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Where STRANGER THINGS Left Its Characters at the End of Season 1

Stranger Things 2 hits Netflix at midnight Friday, so a refresher course on where everyone ended up at the conclusion of season one is in order. We’ve come a long, long way since that first night when Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) disappeared into suburban thin air, leaving only his bicycle behind. There have been bullies who pissed themselves, busted compasses, and lots of Eggo waffles, but (almost) everything is back where its safe and sound.

The Byers Family

The good news: after a week of buying expensive new phones and driving herself crazy with grief, Joyce (Winona Ryder) has her little wizard back. She traveled into the Upside Down and ripped an alien worm from his esophagus herself because that’s how Mama Bears do it. She may not be able to make mashed potatoes, but she’s fierce about going to the ends of the Earth for her family.

The bad news: part of the Upside Down has clearly crossed over inside Will. The finale ends with him excusing himself to “wash his hands,” which is apparently code for “spit up an interdimensional leech,” and then the bathroom shifts. Is it a hallucination? Is he controlling it somehow? Is one dimension leaking into the other? Either way, it seems totally fine. Will will simply have to wash his hands a bunch for the rest of his life.

Will is the giant question mark hovering over Hawkins, Indiana. He was missing, then the police found a body, they had a funeral, and then the dead kid showed back up again. The newspaper touting him as the “Boy Who Came Back to Life” mentions a coroner being fired for falsifying the autopsy and Joyce alleging that her youngest was kidnapped as part of the experiments run out of Hawkins National Laboratory. Even without the portal to another world, that’s a story that should rock the sleepy little hamlet.

At the other end of the dinner table, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) bonded with Nancy (Natalia Dyer) during their monster hunt, giving him what seems to be the only friend of his young adulthood. He gave her a Christmas gift and a surreptitious kiss on the cheek, which was sweet until you remember that he’s a peeping Tom who stalked her friends with a camera. Maybe those days are behind him. His days of creating punk mixtapes for his little brother are still ahead.

The Wheeler Family

Nancy, for some reason, got back together with Steve (Joe Keery) even though the love triangle flirtations with Jonathan continue. Despite being a grade-A toolbox throughout the entire series, Steve semi-stepped up in the finale by battling the Demogorgon despite having no clue what was happening. He showed up at the Byers’ house unannounced to apologize to Jonathan while Nancy was setting bear traps, and instead of running from danger, Steve ran toward it. Is he redeemed? Hard to say.

Mike (Finn Wolfhard) led his friends to victory, kissed Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and got a date with her to the Snow Ball while waiting safely in the school gymnasium. The government thugs found them, and El microwaved their brains inside their skulls. Then the Demogorgon found them, and while the Fellowship of the One Slingshot tried valiantly to kill it, El sacrificed herself to vanquish the damned thing.

A month later, he’s back to playing Dungeon Master for his friends, who engage in another 10-hour trek to defeat…the Thessalhydra (I’m betting they melted that Demogorgon figurine and shot it into the sun). He looks longingly at the spot where El camped out in his basement, but on the whole, Mike seems totally fine now. Back to being a kid. His friend Will back where he belongs.

Dustin and Lucas

Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) began this adventure as contentious friends. They’re both connected by D&D and their friendship with Mike, but they’re polar opposite personalities that found friction more than familiarity. Those differences boiled over during the course of the first season, starting with Lucas bringing practical tools for their search for Will while Dustin brought snacks, reaching a head when Lucas leaves the group to search for the gateway himself out of jealousy for Eleven, and finding a new peace by the time Joyce rescues Will from the Upside Down.

They still rip on each other (Lucas spends the end of their new D&D quest singing about Dustin farting), but it’s far more good-natured now. There’s camaraderie, which was signaled first in a small, subtle way when they bond over stealing chocolate puddings from the cafeteria. The lunch lady hordes that stuff, y’all.

Dustin and Lucas are back to normal, but with a stronger friendship.


This guy. Good ol’ Hop. The cantankerous Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour) found a small sense of closure in saving Will Byers where he couldn’t save his own daughter, Sara, from dying of cancer. His trek into the Upside Down with Joyce comes at the end of punching his way through a conspiracy theory that turned out to be true, and with Will returned, Hopper, too, can return to being sour about the company Christmas party.

He steals some snacks, takes them out to the woods, and leaves them in a small box for, presumably, Eleven to enjoy. His “adoption” of her is a lovely note to end his story on.

Eleven and the Demogorgon

El’s last act was to draw the soul out of the Demogorgon until it erupted into a trillion ashy pieces which simultaneously consumed our little bald heroine. She sacrificed herself to save the others, but she’s obviously not gone for good… which means the Demogorgon may also not be gone for good. They both may be trapped on the other side of the Upside Down, or the Demogorgon may be toast. We don’t know.

It’s also possible that The Monster and El are the two heads of the “Demogorgon,” since the D&D monster is presented as a beast with two mandrill heads that both try to kill each other, but can’t because their nature depends on a symbiotic stasis, inseparably tied together. If that symbol is more than a symbol, then maybe the Monster we call the Demogorgon can’t die while El lives.


Barb is definitely dead, though. Fortunately, season two is poised to offer some #justiceforbarb.

What else should Stranger Things 2 do?

Images: Netflix

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