As the creators of Stranger Things now know so well, in this day and age, any TV show that garners a nerdy fan-base with an internet connection is sure to be surrounded by one thing: fan theories. From questions surrounding Eleven's ability to create portals to other dimensions, to the true identity of her mother, the range of directional possibilities in Season 2 is growing more complex by the day. Now I'm about to throw another one into the mix, one that suggests Will Byers has returned from the Upside Down not a Demogorgon, not a Planeswalker, but a Giant Slug. I know that sounds ridiculous, but hear me out.
Earlier this month at the annual BAFTA Awards Season Tea Party, Vanity Fair probed #StrangerThings cast members and their executive producer, Shawn Levy, for Season 2 exclusives. And, within the chatter about "growing up a bit" and narratives getting "darker," there were a couple of golden info-nuggets that sparked this pretty gross Giant Slug theory: one from Levy, and the other from Noah Schapp, who plays Will. I have bolded the important parts for clarity:
1. Levy talks of a thematic continuation and deeper threats:
“Season 2 is bigger and potentially darker in its stakes. The threat, which in Season 1 was to Will Byers, has grown ... [it] is definitely loyal to the kind of magical storytelling that we established in the first season. It’s character-based and still about our core group of characters.”
2. While Schnapp addresses his character development:
“You’ll be seeing more of me. I’ll be there. In the last episode, I threw up a slug, so Season 2 begins with what happens from there. There may have been some effect on him. I may or may not have turned into a monster. You’ll have to watch to find out."
OK, so from here we have three starting points: Firstly, that this season will continue to be other-worldly and "magical;" secondly that the threat has grown, which could indicate not only a stronger evil than the Demogorgon, but more villains who're not necessarily linked to that beast. And lastly, "I may or may not have turned into a monster" — now that statement there is a daydream enabler on its own, but when pared with his earlier comment about puking up a slug, could it be that maybe, just maybe, Schnapp is giving us a huge hint at what monster he will be?
Firstly, Let's Talk Briefly About Dungeons & Dragons
OK, so most of you probably know already that the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons features heavily in Stranger Things Season 1, and not just because the boys are shown playing it. Within D&D, there are a bunch of different traits for each character — Rogue (stealthy), Bard (diplomatic), Ranger (tracking skills), Sorcerer (innate magical power), etc. — and the kids in Stranger Things can be understood by these traits, too (you can read a full character breakdown here).
Then we have the monster — the Demogorgon, one of the most feared beasts in D&D history, replaced by a Thessalhydra in the final episode (which could also be a massive clue for Season 2), and the length of their campaign itself, which was a lil' wink from the creators — the Duffer brothers — to an audience complaining that the season wasn't long enough.
In a nutshell, D&D is a pretty big thing in Stranger Things. You get the picture.
So, WTF Does This Giant Slug Have To Do With It?
The Giant Slug is another dangerous D&D villain, and if you thought the Demogorgon was gross, this guy is a whole different bucket of nope. Here is the official description:
Slimy and disgusting, giant slugs are abhorrent creatures that inhabit swamps, where they wander in search of food, with their preference being dead or decaying organic material. They use their rasp-like tongues to reduce food into manageable chunks, then devour it.
They also spit corrosive acid on their food before they eat it. Yum.
Although a huge (wussy) part of me does not want a raspy, acid-tongued slug to wiggle onto my #TV screen this summer, here are three hints that suggest one might*.
- Nerd Alert: How Dungeons & Dragons Explains 'Stranger Things' Much More Than You Imagined
- Did The End Of 'Stranger Things' Tell Us What Season 2 Will Be About?
- 'Stranger Things' Season 2 Theories To Help Unlock That Curiosity Door
1. Slugs Were A Motif In The First Season
In Season 1, slugs were generally present whenever someone had fallen victim to the Demogorgon within the Upside Down. Barb's cadaver had one slidin' out of her mouth. When Will is back in his family home, he coughs one up in the sink. But why a slug? As far as I can tell, slugs have nothing to do with Demogorgon, so the use of them repeatedly as a symbol for this dark otherworld is strange — unless they foreshadow the arrival of another beast.
Also, as the description in point 1 states, these guys prefer their food organic, decaying or dead, which would make sense in regards to why the slugs wriggled inside Barb and Will and not Nancy in the Upside Down.
2. The Upside Down Fits Their Ecology
According to the description of the Giant Slug's preferred habitat, they're big fans of dark, swampy marshes that reside fairly close to civilized dwellings so they can munch on live stock, spray acid on your face then eat you too, and then destroy your family home with their insane size. Ignoring the pastimes though, their stomping ground sounds quite a lot like the Upside Down and its proximity to Hawkins, Indiana, no?
Then there's this:
Deep below ground, some subterranean races use giant slugs as mounts or guardians. Creatures like mites, who have a strange empathy with vermin, can be used to keep giant slugs docile, but in most cases, those who would use giant slugs must do so with great care, keeping them well fed until they are needed for battle. Frightened whispers report armies of troglodytes using giant slugs as siege mounts. One particularly disturbing tale mentions a vast underground cavern inhabited by scores of skum and aboleth-controlled aquatic giant slugs with strange, mind-numbing abilities infused into their acidic saliva.
Who's to say that the Demogorgon wasn't one of these Giant Slug empathizers, killing victims and dragging them to its lair to keep them fed and ready for whatever's coming next? Perhaps we're going to have a big monster battle in Season 2, and these slugs are only part of it?
2. That Mysterious Egg
Remember that "pause this a minute" moment in the Stranger Things finale while Hopper and Joyce are looking for Will in the Upside Down and a light is shone upon a mysterious egg — the one you see above? Yeah? Now read this description of Giant Slug reproduction:
What strange influence might have caused the first giant slugs to grow to such monstrous proportions is unknown, but today, giant slugs breed true and birth their oversized offspring after a fleshy, squirming courtship ritual. After mating, a female giant slug lays just over a hundred eggs, each approximately a foot in diameter.
Could this egg be a slug egg? One of a hundred slug eggs? That are about to crack forth to create a massive slug army? How insane would that be?!
*I'm aware this theory has many holes. For one, the slugs spat out by Will and Barb were not mammoth. But I hope it's at least it's given you some food for hard-to-digest thought.
Would you love to see Will transform into a giant slug in Season 2 of Stranger Things?