Warning: contains major spoilers for Stranger Things seasons 1 & 2
It’s a few months shy of two years since our last visit to Hawkins, Indiana for Stranger Things, so your season two memories may well be hazy by now.
With season three arriving on Netflix on Thursday the 4th of July, here’s a refresher on all the important stuff from last time around: who lived, who died, the monsters, the special powers, the government conspiracies and most crucially, Steve’s hair.
Season one: Will the Wise, Eggos and the Upside Down
First, a very brief reminder of season one (here’s the more in-depth version), which was all about the disappearance of Will and the appearance of Eleven.
12-year-old Will Byers vanished on the way home from a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, prompting a local search. He’d been dragged by a monster nicknamed the Demogorgon into another dimension named The Upside Down, where he stayed, trying to contact the other side, until he was rescued by his mother Joyce and the local Chief Of Police, Hopper.
Meanwhile, Will’s friends Mike, Dustin and Lucas met and protected a 12-year-old girl with limited speech, a shaved head and telekinetic powers, who’d recently escaped from the custody of the sinister Dr Brennan at Hawkins Laboratory, a shady government lab posing as part of the US Energy Dept. She was being sought by government agents after escaping from the lab and killing two guards with her powers.
Dr Brennan, who’d stolen Eleven (the number she was known by at the lab) from her mother at birth, had been experimenting on her with a view to using her as a telepathic weapon against the Russians in the Cold War. While attempting to spy on a plane, Eleven stumbled upon a terrifying monster, which scared her so much she accidentally tore a rip through the dimensions, creating a portal through which missing Hawkins locals were dragged, including Will and teenager Barb, who died on the other side, used as a host for the parasitic monster nicknamed the Demogorgon.
In the finale, the Demogorgon attacked Dr Brennan, possibly leaving him dead. Eleven used her powers to destroy the creature and then disappeared. The final shot showed Will vomiting up a slug-like creature, indicating that he’d brought something back with him from the Upside Down.
Season two: Pollywogs and Demodogs
How much time passed between seasons one and two?
Almost exactly a year. Season two starts around Halloween 1984, close to the one year anniversary of Will’s disappearance. In that time, Will’s classmates have given him the unflattering nickname “zombie boy”. He has episodes in which he freezes and sees a long-limbed shadowy monster looming over the town. In one such episode, the monster sticks a tentacle down Will’s throat and infects him like a parasite, gradually taking control of his mind and using him as its puppet.
What happened to the slug Will vomited up at the end of season one?
It grew into one of four juvenile demogorgons (nicknamed “demodogs”) psychically linked to the Shadow Monster’s hive mind that hunted around Hawkins in a pack in season two, killing and eating people and pets. Another was found in its slug form by Dustin, who took it home, named it and fed it, until it grew large, ate his cat and escaped. The ‘demodogs’ were killed when Eleven used her powers to close the interdimensional gate, cutting off their psychic link to the Shadow Monster.
Where did Eleven go at the end of season one?
After killing the Demogorgon, Eleven hid in the woods, where she was discovered by a hunter against whom she used her powers and stole his warm jacket. Later, she took supplies from another home, again using her powers. The crimes were reported to Police Chief Hopper, who realised Eleven had survived, and lured her into the open by leaving out her favourite snack – Eggos. Eventually, Hopper moved Eleven into his grandfather’s old hunting cabin in the woods, keeping her fed and safe from the government agents looking for her, and keeping her existence a secret from the others.
After a year of isolated cabin life, Eleven became frustrated and resentful. When she discovered Hopper’s box containing information about her birth mother, she ran away from the cabin and hitchhiked to find her.
What had happened to Eleven’s birth mother?
Terry Ives was a volunteer in Dr Brenner’s Project MKUltra at Hawkins Laboratory, in which he experimented on subjects using sensory deprivation and mind-altering hallucinogens. During this time, Terry was unwittingly pregnant with Eleven, who was stolen from her at birth by Dr Brennan to further his experiments. Terry was told that the baby was born dead, but knew it was a lie and for years attempted to sue Dr Brennan for her child’s return. When that didn’t work, she stormed the Lab with a gun to rescue Eleven (whom she called Jane), where she was deliberately given a brain-damaging dose of electro shock therapy, which trapped her mind in an endless psychic loop of the events surrounding the loss of Jane, and left her catatonic.
What did Eleven do after visiting her mother?
She learned from her mother’s visions about the existence of another child with supernatural powers who was also a subject of Dr Brenner at the same time as her, and tracked her to Chicago, where she was living with a criminal gang of misfits. Number Eight, calling herself Kali, was using her powers to get revenge on the guards that had imprisoned her at the Hawkins Laboratory. Kali saw Eleven as a sister, helped her to use her anger to focus her powers, and urged her to join in the revenge mission, which she did for a while. When Eleven refused to kill a former Hawkins lab guard, and went back home to rescue Hopper and Will instead of staying with her ‘sister’, Kali felt abandoned.
What are Kali’s powers?
