Stranger Things: What to expect from season 2
This fall sees the highly anticipated return of Stranger Things, and fans are promised a darker and more ambitious sequel to the Duffer Brothers’ supernatural phenomenon. A year after Will Byers is rescued from the Upside Down, everything is seemingly back to normal in Hawkins, Indiana. However, dark forces lurk beneath the surface, threatening once again to challenge the residents of the small town. And so the adventure continues…
As with any wildly successful first season of a television series comes the pressure of replicating that triumph, and Stranger Things is certainly no exception. Although the follow up is said to be larger in scale, fans can take comfort in knowing that the creators have promised a similar atmosphere, tone, pace, and character driven storytelling. All while expanding upon the already rich mythology of the series.
Below we highlight much of what has been revealed so far in eager anticipation of its return. Be advised that this article contains spoilers for season two.
Expanded Season and Release Date
Nine new episodes, one more than the eight-episode first season, will air on October 27th, just ahead of Halloween. Netflix recently released a teaser video featuring episode titles for the upcoming season. Though they are subject to change ahead of airing, the titles are cataloged as follows:
- The Boy Who Came Back to Life
- The Pumpkin Patch
- The Palace
- The Storm
- The Pollywog
- The Secret Cabin
- The Brain
- The Lost Brother
Executive producer and director Shawn Levy had the following to say about a broader and more frightening second season while assuring fans that the heart of the series will remain intact:
“I was just in the edit room with the brothers yesterday, and we’re like, ‘This is definitely darker. I hope everyone’s down with this,’ because the threats to Hawkins and to our characters are bigger, darker, often times scarier,” said Levy. “So people who found season 1 too scary for them, probably you’re going to be more scared by season 2. But again, the best thing I can tell you is that through it all, it’s got the best heart. But it is, cinematically and budgetary, it’s definitely more ambitious.”
The follow up promises to raise the stakes and expand the story in new ways that are sure to be exciting and satisfying for viewers.
“We’ll be doing more than just a rehash of Season 1. We’re coming back with a few new characters, expanding storylines and mythologies, so it’ll feel like the stakes are raised and more is going on and really delivering on the promise and pushing for more,” says executive producer Dan Cohen. “We want a sequel that feels like it’s bigger and badder and darker while answering more of the questions and getting deeper into what’s going on. [The Duffer Brothers] want it to be that great sequel that is satisfying and yet expands the world.”
One of Stranger Things many strengths throughout season one was its compelling characters. Each individual felt authentic and relatable in their own ways, their relationships with one another being predominantly what carried the story, making it feel truly special. The creative forces have made assurances that season two will continue to focus on this aspect of the series above all things.
“As much density of story as our show has, we have to service the characters — and the moments and relationships between characters — above everything. If we stop being character-anchored, and we become pure genre, I think we take the beating heart out of Stranger Things, and we take the thing that people maybe don’t write articles about the most, but I think it’s what they love the most – these characters on screen.” – director and executive producer Shawn Levy
Despite the new season being grander than the first, it will remain grounded by loyally focusing on having engaging characters that viewers can relate to.
“There’s a lot of talk about the move to darker threats and larger cinematic scale, but here’s the thing: Stranger Things works because we root for these kids and we root for these damaged characters that live on the margins,” Levy explained. “No one in the show is like a perfect, popular winner, everyone is struggling with the bit of that feeling of being on the outside looking in, and that’s true of the teenagers, the adults and the kids, and we know that what brought us here is characters that people connect to and feel authentic and that you root for, so season two is every bit as loyal to character first.”
Throughout the first season, each actor was granted the opportunity to delve into their respective characters, and they did so with impeccable skill. Next season gives them the chance to explore their characters even further, as the majority of the cast will be returning. Here’s the list of returning cast and characters, a couple of them having been bestowed with more prominent roles:
Joe Keery (Steve Harrington) and Noah Schnapp (Will Byers) have both been upped to series regulars. Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin Henderson), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair), Natalia Dyer (Nancy Wheeler), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan Byers), Natalia Dyer (Nancy Wheeler), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan), Winona Ryder (Joyce Byers), David Harbour (Jim Hopper), Cara Buono (Karen Wheeler), and Matthew Modine (Dr. Martin Brenner) have all been confirmed to be reprising their roles.
