January 28, 2023

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Stranger Things 2: A Theory For What It Will Include

Stranger Things was an absolute joy to watch. So much that it was almost crushing to realize when it was over that Stranger Things 2 hasn't even been picked up by Netflix. Although when even the CEO of Netflix says it would be dumb not to do a second season, I think we'll eventually see a second season. But what will the second season bring? The Duffer brothers have already started dropping some hints about what season 2 will bring us, but of course they aren't going to tell us the really good stuff. While I eagerly, albeit impatiently, await what twists and turns and scares they'll bring us, I also started thinking about what direction they may head. This started to shape into a theory that could be amazing to see.

Spoiler Warning: If you haven’t watched Stranger Things yet, stop reading this.  Also, what’s wrong with you?

Stranger Things was an absolute joy to watch.  So much that it was almost crushing to realize when it was over that Stranger Things 2 hasn’t even been picked up by Netflix.  Although when even the CEO of Netflix says it would be dumb not to do a second season, I think we’ll eventually see a second season.

But what will the second season bring?  The Duffer brothers have already started dropping some hints about what season 2 will bring us, but of course they aren’t going to tell us the really good stuff.  While I eagerly, albeit impatiently, await what twists and turns and scares they’ll bring us, I also started thinking about what direction they may head.  This started to shape into a theory that could be amazing to see.

To understand where I’m coming from, you have to see all the parallels between Stranger Things and E.T.  There are a number of blatant call-outs or subtle nods to E.T. in the movie: the dress and wig Eleven wears, the bike chase, the D&D game at the beginning, the stilted manner Eleven speaks, Eleven’s drawing in her room, when Eleven explored the house while everyone was gone, I could go on for a while.

But beyond all those references, there’s also the themes of E.T. that were separated from the original content and transformed into the final product.  E.T. started as a scary movie, then become a more optimistic one as we learned more about the alien.  Stranger Things kept those two aspects separate, with a friendly alien (Eleven) and a not-so-friendly alien (the monster).  Outer space was substituted with a parallel dimension, and the quest to get the alien home was flipped with a quest to bring a human back.  The power of friendship, the impact of single moms, scary and foreboding government organizations, there’s a ton of E.T. parallels that either follow the movie or directly oppose it.  This is not to say that Stranger Things is a copy of E.T.  Instead, I think they tapped into some of those core emotions and flipped them upside down (heh) for the Netflix series.

And let’s remember that Stranger Things takes place in 1983.  E.T. was the top grossing movie of 1982.  It wasn’t just the top grossing movie in the US–it made more than twice what the second-grossing film made (that was Tootsie, to save you the trouble of looking it up).  Beyond just a movie, it was a cultural phenomenon with songs and books and a host of other appearances.  Given that these boys play Dungeons & Dragons and love science fiction (there’s a movie poster for The Thing in Mike’s basement, they call each other “Lando” when they think someone is a traitor), there is no way these boys didn’t see E.T.  And yet it never comes up.  That omission is telling.

So if a show set in 1983 can include all of these literal and thematic elements from the top grossing film of 1982, is it possible that Stranger Things 2, which will probably take place in 1984 since the series ends at Christmas, will include literal and thematic elements from the top grossing film of 1983?  Well, that depends on what the top grossing film of 1983 was, wouldn’t it?  That movie:

BAM!
BAM!

Yeah, let that sink in for a second.  Think of all the themes that could be pulled from Return of the Jedi and reshaped into something stranger by the Duffer brothers:

  • Resolving a conflict between a child with special powers and their father.  Luke and Vader certainly reached a resolution–can Eleven and Dr. Brenner do the same?
  • A love triangle is settled when new information reveals that one of the potential pairings isn’t going to work out.  Luke and Leia were siblings, freeing the path for Han and Leia.  Will Nancy end up staying with Steve or does Jonathan have a shot?
  • The hero is tempted to use their powers for hate when their friends are threatened.  Eleven is as ripe for emotional manipulation as Luke was if there was an intelligent evil instead of just an animal to fight.
  • A key battle takes place on a strange world and is only successful with the help of strange native creatures.  Jedi had Ewoks–does the Upside Down have their equivalent?  Remember the destroyed egg that Hopper saw in the Upside Down?  Maybe that’s what the Monster preys on at home–and they’re pissed!
  • Key people have been put in place for a bigger plan at the start.  In Jedi, an intricate plan to rescue Han opens the movie.  Stranger Things ended with Hopper being mysteriously summoned by the government officials, then leaving food for Eleven in the woods.  Is she living rough or is she forced to stay in the Upside Down, emerging only for supplies?  Has she been put there on purpose to watch for something bigger?

So many possibilities.  And as all Star Wars fans know, the original title of the third film was Revenge of the Jedi.  It was changed because revenge was a very un-Jedi-like emotion but you can still find posters and such with the original title.  Even the Duffer brothers have said that the second season will include justice for Barb.  Justice…or revenge?

This is based on nothing but hopes, but it would be pretty neat.  The Duffer brothers have already discussed how the second season will be weirder and they mention using 1984 as cinematic influences.  To me that seems odd because of how the 1983 season drew on 1982 movies, so maybe it’s a massive head fake or it might be totally legit.  I found their mention of Temple of Doom especially intriguing.  Given all the plot points around food in season 1, I could see the dinner scene from Temple of Doom having a Stranger Things remake.  Maybe when the boys visit Eleven and find out what she’s been eating in between Hopper drops?

It’ll be a long time before we get any answers but I cannot wait to find out what’s in store for Stranger Things 2.

Is it done yet?

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