the Upside Down and save Will. Ultimately, Will is saved, but El sacrifices herself so the Demogorgon can be defeated. The season ends on a happy note, but Jim Hopper, the town’s sheriff, puts Eggos—El’s favorite treat—into a box, indicating to the audience that she is still alive. The Byers family is reunited and all is well until Will goes to the bathroom and coughs up a slug from the Upside Down, concluding the finale on a cliffhanger.
Chapter One: MADMAX
The premiere begins with three unidentified characters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, being chased by police after robbing a bank. The heist continues as the trio barrels down streets, highways, and eventually through a tunnel where they almost stop. One character, Kali, uses psychokinesis so the entrance of the tunnel crumbles to pieces. The criminals escape, but Kali has blood dripping down her nose, just like El when she uses psychokinesis. Before the intro, the camera cuts to Kali’s wrist, revealing the numbers 008. So, safe to say she’s another person who was experimented on like El. Maybe they’ll team up in the end to stop the mysterious creature coming to Hawkins?
The boys are back and better than ever! After a year passes of Will’s disappearance, Lucas, Dustin, Mike, and Will continue on with their normals lives like going to school and the arcade. While Mike, Lucas, and Dustin still ride their bikes everywhere, Will is now dropped off by his mom in fear of being kidnapped again.
Nancy is also still recovering from losing her best friend Barbara, or Barb, to the Upside Down. While she and Jonathan were getting close as friends last season, Nancy is still dating long-time boyfriend Steve. Let’s not forget that Steve indirectly got Barb kidnapped. Also, he is willing to drop down a whole grade level just so he can stay with Nancy for her last year of high school. Romantic? Nope! Red flags, people. Red flags everywhere!
Joyce is now dating old high school mate Bob, who works at RadioShack. What’s RadioShack? Just kidding, it wasn’t that long ago. So far this is all we know about Bob, so hopefully we get to see more of his character and how their relationship sparked later.
Will is the character who is suffering the most. Throughout the episode, he starts getting flashbacks and nightmares of the Upside Down, dealing with the PTSD of last year. Every time he has an episode, he visits Dr. Owens, a backstabbing doctor who actually works for the lab in Hawkins where El was held captive. Thanks a lot, Dr. Owens.
New character Maxine, or Max, moves to Hawkins and has caught the attention of the boys when she beat all their high scores at the arcade. She hates being called Maxine, wears flannels and blue jeans with sneakers, and rides a skateboard around. Talk about a tomboy character! No doubt the boys are going to team up with her.
At the end of the episode, Jim Hopper is seen driving through the woods to a small cabin, and knocking rhythmically on the door. He sits down at the table to have dinner and — at long last — El appears eating dinner with him, now having curly hair. It’s not surprising that Jim would take El in considering he wants the town to go back to normal and will protect her at all costs. But it’s only a matter of time until El becomes a rebellious preteen and steps out to find her friends.
Chapter Two: Trick or Treat, Freak
Flashback to when El sacrificed herself, we all assumed that she died or was just simply going to stay in the Upside Down because the writers needed more leg room for season two. When she wakes up, she wanders around the Upside Down for a bit until she finds an opening to the wall. Back in season one, Joyce finds this opening in the wall when she tries contacting Will with her Christmas lights. What Joyce didn’t know was that things can go through this plasma looking wall. El plunges herself through and makes it out without getting caught by authorities. She walks back to Mike’s home where police are doing an investigation, and she almost gets caught until she hides under a fallen tree. Since this is just the scene before the intro, it was cut short, but there has to be an explanation as to why Jim decided to take her in.
Halloween is here, and even though the boys dressed up as the Ghostbuster members, no one else in the school dressed, making them the standouts of the school. Not to mention their moms taking lots of pictures of them; embarrassing!
Mike and Nancy are both grieving over their lost friends. Mike is constantly hearing El’s voice, as if she were calling him, while Nancy is seeing people as Barb, feeling guilty that she let this happen.
In season one we see that Nancy and Barb were at Steve’s house with a few other boys, doing teenage things like underage drinking and creating havoc in the house. Since Nancy was too busy being with Steve and not being a good friend, Barb was outside by herself ready to go home. The Demogorgon takes Barb and she is never seen again. Now Nancy wants to confess to Barb’s parents about the night, but Steve pressures her not to. Red flag, Nancy! Leave now!
On a side note, the crops of Hawkins are dying mysteriously, and Jim has the slightest idea of what could be happening. It’s possible that when El went through the hole to the real world, the opening could have also let something through, and maybe Will’s nightmares are actually visions of what is coming over Hawkins. Or it could just be the cold weather, as Jim puts it.
