Caution: spoilers ahead!
Ever since the first trailer for the Netflix series Stranger Things debuted, there was major buzz around the nostalgia-driven thriller about a group of kids in the ’80s who get caught up in a terrifying mystery involving a telekinetic girl, otherworldly dimensions, and a monster unleashed on their small town. For those who binged their way through the first season, one of the biggest remaining mysteries was whether the acclaimed show created by brothers Matt and Ross Duffer would indeed get a second season.
Much to the delight of sci-fi fans of all kinds, that question has been answered, with a second season slated for Halloween 2017. So what do we know about the show’s impending return? Here are all the details so far.
Dark and getting darker
In a May 2017 interview with People, series actor Finn Wolfhard indicated that the second season of the series will be “a lot more dark.”
“[It will be] a lot more horror-oriented,” he added. “I think people are going to like it more than the first season. … There are going to be some challenges that the characters face that are real. That are disturbing.”
All of that darkness won’t come from external elements, either. According to actor Gaten Matarazzo, some of the danger facing the friends and their families could come from within their close-knit group.
“The great thing about this season is you get to see insights into each character on their own,” he teased. “You’re going to see a lot more into the lives of how the characters are coping with what’s been going on. … I think they’re all very emotionally scarred. They feel alone, because their best friend [Will] is back and he’s not acting like their best friend anymore. He’s changed.”
Where is it all going?
In a February interview with Entertainment Weekly, the Duffer brothers confirmed that they have more stories to tell beyond the second season of Stranger Things — at least two or three seasons more, in fact.
The series’ creators envision a four- or five-season run for the hit show, but are mindful of the tendency for long-running series to lose steam after a few seasons.
“I want it to have a really finite ending,” said Matt Duffer. “I don’t want it to be one of those shows that runs out of gas, and they lose it because they’re losing interest. You wanna end when you’re on top.”
That doesn’t mean that there won’t be a sense of conclusion at the end of the second season, though.
“Hopefully. you’ll come to the end of Season 2 and feel fully satisfied and want more, but you’ll feel like it has come to a conclusion,” said Ross Duffer. “But also we’ve laid the ground work for further seasons.”
New plot details emerge
On February 9, 2017, Entertainment Weekly published an article revealing new details about the plot of season 2. The season takes place a year after the events of the first season, opening on Halloween (hence the Ghostbusters costumes in the trailer). The characters are trying to recover from the nightmare of the previous year, particularly Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), who, after spending a lot of time in the hellish dimension known as the Upside Down, is having terrifying visions. Given that, and the fact that he coughed up an alien slug in the season one finale, Will’s health may be an issue in season 2.
Other characters are dealing with their own problems. Nancy and Mike are suffering from the apparent deaths of their friends, Barb and Eleven, respectively.
“She and Mike are both the most screwed-up because they’re the ones who both lost someone. They’re both grappling with that, and we see the effects,” co-creator Matt Duffer said to EW.
Films from the ’80s often featured cute magical creatures, and Stranger Things season 2 will be no exception, as Dustin (Matarazzo) will find an otherworldly pet at some point. “It’s a little creature I get to bond with. It’s obviously not from this planet or this dimension,” Matarazzo told EW.
A super trailer and a scary release date
Fans of Stranger Things were the big winners during this year’s Super Bowl, as Netflix revealed the first footage from the second season of the series and its release date during the NFL’s championship game.
Kicking off with an excerpt from a classic ’80s television commercial, the television spot for Stranger Things featured a fast-paced montage of scenes teasing what’s to come for Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and the rest of the gang from Hawkins, Indiana.
The ad concluded with official confirmation of the season’s (fitting) premiere date: Halloween.
It looks like October 31 will be more scary than usual this year.
Seeing is believing
Production on the second season of Stranger Things officially kicked off in November and the occasion was marked by the release of an official photo of some of the young cast members engaged in a script reading.
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— Stranger Things (@Stranger_Things) November 4, 2016
The photo featured ten familiar faces from the series reading their script at a long table, and was flipped 180 degrees in reference to “The Upside Down” — the name given to the dark, dangerous dimension that played a role in the first season’s events.
