Hang those Christmas lights, ready your weapons, and roll for Initiative! The Demogorgon approaches.
Stranger Things was the surprise Halloween hit last year we never knew we needed. Its 80s charm and intriguing supernatural mystery kept us all on the edge of our seats. I loved it just as much as you did and with the second season coming out October 27th, I decided to do a quick recap to get everyone up to speed on the events so far. Spoilers ahead!
It began, as all good things do, with a band of geeks. Mike, Will, Dustin, and Lucas are introduced to us as they play a campaign of Dungeons & Dragons. This is perhaps the most unique, but succinct way of introducing personalities I have yet seen. Sadly, the boys must soon pause their game and go home.
However, come morning, Will has yet to arrive at his house. In fact, no one can find the boy anywhere. Yet as one person vanishes, another appears. A young girl with the number 11 tattooed on her arm shows up, pursued by some very ruthless “social workers.” Mike, Dustin, and Lucas, while searching for Will in the woods, run into the girl, whom they dub Eleven (El for short), and hide her in Mike’s basement.
Meanwhile, Will’s older sister, Nancy, and her best friend, Barb, are invited by Steve to a party at his house. Nancy has a crush on Steve, so this is her chance to get closer. Barb is naturally worried for her friend, since Steve has a bit of a reputation, but she supports Nancy anyway. Barb is best friend ever.
As the town continues to search for Will, the boy’s mother starts noticing some spooky things happening at her house. Jonathan, Will’s older brother, doesn’t believe what she says but searches night and day for Will feverishly. It is during one of these searches that he comes across the party at Steve’s house. He snaps a few pictures because he is shy and an avid photographer. During the party, Nancy becomes very, very close with Steve and Barb vanishes.
We get our first look at the Upside Down when Barb is tragically killed by what Mike and friends call the Demogorgon. Meanwhile, Will’s mother hangs up Christmas lights in her house in a desperate attempt to communicate with her son.
Now with two missing person case, local police chief, Jim Hopper, begins his investigation into Hawkins Lab after a scrap of a hospital gown is found on the fence surrounding the facility. He discovers that a number of children might have been abducted and experimented on by the scientists.
Back with Jonathan, his photos are discovered by Steve’s gang and torn apart. Nancy, seeing Barb in one of the pictures, enlists Jonathan’s help in finding her. They find Barb’s car and spot a silhouette of the Demogorgon in the woods. The same silhouette can be seen in Jonathan’s picture of Barb, which he recognizes as the thing his mother described seeing. Meanwhile, Will tells his mother, through the Christmas lights, to run.
Hawkins Lab tries to throw off the investigation by creating a copy of Will’s body and having it discovered in the quarry. This does not fool our various protagonists. Eleven reveals Will is alive in the Upside Down with her psychic powers. Will’s mother sees him through the supernatural events happening at her house. And lastly, Officer Hopper breaks into the morgue and discovers that the body is a fake. Going to investigate, Hopper finds a strange portal in the basement of Hawkins Lab. However, he is knocked out and awakes in his home. Not being an idiot, Hopper combs his house until he unearths the listening device planted by Hawkins Lab.
Meanwhile, Will’s father, comes to town to try and profit from his son’s disappearance by selling the story to news companies. Jonathan and Will’s mother swiftly kick him out. Good riddance.
Jonathan and Nancy later follow a trail of blood through the woods and discover an open passage to the Upside Down. Nancy crawls in and sees the Demogorgon. Unfortunately, the Demogorgon hears her and gives chase. She just barely escapes and, afraid of being alone after such an experience, asks Jonathan to spend the night in her room. Steve sees them through the bedroom window and assumes the worst. Then he proceeds to do the worst by publicly slut shaming Nancy. Jonathan gets into a fight with Steve but accidentally hits a policeman who tries to break up the fight and is arrested.
While this is happening, Mike and Dustin have a run in with bullies after Lucas splits from the group due to not trusting Eleven who runs away. The bullies go a bit psycho and hold Dustin at knifepoint, demanding that Mike jump off a cliff. Mike does, but its Eleven to the rescue with her telekinesis. While the bullies are getting a psychic beatdown, Lucas sees agents leaving Hawkins Lab for Mike’s house. He uses his walkie-talkie to warn his friends and they escape after Eleven flips a van with her mind.
Will’s mother and Officer Hopper are called to the police station because of Jonathan’s arrest. Nancy and Jonathan tell them about the monster and the four of them set up a meeting with Mike and friends. They all go to the school and set-up a homemade sensory deprivation tank. Eleven uses the tank to astral project into the Upside Down to find Barb and Will. She finds Barb’s corpse and Will still alive in his “fort.”
Lightning round time! Lots of things happen at roughly the same time.
Officer Hopper and Will’s mom break into Hawkins Lab but are caught. Nancy and Jonathan go to kill the monster and steal their hunting gear back from the police station. In the Upside Down, the Demogorgon breaks into the fort where Will is hiding. Officer Hopper gives up Eleven’s location in exchange for access to the portal. He and Will’s mom go to the Upside Down. Nancy and Jonathan booby-trap Will’s house and cut their hands to attract the Demogorgon. Steve arrives, finally growing enough of a conscience to apologize for being a huge jerk. The Demogorgon attacks but disappears before they can spring the trap.
Steve nearly chickens out but stays when he might care about Nancy’s life more than his own. The Demogorgon springs the trap but escapes back to the Upside Down before they can kill it.
While hiding in the school with their friends, Mike asks Eleven to the school dance and kisses her. Hawkins Lab agents arrive to get Eleven back. Eleven kills most of them, but collapses from exhaustion. Mike and friends carry Eleven to a classroom and hide as the Demogorgon kills the remaining agents. Officer Hopper and Will’s mom find the monster’s nest in the Upside Down town library and rescue Will. At the school, the Demogorgon finds the kids, but is disintegrated by Eleven, who vanishes.
Will is hospitalized and reunited with his mother, brother, and friends. Officer Hopper is picked up by a mysterious black car.
One month later, Nancy has gotten back together with Steve and both are friends with Jonathan. Mike and friends are playing Dungeons & Dragons again, showing some subtle but powerful character development. Officer Hopper is shown leaving some food in a box in the woods. Will and his family seem to be doing well, but we see the boy cough up a slug-like creature into the sink and have a vision of the Upside Down. Is this PTSD or a hint that the Upside Down might have lingering supernatural effects?
Guess we’ll have to watch Season 2 and find out!