Stranger Things Season 2 is finally upon us and, if you stocked up a supply Eggos to get you through the last week, you may well be one of the fans who have already binge-watched all nine episodes. If you haven’t, head this way to read our spoiler-free review of the opening episodes – or read along with our spoiler-filled notes on each instalment. Either way, don’t read on because there are spoilers ahead. Yes, this is an official spoiler warning, because with Season 2 released all-at-once by Netflix, Stranger Things’ creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, have been speaking about the Season 2 finale and their plans for Season 3.
Did we mention the spoilers? Read on at your peril.
Stranger Things 2 climaxes with the happiest of teen movie traditions: a high school dance. Specifically, the Winter Ball, as our gang all gather at Hawkins High for dancing and merriment, after days of traumatic, horrifying, creature-filled terror.
It’s an adorable moment, as Will (Noah Schnapp), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) all attempt to take to the dance floor, alongside Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Max (Sadie Sink).
“We always had this ending in mind,” says Matt Duffer, talking to The Hollywood Reporter. “Within less than a week of working on season two, we knew we would end at the Snow Ball. We decided Nancy was going to dance with Dustin. It gave us an endgame. It gave us something to aim toward. You can get lost in the desert of the season. We always had the Snow Ball there, and we always had it written up on the board as something we wanted to get to. Very much like season one, we wanted to give the story a sense of closure. In that sense it feels like its own thing — its own sequel with its own beginning, middle and end.”
But, just as we smile at Nancy and Dustin dancing together, the screen flips into the Upside Down, as we see the Mind Flayer – the name given to the gigantic, legged shadow in the sky by our Dungeons and Dragons players – still looming over Hawkins, waiting to do… something.
“We don’t end it on a totally happy note, do we?” jokes Ross Duffer, also in the interview with THR. “There were discussions about that, but then we went, “Nah, we have to hint at what’s to come.” The hope we wanted people to get out of it is that this thing [is still out there]. They’ve shut the door on the Mind Flayer, but not only is it still there in the Upside Down, it’s very much aware of the kids, and particularly Eleven. It had not encountered her and her powers until that final episode. Now, it knows that she’s out there. We wanted to end on a little bit of an ominous note on that level.”
It still marks a more open-ended cliffhanger than Season 1’s finale, which the Duffers say was intentional.
“Last year, we had a lot of little cliffhangers at the end of the season,” says Matt. “We didn’t want to do that again. We didn’t want to box ourselves in for season three. We wanted to be able to start season three on a very clean slate. It felt totally unnecessary, when we had the Snow Ball. Once we had the Snow Ball, we didn’t know [if we wanted to do] anything else as an ending.”
We learn a lot more about the Demagorgon in Season 2, as we see the other iterations of the monster (including the genuinely scary Demadogs), but the Upside Down remains a relatively unexplained realm, and the Duffers hope to keep it that way for as long as possible.
“It’s a balancing act,” explains Ross. “If you tell too much, it loses a little bit of that mystery. We obviously will shed more light on it moving forward, but we want to do it a little bit at a time. Even at the end, I don’t think we’re going to answer all of those questions, and I don’t think we even necessarily need to. We’re telling this story from the point of view of very human characters. There’s no way they can ever truly fully understand this place. We have our Upside Down document which describes its rules and its mythology in quite a bit of detail, but I think we’re just going to slowly parse that out, and maybe not even fully use all of it. Our favorite thing to do on this show is that these characters, especially the kids, are able to make these leaps about the Mind Flayer and how it operates and what it wants, but they’re just basing this off of games that they’ve played. They don’t really know for sure.”
One thing we do know for sure, though, is that the kids of Stranger Things aren’t getting any younger: from Eleven growing hair and Lucas charming Max to Dustin getting teeth, the cast – and, therefore the characters – are growing up fast. Time jumps for future seasons, then, are something the Duffers are going to have to do to keep up.
“Our kids are aging. We can only write and produce the show so fast,” says Matt. “They’re going to be almost a year older by the time we start shooting season three. It provides certain challenges. You can’t start right after season two ended. It forces you to do a time jump. But what I like is that it makes you evolve the show. It forces the show to evolve and change, because the kids are changing. Even if we wanted it to be static and we wanted to continually recycle the same storyline — and we don’t — we would be unable to, just because the kids are changing. It’s cool, though. The audience is going to be able to watch these kids come of age every year. The closest example is Harry Potter. Watching those kids and actors grow up in front of the camera was, to me, very powerful. I mean, I wasn’t a kid when I experienced that, and I can only imagine if you were a kid and you were their age, it would have been even more powerful. That’s what I’m excited about. It’s a long way of saying that yeah, we’re going to do a time jump.”