A vast expanse of stars is the first image we see after the harrowing conclusion of episode three, in which the “body” of Will Byers was discovered. What seemed like concrete evidence of Will’s fate is nearly immediately countered by a look upward. A brief examination of something above and beyond us. The image of space begins several of the episodes in the series, mirroring the resounding call of Stranger Things that there is something out there that is much more than what we can touch, see, or even feel.
If one had no concept of the supernatural events going on in the town of Hawkins at the time Will Byers “body” was found in the quarry, it would be awfully difficult to see the evidence and claim that it wasn’t real. This is the exact predicament that many in the story find themselves at this point. Even those like Mike, Dustin, and Lucas have a hard time getting past this latest discovery. At the beginning of this episode, Joyce is the only character looking past the physical. We as the audience know that what Joyce claims to have seen is true, but there is still a great deal left unknown. At this point Joyce can only hope.
Chief Hopper: “After Sarah, I saw her too. And I heard her. I didn’t know what was real. And then I figured out that it was in my mind and I had to pack all that away, otherwise I was going to fall a hole that I couldn’t get out of.”
Here we have a critical piece of what makes this puzzle so terrifying to put together: doubt. When Chief Hopper explains that when his daughter died he too saw and experienced things that were not real, we’re given real life proof that all of this could be conjured up by the imagination of a grieving mother (and perhaps even a town). Even after all we’ve seen, the seed of doubt is planted deep in the back of our mind because sometimes even what’s on screen cannot be believed. This may all just be in the minds of our characters.
Doubt makes things thrilling because doubt is the root of fear. Doubt is the enemy of faith. It is what eats away at hope until you are left with only fear. Skepticism is born at the beginning of this episode and quickly becomes fully developed in the eyes of many. Luckily for our heroes, their efforts to press forward are rewarded with new clues and events that reinforce their hope. By the end of this episode, skepticism begins to die. If doubt consumes hope, it is faith that consumes doubt.
Quoting Hebrews 11:1 has unfortunately become a cliché these days. Worse, the idea that faith can be substance seems more and more laughable in our culture and abroad. Many believe that science and hard evidence are the death of faith and the only actual substance to be found. It is telling then, that many also long for what is beyond our reasoning and understanding through our art and entertainment. Superheroes, gods, monsters, dragons, mind control powers, and other worldly planes of existence are selling like hot cakes right now. It seems clear that we want substance to these things we can’t fully understand.
Maybe what is above nature (literally super-natural) is among us but we only have its faintest whispers to hold onto. Like the soft mumbling of a song over a weak radio frequency that sounds like Will Byers, it’s just enough to provide hope in the face of even the hardest truths. Maybe it’s something completely mundane that stirs us to hope. Maybe its something we never considered. But it’s still there. If so, the only thing that can make it real and make it tangible is faith.
What do you see when you look up at the night sky full of stars? What do you feel? I’m willing to bet that, like myself, you can’t help but feel a sense of wonder. The coexistence of scientific fact and hopeful longing for something greater gives us so much evidence that there’s more out there. New discoveries that enlighten us should be the fuel to faith, not the death of it. It should push us to pick up the ham radio like Eleven and the boys do, and search even harder for what’s out there. Only if we do will we have a chance to find the evidence of things we always knew were there but were simply unseen.