Nancy and Steve go to a Halloween party where Nancy gets drunk and realizes that she doesn’t love Steve. She claims he tried to pretend like Barb never went missing, and Steve ends up leaving the party in tears when he heard that Nancy doesn’t love him. Nancy is then picked up by Jonathan who takes her home and makes sure she gets to bed safely. Can they get together already?
While El is waiting for Jim to come home so they can celebrate Halloween together, she uses the TV to contact Mike secretly. She changes the channel so it would match the same one on Mike’s walkie-talkie. Mike still has hope that El is out there, but he only confessed this to Will so he doesn’t feel like he is the only one going crazy.
At the end of the night, Dustin goes home, but he checks his trash can because he hears a loud noise. When he opens the can, end credits roll. Oh, cliffhangers! Since it is a cliffhanger, it could be of some importance. Maybe it’s a creature from the Upside Down? More to come.
Chapter Three: The Pollywog
Dustin takes in the mysterious creature and puts him in a glass case. He has yet to know what it is, but for now, he names him d’Artagnan and keeps him protected from the others.
The show cuts to the past where El is surviving out in the woods by herself. She sees Jim putting Eggos in the box, as seen in the season finale, and she follows him to his car where they make plans to stay isolated from Hawkins. Because Jim wants the town in peace again, he lays three ground rules for El: the curtains must be drawn at all times, she only opens the door for him, and she is not to go outside alone, especially in daylight.
Back in the present, El feels betrayed by Jim because he says that she will be able to see Mike soon. When he doesn’t give a definite answer, she screams “Friends don’t lie!” El then decides to break all three ground rules when Jim leaves to go to work.
Nancy, now sober, confronts Steve about the night before, saying how she didn’t mean what she said. Typical, typical, typical. Steve, however, does not give into her and goes back to his previous basketball game, leaving Nancy a little hurt. Next time, don’t confess your underlying hatred while you’re drunk. Nancy goes to be with Jonathan for the day, and they both decide to skip class and call Barb’s mom Martha so Nancy can confess to her. Can I just say the Wheeler parents are some of the most oblivious parents I know? Geez, keep an eye on your kids! They’re out here doing things you’re not even concerned about!
Going back to the group of boys, and now girl since Max joined, Dustin shows them d’Artagnan, or Dart. Will immediately makes a connection to the slug he coughed up back in season one to Dart, but before he could elaborate more, Dart escapes into the school. The group separates, but Mike and Max find each other and begin to argue. Mike is the only one of the four who doesn’t approve of Max, finding her annoying and not seeing the point of adding another person to the group. El, who eventually finds her way to the school, sees Mike and Max talking in the distance, and uses her powers so Max falls off her skateboard.
When Will finds Dart, he has an episode about the Upside Down and the black smoke that covers all of Hawkins. He remembers back to when he talked to Bob about facing fears and standing his ground, but when he does that, the smoke overtakes him, and end credits roll.
Chapter Four: Will the Wise
This episode so far has been the most heart wrenching for me. It starts off with Joyce ex machina appearing in the field with Will and the others, trying to wake up her son from his trance. Will doesn’t wake up until he is shaken physically. He’s in the deepest case of PTSD, and he’s only in the eighth grade. Poor kid.
When El returns home, a livid Jim faces her and grounds her from leaving the house and eating Eggos. Betrayed and emotional, El flings items across the room at Jim, slamming her door dramatically like a little kid who didn’t get their way. Hey, we’ve all been there, and El really wanted to see Mike, so it’s understandable why El acts the way she does.
In the meantime, Will goes home, and he confesses to Joyce that he’s not okay, fearing for his life more than ever now. The next day when Joyce takes his temperature, he is colder than the normal body temperature. She runs him a bath, but Will refuses to enter it, stating “He likes it cold.” This is new behavior, and it could be that the PSTD is affecting him, or the shadow monster is in control of Will now.
El begins cleaning up the mess she made in the cabin by relying on her powers. While she’s sweeping, she discovers a secret room with boxes of what we assume is Jim’s family’s belongings. She uncovers the box labeled “Hawkins Lab.” Dun, dun dun! She opens it up and finds a file labeled “Ives, Terry.” She reads about it and realizes that Terry is her mother. Poor El begins to cry and shriek in grief of her mother when she visits her with her psychokinesis. We don’t know exactly what happened to her yet, but it’s safe to assume she’s far gone.
