For the first week or so after Stranger Things 2 debuted on Netflix, conversation about the show around The A.V. Club offices was a delicate dance: Two steps toward discussing the new season of the supernatural throwback, one step back toward the mindfulness that some of our co-workers weren’t totally caught up with not-so-current events in Hawkins, Indiana. But now that most of us have watched the whole thing—and some of us, for professional purposes, have watched it more than once—we can spill our most detailed, plot-point-laden thoughts into the ether, like so much flowery, Upside Down pollen dust. Is that stuff supposed to be pollen? We’ll have to save that question for another time—here are five other, stranger things we’ve been wondering about since the end of the season.
1. Will the kids still be friends at the start of Stranger Things 3?
No one’s rooting for this to happen, but potential fractures between the members of the Hawkins Middle School A.V. Club are present in the final scene of Stranger Things 2: Mike and El and Lucas and Max are pairing off, El and Max aren’t exactly on the friendliest of terms, and Dustin’s found a new older-brother figure in Steve. And that’s all without considering the fact that the kids are on the verge of entering high school, a transitional period that can threaten even the bonds forged in the fires of twice defeating interdimensional foes. Stranger Things seems to have a clear-eyed perspective on adolescent relationships (see Steve’s romantic advice to Dustin: “She’s just going to break your heart, and you’re too young for that shit”); one of its biggest influences, Stephen King’s It, saw its own band of lovable Losers scattered by the winds of time. They’ll always have the Upside Down, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Dustin’s going out for basketball by the time season three rolls around—and I can’t see that sitting well with clearly athletics-adverse Mike. [Erik Adams]
2. Will Joyce and Hopper get together?
In a season that ends with nearly every set of adolescent characters one could imagine getting together pairing off, either at the finale’s “big dance” or before, we couldn’t help but wonder about the two adults at Stranger Things’ center. Even if Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) and police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) don’t get involved romantically, their parallel histories and shared traumas could lead to a deepening of their current relationship. In season one, Will Byers’ disappearance mirrored the loss of Hopper’s daughter years ago; and with Hop giving Eleven refuge in his cabin home in season two, both he and Joyce have become worried caretakers of troubled children, the threat of the Upside Down ever-present. Hop’s been a tireless protector of Hawkins’ youth and a kind, steady supporter of Joyce, through both Will’s supernatural haunting and now her loss of boyfriend Bob. They’re both hurting—the two weariest, loneliest souls in all of Hawkins—and it’s not difficult to imagine the ways they might connect, whether it’s another shared smoke outside a school dance or something more. [Laura Adamczyk]
3. What’s the deal with Max and Billy’s parents?
Stranger Things abides by the rules of Jaws, knowing that the scariest threats are the ones you can’t see. And so Stranger Things 2 braces us for the introduction of Neil and Susan Hargrove, the parents who abruptly uprooted their rat-mustached son and his Dig Dug-mastering sister from California, who, because it takes so long for them to show up, must surely be up to something sinister. Are they new hires at the lab? Personnel in an even more nefarious government operation? Russian sleeper agents in a sham marriage performing acts of espionage beneath a smoke screen of wigs and Fleetwood Mac singles? But Occam’s razor cuts through “The Mind Flayer” when it turns out that Neil’s just a run-of-the-mill abusive dad, and he and his wife are just as awful at keeping tabs on their kids as anyone else in Hawkins. Still, there has to be more to the Mr. and Mrs. Hargrove story—you don’t just hire Broadway’s Will Chase to storm into his onscreen son’s room and spit homophobic epithets for a single scene. Stranger Things is still holding something back here, and with Billy and Max poised to be a larger part of the ongoing story, I’m hoping season three is a little more forthcoming about their parents—even it’s just an explanation of where they were for so much of season two. [Erik Adams]
4. Was Hopper in New York City?
When Eleven discovers the box with her medical files and family history underneath the floorboards in Hopper’s cabin, other boxes allude to Hopper’s past. The boxes marked “Sara” and “Vietnam” make sense with what we know about Hopper: His daughter, Sara, died, and he’s at least spoken of people he know who served in the Vietnam war, implying he might have as well. But the box labeled “New York”? The only hint we have that Hopper ever spent time in New York is in season one, when he says that he and his wife, Diane, moved to the “big city.” It’s hard to imagine this small-town sheriff serving on the force in New York City, where he’d be dealing with more run-of-the-mill police issues instead of settling farmers’ disputes and investigating the Upside Down. Stranger Things’ showrunners the Duffer brothers have demonstrated a careful application of information that will be drawn on in future seasons, as evidenced by Hopper’s sad history in season one coming into play in season two. Could the New York box be setting up a deeper exploration into the years Hopper spent with his first family—Diane and Sara—to juxtapose his new family with adopted daughter Eleven? As long as it’s not setting up a New York City episode like the Chicago one in season two, we’ll be happy. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]
5. Is Dr. Brenner still alive?
Take this lesson from the first season of Stranger Things to heart: No one in Hawkins should be declared dead until a corpse is found, and even then, you better be sure the thing isn’t stuffed with cotton. This was reiterated by Matt Duffer last year, in an interview with IGN:
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. He would deserve much more than that as an ending. So yes, there’s a possibility of seeing him again.
The show’s co-creator planted the seeds of doubt, and Stranger Things 2’s worst episode sows them: At the height of Eleven’s crisis of conscience in “The Lost Sister,” former Hawkins Lab employee Ray bargains for his life with Brenner’s whereabouts. Even in light of Duffer’s comments, this tears a big, oozing hole in Stranger Things’ accepted reality—one Kali plays upon when she and her surrogate sister return from their aborted home invasion. When Eleven seals the gate to the Upside Down, she’s fueled by her vision of Brenner, and it’s easy to Matthew Modine’s character, in whatever state he currently exists, similarly firing the engines of Stranger Things 3. If so many foolhardy viewers could hold out hope for Barb, why wouldn’t you extend the same courtesy to a character who actually matters? [Erik Adams]