This week Netflix granted 100 million wishes by finally announcing a second season of its summer water-cooler hit Stranger Things. While the official announcement’s inexplicable delay was easily as shady and mysterious as anything the Department of Energy officials did in the show, it was hard not to feel outright joy at the promised return of Mikey, Dustin, Winona Ryder’s wig, Steve, the Demogorgon, and (fingers crossed!) Eleven herself. Next year we’ll have nine more episodes of TV’s spookiest nostalgia-palooza to look forward to, and the excitement is enough to set a ham radio on fire!
To help deal with our unbridled enthusiasm for Season 2, we spoke with Stranger Things exec producer Dan Cohen about the renewal and what to expect next year. For obvious reasons, he couldn’t divulge too many specifics about what’s in store for Hawkins, Ind., but his personal enthusiasm should bring comfort to anyone nervous about the prospect of a bad sequel.
“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 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.”
Cohen compares Season 2 to great second films of the era, such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Aliens, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. But while the sequels of James Cameron will be a huge homage target in Season 2, don’t think Stranger Things is finished paying homage to the things that inspired Season 1. “You’re still going to feel the Spielberg, Carpenter, Stephen King references given that so many of these characters they inspired are still in the story.”
For those of us who’d fallen in love with the show immediately upon its release, it felt nothing short of maddening that Netflix didn’t announce a renewal right away, especially when things like House of Cards were getting those announcements prior to season premieres. But in an era where binge-able shows are forgotten by the press only days after their releases, perhaps Netflix wanted to try something different? “I think it’s cool Netflix waited so long,” Cohen explains. “The attention is even more on the show now than when it came out. They like to take their time and do it their own way, and they certainly have a method to their actions, and once again, it proved effective.”
One burning question viewers had was whether Stranger Things would continue its Season 1 storyline or would it follow the trend of American Horror Story, Fargo, and American Crime Story by presenting unrelated tales each season. Though that option has apparently never once been in the cards, they did consider the idea of setting each new season in a different decade. “At one point, there was this idea of doing ’80s, ’90s, 2000s, and then Season 5 would be 2020, and it would catch up to present-day. But I think, at the end of the day, there was this world that we really loved and in making it, and we didn’t want to move away from these kids. There’s so many cool dynamics and mythologies. This world the Duffer brothers created was so awesome, and there’s still so much unanswered that it’s impossible to not want to continue into the next year.”
When asked why an essentially eight-hour-long weird movie became the pop culture sensation of the summer, Cohen puts it simply: “It just felt like this thing had the kind of unique world that could be explored for a long time. We knew it was great, and it was coming out in a summer where I think people were really disappointed in a lot of the big blockbusters, and this just seemed like the blockbuster that people wanted to see.”
And because we’re legally obligated to ask … Is there life after the Upside-Down for Barb, particularly now that actress Shannon Purser has booked a role on the CW’s upcoming dark Archie Comics adaptation Riverdale?
“Shannon’s an amazing actress. She was a local actress that they hired and did such a great job with this very unique role, and I’m just so thrilled that she got the recognition for it and is now building a very deserved career,” says Cohen.
When informed that his answer wasn’t really an answer, Cohen chooses his words carefully: “I think the Duffer brothers have been very open about Barb’s fate and what’s happened to her, as is the public in mourning her, but all I’ll say is it’s hard not to hear how much love there was for this very organically created, unique, relatable outsider and … [long pause] All I’ll say is, we’re very aware of how much she’s loved, and it’s not lost on us. That’s how I’ll leave it.”
Stranger Things Season 2 starts in 2017.