Joyce calls in Jim to help Will communicate his “visions.” When words don’t work, Will frantically draws on many sheets of paper to display what he sees. Joyce puts all the drawings together and comes to this conclusion that the bigger picture is roots of some sort. This prompts Jim to leave abruptly to go to the infected farms and dig. My theory is that these roots are the connection to the Upside Down. When Jim finally digs deep enough, he jumps through the hole and finds himself in a different world.
Dustin arrives home to deal with Dart when he discovers that Dart is now twice as big and has killed his family cat. Mike thinks he has a connection with the shadow monster, but no one is aware that Dustin has Dart. If he is the slug Will coughed up last year, I don’t see a correlation between him and the shadow monster.
Chapter Five: Dig Dug
Jim finds himself alone in the vines of the Upside Down and doesn’t know how to fight them or how to get back to his world. He later gets tangled in all the slimy creatures of the Upside Down with no one to save him.
Nancy and Jonathan had come back from their adventure in the Hawkins Lab. After being threatened by Dr. Owens about exposing the Upside Down, the pair find Murray, a journalist who’s been trying to convince everyone about the Upside Down to get some advice. While their evidence of a tape recording of Owens is sustainable, they all decided to water down the story for it to be more believable.
I have to give major brownie points to Bob after this episode. After Will claims a vision of Jim in the vines helpless, Joyce has Bob find the exact area where Jim was held captive. Bob did all of this without pushing Joyce to reveal what is actually going on, and while Bob is still left in the wind, he sticks by Joyce through the whole thing. Such support!
El escapes Jim’s cabin in order to find her mom after coming to the conclusion that she is still alive. She finds the Ives house and meets Becky, most likely Terry’s sister. Terry, however, is seen rocking in a rocking chair, repeating the words “Breathe. Sunflower. Rainbow. Three to the right, four to the left. Four fifty.” When El tries communicating with her again, Terry’s past and the abduction of El, real name Jane, is shown. Terry senses El’s presence, but she cannot wake up from her everlasting dream loop of El’s abduction from the Hawkins Lab. Let me just say that Terry is one brave mother. After El’s birth, she was taken away, and Terry stormed into the lab and shot multiple people in order to get her daughter back. Mother’s instinct is definitely strong.
When Joyce and Bob find Jim’s location, they jump down to free him from the Upside Down. Followed by the Hawkins Lab scientists, they escape and a scientist is destroying the creatures with a torch blower. Right when this happens, Will starts to have a seizure on the ground while everyone stares. First off, someone should help this boy. Second, it’s revealed that the connection with Will and the Upside Down is strong to the point that Will is physically affected when the Upside Down is.
Chapter Six: The Spy
“What is wrong with my boy?” Joyce shouts at all the doctors who are trying to save Will. After yet another episode of the shadow monster, Will is taken in along with Jim to receive treatment. Treatment isn’t exactly specified to Joyce and Bob, but the audience knows that the scientists want to burn the Upside Down to end all suffering and mistakes. Because Will has a physical connection with the Upside Down, burning it down could possibly kill him. But, sad as it is, morals and ethics sometimes won’t stop scientists.
The long-awaited Jonathan and Nancy scene has arrived! After spending the night with Murray, Jonathan waits outside Nancy’s door where they share an overdue kiss. We’re not sure if this confirms them being together, but the possibilities are endless and hopeful.
After Jim is cleansed from the Upside Down, he retreats to his truck to talk to El through a walkie-talkie. He begins to cry and apologize for being gone for so long. He wants to protect her and keep her safe. Jim sees El as his child, and this scene was so touching I actually almost cried. It’s a shame El wasn’t there to hear his apology.
Going back to Dustin and his Dart problem, he teams up with Steve, Lucas, and Max in order to destroy Dart. As the group gets the ambush ready, Max confessed to Lucas about her life and how her stepbrother takes his anger out on her. This is a big stepping stone for Max considering she mirrors her stepbrother’s anger and pushes the boys away emotionally. When loud roars are heard of Dart, Steve uses himself as bait to catch him. Before realizing, a duplicate of Dart appears and attacks the group. No damage is done because the Darts left, but the reasoning for their leaving could be the arrival of the shadow monster.
Will’s premonitions lead to seeing the scientists in the Upside Down looking around for the shadow monster. They are attacked and killed, and the last scene the audience sees is the shadow monster emerging from the Upside Down to the real world.
Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister
This El centric episode features the reunion of Kali and El after years of not seeing each other. In Terry’s dream, Terry tries to save El from the scientists in the lab. Kali and El are both in that room, and that is how El was able to find Kali. El explains to Kali that her mother sent her here, but she didn’t know the reasoning. Kali takes El under her wing and shows her her way of life.