And although her fate was left uncertain at the end of season one, Millie Bobby Brown has also been confirmed to be returning as telekinetic wonder child, Eleven.
Barb will not be returning
One major backlash from season one was the death of fan-favorite character Barb Holland, and many remain hopeful that the creators will find a way to bring her back. Unfortunately those fans they are likely to be disappointed, as she will not be returning.
“I’ve had a lot of people, some huge celebrities, come up to me at these awards shows, like, ‘So, between us, Barb’s coming back, right?’ I’m like ‘No, you saw, she had like a creature, slug, worm, snake, coming out of her mouth. I don’t know that there’s a bounce back from that. So no, we are not going to cravenly service the wish list of fans. We’re going to service the Duffer instincts and what they feel is the right story to tell.” – Shawn Levy
That being said, they can rest assured that she has not been forgotten and that there will be justice for Barb.
“The question and the feelings that Nancy has that no one ever cares about her friend Barb, are very much present in the beginning of the season.” – actor David Harbour (sheriff Hopper)
In addition to the returning ensemble cast, season two will introduce several new characters. THR revealed the following details about the newcomers:
- Max: Described as “a tough and confident girl whose appearance, behavior and pursuits seem more typical of boys than of girls in this era.” Portrayed by: Sadie Sink (American Odyssey, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Americans)
- Billy: Described as “Max’s hyper-confident, and edgy older step-brother… But lurking under his apparent charisma, is a violent and unpredictable nature.” Portrayed by: Dacre Montgomery (Power Rangers)
- Roman: Described as “an emotionally damaged, magnetic young woman who suffered a great loss as a child. Although she does not live in Hawkins, she is mysteriously connected to the supernatural events at the lab.” Portrayed by: Linnea Berthelsen (The Desert)
- Bob Newby: Described as “a kind-hearted former nerd who went to highschool with Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) and now manages the local Hawkins RadioShack.” Portrayed by: Sean Astin (The Goonies, Lord of the Rings)
- Dr Owens: Described as “a high-ranking member within the Department of Energy on a ‘clean-up’ assignment, tasked with containing the events of last year.” Portrayed by: Paul Reiser (Aliens, Red Oaks)
- Murray Bauman: Described as “a disgraced journalist turned conspiracy theorist.” Portrayed by: Brett Gelman (The Other Guys, 30 Minutes or Less)
Though fans are often skeptical when a series introduces a number of new characters, the creators assert that their inclusion will be handled in a way that compliments the existing ones.
“There’s definitely a handful of really compelling new characters this season, but absolutely servicing the core group first and foremost,” executive producer Shawn Levy told THR. “Like the show itself, it’s multigenerational new characters and really, really intriguing ones.”
Given how well they’ve fared at writing characters in the past, the new personas are likely to be captivating and will surely make excellent adjuncts to the story.
As mentioned above, the story will pick up a year after the events of season one. The characters have attempted to find some semblance of normalcy, though the aftereffects of what they’ve been through is evident and a larger threat looms on the horizon. The official synopsis for season two reads as follows:
It’s 1984 and the citizens of Hawkins, Indiana are still reeling from the horrors of the Demogorgon and the secrets of Hawkins Lab. Will Byers has been rescued from the Upside Down but a bigger, sinister entity still threatens those who survived.
Co-creator Matt Duffer suggested that some of the side effects are supernatural in nature, perhaps indicating that there is even more going on with young Will than one might presume.
“They’re just trying to sweep everything under a rug and pretend everything is fine and back to normal, and it’s not,” says Matt Duffer.“People have been affected psychologically, and then there are some potentially supernatural after-effects.”
Whatever the case may be, viewers can expect that the occurrences of season one have had a profound affect on our beloved characters, and we’ll find them changed in ways that are sure to be compelling.
