“Stranger Things 4” has arrived and if you’re a truly speedy fan, you’ve already raced through the lengthy episodes that comprise the first part of this season. (The season returns with “Stranger Things” Season 4 Part 2 on July 1. Of the final two episodes, one of them is over two hours.)
While the episodes were long, introducing us to new characters and reintroducing older ones, taking us to places we haven’t been before and delving into the long, sad history of Hawkins and the mythology surrounding the Upside Down, we still have some questions. This is particularly true after the part one finale, which ends on a huge reveal and an epic cliffhanger.
Below are our biggest questions going into “Stranger Things 4” Part 2.
Major spoilers follow. Don’t read until you’ve finished Volume 1.
How does the Mind Flayer fit in?
The big bad of “Stranger Things,” as far as we’ve understood it, is the Mind Flayer, a giant monster that lords over the Upside Down and briefly possessed Will in Season 2. The giant gloopy monster that attacked the mall at the end of Season 3 was either the Mind Flayer or one of his minions. The point is that the Mind Flayer has been established as the ultimate Upside Down baddie. But this year we are introduced to Vecna, a Freddy Kruger-ish character responsible for several deaths in Hawkins. Dustin hypothesizes that Vecna is the Mind Flayer’s #1 henchman. But he seems to be pretty evil, especially after what we learn about his creation (more on that in a minute). Will the Mind Flayer even fit into this season? Or are they saving that for a big showdown in Season 5 (confirmed to be the final season)?
What’s up with time in the Upside Down?
One of the odder wrinkles we learn about the Upside Down is that it seems as though time has been frozen. Nancy returns to her bedroom, only it’s not her bedroom in the here and now; the decorations are different, and her journal is only partially filled out. (Also, the guns she’s looking for are nowhere to be found.) They quickly realize that time in the Upside Down has been frozen: specifically it stopped on the day that Will Byers was abducted by the Demogorgon and taken into the Upside Down, way back in 1983. What this means is anybody’s guess. Is it just a cool flourish or will it have actual implications?
Is Will gay?
This is one of the biggest interpersonal questions that has loomed over the entire season: Will seems to want to give Mike something when Mike comes to visit the Byers family (and Eleven) in California. We don’t see what it is, but it’s rolled up. Maybe a poster of him? We’ve seen Will’s artistic abilities before – remember his house-wide map of the Upside Down vines? Throughout the series, Will has been, if not explicitly implied as gay then at least coded as LGBTQ+.
This goes back to the very first season (which is a touchpoint for a lot of Season 4), when Joyce goes to Hopper to report him missing. She tells him that the kids at school pick on him and think that he’s gay. This has run throughout the subsequent seasons; Mike has said to Will in a previous season that he isn’t to blame for them drifting apart. “It’s not my fault you don’t like girls,” Mike tells Will. But it looks like this season, Will could finally “come out.” It would be a pretty powerful moment, especially for a brand this ubiquitous and an IP aimed this squarely at kids. But time will tell if they actually bring it up and how sensitively it will be handled.
Does Brenner know that One is alive?
We should probably put alive in quotes, like “alive,” considering that One, the very first child to undergo Brenner’s weird, MK Ultra-adjacent psychological and metaphysical experiments, is now the evil villain the kids refer to as Vecna – a true terror in the Upside Down. Does Brenner know that One is alive? Is that why he skipped ahead in Eleven’s therapy (meant to bring her powers back, I guess?)? To force this showdown between Eleven and her former mentor-turned-archnemesis? Does he know that One is behind all of the murders in Hawkins? This leads us directly to …
What is Brenner’s deal?
Seriously! What is Brenner’s deal? It’s a big leap to bring back a totally despicable character, who mentally and physically abused Eleven … and make him a good guy. It’s very hard to root for Brenner and it makes all of the scenes where we’re meant to feel sympathy for him really tough to swallow. We know what you did Brenner! But what is he ultimately trying to do? And will he finally get his comeuppance?
Did Eleven create the Upside Down?
This is one of the biggest questions that Episode 7, “The Massacre at Hawkins Lab,” introduced. We see that Eleven sends One into the Upside Down. But did she create it? Or did One aka Vecna? When she sends him there, it looks like a wasteland, full of lightning and volcanos. But the Upside Down as we know it is like an evil snowglobe, full of vines and dilapidated buildings. One used to live in Hawkins, he was the little boy in the Creel family, so did he remake Hawkins as he remembered it? Will we get any more information about the Upside Down before this season closes? Or will that be saved for the final season? Up until now, the Upside Down seemed like a world that Eleven stumbled upon while doing one of her remote viewing vision-quests – it was something that existed before her that she accidentally made a connection with. If she’s responsible for creating the Upside Down, well, that’s an entirely different kettle of fish.
