Where to Now for Stranger Things?

Spoilers for the first two seasons of Stranger Things follow. Read on at your own discretion! Or just watch the series now. Seriously, it’s really good.

It was just last year that Netflix introduced the world to Stranger Things, a science-fiction serial with a fond appreciation for Eighties pop-culture. Clever, scary and heart-warming, the series became one of Netflix’s most popular soon after premiering, spawning merchandise, a soundtrack album and the much-publicised “Justice for Barb” movement. Now, with Season Two having been released, that popularity is set to soar.

While some were apprehensive as to whether or not the second season – or as it refers to itself, Stranger Things 2 – would match the quality of the first, it only takes one binge to put those fears at ease. Once again, the series has been blessed with some stellar performances, a fantastic soundtrack and plenty of nostalgic references; there are also improvements to be had over the previous season, with the scares being creepier and far more unsettling. Yet the greatest difference between the two seasons is the way in which they end.

Unlike the finale of the first season, which left the conflict open-ended, Stranger Things 2 provides a sound conclusion to the series, seeming to tie-up all loose ends. The four boys are happy, with three of them having gained a love-interest; Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) – or Jane, as she’ll probably be known as from now – has been adopted by Chief Hopper (David Harbour) and is making a very gradual transition to mainstream society; and the shadowy spider-monster which inhabited Will (Noah Schnapp) is now safely trapped in the Upside-Down.

It’s not just the kids who get their happy ending, either, with our teenage protagonists also experiencing joy. After much tension is shared between the two, Jonathon (Charlie Heaton) and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) finally reveal their feelings to each other, the exchange hinting that their friendship will develop into a relationship. The aforementioned Barb even gets justice, with the public discovering the truth about her disappearance (sort of), her body being returned to her parents and the laboratory responsible for her death being indefinitely closed.

All of this leads one to wonder about how Stranger Things can evolve from such a satisfying denouement. With the monsters having been destroyed or imprisoned in the Upside-Down, and the human antagonists having no place of employment, the series no longer has any conflict for the heroes to face – well, aside from puberty, but that topic isn’t exactly suited to this genre. (And even if it was, there’s already another Netflix series serving that purpose.) If a third season is to be made of Stranger Things, it needs to find a new way to scare its audience.

Speculation as to what, or who, will be the next Big Bad of Stranger Things has already begun online, with one theory hypothesising that Eleven’s long-lost sister, Kali (Linnea Berthelsen) could become the series’ new villain – she and her gang of outsiders could come to Hawkins to terrorise the ex-employees of Hawkins Lab, or perhaps face-off against Eleven. More positive commentators have offered a different approach, suggesting that Eleven and Kali could form an Avengers-style team to defeat the Upside-Down’s Mind Flayer.

Another hypothesis put forward is that Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) could become possessed by the Mind Flayer, just as Will was in this season. Note in the finale of Stranger Things 2 how Dustin was sprayed with fluid from the vines underneath Hawkins – the same thing happened to Hopper earlier in the season, resulting in him vomiting slugs at Hawkins Lab. In fact, much of this season seemed to be setting-up a bigger role for Dustin, having introduced his mother and providing him with a mentor in the form of Steve Harrington (Joe Keery).

Speaking of whom, Steve is one of the few characters who didn’t get a happy outcome in Stranger Things 2. Having seen how well Nancy connects with Jonathon, Steve’s final scene has him sitting in his BMW, viewing his ex-girlfriend from afar with a forlorn expression on his face. Obviously, this moment is suggesting that Steve still holds feelings for Nancy, expositing further conflict between him and Jonathon. With that said, it is never overtly suggested that Jonathon is properly dating Nancy, so Steve may yet have a chance of winning her back.

One other character to keep an eye on in any future episodes is Billy (Dacre Montgomery). Introduced in this very season as the Bad Boy of Hawkins, Billy’s unhinged behaviour – a consequence of his physically-abusive father, Neil (Will Hargrove) – has been an enormous source of friction throughout, and should only continue to be as time goes on. There’s even an insinuation that he’ll have an affair with Karen Wheeler (Cara Buono), the mother of Nancy and Mike (Finn Wolfhard). That would make for some awkward moments indeed.

Given the popularity of the series, and these newly-introduced conflicts, it seems only inevitable that a third season of Stranger Things will be produced; but now the question arises as to when that will occur. There was a fifteen-month wait for the second season of Stranger Things, and if that waiting period is to become a trend, it may not be until 2019 that we return to Hawkins. What’s more, some of the cast members have other commitments to meet – for instance, David Harbour is in the Hellboy reboot – meaning the interval may be even longer.

Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see what the Duffer Brothers conjure up for Stranger Things 3. This season alone has seen the characters evolve in ways unthought of, having them fall in love, be possessed and combat the demons in their physical lives, which looks set to continue into the future. As for next season’s villain – well, that’s anybody’s guess. Here’s hoping it lives up to the hype.

This article was originally published by The Iris on November 1st, 2017.

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