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Are you ready for your world to be turned Upside Down?
The second season of Netflix’s breakout horror series Stranger Things arrives this week, hitting the streaming service on Oct. 27 — appropriately timed, given that the release and the events of the show both take place in the thick of Halloween. Set roughly one year after a small-town nightmare involving a small boy’s disappearance into a larger-than-life world, Stranger Things season two adds new characters and new monsters alike into the world, fictional and otherwise, positioned to dominate the pop culture conversation for weeks to come.
But before that dialogue begins, it’s crucial to remember everything that’s come before in the world of Stranger Things — or most things, at least. Let’s cap it at an even 11, an appropriate number given the heroine at the heart of the tale. For those who either need to freshen their memory on the Duffer Brothers’ series or somehow missed the show entirely (in which case, you are strongly advised to watch the eight-episode first season before reading any further), here’s our rundown of what you need to know ahead of season two.
1. The Start
The series begins in 1983, with Thanksgiving in sight and Christmas just around the corner. It takes place in Hawkins, Indiana, a small rural town where nothing unusual happens, ever. No siree, nothing to see here — except for the cracks within the fabric of existence that may or may not (but most certainly do) lead to another dimension known as the Upside Down, a shadow universe of sorts covered in darkness and otherworldly ash.
2. The Party
Four children are drawn into the mysterious Upside Down (one more literally than others): Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), looked upon as a leader within his friend group, always tasked with the role of Dungeon Master during rounds of Dungeons & Dragons; Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin), courageous but cautious, deadly with a slingshot, and always approaching the unknown with a skeptical eye; Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), brash and boisterous, often the source of the show’s biggest laughs; and Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), Mike’s mild-mannered best friend, and the boy who kicks the series into higher gear.
3. The Missing
On a cold autumn evening, following a successful Dungeons & Dragons campaign, Will goes missing. His friends, family and the Hawkins community at large would soon look all over the town in pursuit of the missing child, eventually believing him dead. But Will was very much alive, albeit in terrible danger, trapped inside the Upside Down, doing everything in his power to stay hidden from…
4. The Monster
Also known as “The Demogorgon,” based on the name of the creature Will and the party fought and killed during the fateful D&D session. An upright and oil-slicked humanoid with a face that’s more mouth than anything else, the Monster hails from the Upside Down, murdering and otherwise capturing folks from Hawkins, including Will. Its exact purpose and nature? Unknown. We can safely say it’s “unfriendly,” as well as “lethal,” and leave it there for now.
5. The Experiment
Around the same time of Will’s disappearance, someone else arrives in Hawkins: Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), a young girl who has escaped from the nearby Hawkins National Laboratory. What she lacks in interpersonal skills and experience, Eleven more than makes up for in terms of raw telekinetic power. (She’s also a big fan of waffles, especially of the Eggo variety.) Throughout the season, agents from the lab hit the trail in pursuit of Eleven, going so far as to kill witnesses along the way. Their efforts are led by Brenner (Matthew Modine), the cruel doctor known in Eleven’s world as “Papa.”
6. The Searchers
Will’s friends (including Eleven, who slowly becomes the party’s newest member over the course of the season) aren’t the only people on the case. There are adults in the room, too, including Sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour), a half-drunk brute with a full-tilt approach toward any and all conflict, personal safety be damned. It takes a minute, but he eventually comes to fully join up with Will’s mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), who refuses to believe her son is dead, even when a body turns up and suggests otherwise.
7. The Injustice
Four more players to keep in mind: Will’s older brother, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and Mike’s older sister, Nancy (Natalie Dyer), battling awkward romantic tension while also battling the Demogorgon, following its role in the disappearance of Nancy’s best friend, Barb (Shannon Purser). For those who have never watched Stranger Things but have heard the words “Justice for Barb,” the phrase refers to the death of Barb, unceremoniously killed by the Upside Down monster. The fourth person connected to this storyline is Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), the coolest kid in school, certainly with the coolest hair. He’s not the easiest guy to get along with, but circumstances eventually cause Steve to come around to the right side of this fight.
8. The Gathering
Eventually, all roads lead to the same place. A body identified as Will eventually surfaces, but Hopper ultimately discovers it’s a fake. Will’s friends refuse to give up on him, continuing their search with help from Eleven, whose murky past as a Hawkins Lab experiment begins to come to light. Jonathan and Nancy engage the Demogorgon in direct battle, experiencing the horrors of the Upside Down for themselves. All the while, Brenner and his flunkies are hot on Eleven’s tail, doing their best to contain the situation at all costs. It’s not long before all parties converge, leading to…
9. The Rescue
Everyone plays a part in Will’s rescue in their own way. Jonathan and Nancy battle the Demogorgon once again, luring it to the Byers’ house, where they inflict serious damage with help from Steve. The monster winds up at school, where it rips several Hawkins Lab associates to shreds, including (presumably) Dr. Brenner. Eleven, shortly after kissing Mike for the first time, steps up against the monster and telekinetically eviscerates him, disappearing herself in the process. For their part, Joyce and Hopper travel into the Upside Down, where they discover an unconscious Will (as well as a very dead Barb) and bring him back home.
10. The End
A month after Will’s return, it’s Christmas, and everyone celebrates in their own way. We see Hopper traveling out into the woods, leaving Eggo waffles behind, an indication he knows what’s happened to Eleven. We see Nancy and Steve together, their relationship intact, a surprising development given Nancy and Jonathan’s growing closeness. The kids aren’t so traumatized that they’ve abandoned their D&D get-togethers, even if Mike is visibly sadder since losing Eleven. As for Will? It’s not going so well, appearances to the contrary. He excuses himself from dinner, goes to the bathroom, sees visions of the Upside Down, and vomits what appears to be a baby Demogorgon into the sink — a clear setup for where the show is going in season two.
11. The Beginning
Speaking of season two…well, here we are! Almost, anyway. Viewers know very little about exactly what’s in store for in the second year of Stranger Things, with some exceptions. It once again is set to take place in Hawkins, with the Upside Down explored even further. Indeed, a shadowy monster looms on the Upside Down horizon, seemingly visible only to Will. Brenner and Barb are gone (though their ghosts, literal or otherwise, will certainly factor into the season ahead), but new characters are stepping up in their stead: Paul Reiser and Sean Astin, both of whom are likely to provide some inspiration for season two with their respective Aliens and Goonies baggage, as well as Sadie Sink and Dacre Montgomery, as Max and Billy, respectively, the new kids in town. The Duffer Brothers have described season two as an expansion and escalation of the world and themes presented in season one — in other words, fans are in store for some very strange things indeed.
Follow THR.com/StrangerThings long for news, interviews, theories and more as season two rolls out.
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