This article contains a ton of Stranger Things spoilers.
With Stranger Things season 2 coming to Netflix next year, those who watched the first season are itching to find out what happened to certain characters and where the story will go from here. Some viewers may even be envisioning a path forward for the series based on the hanging threads left dangling in the season one finale.
For people who like to make predictions, here’s a small exploration into the possibilities behind some of the lingering questions. Warning, season one spoilers ahead!
Why did Hopper get into the car with the government officials?
At first glance, Jim Hopper appeared to acquiesce too easily to the suits that showed up at the hospital and suggested he should get in the car. Should he have told them to get lost? Or did they have something specific in mind for him? Clearly, he made a deal with the government spooks to allow him to enter the dimensional breach to rescue Will, but what could be so valuable to the Department of Energy that Hop could provide?
One theory might be that the erstwhile police chief whose skills were massively undervalued despite his problems with alcohol has finally found his purpose. Is it possible he could be operating on the theory that the best way to bring down a secretive bureaucracy is from within? This would imply that the deal he made had something to do with accepting employment or at least agreeing to be complicit in whatever form the project takes moving forward. Why the bad guys would need or want his help remains a mystery.
What was the Department of Energy up to, and where do they go from here?
What’s left for Hopper to be complicit in, though, if that is indeed what’s going on? Although the original DoE project seems to have involved psychically spying on the Soviets, subject 11 is no longer under their control if she’s even alive as some hints indicate she might be. But if her name was Eleven, does that mean that there are other numbered participants that maybe weren’t viable yet? Could they bring different powers to the table, or would “the Upside Down” be a necessary requirement for astrally-projected spying?
It’s also possible that, following the unexpected discovery of the Upside Down and its (sole?) inhabitant, the mission of the government project shifted towards weaponizing the creature. Clearly, they had no hope of manipulating the monster or even capturing it, but it’s a strong possibility the idea was proposed at a briefing at some point. Plus, depending on how big the other dimension is, there could be more predatory shadow beings waiting for a rip between worlds to appear that they could attempt to exploit.
What do the waffles suggest about Eleven’s continued existence?
One of the most brilliantly subtle actions in the Stranger Things finale happens when Hopper delivers frozen waffles to a secret cache in the woods. Not only does this gesture give viewers a glimmer of hope that young Elle might still be alive somewhere, but it also strengthens the argument that Hop has secret knowledge that he’s not sharing — or can’t share because of an agreement with the spooks. The overarching question therefore becomes how Eleven avoided death, if that is indeed the case, and under what circumstances does she now live?
Surely Hop’s offering isn’t merely symbolic! Is he operating magnanimously outside of whatever agreement he has with the government, possibly aiding and abetting their escaped fugitive subject? As for Elle herself, presumably she would reach out to communicate with her friends if she could, but it’s also possible she is remaining hidden to protect them, having achieved a narrow victory in the first battle of an impending war.
Why did Will survive where Barb couldn’t?
Poor Barb. The Stranger Things fans have been abuzz with cries for justice for Barb’s death, and the Duffer brothers have made their reassurances despite closing the door on the possibility of her return. What made her grisly end particularly hard to take was that there wasn’t time for much reaction from her parents or for enough remorse from Nancy, who really left her friend high and dry at the party at which Barb disappeared.
Perhaps it was the scent of blood on Barb’s finger that limited her ability to survive her ordeal in the Upside Down, but fans of the character’s level-headedness might have wished for at least some indication that she went down fighting. As for Will, it could be that his experience playing Dungeons and Dragons gave him the appropriate mindset for skulking about a dangerous wasteland with monsters nearby. And finding his alternate makeshift shelter in the woods probably gave comfort where morale and hope of rescue could mean the difference between life and death.
What does Will’s coughing fit mean for his future?
Will was never the picture of health even before visiting the Upside Down; he always seemed a bit fragile. But the black loogie he hacked up could spell his own doom as well as mortal danger for those around him. Perhaps it was fear that kept him from mentioning his vestigial ailment, but what if the remaining ooze means he is being affected in some way that could become more pronounced?
In other words, has Will been corrupted by the spore-laden air of the other world such that he could transform into a creature such as the one he evaded in season one, or is he merely the vessel for the goop that will follow the drain down into the sewers where it will regrow into a fearsome beast in this dimension, like a lizard’s tail regrowing an entire lizard? Will’s passive reaction could be a result of terrified denial, brainwashed ignorance, or infected duplicity, all of which would be supremely entertaining to explore in season two.
Why did Nancy choose Steve instead of Jonathan?
In a move reminiscent of Pretty in Pink when Andie chose Blane instead of Duckie, Nancy ending up with Steve Harrington is a bit of a head-scratcher. Sure, Steve underwent a redemption of sorts, telling his friends to get lost and cleaning the offensive graffiti from the theater marquis. But Jonathan and Nancy bonded during their investigation of the boogeyman in the woods, and even though the stalkerish photos worked against him, Jonathan did help rescue Nancy from her misguided entry into the Upside Down through the tree.
The Christmas gift of a camera from Nancy is a sweet, thoughtful present, but the fact that Steve was a part of the giving turns it into a gesture of apology and almost pity. Were the writers seeking a moment of realistic imperfection to temper the otherwise happy family reunion? Certainly there were other tainted resolutions, but none quite as bittersweet as Nancy choosing the wrong guy.
There are other open-ended elements of Stranger Things that could feed audience speculation during the hiatus as well. Could the boys, for example, bring their beloved science teacher, Mr. Clarke, into the circle of trust? Might Hopper forge a closer relationship with Joyce Byers? Have we seen the last of Dr. Brenner (the Duffers say no!)? Will the pants-pissing Troy seek revenge now that Elle isn’t around to protect Dustin, Mike, and Lucas?
Without a doubt, there are plenty of storylines that could be explored in Stranger Things season 2, but fans will have to wait to see where things go from here. With the expert writing evident in season 1, it’s almost certain that whatever direction the show takes will be mostly beyond the ability of mere viewers to anticipate. But it’s fun to try.