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[Warning: This story contains full spoilers for season two of Netflix’s Stranger Things.]
If you were left mouth-breathingly jaw-dropped at the end of “Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister,” you certainly weren’t alone.
Easily the biggest swing of the entire series both in terms of content and deviations from the formula, the seventh hour of Stranger Things season two sees Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven breaking free from Hawkins for a quick jaunt through Chicago. Here, she meets Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), also known as Eight, another survivor from the Hawkins Lab with superpowers of her own: the ability to implant false images in people’s minds. During their time together, Eleven joins her veritable sister’s murderous crusade against the people who worked for the lab and destroyed their lives — but ultimately, Eleven not only refuses to pull the trigger, she also experiences a vision of the danger surrounding her friends back in Hawkins, sending her home to take on the Mind Flayer.
Eleven’s trip to Chicago only comes about after some other major revelations — namely, that she spent the time between seasons one and two living with Hopper (David Harbour) in a cabin in the woods, with Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and the rest of Hawkins completely unaware of her whereabouts. According to the Duffer Brothers and executive Shawn Levy, splitting Eleven away from the main crew was always viewed as a risk — albeit a risk they felt they needed to take.
“Eleven’s relationship with the boys was a big part of why people loved the first season, so it was a little bit scary to lose that and say no, we’re not going to do that this year,” co-creator Matt Duffer tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But we felt that if we were going to do another season, we would want it to feel different, and we would want to try other things — whether they work or not — instead of rehashing what we had done before. We wanted her to have her own journey of self-discovery, in a way that wasn’t tied at all to the boys. We wanted her to go out on her own.”
“We kind of expected it,” says Finn Wolfhard, weighing in on the separation between Mike’s story and the Eleven story. “It was kind of cool, actually. I didn’t really know what Millie was doing in her storyline. I was in the dark, and she was in the dark about our storyline, too. It was cool to see it all come together.”
As for sending Eleven out into the world on her own for an entire episode, Levy acknowledges that the choice was a controversial one: “It was an outlier by design. It’s a bit of a big swing at a very different kind of episode, that includes only one series regular, and all-new actors everywhere else in the episode. We wanted to take a chance. We knew that if we could pull it off, it would not only give a different taste in season two, but it would also be a slingshot that sends Eleven back to her friends and back to her home to protect those that she’s come to love in a really satisfying way.”
“We wanted to open up the world a little bit,” adds Matt Duffer. “It’s something we wanted to do from very early on. Are there other numbers out there? Does she have ‘siblings’ somewhere?”
According to fellow co-creator Ross Duffer, Eleven’s arc through season two was designed to mimic a similar story from one of the most widely adored sequels in cinema history.
“When you look at The Empire Strikes Back, Luke has to go on his own journey separate from everyone else in order to defeat this evil,” he explains. “What we got excited about early on is this idea of Eleven as a fish out of water adjusting to a new world in season one, and now it’s more about Eleven growing up outside of the lab. How does she deal with the trauma of what happened to her, just as everyone else has been dealing with their trauma? And does she use that experience for good or for bad? It’s her growing up that allows her to succeed in the end. That was the hope with the Eleven journey. It allowed us to explore relationships we wouldn’t have been allowed to explore otherwise.”
Of course, the story also offered the opportunity to strengthen the bond between Eleven and Hopper, easily the most emotionally impactful character combination of the season.
“We recognized at the end of season one how powerful they both were as actors,” Ross Duffer says about Millie Bobby Brown and David Harbour’s chemistry. “That’s why we left the Eggos in the box [at the end of season one]. We knew putting them together would lead to something really exciting.”
As for where things go from here, now that we know more about Eleven’s world, that she wasn’t the only person to walk away from Hawkins Lab with awesome powers at her disposal? It’s not just a question on fans’ minds, but one the creative team is batting back and forth as well.
“We’re still figuring out what we want to reveal in season three. But certainly now that we know Eleven is not the only one who survived Hawkins Lab with strange gifts, I think we’ve clearly hinted at a broader canvas available to us in the future.”
What did you think of episode seven? Was it too far afield from what makes Stranger Things work, or were you happy to see the world expand? Sound off in the comments below, and follow along with all of our continuing season two coverage by following THR.com/StrangerThings.
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