“Back in production … see you next year … ” read the caption for the photo.
A little Goonies, a little Aliens…
There will be some familiar faces and some newcomers among the second season’s cast of school-age characters, but Stranger Things is also getting some high-profile additions to its cast of adult characters.
According to Entertainment Weekly, The Goonies and Lord of the Rings franchise actor Sean Astin will join the series in the second season as a character named Bob Newby, described as “a kindhearted former nerd who went to high school with Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) and now manages the local Hawkins RadioShack.”
Joining Astin will be Aliens and Mad About You (and more recently, Whiplash) actor Paul Reiser, who is reportedly been cast as Dr. Owens, “a high-ranking member within the Department of Energy on a ‘clean-up’ assignment, tasked with containing the events of last year.”
Given his character’s connection to the laboratory that first brought the small town in contact with the terrifying creature from the Upside Down dimension, there is reason to believe Reiser’s role could be one of the second season’s villains.
Introducing the new kids
Most of the first season’s young cast is expected to return for the second story arc, but they will be joined by a few newcomers, too.
Among those new characters will be actress Sadie Sink (American Odyssey, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) as a girl named “Max.” TV Line first reported the casting call for the show’s second season, describing Sink’s character as a “tough and confident” girl between the ages of 12-14 years old, whose “appearance, behavior, and pursuits seem more typical of boys than of girls in this era.”
Max is described as riding a skateboard instead of a bicycle — the preferred mode of transportation for the show’s young characters — and will likely feature prominently in the premiere episode, expected to have the title “Madmax.”
Also joining the show in the second season is Power Rangers actor Dacre Montgomery as the “very muscular and hyper-confident” older brother of Max, who drives a Camaro (because it’s the ’80s, of course) and is named “Billy.” According to The Hollywood Reporter, Billy “steals girlfriends away from their boyfriends, is great at drinking games, and drives a black Camaro. But lurking under his apparent charisma is a violent and unpredictable nature.” Further adding to Billy’s bad reputation is Matt Duffer, who told EW, “Stephen King always has really great human villains. The evil in the real world is often as bad or worse than the supernatural evil, so we wanted to introduce a character like that.”
The two aforementioned characters will be joined by a third newcomer played by Danish actress Linnea Berthelsen. The character, whose name is “Roman,” is described as”an emotionally damaged, magnetic young woman who suffered a great loss as a child. Although she does not live in Hawkins, she is mysteriously connected to the supernatural events at the lab.”
Welcome back, familiar faces
It had long been assumed that young actress Millie Bobby Brown would return as the telepathic, telekinetic mystery girl, Eleven, but nothing was confirmed until early November when TV Line reported that Brown would indeed reprise her role from the first season. The report indicates Brown will appear in an unknown number of episodes in the second season, but will likely be a series regular for the show’s second major story arc.
Although there is some speculation about who else will be returning for the second season, fans of the Steve Harrington character can rest easy knowing that actor Joe Keery has been promoted from a recurring role in the first season to a series regular in the upcoming season. Noah Schnapp, who played the missing boy Will Byers, was also elevated to regular status for the second season.
On the flip side, another thing seems certain that fans won’t be as thrilled about: Barbara (Shannon Purser) won’t be among the characters returning for the second season.
“I can’t see it happening,” Matt Duffer told IGN when asked whether Purser’s character — last seen in the nightmarish “Upside Down” dimension — will be back. “But Barb will not be forgotten. We’ll make sure there’s some justice for Barb. People get very frustrated, understandably, that the town doesn’t seem to be really dealing with Barb. That stuff is all happening. We’re just not spending any screen time on it.”
“Season One actually takes place over the course of six or seven days – it’s a really short period of time,” he explained. “So part of what we want to do with hypothetical Season 2 is to explore the repercussions of everything that happened.”
Now that the show has received the green light for a second season, the creative team will likely have to move fast, as the series’ young cast members could look quite a bit different in the near future. Speaking with IGN after a press event during the Television Critics Association in July, Matt Duffer acknowledged that the cast’s young age can pose a problem for continuity on a project like Stranger Things.
