Stranger Things 2 is on the horizon and we cannot wait to get back into one of the greatest series of recent times. That being said, it’s been over a year since we last visited the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, so we thought we’d create a little refresher for everyone. Be aware that MASSIVE SPOILERS are contained in the blog, so if you haven’t seen the first season be wary about reading on. Unless you don’t have time to watch the show and just want to be able to blag having watched it around your friends. In which case carry on.
What was it all about again?
If you cast your mind way back, Stranger Things started off being about the disappearance of one young boy, Will Byers, from the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. Although this is the driving force behind this 80s based adventure it soon becomes about much more than a simple missing child.
From the get-go, we know there is some sort of shadowy beast lurking around the town. Dubbed the Demogorgon, this monster has connections to the very shadowy Hawkins Laboratories organisation who have set up a large, heavily guarded complex in the area.
To confuse matters further there is Eleven, the little skinhead girl with a penchant for nosebleeds, psychic phenomena and eggo waffles. She joins some of the local kids in trying to track down their missing friend. Also on the hunt is Will’s mother, Joyce Byers, who has several eerie encounters in her house and is communicating with her son via Christmas Lights.
Throw in some teenage angst, coming of age stories and 80s nostalgia and you have a corker of a show on your hands.
Who is Eleven?
Eleven is a little psychic girl who escaped the sinister clutches of Hawkins Lab after they performed several disturbing experiments on her. It is revealed that she is probably Jane Ives, the daughter of Terry Ives, a woman who was experimented on while pregnant. Mother and daughter never met due to the machinations of Dr Brenner, who convinced Terry she had suffered a miscarriage while secretly stealing Jane for his own evil plans.
By the time she is 12 years old she has manifested some awesome powers and is able to use her mind to crush or throw objects as well as contact people psychically. Although doing any of these results in her getting a nosebleed. While being exploited by Dr Brenner she is used to psychically spy on Russians and during one of these sessions, she accidentally comes into contact with the Demogorgon and the Upside Down. This creates a link between that world and ours.
She finally escapes the lab and is forced to hide in the town of Hawkins. Teaming up with Mike Wheeler, Lucas Sinclair and Dustin Henderson she helps out in the search for Will Byers. A classic fish out of water character, Eleven has a hard time adjusting to a “normal” life although she forges fast friends with the group and even a budding romance with Mike.
Eventually, Eleven helps find and rescue Will and saves her friends from both Hawkins Lab guards and even the Demogorgon itself. Although in the end the effort was too much and while disintegrating the monster she disappears herself.
What is Hawkins Laboratory and who is Dr Martin Brenner?
Keeping with the more Earthly players we have the shadowy Hawkins National Laboratory (HNL). Officially this organisation is connected to the US Department of Energy and has its main building hidden deep in a secluded forest near the town of Hawkins, Indiana. On first inspection, it seems just like a normal multi-story building, but with a huge underground complex and far more security than seems normal, it’s obvious HNL is something special.
In reality, Hawkins National Laboratory was a front for the genius, if amoral, scientist Dr Martin Brenner. This was a man with a deep history of being involved in shadowy projects for the government. The first one we know of is the controversial MKUltra, an actual real-life series of experiments in the US. This controversial project was involved in many things, including tests into mind control as an interrogation technique.
Back to the story, we find that Dr Brenner likely stole the baby from one of his test subjects and has been experimenting on the child. Finding that Eleven has psychic abilities he pushed her into becoming a weapon for the government. When she encountered the Demogorgon on a psychic spying mission, it was Brenner who forced her into contacting the beast and inadvertently creating a gate to the Upside Down.
For most of the series, HNL takes the role of the sinister government organisation hunting for Eleven and eventually the gang of kids. Using the alternate cover company, Hawkins Power and Light, the security teams are able to move around without arousing suspicion. They are very reminiscent of the type of government group that was popular in 80s movies. A primary example is the organisation who are hunting for ET in the Spielberg classic. Towards the end of the series they are infiltrated by both the heroes and the Demogorgon and if not destroyed, at least severely damaged. The fate of Dr Brenner is unknown as he was last seen being attacked by the transdimensional beast. Although a newspaper clipping hints at his survival.
What is the Demogorgon?
HNL isn’t the only threat to the populace of Hawkins, in fact, they are not even the most dangerous, that title goes to the mysterious monster from the Upside Down. It’s this beast that kidnaps Will and kills fan favourite Barb. In theory, it’s not evil, but it’s certainly scary enough to bring an element of horror to the show.
The closest it comes to being named in the show is when the kids start referring to it as the Demogorgon, a moniker taken from a powerful monster in Dungeons and Dragons. Little is known about it other than it lives in the Upside Down, is drawn by blood and is obviously highly predatory.
Resembling a naked humanoid but with a giant maw and petal-like flaps instead of a face, it’s one freaky looking thing. It’s obviously strong but it has a number of other abilities as well. There are hints that it is psychic, indeed it could sense Eleven as she eavesdropped on Russian spies. It’s also hinted that it used Psychokinesis to open a door. Perhaps it’s most terrifying trick is its ability to cross between the real world and the Upside Down at will. This allows it to show up anywhere and drag hapless victims back to its own dimension.
Throughout the season the monster will show up to attack random townsfolk. When Will is communicating with his Mom through the Christmas lights, the beast can sense it and either attack Will or attempt to break through to the real world. By the end of the show, it has killed loads of guards, some deer and, of course, poor old Barb.
During the climax, it comes face to face with Eleven who is determined to protect her friends from the beast. Despite its massive strength, the Demogorgon is pinned to a wall and disintegrated fully by Elevens powerful psychic abilities. While this looks like the end for this one boogeyman. Who knows if it’s the only one living in the Upside Down?
The Upside Down
Something dark stirs beneath the skin of Hawkins. A dark and mysterious other world, that is a strange a twisted mirror version of the small town in Indiana. A place that is not even known about until events in the Hawkins National Laboratory led to its discovery.
This dimension is the source of much of the mystery in Stranger Things. It’s the place that the Demogorgon comes from and where the victims it abducts are taken. In the dimension, the buildings and features of the real town exist but are all twisted and different. A permanent fog hangs in the air and spores float about freely.
The main protagonists name the place the Upside Down. This is after a conversation with Eleven who explains that the realm is like the other side of a game board. A different space entirely but still connected to the main universe. Other people theorise that it is another parallel dimension entirely.
Little is known about the nature of the Upside Down. HNL seems to think the air is poisonous but several people have entered the dimension and not suffered any adverse effects. In fact, Will was in there for a week and, although very sick, was still alive. Although it’s obvious that life there can be quite hostile to humans.
It’s not known why buildings and things are mirrored in the dimension, the entire town of Hawkins seems to exist in a twisted way. It’s also strange that sound in the real world can be heard in the Upside Down. Although the reverse is only true when near gates. People can also affect the real world in some subtle ways. The best example is when Will manipulates the Christmas lights to talk to his mom. Whenever the Demogorgon changes dimension it also affects all the local electricity.
Even less is known about the flora and fauna of the realm. Obviously, there is at least one big nasty predator, but there aren't’ that many other life forms. Some slug-like things live in the corpses that have been brought back by the beast and a tendril is forced into the mouth of Will. Whether these are parts of a larger ecosystem is yet to be seen. There are also glowing “Eggs” which the Demogorgon seems to feed off.
In the end, we don’t learn much about the place except that it exists and some nasty things live there. With Dr Brenner probably still on the loose, the gate still active and Will having flashes of the Upside Down (and vomming up a slug) expect even more other dimension adventures in the Season 2.