SPOILER ALERT: This post contains plot details for the Season 2 finale of Stranger Things, titled “The Gate.”
If you’re dedicated to the art of binge-watching and have already burned your way through all nine episodes of Stranger Things 2, you might have some lingering questions.
After a harrowing season that saw poor, unlucky Will Byers possessed by a terrifying Upside Down entity nicknamed “The Mind Flayer,” and the town of Hawkins menaced by a roving pack of demodogs (RIP Bob), Stranger Things 2 looked like it would go out on an optimistic note after Eleven closed the gate between worlds — with our heroes enjoying an innocent school dance while Joyce and Hopper shared a sneaky smoke out in the parking lot.
But that’s not where the story ends. In the finale’s closing moments, we pull back from the school as our perspective shifts, quite literally, Upside Down — revealing that dark alternate dimension, with a gigantic, many-legged monster looming over the school.
If the final shot confused you, you’re not alone — even the cast members weren’t sure exactly what the scene meant when they read the script.
“I still feel like I don’t really understand; it feels like there’s a bunch of different ways to interpret that,” star Joe Keery (aka Steve Harrington) told Mashable at the Season 2 premiere. “The way I interpreted it was that it’s this unsettled, unfinished business to be taken care of. There is a conclusion in the season, but I think Season 2 is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the problem.”
Executive producer Shawn Levy revealed that the enigmatic ending was completely by design, to help the producers break the story for Season 3.
“We very, very consciously limited the plot cliffhangers that commit us to Season 3 storylines. We learned on the first season, as soon as Hopper got in that black car, we had answers that we needed to get. As soon as Will coughed up that slug in the sink, we needed to give explanations. As soon as [Hopper] put those Eggos in that lock box, we were committing to a storyline,” he explained. “On Season 2, we definitely implied that evil has not left Hawkins, and that it’s lying in wait. Other than that, I think it’s a wide-open horizon for the storyline of Season 3. We’re just starting to develop it, and we’re enjoying the kind of wide-open freedom to take these characters almost any way we want, without being too obligated to explain things that we left as breadcrumbs at the end of the finale.”
Does that mean that anything can happen in Season 3? Kind of — except for one rule: They can’t pick up immediately after the events of the Season 2 finale.
As the showrunners, the Duffer Brothers, pointed out to The Hollywood Reporter, the series needs to take yearlong time jumps between seasons for a very practical reason.
“Even if we wanted to hop into the action faster, we couldn’t. Our kids are aging. We can only write and produce the show so fast,” Matt Duffer told THR. “They’re going to be almost a year older by the time we start shooting Season 3. It provides certain challenges. You can’t start right after Season 2 ended. It forces you to do a time jump. But what I like is that it makes you evolve the show. It forces the show to evolve and change, because the kids are changing.”
As for what that final shot means for our kids next season, Ross Duffer gave THR a hint: “They’ve shut the door on the Mind Flayer, but not only is it still there in the Upside Down, it’s very much aware of the kids, and particularly Eleven. It had not encountered her and her powers until that final episode. Now, it knows that she’s out there. We wanted to end on a little bit of an ominous note on that level.”
Stranger Things 2 is now streaming on Netflix.
Additional reporting by Scott Huver.