Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 3 will be released in exactly a month, and we’ve got a homegrown theory about the new threat from the Upside Down that just might transform Hawkins’ meanest, hottest lifeguard into a grotesque Cronenberg monster that eats people. Here’s why.
Speculative spoilers for Stranger Things Season 3 ahead.
First, here’s all the evidence that Stranger Things Season 3 could lean into more gruesome horror that the past two seasons.
In Worlds Turned Upside Down, a companion book to Stranger Things released last year, series co-creators Matt and Ross Duffer mention that, similar to how Season 2 was inspired by Ghostbusters, Season 3 draws inspiration from three big horror directors: John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing), David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome), and George Romero (Night of the Living Dead). Together, these directors channel a terrifying fusion of body horror and zombie infections, implying that Season 3 could involve a zombie outbreak caused by the Upside Down.
In May, Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven, also teased the following: “I can say it’s spreading fast — and that’s all I can tell you.” Infections of any kind often spread fast, right?
Plus, the Season 3 episode titles revealed in November sequentially imply that something happens to Billy, someone (probably him) is bitten, and there’s a final battle at the new Starcourt Mall: “The Case of the Missing Lifeguard,” “The Bite,” and “The Battle of Starcourt” are all episode titles in Season 3.
So what does this have to do with Billy? Well, while we see one other lifeguard in the above Season 3 teaser (above), Billy is probably the “missing lifeguard” we’re talking about here, further implied by the fact that the Season 3 trailer released in March shows a tense scene where Billy’s in the shower looking ill and horrified at some kind of mark on his arm. This could be from “The Bite,” the seventh and penultimate episode of Season 3.
Maybe he’s bitten by something from the Upside Down and goes missing, and the rest of the Stranger Things characters don’t realize it for a few more episodes? This would be ironic considering how thirsty all of the moms in Hawkins are for this hot lifeguard in the above clip.
If Billy becomes the patient zero of this new infection, then he might gradually transform into Season 3’s chief monster shown in the trailer and on the poster revealed June 4.
In the first two seasons, we’ve seen one Demogorgon, one Shadow Monster, and a horde of Demodogs that grow from pollywog-looking creatures (like Dustin’s pet he named Dart). Everything that originates from the Upside Down grows organically and symmetrically, even if they’re nasty.
The new creature we see in the Season 3 trailer, however, looks like some mutated, lopsided monstrosity. The most recent thing we might compare it to are the “Cronenberg monsters” from Rick and Morty, which are human beings transformed by a mutated flu virus. Their name comes from filmmaker David Cronenberg, who introduced transformative body horror as a film subgenre — and is also cited as a major influence on Stranger Things 3.
In the trailer, the new creature mutates into existence in a hospital as Mike looks on. Bones break out of its bubbling skin and a gaping maw of a mouth roars. There’s even what looks like a human spine inside the creatures thick, right forearm. Gross.
Somehow, the Duffer brothers have come up with an even scarier creature from the Upside Down.
Here’s my prediction: Billy goes missing, gets hospitalized for some kind of bite, and then his body mutates into the new physical threat the kids fight at the Starcourt Mall in the finale. The new poster even supports all this thematically.
In the new poster, every character in the entire cast appears above the new, unnamed monster. There’s also a new character on the left at the Fun Fair carnival who’s probably Jake Busey. Billy, however, stands among some dead rats in the darkened bottom-right corner under the monster’s clawed arm. These rats might get infected like Hawkins’ plant life in Season 2, and after one of these rats bites Billy while he’s at Brimborn Steel Works, he gradually transforms into the monster.
Billy felt like a minor villain in Season 2, harassing Lucas and particularly his step-sister Max. If this theory pans out, then it looks like he might literally transform into Season 3’s big bad. What fun Dungeons & Dragons name will the kids give him?
Stranger Things 3 hits Netflix on July 4, 2019.