Now, you’d think this is perfect considering they both have psychic abilities. That’s where the episode takes a dark turn. Kali has been hanging with a gang of thugs for the past years, and they all go in murdering sprees for people who made their lives awful. Kali uses El’s ability to see people without physically being there to find the doctor who gave Terry electric shock therapy and made her go crazy.
When the doctor is cornered by the gang, El shows mercy to him by sparing his life before escaping from the police that found them. When the pursuit continues, El decides to abandon Kali and the group to go back home to Hawkins. El believes it’s her destiny to save her friends, even if she can’t be saved herself. We got to see El mature and make decisions on her own; this is probably the best character development I’ve seen in the season.
Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer
Oh no! Bob the Brain is dead! And sadly, this isn’t Supernatural where characters die and come back to life frequently. When the Demogorgon come to the surface and attack the doctors and scientists, Joyce and the group seek refuge in one of the rooms until they can flee. The only problem is the building is on lockdown, meaning no one can get in and no one leaves. Bob is the only one who knows how to disable it, so he runs towards the control panels and unlocks everything. Unfortunately, because of a poorly timed broom drop, the Demogorgon rip Bob to shreds while Joyce watches and shrieks, horrified.
The group is now whole again in the Byers house while they try to contain Will and get him to talk. Will is the only one who knows how to defeat the shadow monster, but he can only speak in Morse code. The gang tries to get him to communicate as they retell old memories of his life while “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the Clash is playing. Eventually, Will spells out the words “Close gate,” and before he can continue, the phone rings.
Will can see where the shadow monster is, but in return, the shadow monster can locate him as well. Because of the phone ring, the Demogorgon race to the Byers house to attack.
Fortunately for the gang, an El ex machina is used and she destroys the one Demogorgon that was near the house. Finally, after eight episodes, El is reunited with everyone, especially Mike.
Chapter Nine: The Gate
This finale will have you on the edge of your seat. With so many events going on, it was hard to keep up with all of them.
The plan is decided that in order for the shadow monster to leave, Will has to be in a hot environment so the shadow monster could escape the body. Jonathan, Nancy, and Joyce take Will up to Jim’s cabin and turn on all heaters so step one can be completed.
The gate is still open from the Upside Down and Demogorgon are also on the loose. The only one who can close it is El, so she and Jim head to the lab and down the hole to close it.
That leaves Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Max, and Steve alone in the Byers house with nothing to do but spectate. Not wanting to be bench players, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Max develop a plan to burn the vines of the Upside Down to help slow down the Demogorgon, much to Steve’s disapproval. Regardless, the team stows away off to the field and goes down under to start the fire.
Will suffers as the heat is turned up, writhing and his neck going black from the shadow monster. The shadow monster finally leaves, and Will survives, rejoicing with his mom and brother.
After a few mishaps of the plan, Mike and the others successfully burn the vines of the Upside Down and escape without harm, waiting on El to finalize the plan.
El channels all her anger to close the gate of the Upside Down, saving Hawkins and all of her friends from peril. She is able to prove to herself that regardless of her being a freak, she did well.
A month time skip happens, and Mike, Lucas, Dustin, Will, and Max are all getting ready for the Hawkins Middle School Snow Ball Dance. Everyone dances and has a good time while Joyce and Jim are outside, sharing a friendship moment and a cigarette. El walks through the door and finds Mike, more than overjoyed to be reunited with him.
If you were expecting for it to just end like that, well then you clearly didn’t watch the first season. The season ended on yet another cliffhanger. The last scene was a showing of the Upside Down with the shadow monster bigger than ever. Season three, anyone?
The season did more than entertain me; it made me feel as if I were in Hawkins experiencing it all. The music and pop culture references were perfectly timed that it kept me engaged, such as playing “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper at the school dance. The plot was strong, although I feel that Kali’s character was not explored as much as I anticipated. Maybe in season three they’ll reveal other characters that are like El.
There were times where I found it funny how dependent our society is on technology. A simple phone call or a text message would have easily saved some miscommunication in some areas. An example is when Jim got stuck in the Upside Down. A text to Joyce giving his location would have saved so many problems, but on the other hand, Bob needed to find Jim’s location on his own so it could eventually lead to Bob’s death scene.
I had noticed this throughout the season, but the whole town seemed super oblivious that the world was going to end, especially all the children’s parents. The Wheelers could not care less where their kids went off, and Mrs. Henderson was so preoccupied with her cat that she let Dustin sneak in a Demogorgon! What kind of parents are these? It makes sense plot-wise but reality-wise, not so much.
The show has been renewed for a third season, but given that the child actors are busy with other jobs, the season might not be released until 2019.