She’s able to project visions, making people see things that aren’t there. She uses her powers to help the gang escape after a crime, making a police officer see a tunnel as impassable when it’s actually clear. Her powers only work temporarily, but enable the gang to escape the police after they break into the home of a former lab guard.
What was wrong with Will in season two?
He was infected by ‘The Mind Flayer’ (another name for the long-limbed Smoke Monster he kept freezing on the spot and having visions of), which had taken over his brain. The Mind Flayer used Will to spy on his dimension, sending him visions of the tunnels that had opened up underneath Hawkins, which he drew in crayon on multiple sheets of paper all over the house. At one point, the monster used Will to set a trap in which he sent Hawkins Lab scientists to a specific location, where they were all fed on by the Mind Flayer’s Demodog offspring.
When the Mind Flayer’s tunnels or tentacles were burned, Will felt its pain because of their symbiotic link. Realising that the Mind Flayer could see through Will’s eyes and use him as a homing beacon for its Demodog attacks, his family and friends tricked it by sedating Will, then tying him up in a disguised version of the Byers’ family shed so Will wouldn’t recognise where he was. They then drew Will out by reminding him of childhood memories, and he fought the monster enough to deliver a Morse Code message: ‘Close the Gate’. As the Mind Flayer needed Will to be in cold conditions to survive, they managed to exorcise it by overheating him.
What happened to Hawkins Laboratory?
It was closed down at the end of the season, thanks to Nancy and Jonathan releasing to the press a secretly recorded tape of Dr Owens confessing to knowing about Barb’s death. On the advice of local conspiracy theorist Murray, they softened the truth and leaked a story that Barb had been killed by toxins released by the lab and her death had been covered up, which shut the whole thing down.
Was Dr Owens a goodie or a baddie?
Debateable, though he’s certainly much nicer than Dr Brennan, and did an honourable thing by putting himself in danger by remaining behind at the lab to help Joyce, Will and the others escape when the Demodogs were coming. His leg was savaged in the Demodog attack, but he survived and remains on good terms with Hopper, who had a deal with the Lab to help cover up the strange goings-on in return for Dr Owens keeping the interdimensional monsters at bay.
Is Dr Brennen really dead?
The Hawkins Lab security guard whose home Kali and Eleven broke into on their revenge mission said he’s still alive, but there’s been no in-show sign of him since the season one finale.
What happened to Joyce’s boyfriend Bob?
Oh Bob. Sean Astin’s character was the sweet man who Joyce started dating at some point between seasons one and two. With a nerdy reputation as “Bob the Brain” at their high school, he was gently mocked by Hopper, but loved by Joyce, who watched him die in front of her. When the gang were holed up at Hawkins Lab and under siege by the Demodogs, Bob heroically sacrificed himself by volunteering for a dangerous mission to get the power back on, thereby offering Joyce, Will and the others a way to escape the lockdown. He was killed by the demodogs, but remembered by Will as a superhero, and rightly so.
Does that clear the way for Joyce and Hopper?
In the finale they shared a cigarette, just like old times, outside the high school dance, so… promising?
Did Eleven and Hopper make up?
Yes. On the way to Hawkins Lab to close the gate in the finale, they share a heart-to-heart in which Hopper apologised for being overprotective and told Eleven about his daughter Sarah (who died of cancer at the age of seven, though he tells Eleven she was sucked into “the black hole”), and she realised he loves her like a father. Later, he loosened his rules a little by allowing her to go to the Snow Ball, where she and Mike slow danced.
Right at the end, Dr Owens (former head of the now-defunct Hawkins Lab) gave Hopper a gift – a fake birth certificate for Eleven/Jane Hopper, making her officially his daughter.
Who are Max and Billy?
Newcomers to Hawkins, and reluctant step-siblings after their parents marry. Max is an arcade gamer and skateboarder for whose affection Dustin and Lucas compete. Billy, physically abused by his father, is an abusive bully who mistreats Max, and has a violent rivalry with Steve Harrington.
How did the Steve/Nancy/Jonathan love triangle work out?
Nancy and Steve broke up early on, and while she and Jonathan were on their conspiracy theorist jaunt in season two, they expressed their feelings for each other and kissed, possibly sleeping together too though it’s not confirmed. By the end of the season, it’s still ambiguous whether Nancy and Jonathan are dating.
Was the Mind Flayer/Shadow monster killed?
No. The final shot of season two showed it still looming over the high school, where the kids were all at the winter dance, in the Upside Down. Eleven may have closed the gate, but she didn’t destroy the monster.
How many episodes were there in season two?
There were nine, but season three will be back to the original number of eight episodes.
Finally then, how was Steve’s hair?
Strong. Despite everything he went through in season two (a break-up, a savage beating by Billy, having to fight demodogs and protect a bunch of kids from interdimensional monsters), it remained buoyant with a lot of character. It even had a tribute act when Steve took on an older brother role with only child Dustin, and styled Dustin’s baby curls in the same bodacious way for the school winter dance. Long live Steve’s hair.
Stranger Things season three arrives on Netflix on Thursday the 4thof July.