Fans are getting a second season of Stranger Things, so now it’s up to series creators Matt and Ross Duffer to decide what exactly that will mean. In the bevy of interviews the duo has given, before and after Season 2 became official, they’ve been coy.
A continuation of Stranger Things will deal with the fallout from the fantastic events that affected the citizens of Hawkins, Indiana the first time around. While that kind of plot line in a TV sequel like this is a given, there’s another key component that’s still very much a mystery. Former telekinetic test subject Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) disappeared after sacrificing herself to defeat the Demogorgon in the first season climax, and her whereabouts are currently unknown — and they should stay that way. El should be left out of Season 2 entirely.
The Duffers have shot down the idea that Stranger Things would become an anthology, leaving the events of Season 1 hanging. They’ve assured fans they wouldn’t do away with favorite characters when the second season debuts on Netflix in 2017. Ross Duffer told EW, “We realized that we were falling in love with these characters and that the audience would fall in love with these characters, so the plan would be to treat [Season 2] like a sequel, where there’s a different tension, but at the same time staying with these characters for a little bit longer.”
This makes perfect sense for Will and his best friends Mike, Dustin, and Lucas – and other characters like Chief Hopper, Joyce Byers; even reformed pretty-boy jerk, Steve Harrington. They’re great characters and we actually want to see how they would deal with that “different tension” after what happened in the first eight episodes. But the predominant detail about Season 2 from the Duffers so far has been about pushing a contrast between seasons to a fascinating — and appropriate — limit.
The difference between Season 1 and 2 will probably look like the differences between the various sequels to the 1980s and early-’90s movies that the Duffers used for inspiration during Season 1. “I know movie sequels get a lot of shit, but the ones we look up to aspire to pivot and do something different,” Matt Duffer told EW, specifically citing Temple of Doom, Aliens, and Terminator 2 as models for how sequels are done right.
And it’s true, those particular follow-ups aren’t lazy continuations of a story rehashed for quick cash. Instead they subvert the idea of what was expected of their very sequel-ness whether it’s making Aliens a war movie instead of horror, turning Arnold Schwarzenegger into the good guy in T2, or revamping the sought-after MacGuffin that Indiana Jones chases after in Temple of Doom.
This all brings us back to El.
She’s arguably the standout of the entire first season and she makes us want to eat nothing but Eggos for the rest of our lives. But it’s easy to forget that El isn’t the main character of the series. She’s important because she is the narrative fulcrum, but a character who ties everything together isn’t the end point of the show. The introduction of a possible equivalent named Max for Season 2 is enough to remind us that. El is dramatically expendable, and if the Duffers want Season 2 to be like the disruptive sequels they cited, the most worthwhile decision they could make would be to pull a Game of Thrones and keep Eleven out of the second season altogether.
The Duffers have been reticent with saying anything concrete about El’s presence in Season 2 so far, with Ross Duffer telling EW, “We don’t know about Eleven,” and “We leave that up in the air.” This might be because of the mysterious way she exited the first season, or it could hint that they want the narrative tension of El’s absence to affect the characters and the audience’s experience of the new season. There will undoubtedly be behind the scenes photos soon enough with or without Brown and her shaved head to confirm if she’ll be back.
She is obviously a beloved standout character, so it’s not like she’ll be gone forever. If anything Millie Bobby Brown has the potential for a long hip-hop career ahead of her so it’s not like she needs the work. But as far as the characters in the series go the evil Dr. Brenner allegedly died on-screen, but the Duffers promised he’ll be back. El’s weird Season 1 Demogorgon dissolve is probably along the same lines. Hopper leaving out Eggos for a possible Upside Down snack heavily points to her being okay. Plus the Season 2 chapter titles like “The Storm,” “The Secret Cabin,” and “The Brain” all tangentially reference her or her powers, which means she’ll at least be a big concern.
But having her away from what happens would be just enough of the kind of change the Duffers have promised. It’s totally unexpected, and probably the strangest thing Matt and Ross Duffer could possibly do on Stranger Things.