What are the Russians doing with a Demogorgon?
If you watch until the very end of Episode 7, you can see flashes of Hopper, Joyce and Murray making their way through the secret Russian prison complex where Hopper was being held. There seem to be taxidermized Demogorgons elsewhere in the prison and a glass cube of something. Not that these glimpses point to what they were doing with a Demogorgon or how they got it to Russia (although there was an empty, Demogorgon-sized cage that Steve, Erica, Dustin and Robin saw in the Russian base underneath the mall). Clearly we will get some clues about what the Russians are up to, if not outright answers. But we are dying to know!
Will Nancy and Steve get together?
This is another one of the more character-based questions that has been threaded through all of Season 4: Will Nancy and Steve get back together? It’s very clear that Nancy still has feelings for Steven – look at the way she watches him get undressed before he heads into the lake. And multiple characters have made note of their shared attraction. It’s inescapable, like a gravitational pull. With Jonathan off in California or Utah or wherever he is now, too, Nancy is allowed to fully investigate the feelings she has for Steve. And those feelings are steamy! It’s time we all agree that Steve, reformed jerk and lovable babysitter, and Nancy, erstwhile sister and friend to all, are a much better couple than Nancy and Jonathan. Facts are facts. Let’s see if we can get a smooch before the end of Season 4.
What’s with that clock?
The ominous grandfather clock has become one of the key visual hallmarks of “Stranger Things 4.” Originally a relic from the Creel house, it has become a totem in this season. If you see that clock, Vecna is coming for you and you are most likely going to die in a hideously grotesque way. But there are still questions surrounding the clock: why is this the symbol that Vecna uses to pre-haunt people with? Admittedly, it’s pretty spooky. But is there more to it? Is there a way to stop the clock, sort of like how Max has been listening to that Kate Bush song on repeat? (No arguments here, it’s a certifiable bop.) Will unlocking the potential of the clock be key in defeating Vecna? We need answers – and the clock is ticking!
Why is Vecna opening gates?
This is really, really cool. Late in the first batch of episodes, it’s revealed that wherever Vecna murders someone, the psychic energy is so great and so traumatic that it actually rips open a tear in the fabric of space and time. Each murder site becomes a “gate” to the Upside Down. That means that there are a bunch of little gates around Hawkins, including Dustin’s beloved “Watergate” in the lake. The question is: why is he opening the gates? Our suspicion is that he’s planning an invasion of earth, maybe with his new buddies the demo-bats, but maybe with something else entirely. The point is, the gates are no good and we’d love to take a look at his battle plan.
Why did Brenner keep One around?
Back to One/Vecna – why did Brenner keep him “employed” at the Hawkins National Lab, where Brenner knew that One would be interacting with a bunch of gifted, potentially powerful young children. It was only a matter of time before One groomed one of them, as One did with Eleven. She used her powers to remove the chip in his neck that was being used to keep his powers in check. Unencumbered by the chip, One went on a killing spree, something that could have been avoided had Brenner put the chip in his neck and dropped him off literally anywhere else. Maybe Brenner thought that he had a better chance of controlling him by physically being near him, but Brenner knew of his enormous power and capacity for cruelty. Eleven attempting to stop him led to, if not the formation of the Upside Down then at least that initial gateway. What we’re trying to say is: it’s all Brenner’s fault. But more information about his relationship with One would be very much appreciated.
Who will make it out of Russia?
While Joyce and Murray’s journey to bust Hopper out of a Russian prison has been waylaid by numerous setbacks (some could argue far too many setbacks), they finally made contact with Hopper. But do they really think it’ll be that easy? How are they even going to get out of this super-secret prison, much less fly back home? Do we think that one of them will probably get picked off? (Obviously the Russian guard that Hopper has formed an uneasy alliance with probably won’t make it too much further.) Our bet is that Murray at the very least will make it back; a recent interview with Brett Gelman in W Magazine referred to him starring in Season 5 of the show. But could this be the end of the road for Hopper?
Is Steve infected with something?
At the end of the appropriately titled episode “The Dive,” Steve goes through the “Watergate” and winds up in the Upside Down. That’s when the demo-bats attack him. Eventually Nancy and Robin save him but he gets bit pretty bad. Later, we get a better look at the wound before Nancy dresses it. And it seems very Upside Down-y, like maybe Steve has been infected with something. But what? And what toll will it take on him? (You can’t kill off Steve … right? Right? Who will work at the videostore?)
Hopefully we’ll get some answers when “Stranger Things” Season 4 Volume 2 debuts on July 1.