Here’s something you’re probably not going to like: Stranger Things is going to be a lot different next season. Not because something’s not working or it’s place in pop culture is in jeopardy. We can safely say the show is more popular than ever. No, we’re likely to see a seismic shift from the show next year simply because it has to. This is largely conjecture, it’s true, but the signs are all pointing to things getting turned a bit more upside down.
Stranger Things is a lovely, weird, eerie 80’s fueled continuing story, and while it seemed that season one was an enclosed chapter, it really wasn’t. In fact, seasons one and two feel like a single chapter with a clear beginning and end. All throughout this season it felt like we were missing some thematic roots and that it largely relied on coolness factor and some revisited scares to do the work. But if this season is taken as the answer to the call of season one, it works better. That is, only if we move really do move forward from here.
Joyce: You opened this gate before, right?
Joyce: Do you think if we got you back there you could close it?
Eleven opened the gate that started it all, through no fault of her own- blame the sadistic mad scientists of Hawkins Lab for that. Now, at the end of this chapter she’s closed it, very much of her own volition. Will is left seemingly free of the lingering control of the upside down, Joyce has her son back for real, and Hopper has a healthy way to utilize his fatherly instincts. Hey, even Steve Harrington became a solid character (and an effortlessly cool one) apart from Nancy. We’ve got closure. So now what?
Truthfully, I don’t want to know. We’ve got a chance to experience some real surprises from Stranger Things 3, akin to the delightfully exhilarating first time around. I went looking for that this time and didn’t get it. Because that wasn’t the point. What part two did so well was continue the mystery from the first season, and (literally) tunnel deeper inside it. Well, now we’ve burned the tunnels and our characters are no longer simply reacting to the evil. They’re on the offensive against it. Time to keep the foot on the gas.
I’ve said before that Eleven IS Stranger Things. That’s not just because she’s mind bendingly awesome, it’s because this is mostly a story about moving forward after experiencing trauma and pain. Like the monsters of the upside down, pain invades us without consent. It’s never fair and it’s never fun. In the aftermath, we must make a choice to try and move forward or it may absorb us. Stranger Things shows us that we cannot move forward alone. What better picture of fighting together than here in “The Gate?” Our gang led by Steve in the tunnels, Will’s family by his bedside heating the monster out of him, Eleven and Hopper closing the gate. They’re all together in a new and better place.
So you see, we must continue to move forward. There needs to be a new challenge to face and defeat with this newfound community and understanding of each other’s wants and capabilities. Because something far deeper is lurking. The secrets have been leaked, Brenner is possibly still alive, the shadow that left Will and is in the wind and the upside down is still trying to break through. There’s a lot of uncertainty as to what will happen. We can’t keep looking backwards because it’s familiar. We have to face the unknown. Because that’s what makes Stranger Things so perfectly strange.