“Yeah, you have to do the Harry Potter thing,” he explained. “You have to jump a year. Because, like, Gaten [Matarazzo, who plays Dustin in the series], his voice has already dropped quite a bit, to the point where we couldn’t even do ADR [automated dialogue replacement] with him. We had to pitch it way up. It’s dropped. He’s grown. As much as I would love to have it be Christmas right after that, it’s just not feasible, so we’re going to skip a year. They’ll be a year older, and all their changes they’re going through, we’ll take that into account and kind of work that into the show.”
What happened to the characters during that year will also open up more story possibilities for the second season, added Ross Duffer.
“These characters have changed and the audience has to sort of fill in those gaps of what went on in that year,” he said. “To us, it’s exciting. So the fact that we have to make this jump, because of the kids, we’re trying to use that to our advantage.”
Despite experiencing what appeared to be a fatal attack from the creature, Matthew Modine’s creepy scientist, Dr. Martin Brenner, could also be primed for more sinister machinations in a second season, according to the show’s creators.
“I would say that if we were going to kill Brenner … as an audience member watching the show, if that was his death, that would be very unsatisfying to me – when the monster jumps on him and we cut away,” said Matt Duffer of the ultimate fate of Modine’s character. “He would deserve much more than that as an ending. So yes, there’s a possibility of seeing him again.”
The episode titles are more revealing than you might think
When season 2 was confirmed with a teaser, the video got fans buzzing. It included nine terms that seemed likely to be the episode titles, and sure enough, the Duffer brothers later confirmed that they were. The duo had come up with the idea of revealing them when a previous version of the teaser “wasn’t exciting enough,” Matt told THR. They wanted to hint at what lies ahead in season 2 — without giving away anything crucial.
That balance is delicate, though, and it turns out some fans have developed some pretty dead-on theories.
“Some of the fan theories online are amazing,” Matt told THR. “Most are wrong, but I’ve read a few that are right or very close. … Some of those people have figured stuff out based off of the chapter titles.”
Impressively, those people with correct theories managed to do it with titles that aren’t even final. The Duffer brothers revealed that they expect some to change.
“There were titles we didn’t want to put on there because we felt like it would give too much away,” said Matt.
The majority of the Stranger Things fan theories out there may be completely inaccurate, but the fact that the show has gotten viewers so engaged is exciting to the Duffers. Within hours of the show being released, they were floored to see how many fans had already finished season 1 and were talking about it online.
“It’s really gratifying because, while you’re making it, you’re sometimes only getting feedback from two or three people. It was Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen, our two producers, and that was it,” said Matt. “It felt really small, so it was insane to see it go out into the world and be experienced by that many people.”
It is hard to remember when it ever was small, and it will be harder still when we’re scouring Reddit to try and figure out to which theories they may have been referring.
Official confirmation, major speculation
Official confirmation of the show’s second season arrived in August 2016, after intense speculation regarding the fate of the celebrated series.
The announcement was made on the show’s Facebook page with a brief confirmation that “The adventure continues” and that the series will be back in 2017. The announcement was accompanied by a brief video that, in keeping with the cryptic nature of the show, featured a series of mysterious terms flashing on the screen against the backdrop of the show’s iconic theme and logo font, coming together to form the words “Season Two.”
The terms that appeared in the teaser were: “Madmax,” “The Boy Who Came Back to Life,” “The Pumpkin Patch,” “The Palace,” “The Storm,” “The Pollywog,” “The Secret Cabin,” “The Brain,” and “The Lost Brother.” The video then explains that the adventure continues in the “fall of 1984.”
Initially, there was no official word on what the terms in the teaser referred to, but it seemed likely that they were the titles of each episode in the second season, given that Variety reports that the season will have nine episodes rather than the eight that made up the show’s first season. The Duffer brothers later confirmed this, but warned that some of the titles might change.
Prior to official confirmation of the show’s second season, Stranger Things actor Matthew Modine gave fans a cautious reason to celebrate when he seemed quite certain we’ll see more of the show. Speaking to French-language movie news site Premiere a week after the series premiered on Netflix, Modine promised, “Oh, there will be a season 2.”
