Are you ready to get hooked on Stranger Things all over again? The hit Netflix series finally returns for season 2 after a long 15 months away just in time to thrill us before Halloween. The Duffer Brothers have promised a nine-episode stretch of new characters and bigger scares than we saw in season 1.
To get you ready for Friday, Rotten Tomatoes has rounded up the nine things you need to know from season 1 and about what’s to come.
We know that the main action of season 2 takes place on and around Halloween 1984, which means it’s been about a year since Will’s disappearance and return. And as far as we know, the Upside Down has stayed put. Eleven hasn’t been seen in the months since facing the Demogorgon, either.
As anyone who watched Stranger Things season 1 already knows, the main mission of Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) across those eight episodes was to retrieve Will (Noah Schnapp) from the Upside Down, the alternate dimension where the monstrous Demogorgon had captured and trapped Will.
Helping them along the way was the telekinetic Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who we later learned was in part responsible for opening Hawkins’ Upside Down portal and letting the Demogorgon escape in the first place. It’s not entirely her fault, though — she was the unwilling subject of experimentation at Hawkins Labs under the watch of her menacing “Papa,” Dr. Brenner and an unnamed government organization.
By season’s end, Eleven sacrifices herself to kill the Demogorgon once and for all, and Will is reunited with his friends, his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder), and his brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton). At the end of the season 1 finale, however, it becomes clear that the Upside Down isn’t done with Will yet: He throws up a mysterious-looking, otherworldly slug and is momentarily transported back to the alternate dimension. Whether this was real or a hallucination is unclear, but we know it’s not good.
We don’t know the circumstances of her life in the Upside Down or how she’s gotten by on her own for the last year, but it appears as if Eleven is still alive. At least, Sheriff Jim Hopper has been leaving Eggo waffles at a drop spot in the woods. Hopper was shown at the end of season 1 getting into a mysterious black car with tinted windows and then afterward leaving waffles for Eleven. We don’t know who was in the car, but it seems they have enlisted the help of Hopper to keep Eleven alive and/or hidden.
Season 1 was an arc of redemption for Steve, who as the handsome, popular guy with great hair gets the reserved and intelligent Nancy to swoon, even as her best friend Barb is telling her all the reasons she shouldn’t. Then when Barb becomes a midnight snack to the prowling Demogorgon, Nancy snaps out of it and realizes that everything Joyce and Jonathan has been saying is true: Something evil is afoot. She dumps Steve and sets her sights on helping Jonathan find his younger brother (and in her hope of hopes to find Barb). That leads to Steve being a grade-A bully; he even picks an alleyway fight with Jonathan and gets Sheriff Hopper’s crew involved in their scuffle. By season’s end, though, he comes around, and redeems himself by kicking some Demogorgon butt alongside Nancy and Jonathan.
This season sees Nancy and Steve still dating a year later while Jonathan has been adequately friend-zoned, but with the mounting tension surrounding Will’s mental and physical health and Nancy’s continued grief over Barb’s death, we’ll have to see how the two of them cope. The latest trailer for the series shows Nancy sitting up in bed with Jonathan asking, “Don’t you think it’s weird how we only seem to hang out when the world’s about to end?”
Speaking of the world ending, that appears to be what’s at stake in season 2. Stranger Things, of course, has to live up to its namesake, so don’t expect the Demogorgon to be the only unearthly horror within the Upside Down.
“We kinda just peeled back the curtain and revealed a tiny bit of the Upside Down,” co-creator Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly last year. “So we definitely want to explore a little bit more. There’s a lot we don’t know about the Upside Down at the end of season 1.”
Co-creator and twin brother Ross Duffer said that that not knowing left room to expand and explore: “We obviously have this gate to another dimension, which is still very much open in the town of Hawkins. And a lot of questions there in terms of, if the Monster is dead, was it a singular monster? What else could be out there? We really don’t go in there much until they go in to find Will at the end. So we’ve opened up this doorway, and to us it’s exciting to talk about, like, what else is behind there? There’s a lot more mystery there to be solved.”
As we said before, season 1 ended with Will throwing up an Upside Down slug and briefly transporting there. Hopper and Joyce both seem to think that these hallucinations aren’t just in his head, which is cause enough for him to be monitored by the doctors at Hawkins Labs. The hallucinations this time around seem to be linked to this giant, spider-like shadow monster that Will sees looming in the sky above his small town. If that thing proves to be more than just in his head, season 2 promises major frights.
Expect to get scared. Finn Wolfhard told People earlier this year that this season is “a lot more horror-oriented,” and the trailers would indicate that, as well. There looks to be all the action and thrills we’d want from the second outing of a hit franchise. “I think people are going to like it more than the first season,” Wolfhard said. “There are going to be some challenges that the characters face that are real. That are disturbing.” Could those stakes truly be the end of the world, as Nancy indicates?
As played by Harbour, Sheriff Jim Hopper became one of our favorite unlikely heroes of 2016. And while he was doing the right thing by the end of season 1 and seemed to have somewhat gotten his life back on track, Harbour revealed at Comic Con this year that it’s a continued journey for him. He’s still a troubled guy who hits “pitfalls” on his path to righteousness. “There is a psychology of a heroic action where someone does something heroic [and wonders] whether they can live up to that in their daily life,” Harbour said, adding, “You’re going to see a wildly different arc in season 2, but to me it’s just as satisfying.”
Jim and Joyce’s search for Will in season 1 brought them to a similar missing child’s case from some years before where a woman, Terry Ives, claimed that after partaking in various experiments for a government agency, she became pregnant and that that same agency later took her baby upon her birth and covered it up as a miscarriage. It has been hypothesized that the baby who was stolen from her grew up to be Eleven. Now Terry is catatonic and in the care of her sister — what will that mean for Eleven, who is purportedly alive and in hiding?
A new but familiar ’80s face is joining the Stranger Things team with Paul Reiser, who’s cast as Dr. Owens. He’s shown in the trailer wearing a white lab coat and appears to be involved with Will’s ongoing tests. He told Comic Con earlier this year, “I basically come in to clean up Brenner’s mess, and, uh, certain things happen.”
“Certain things,” indeed. Also new to the mix are Sadie Sink as tomboy Max, a California transplant who moves to Hawkins and joins the younger boys’ friend group. Not much else is known, but expect her to get swept up in their adventures, as well.
Dacre Montgomery (whom you may know from the new Power Rangers reboot) is also on board as Billy, Max’s older brother and the teen “human antagonist” to the Hawkins kids.
“The Duffers were very vocal with me about [how they were] playing with monsters as antagonists, and they wanted me to be a human antagonist,” Montgomery revealed at Comic Con. “I hope I can be scary enough.”
And lastly is another ’80s leading man, Sean Astin, who plays Bob Newby, a high school nerd–turned–Radio Shack manager. He was in class with Hopper and Joyce, so expect their story lines to interconnect this season.
Stranger Things season 2 premieres Friday, October 27 on Netflix.