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12 lingering questions we have after watching the first season of Stranger Things

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We really dug the first season of Netflix’s show Stranger Things. It’s a great mix of nostalgia for the films of the 1980s and a great story about a town getting to the bottom of a strange disappearance of a local boy. Like any good show, it left us wanting a bit more, and left us some questions to chew over while we wait for season two to be released in 2017.

Spoilers for the first season ahead! Seriously, we’re digging into the big questions from the top.

Stranger Things Photo: Netflix

First and foremost, what happened to Will in the Upside-Down?

The Monster captured Will and dragged him into the Upside-Down world, presumably to eat him. But when Will is discovered, he’s been pasted to the wall with something growing out of his mouth. After he left the hospital, we see in the last moments of the show that he coughed up something that’s now escaped into our own world. So, what exactly happened to him after he was captured, and what did he bring back?

What happened to the Upside-Down?

The Upside-Down looks like our own, just darker and decayed, with stuff growing all over it. It appears to be an identical alternate world, that’s met some horrifying end. Is the monster the cause of this? If so, where did it come from?

Our theory? It was an identical world that was invaded by something — either by the monster, or something that comes along with the monster — and destroyed. How? Aliens? Interdimensional monsters? Climate change? Donald Trump?

What is Brenner and the Department of Energy actually trying to accomplish?

Brenner is apparently the scientist in charge of the facility under the guise of the Department of Energy. The DOE is the department of the government that primarily handles nuclear material. It oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons, energy production and waste disposal. Interestingly, it kicked off the Human Genome Project and handles quite a lot of other research initiatives, so the sort of things that they were doing in the show make a bit of sense.

So what were they doing? Hop mentioned Project MK Ultra, which was a secret (illegal) program designed to study a whole range of interrogative techniques involving drugs, mind control, torture, and sensory deprivation. It’s been used frequently in movies and TV in the past for similar types of stories.

It looked as if the program inadvertently created some people with special abilities, and Brenner’s research involved trying to figure out what they were capable of. When Eleven went into the tank, she saw a man speaking Russian. Maybe she was being trained to be a telepathic spy, or perhaps they were setting up some sort of information relay?

Why was Barb summarily killed off while Will got to return?

Stranger Things replicated the films of the 1980s, right down to focusing extensively on the stories of the boys. One of the things that really bothered us while watching this season was how Barb got the short end of the stick when she was grabbed by the monster and killed off.

Given the national conversation on how women are treated in television and film, it’s not an unfair question to ask. Killing the character off effectively reduces her to a prop. It’s a shame, because she clearly meant a whole lot to Nancy. It also would have been easy for them to discover and rescue her, or switch the equation around somehow. Hopefully, season 2 will do better.

Who is Eleven / Jane’s father?

Throughout the show, Eleven refers to Dr. Martin Brenner as Papa. Is he really her father, or is that just something that she was conditioned to call him? If he was her father, there’s some seriously messed up things going on in his experiments, which makes him a bit creepier.

If he is her father, a whole new series of questions come up. When Hop and Joyce visit Eleven’s mother, we learned that she had apparently miscarried in her third trimester — the birth was covered up by Brenner and his facility. How did they know Eleven was special? If Brenner wasn’t her father, who was?

Does Eleven have predecessors?

Her birth name was apparently Jane, but she goes by Eleven during the events of the show because of the tattoo on her wrist. What does the number mean? Is she the 11th person that they used in this particular program? If so, what happened to the first 10?

Is Brenner actually dead?

When the monster comes through the wall in the Middle school, it begins taking apart the armed soldiers Brenner brought along with him, and it jumps on him just as the camera cuts away. We never see exactly what happened to him, and without a body, we’re pretty sure that he’s not dead.

Why has Mr. Clarke spent so much time thinking about the exact obscure phenomenon that suddenly occurs in the series? Does he know something we don’t?

The science teacher of Hawkins Middle School is extremely helpful midway through the season when the kids pick his brain for explanations on alternate realities and how to construct a sensory deprivation tank. He’s got an answer for just about anything that the kids throw at him, and that’s got us wondering if he knows a little more about what’s going on than anyone else.

Where did Hop go when he left the hospital?

Right after Will was recovered and brought to the hospital, Hop leaves the room and gets into a car with two of Brenner’s agents, only to reappear later on. So, where did he go, and what was he up to? When he reappears, it’s clear that he didn’t make a bargain that sent him away or into prison — he’s still sheriff for Hawkins. So, what happened? Hopefully, we’ll learn something in season 2.

What about the gate?

It required a lot of energy to make the gate from our world to Upside-Down. So, with the monster vanquished, what happens to the gate in the facility? We never see if it’s shut down or closed up: it could still be open, leaving the door literally open for another monster to come back through.

What happened to Eleven?

With the monster bearing down on them in the final episode, Eleven steps up and uses her powers to destroy the monster, and vanishes in the process. Everyone seems to think that she’s dead, except for Hop, who leaves some food in a box in the woods a month later, a ritual that he seems to have been doing for a while. The empty box would suggest that someone’s taking the food. Given that we’ve got another season probably on the way, it would be more shocking if Eleven doesn’t show up.

Finally, when the hell is season 2 coming?

While the show has been renewed for a second season, we don't have a date just yet. Netflix is pretty good about keeping things on a schedule, so our best bet is that it’ll be back next July.

This story was originally published 8/3/16 and has been updated to reflect the official renewal of Stranger Things for a second season