The second season of Stranger Things has reinforced its place as a cult classic, and fans are eager to see what will come next. Season 2 has laid the foundation for a very different approach going forward, introducing a new potential antagonist and resurrecting one we thought had been slain. But against this intriguing backdrop, is the threat of the Upside Down truly over?
Warning: Major spoilers follow for Stranger Things Season 2.
The Mind Flayer Watches
The great villain of Season 2, the monstrous creature known as the Mind Flayer is still out there. As the final scenes showed, the creature still watches over Hawkins. Intriguingly, it even seemed to have a sense of where the children were. We can't tell whether it was aware of Eleven, whose vast power ultimately defeated it, or of Will, who was once part of its hive mind.
In the Aftershow, the Duffer brothers described the creature as the show's "Voldemort." It's clear they view the Mind Flayer as a recurring menace, a ruthlessly intelligent creature that has its sights set on our reality. Eleven may have thwarted its plans, but the Mind Flayer's threat still looms over Hawkins. As the Duffer brothers told Slashfilm:
"The hope we wanted people to get out of it is that this thing [is still out there]. 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."
With the Gate closed though, how could the Mind Flayer possibly exert any influence on the real world? Surprisingly, there are three possibilities.
Will's Story Isn't Over
Let's start with Will, who survived in the Upside Down for a week, but emerged mysteriously changed. Season 2 revealed that he'd developed the power of "True Sight," an ability to shift his consciousness into the Upside Down and see what was happening there. Disturbingly, when Will's mind entered the Upside Down, he proved to be vulnerable to anything that was there. As a result, the Mind Flayer was able to possess him.
Crucially, there's no indication that the Mind Flayer was responsible for Will's visions. In fact, the creature usually wound up chasing after him, and only possessed him when Will unwisely stood his ground against it. Given that Will's powers are not rooted in the Mind Flayer, its defeat may not mean he has lost the gift of True Sight. That said, Will's visions do seem to have worsened as the Gate grew wider. It seems that, as the boundary between realities thinned, he became ever more sensitive to the Upside Down.
We shouldn't really expect Will's visions to instigate the Mind Flayer's next attack on our plane of reality. Rather, we should expect Will's visions to give the children a crucial source of information, a way of knowing that the boundary between our world and the Upside Down is growing thin once again. Disturbingly, these visions will again leave Will vulnerable to the Mind Flayer.
We're gradually learning to understand the Demogorgons. It seems that they begin as "Pollywogs," cute tadpoles that gradually eat food, and ultimately begin to shed their skin. Over a course of days, a Pollywog sheds its skin at least two or three times, growing at a phenomenal rate until it becomes what Dustin called a "Demodog" — a four-legged creature that moves at terrifying speed. At this stage, the monsters seem to hunt in packs.
They continue to grow though, shedding their skin again and again, until they become the monstrous Demogorgons we saw in Season 1. At this point, a Demogorgon's voracious appetite likely means it cannot coexist with others of its kind. As a result, the Demodog packs disband, the creatures going their separate ways. That's why the kids only had to deal with one Demogorgon in the first season.
Now here's the crucial thing: the Duffer brothers essentially describe the Demogorgons as sharks, creatures that can emerge from the water and drag their victims back into it. The Demogorgon in Season 1 seemed to learn how to do this from its encounter with Eleven, and whenever it sensed blood, it would tear through reality in pursuit of its prey. It seems likely that this ability is an innate one, but that the Demogorgon simply didn't know to use it until it encountered Eleven, and realized more prey was out there.
The Mind Flayer's Demodogs may have died, but it can always get more. And once it has absorbed actual Demogorgons into its hive mind, it will have creatures who can tear through into our reality. The Mind Flayer could easily bend the creatures away from their natural habits, ensuring they continue to operate in packs.
Eight And The Other Children
Finally, it's worth noting that there's a very real threat on our side of reality as well. Season 2 introduced us to Eleven's "sister," Eight, and revealed that she isn't the only child to possess vast psychic abilities. Eight's powers may be focused around illusion-casting, but there's no reason that has to be the limit of her potential.
While we can assume Dr. Brenner's first test subjects included some failures, by the time he got to his eighth child, he was toying with real psychic powers. What happened to Nine and Ten? And is Eleven really the last of Brenner's victims, or are there other kids out there now? It's quite possible that other psychically-powered children and teenagers possess the ability to unwittingly create more Gates.
All of that brings us to Dr. Brenner's role in future seasons. He'd seen the Demogorgons as a terrible weapon, one that he could unleash in the Soviet Union. If Brenner still has psychic children, we can bet he's attempting to repeat the Hawkins experiment. He could easily create more opportunities for the Mind Flayer.
The story of the Upside Down isn't over. Instead, it's only just begun. The Mind Flayer will clearly be a recurring threat in Stranger Things, a Voldemort figure that works to reach our plane of reality once again. What's more, it's clear that Eleven and her friends will be the only ones standing in its way.
What are you expecting to happen in Stranger Things Season 2? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!