You can see (and hear) Modine’s response for yourself in the excerpt from the interview embedded below:
Speaking with IGN about what’s next for the series, Matt Duffer indicated that the follow-up to the series would be better described as a “sequel” than a “second season.”
Duffer’s comments prompted some speculation that the series might not bring back its entire cast for whatever comes next, but producer Shawn Levy seemed to address those concerns in a subsequent interview.
“The plan is to continue with this set of characters while introducing a few critical key new ones next season,” he told SlashFilm. “So I’ll just say that a lot of the big mysteries get answered at the end of Season 1, but we are very much kind of unearthing new problems and questions that merit future stories and future investigation in the most enjoyable way. So we are in love with our cast and our characters.
“Things end up being resolved to some extent at the end of Season 1, but not entirely,” continued Levy. “And that’s why we’re so hopeful we get another few seasons to live with these people a little longer.”
The questions that still need answers
As far as storylines go, the conclusion of Stranger Things left more than enough threads for its second season to explore.
According to the Duffer brothers, the pair has a long, detailed document that serves as a bible for the show, and the first season only scratched the surface of what their guide to the Stranger Things universe contains within its pages.
“There’s a lot there we don’t know or understand,” explained Ross in an interview with Variety. “Even with the Upside Down, we have a 30-page document that is pretty intricate in terms of what it all means, and where this monster actually came from, and why aren’t there more monsters. We have all this stuff that we just didn’t have time for, or we didn’t feel like we needed to get into in season one, because of the main tension of Will. We have that whole other world that we haven’t fully explored in this season, and that was very purposeful.”
First and foremost among the mysteries lingering past the first season is the status of Eleven, the telekinetic girl played by Millie Bobby Brown. She appeared to sacrifice herself at the end of the first season in order to rid the world of the creature terrorizing her friends, but Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour) is later seen leaving a stack of Eggos — her favorite food — in a box in the woods. Could she be trapped in another dimension, as some fans have speculated?
According to Matt Duffer, the second season could bring Eleven and Hopper together to explore what happens next for the two characters whose lives have become intertwined.
“Obviously something happened to her when she destroyed and killed that monster and we don’t know where she went,” he said of Eleven. “Hopper is left with this guilt because he sold her out. We wanted to leave it sort of mysterious exactly what he knows… Have there been sightings in the woods or is he hoping she’s out there or has he already made contact with her? We don’t answer any of that, but we like the idea of potentially putting her and Hopper together.”
The final moments of the season-ending episode also had audiences wondering what’s up with Will Byers, the boy who spent much of the first season trapped in the creature’s alternate dimension. Last seen coughing up a weird, slug-like creature and having a sudden vision of the “Upside Down” dimension, Will’s condition could mean that the link between the two dimensions hasn’t been severed as cleanly as the characters hoped.
“Will’s been there for an entire week, and it’s had some kind of effect on him, both emotionally and perhaps physically,” hinted Ross Duffer. “The idea is he’s escaped this nightmare place, but has he really? That’s a place we wanted to go and potentially explore in season two. What effect does living in there for a week have on him? And what has been done to him? It’s not good, obviously.”
Finally, there wasn’t much closure for the story of Hawkins National Laboratory and the organization’s experiments, led by the creepy Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine). Sheriff Hopper was seen getting into an unidentified black car at one point after leaving the hospital where Will was recovering from his ordeal, so it’s reasonable to believe that HNL — or whatever organization is behind it — is still doing whatever it’s doing, and that could mean more trouble.
“[We like] the idea of going back to the laboratory and pulling back the curtain a little bit,” said Matt Duffer (via an interview with IGN) of returning to the mysterious laboratory in the second season. “Maybe they brought someone new in. It’s not as evil and mysterious as it was in Season 1. We might start to get into what they’re doing a bit little more. Maybe they seem a little bit more friendly… as least at the beginning. A lot of the agents involved in that project are dead.”
The second season of Stranger Things will premiere October 31, 2017.
Updated 5-2-17 by Rick Marshall: Added comments from cast about the darker elements of Season 2.