Fair warning, we will be discussing heavy spoilers.
Stranger Things was just about perfect.
From a young cast which was arguably the best collection of young acting talent since Stand By Me to the thrilling and dramatic story which made roughly eight hours of content fly by, Netflix’s Stranger Things does just about everything well and has deservedly become the watercooler show of the summer.
It blended suspense with nostalgia in a way which few, if any, pieces of entertainment have been able to do. The show caught many viewers completely by surprise which is an incredible achievement in its own right in the internet era. Simply, Stranger Things was one of the most entertaining and enjoyable television experiences in recent memory.
While I could spend several more paragraphs praising what Stranger Things achieved, I’m cautiously turning my eyes to the future. As the show continues to grow and attract more and more fans, a second season seems like a given. Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings has even said it would be “dumb not to” do another season, though nothing has been officially announced.
As much as I’d like to spend more time with the characters and the world created in the eight episodes of Stranger Things, I can’t help but feel divided. Would a second season potentially ruin the beauty of the first? Are there any reasons why the Duffer Brothers and Netflix should resist temptation and let the first season stand on its own?
Though it pains me to make an argument against seeing more Eleven, Dustin, Mike, Lucas, and Will, here are five reasons why the creators should at least consider passing on making a second season.
1. Should some loose ends remain untied?
The eighth episode of Stranger Things has been universally praised for how it perfectly blended the closing of some storylines while creating new ones. The Duffer Brothers answered a lot of questions in the final episode but they also gave viewers a chance to make interpretations and theories based on all of the things they intentionally didn’t answer.
A second season focusing on this same story and characters could easily fall into the trap of answering every question, which could remove the sense of mystery and suspense that made the show so fun in the first place. Watching Hopper place waffles in a small box in the woods could be the perfect ending to Eleven’s story. She’s alive, but it’s up to the viewer to figure out the why, when, and where. Will coughing up a slug shows that he’s not totally out of the woods even though he’s back home, but is it worth spending more time in a future season showing that journey? Will’s story had a satisfying ending with a perfect wink and nod to say not everything is resolved. Fleshing out that experience could feel a bit too familiar.
By leaving so many dangling plot points, Stranger Things may have backed itself into a corner where they have to answer each question if there’s a followup season. Sometimes it’s more fun to speculate on the answer rather than actually learning the answer, particularly if that answer doesn’t fit what fans envisioned.
2. Can they resist the urge to go bigger?
Stranger Things thrived on the slow burn that showcased Eleven’s developing powers. As the plot shifted around her and as the viewer learned more about her story, she showed off incredible talents which grew as the season wore on. She went from closing a door in Mike’s room with her mind to flipping a van to brutally killing a room full of people.
How Eleven’s character was developed (along with the incredible acting from Millie Bobby Brown) was one of my favorite character arcs in the show. With her already being established and the extent of her talents being revealed, it’d be awfully easy to try and up the ante throughout season two. It’d be easy to keep raising the bar, which as we’ve seen in countless sequels, usually doesn’t pan out.
A bigger, badder monster and a more powerful Eleven could throw off the vibe the show established in season one. Despite featuring supernatural elements, Stranger Things consistently felt real – if not plausible – which made the spectacular even more entertaining and gripping. That same feeling could be lost in the future if it’s felt the bar has to be raised.
3. Can the same sense of wonder and mystery be recreated?
There was a sense of discovery and wonder in the first season that completely sucked viewers into the story. The town, the clothing, and the music successfully made the world of Stranger Things seem like a real place. Can that sense of wonder be achieved with a new story featuring many of the same pieces? It’s possible, but it’ll be quite the undertaking to roll out a fresh story which delivers on the same level of the first season now that viewers understand more about everyone involved. Some have suggested that Stranger Things take on a True Detective or an American Horror Story identity, swapping out plots and even characters in favor of completely new stories, but that doesn’t sound like the route Stranger Things will take.
This is one of those shows where you’re jealous when you hear a friend hasn’t seen it yet. You’re jealous that they get to watch the season for the very first time. As fun as it is to know about Hawkins, nothing can compare to your first journey through it.
Too many times fans have rallied for a sequel either in a movie or television series. Sometimes those sequels come to fruition but many times they leave fans disappointed. The most recent season of Arrested Development might be a prime example. Fans pleaded for a new season, so one was created and ultimately it fell short. This was mostly due to production and scheduling issues, but a lot of the elements that made the first three seasons so strong were missing. Stranger Things could fall into a similar hole. Fans are raving for more. Is it worth taking the risk? Will the first season lose some of its acclaim if a second season tanks?
4. Will a second production be able to survive increased attention/scrutiny?
The vast majority of viewers who enjoyed Stranger Things weren’t aware the show existed until it was released. The show’s incredible popularity stemmed from word of mouth which allowed the actual production of the season to take place without too many watchful eyes. That won’t be the case for season two. Fans will pour over any news they can find headed into a new season. Decisions will be scrutinized and ridiculed. Pressure will mount.
The Duffer Brothers were able to create a brilliant show which was truly reflective of their passions and desires. That will be more challenging to accomplish for a second season as the eyes of the world are locked in, looking for any kind of news or updates. That same pressure will also mount on the cast to repeat their incredible performances from the first eight episodes. That might be a tall order.
5. Will the nostalgic elements and homages lose their luster?
You can appreciate the nostalgic elements of Stranger Things even if you weren’t alive in the ’80s. The music, cinematography, and dialogue received the bulk of the praise Smaller details including the posters on the wall, the type of Tupperware that Hopper uses and many other intricate references helped build a familiar setting. Stranger Things was an incredible homage to not only the era but also the pop culture of the era. Many of the scenes and shots had direct correlations to older films including E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Firestarter and many more.
One of my favorite and perhaps most indirect references occurred when Nancy was specifically shown loading bullets into a revolver. When the monster appears, she fires way more bullets than the revolver should have been able to hold. It was a subtle (the intensity of the scene somewhat masked her extra shots), yet deliberate callback to the movies and shows of old where bullets were unlimited regardless of the gun. While this example was more subtle, others were much more deliberate. Eleven sending the van flying overhead was very similar to a scene in E.T. where the children are the ones flying by overhead. Those more deliberate references walk a very narrow line between an original story paying tribute to the works before it and a story which leans too heavily on visuals of old.
Will the references and callbacks continue at the same pace now that viewers and fans are dissecting every single reference in the show? How long can the Duffer Brothers continue down this road before things start feeling a bit too familiar? The sense of nostalgia and all of the homages were some of the best elements of the show, but it could also derail things in a hurry if it becomes a trope.