Heavier focus on Will Byers
Although the disappearance of Will Byers was the catalyst of Stranger Things, he spent much of the first season off screen trapped within the Upside Down. Don’t expect Will to be so sparsely used in the upcoming season, as he’ll be featured much more prominently. We’ll find that Will is haunted by his ordeal and feeling like an outsider, attempting to hold back what he’s experiencing in an effort to feel normal.
“He seems to be seeing images from the Upside Down – the question is whether they’re real or not,” Matt Duffer revealed. “So it seems like he’s having some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Meanwhile, Joyce will do her best to provide stability for her son as he’s forced to question the very fabric of reality.
Eleven’s backstory will be explored
Though we know for certain that Eleven will be returning, not much indication has been given as to how she’ll be brought back into the fold, so we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out. What we do know is that her backstory will be explored in depth.
“I want people to know that she’s back and she’s a major part of the season and not know how or why,” says co-creator Matt Duffer. “We do get into her story and backstory. We learn about where she came from and how she came into the world and the program that resulted in her.”
This news will surely come as a relief to viewers, and conceivably even brings answers as to what happened to subjects 01-10. Perhaps we’ll also be granted a reunion between Eleven and her biological mother, Terry Ives.
The Upside Down will be more prominently featured
Viewers got several glimpses of the Upside Down throughout the first season, but it has yet to truly be explored. We can expect that season two will pull back the veil even further, delving into what lurks within and the mysteries surrounding it.
“We kinda just peeled back the curtain and revealed a tiny bit of the Upside Down,” says Matt. “So we definitely want to explore a little bit more. There’s a lot we don’t know about the Upside Down at the end of season 1.” Adds Ross: “We obviously have this gate to another dimension, which is still very much open in the town of Hawkins. And a lot of questions there in terms of, if the Monster is dead, was it a singular monster? What else could be out there? We really don’t go in there much until they go in to find Will at the end. So we’ve opened up this doorway, and to us it’s exciting to talk about, like, what else is behind there? There’s a lot more mystery there to be solved.” – The Duffer Brothers
Nostalgia, nostalgia, and more nostalgia
There’s no denying that nostalgia has played a major role in Stranger Things. It’s even plausible that the series wouldn’t have existed without it, as it lovingly pays tribute to its many influences, and season two will certainly be no exception. As evidence, check out the retro video game themed recap of season one above.
Furthermore, the official trailer for the new season is brilliantly set to Michael Jackson’s iconic horror-themed hit “Thriller”, which undeniably had an impact on many children of the 80s. The inclusion of Vincent Price’s voiceover combined with ominous visuals bring the trailer to life in the most delightful of ways.
The Duffer brothers shaped the first season as one would a movie, and they’ve have indicated that they’re treating the follow up as a sequel, using successes such as Temple of Doom, Aliens, and Terminator 2 as inspiration. Two out of three of those titles having been directed by James Cameron, they’ve cited him as an influence and hope to capture a similar allure with the new installment.
“I know movie sequels get a lot of s—, but the ones we look up to aspire to pivot and do something different,” explains Matt Duffer. “There’s Temple of Doom, Aliens, Terminator 2. I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”
To further drive this point home, the official Stranger Things twitter account has recently shared a series of retro themed posters honoring 80s films such as Stand By Me, The Running Man, Firestarter, and A Nightmare On Elm Street. Love it or hate it, nostalgia will continue to play a crucial part in the series.
Though not officially confirmed by Netflix, the creative team recently hinted that there’s already plans for a third season, and possibly a fourth. The intention is to complete the story in a cohesive manner without overstaying its welcome.
“I want it to have a really finite ending. I don’t want it to be one of those shows that runs out of gas and they lose it because they’re losing interest. You wanna end when you’re on top.” – Matt Duffer
Though the sequel promises to be wildly different, it seems as if it will be every bit as enthralling, heartfelt, complex, satisfying, and undoubtedly as entertaining as the original. What are your hopes and expectations for season two? Sound off in the comments section below.
Stranger Things creeps it’s way back onto Netflix for its second season on October 27th.
Image credits: Netflix