Stranger Things is one of the best Netflix TV shows, and it took the internet by storm in 2016 with an ’80s pastiche that lends itself well to Atari-style video games and pretty awesome action figures. The new season is scheduled to premiere October 27, and the wait between seasons has given fan theories plenty of time to ferment. The first season left a few mysteries open, and the show’s creators have only stoked the flames, tossing out trailers full of ominous imagery and giving cryptic answers in interviews. Here are some of the more interesting Stranger Things theories for the new season.
Want to know more about the upcoming season of Stranger Things? Immerse yourself in our complete guide to everything we know so far.
What is the monster from the trailers?
Showrunners Matt and Ross Duffer have emphasized that season 2 will be “bigger” than the first, and the most obvious symbol of that is the new creature threatening Hawkins, Indiana. Multiple trailers and a poster for season 2 depict a massive, multi-limbed monster looming in the distance. Based on its silhouette, it looks like what would emerge if a xenomorph impregnated a giant spider, making it the sum of all mankind’s fears.
If the recent Comic-Con trailer is any indication, the creature seems to exist in the Upside Down — the nightmarish dimension where Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) spent most of season 1 — and has a connection to Will, calling his name and turning to look at him.
Stranger Things frequently draws on popular works of fantasy and sci-fi for inspiration, and the show’s references to Dungeons & Dragons are important. An early scene of the young protagonists playing D&D foreshadowed later events, with the boys fighting Demogorgon and Will failing to cast fireball and being defeated. The monster then took Will away to the Upside Down. Will’s friends later use concepts from D&D — like varying planes of existence — to puzzle out the nature of the Upside Down and the creature that kidnapped Will.
Given the importance of D&D in the narrative (you know D&D is making a comeback, right?) many think the campaign shown in the season 1 finale offers a hint at the conflict in season 2, with the party battling a thessalhydra, a monster with eight heads. Since the unnamed monster from season 2 has multiple limbs, many have taken to calling it a thessalhydra, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the protagonists do the same thing.
It’s important to note that, while the boys use D&D to make sense of the thing they encounter, the analogies don’t line up perfectly. The boys refer to the creature from season 1 as “the Demogorgon,” despite it not particularly resembling the demon prince in form or behavior. It was clearly a monster, however; it was even a nightmare behind the scenes. Given the creature’s limbs, the spider goddess Lolth — who happens to dwell in an abyssal plane — is probably a better comparison.
The creature has only been shown briefly, and always obscured, so it is hard to judge its precise nature. Is it the master of the Demogorgon, who attaches victims to tubes that filled them with larvae? Perhaps it’s some sort of cosmic god, ruling over the Upside Down?
Does it even exist? Speaking to TV Guide, actor Finn Wolfhard referred to it as “the Shadow monster,” which calls into question whether it even has a physical form, or if it is a nebulous entity, closer to Yog-Sothoth than Cthulhu.
What is the Upside Down, really?
The shadowy dimension known as the Upside Down is one of the show’s more intriguing mysteries. It resembles the show’s main setting, the town of Hawkins, except that all the buildings are derelict, and overrun with strange growths. While trapped in the Upside Down, Will Byers is able to occasionally communicate with people in the normal world, which suggest the two dimensions are separated by some permeable barrier.
The show doesn’t explain what the Upside Down is, or where it came from. Has it always existed alongside our world? Does it mirror the entirety of our universe or just the area around Hawkins? The trailers for season 2 suggest that the Upside Down will play an even greater role, but for now, we must rely on fan theories.
Some believe the Upside Down exists in the mind of Eleven, the young girl with psychic abilities. This ties into the theory that the Demogorgon is a figment of her imagination, given form by her powers.
Another popular theory holds that the Upside Down is not a different world at all, but the future. The Cold War looms in the background of Stranger Things, as the government’s experiments on psychics are originally designed as a new tool against the Soviets. Adherents of this theory think that the United States and Soviet Union go to war at some point in the Stranger Things’ timeline, leaving the planet a dark husk populated by monsters. This seems unlikely — the fact that Joyce Byers can sense Will’s presence implies more of a parallel dimension scenario — but it is a fun theory.
Was Hopper’s daughter an experiment?
