If you've watched the new Stranger Things" (and judging from the speculation online as to whether or not the amount of people watching would be enough to crash Netflix's servers, you probably have), then you know that, while the arc has definitely closed and most loose ends tied up, there are certainly places where the heavily '80s-indebted series could go. And, again, judging by the phenomenal numbers and general pop culture awareness for the Duffer Brothers series, we should be looking at a second season sooner rather than later.
So, if you enjoy the kind of aimless theorizing that probably has little (if any) baring on the actual events of "Stranger Things" Season 2, please read on. Just a quick SPOILER WARNING: We will be talking about this first season in depth so if you haven't watched it yet, please do.
Chapter 1: What Could Happen
A Lengthy Time Jump"Stranger Things" borrows, more than John Carpenter or Steven Spielberg, from the works of American author Stephen King. (King acknowledged this and was cool with it.) Everything from the font of the show and the title itself (bearing more than a little resemblance to his "Needful Things") to the idea about a parallel world just beyond the shadows to the camaraderie between childhood friends who band together to banish an ancient evil ... It all reeks of King. And, should it follow strictly in the King model, then Season 2 would pick up decades later, with the four friends now grown adults, who have to fight an ancient evil that has come back. This is the basis of bona fide classics like "It" and the recent "Shining" follow-up "Doctor Sleep" to lesser (but still entertaining) works like "Dreamcatcher." It's safe to say that "Stranger Things," if it follows the King trajectory, could return with the same characters played by completely different, grown-up actors.
It Picks Up Right Where It Leaves OffAgain: while it could follow the King model, it could also simply follow the course of a basic television series and pick up where the events of Season 1 left off. To be sure, there are a number of lingering questions: what did Hopper (David Harbour) say to the nefarious government agents and why does he still think Eleven (Millie Brown) is still alive? Why is Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) still having visions of the alternate reality? And why didn't the monster eat him after all that time? Is Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) really dead? And what of the other pathways to the alternate dimension? If the one in the lab is the only one that Eleven opened up, what was that crazy, Guillermo del Toro-inspired tree about? And what of Barb? We just hope the Duffer Brothers have a solid groundwork because if they're going with this path they need to do it fast. Kids age rapidly (remember when Walt, after being gone for a "few months" in the continuity of "Lost," returned looking old enough to teach at the Dharma Initiative Grad School?) Talk about scary.
More Time in the Upside DownAnother way to go about Season 2, which again follows the Stephen King model in some respects (including the books he wrote with Peter Straub and his defining "Dark Tower" novels), is to have the majority of the second season set in the alternate universe, described by the kids as The Upside Down. Since the first season was set primarily in the real world, with only flashes to the alternate dimension, they could flip the script in "Stranger Things" Season 2 and have the majority of it happen in the Upside Down, with the real-world stuff as the secondary concern. Of course, much of the charm of "Stranger Things" is its ability to make the ordinary uncanny; if everything is uncanny, then the ordinary just seems kind of blah.
A Different Story Altogether
There hasn't been anything to explicitly suggest that it would follow a normal television cycle, with one season having any connection whatsoever to the previous season. Instead, it could adopt the anthology concept, so favored by Ryan Murphy and his confederates, wherein each season would be wholly different from each other, with only slight, tenuous connections between them. "Stranger Things" could do the same thing; Season 2 could be more hardcore, scarier, less whimsical. But how far away can you get from the core principles of "Stranger Things," the Spielbergian wonder and kitschy aesthetic, before it stops becoming "Stranger Things"? It doesn't seem as pliable a framework as, say, "American Horror Story." But we could be wrong.
Chapter 2: What Should Happen
Hire Name DirectorsOne of the joys of "Stranger Things" is how it's able to evoke a certain style and era of filmmaking without it ever seeming like a complete photocopy. This is why it's so refreshing that Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine, both big stars in the decade the series is trying to emulate, come to the table with fully fleshed out characters who are wholly different from their previous roles. They aren't just mugging it up and repeating what they've done before, like some primetime sci-fi convention. They're fully invested in these new characters, and they're used sparingly. (The Duffer Brothers didn't take the Rob Zombie route and just stuff the cast with his cult movie favorites, thankfully.)
One way of adding some retro bang, though, would be to hire big-name '80s directors behind the camera. "Dead of Summer," the Freeform series with a similar vibe, has gone out of its way to hire directors like Mick Garris (who helmed a number of King adaptations, including much of his '90s TV output), Ron Underwood (who directed "Tremors") and legendary filmmakers like John Landis ("An American Werewolf in Paris") and Joe Dante ("Gremlins"). (Even CBS's "Braindead" has hired people like Roger Corman acolyte Alan Arkush to helm episodes.) It would be another way of nodding to the past without explicitly referencing it.
It's never a good thing when shot-gunning an entire series in a single weekend feels easy. And yet "Stranger Things," with its clipped, eight-episode runtime, felt too short. When it comes back, it should have a few more episodes, or perhaps just longer ones. Those Stephen King miniseries sure were good (hey, "Kingdom Hospital" had 13 one-hour installments).
More MonstersOne thing is for sure: we need to see more of The Upside Down. What are the mechanics? Is everybody else living there? And how much did the Duffer Brothers love "Under the Skin"? To that end, there should also be more monsters. It always felt a little weird that there was only one, flowery-faced demon hunting down the kids. Surely there must be other weirdo creatures on the other side with a similar thirst for blood? We would sure love to see those. And if this time the monster could have eyes, that'd be great. We know what you were going for (it seems like a mash-up of a del Toro beastie, John Carpenter's version of The Thing, and nefarious title characters from King's short story "The Langoliers"), but it'd be nice to see what the thing is looking at.
Chapter 3: Why It Doesn't Matter
Ultimately, though, what the second season of "Stranger Things" could (or should) be doesn't matter. The Duffer Brothers have let us into their wonderfully weird worldview and have done so brilliantly. This really is phenomenal entertainment, orchestrated by a pair of creative minds who understand the power (and danger) of nostalgia and have created something that will probably be seen as every bit as classic as what they were emulating.
So, "Stranger Things" Season 2, whenever it is and whatever form it takes, will be welcomed with open arms.