Chief Hopper (David Harbour, soon to play Hellboy in a reboot we’re totally drooling for) was one of season 1’s most popular characters, and it’s no surprise why: He’s a no-nonsense cop who plays by his own rules and gets results. He even has a tragic backstory! Before he developed a sorrowful beard and beer belly, Hopper had a wife and a daughter. The latter, Sarah, developed a mysterious illness and eventually died … or did she?
The first time Hopper notices something is wrong with his daughter, she begins to hyperventilate, looking around frantically. While it could just be an ordinary panic attack, there exists the possibility that Sarah Hopper was a psychic, like Eleven, and that she may have gazed into the Upside Down.
While it’s fair to argue that there isn’t much evidence that Sarah’s death was anything but an ordinary medical condition, Harbour has hinted that there may be more to it. In an Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit, someone asked Harbour what killed Hopper’s daughter. His response was that it is “a secret” which the show may elaborate on in season 2. Given how the government was able to abduct Eleven as a child and fake Will Byers’ death, it isn’t hard to imagine that Hopper’s daughter, if she was psychic, was spirited away to a research lab.
Could Barb be important?
Has any character on television become so loved despite doing so little as Barb from Stranger Things? Nancy’s friend (and one of the monster’s first victims), Barb became an internet sensation, despite dying early. Oddly, while everyone is overjoyed to get Will Byers’ home, nobody but Nancy seems upset about Barb’s disappearance. Barb fans have been pushing for her to get justice, and many even suspect that Barb never truly died, but is merely waiting to return, like King Arthur or Gendry from Game of Thrones. Matt Duffer told IGN that he “can’t see it happening” in regard to Barb returning to the show, but he did promise some form of justice in season 2.
What role will Barb’s legacy play in season 2? Hopefully none! What the cult of Barb doesn’t want to tell you is that she was just a minor character, and an obnoxious one at that. She had the lifespan of a fruit fly and spent most of it shaming her friend and killing the vibe at high school parties. If anything, Barb’s popularity is a testament to just how far our standards have fallen. In the past, you had to be a Fonzie — or at least a Kramer — to steal the spotlight. Somehow, Barb managed to become a pop culture demigod thanks to her high-waist jeans and an inability to shotgun a beer?
Could Will Byers be the villain?
The end of season 1 left Will Byers in an awkward place. Yes, he was back home among his friends and family after spending days in a nightmare dimension, but he’s also coughing up alien slugs. While it might just be an unfortunate side effect of time spent in the Upside Down — a sort of extra-dimensional botfly infestation — it could also be a sign of changes to come for the young Byers.
Stranger Things producer Shawn Levy already revealed that Will will be a more prominent character in season 2, and Schnapp told The Hollywood Reporter that he hopes to see the character take a darker turn. While this may be a smokescreen on his part, it isn’t a stretch to think that the creatures from the Upside Down could possess Will. This would be particularly appropriate given how season 2 will pay homage to Ghostbusters, a film in which demonic possession plays a central role. It’s hard to predict how this season will go, but one thing is for certain: If Will Byers wants to be taken seriously as a villain, he may want to ditch the bowl cut for something more sinister.
Shipper’s delight: Are Nancy and Jonathan destined for love?
Viewers may have been a little shocked to see how the first season’s teenage love triangle ended. In the ’80s movies that inspired Stranger Things, heroine Nancy Wheeler would typically would have ended up with dogged nice guy Jonathan Byers. Instead, the season 1 finale showed Nancy and Jonathan remain just friends, the former sticking with misunderstood bad boy/bully Steve Harrington. To be fair, Steve turned things around, ditching his wicked friends to help Nancy and Jonathan fight a monster.
Shippers have never been a group to bow to the impositions of reality, however, and those who are adamant that Jonathan and Nancy should get together may have gotten some positive vibes in a recent trailer. A brief snippet shows Jonathan and Nancy sitting in adjacent beds, Nancy asking, “Don’t you think it’s weird how we only hang out when the world’s about to end?” It could just be an innocent question from a teen to her friend — and some might argue keeping their friendship platonic is one of the more mature moves the show could make — but if you’re an office on the Jonathan/Nancy ship, this might be the best news you’ve gotten in a year.