[MAJOR SPOILERS for Stranger Things season 1 ahead.]
The first season of Netflix’s newest original series, Stranger Things, debuted mid-July and has since become one of the streaming service’s most popular shows. Created by Matt and Ross Duffer, season 1 follows the residents of small town Hawkins, Indiana after a boy named Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) goes missing in the fall of 1983. His mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), searches for Will along with Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) while Will’s friends – Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) – meet a girl named Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) with strong unexplainable powers.
Fans and critics alike have found plenty to praise about Stranger Things, including the young cast in an Amblin-like adventure, the ’80s throwback nostalgia, as well as the clear inspiration drawn from Stephen King, John Carpenter, and Steven Spielberg. As a result of the positive responses across the board, talk of a second season renewal began earlier this summer – and one Netflix executive even said they’d be “dumb” not to give the green light. The official announcement of Stranger Things getting a season 2 order arrived last week along with a video that revealed the titles of all nine episodes in the season.
In the case of season 1, the majority of Stranger Things‘ episode titles were ambiguous, using the boys’ Dungeons and Dragons allegory or other figurative language to reference specific aspects of the episodes without explicitly stating it (such as, ‘The Flea and the Acrobat’ referencing the boys learning how to travel between dimensions) – or, they simply didn’t make sense until the context of the show put them into perspective (like ‘The Bathtub’). While plenty about how the series will continue is still a mystery, we analyzed the Stranger Things season 2 episode titles to see what they could possibly mean.
With an expected 2017 release date, Stranger Things has begun work on season 2, including the process of casting. According to a recent report, Stranger Things is adding three new characters, one of which is named Max. Described as a tomboy who rides a skateboard rather than a bicycle, Max seems to be set up to join Mike and his group of friends in season 2. So, this particular episode title seems rather straightforward.
That said, the phrase “Madmax” is also likely a reference to George Miller’s 1979 dystopian action film, Mad Max. By the point in time season 2 takes place, both Mad Max and its sequel will have been released. It’s possible the episode title is using a reference to Miller’s dystopian vehicle-focused world to establish the tone of Max’s character. Given the introduction of Max will undoubtedly bring up the absence of Eleven, and the emotional toll that has taken on Mike and his friends, the title may also be a reference to one of the modern day movie characters that helped win Brown over to shaving her head for the role of Eleven. Matt Duffer told Variety:
Fortunately, it was the time that the Mad Max: Fury Road marketing was really ramping up. We showed Millie a picture of Charlize [Theron] as Furiosa and said, “Does she not look badass?” She was like, “Yeah.” We said, “You’re gonna look badass, exactly like Charlize.” She’s like, “OK, let’s do it.” Thank God for Mad Max. We shaved it off within 10 minutes. Her dad ran out crying, but within a week her entire family all loved it.
As the season 2 premiere, ‘Madmax’ will likely be focused on catching viewers up on the residents of Hawkins, Indiana as well as introducing new characters such as Max, her older brother Billy, and the thirtysomething Roman.
2. The Boy Who Came Back to Life
One of the most straightforward episode titles of the bunch is season 2’s second episode, ‘The Boy Who Came Back to Life’, which seems to specifically reference Will. In fact, in the season 1 finale, during the epilogue scene in the Hawkins’ police station there is a brief shot of a bulletin board with a handful of newspaper clippings about the events that transpired throughout the first season. One features a picture of Will and the headline: “The Boy Who Came Back to Life.”
Now, why exactly Will is the focus of episode two is a little less clear. Since his portion of the season 1 finale epilogue included him vomiting up a slug from the Upside Down and having visions of the dark dimension, it’s clear that his time there – roughly a week, the longest of any of the characters – has had both a physical and emotional impact on Will. Of that effect on those who have traveled to the Upside Down, Ross Duffer told Variety:
We love the idea that [the Upside Down] is an environment that is not a great place for a human being to be living in. Will’s been there for an entire week, and it’s had some kind of effect on him, both emotionally and perhaps physically. The idea is he’s escaped this nightmare place, but has he really? That’s a place we wanted to go and potentially explore in season two. What effect does living in there for a week have on him? And what has been done to him? It’s not good, obviously.
So, it’s likely the second episode of season 2 will feature Stranger Things exploring those ideas, specifically through how the alternate dimension has changed Will.
3. The Pumpkin Patch
Since season 2 will take place in the fall of 1984, it’s possible the third episode will focus on Halloween – perhaps including a literal pumpkin patch. But, it’s more likely that ‘The Pumpkin Patch’ is a term used by the kids for something else, just as ‘The Bathtub’ referenced a sensory deprivation tank. If we follow that line of logic, ‘The Pumpkin Patch’ may refer to a place that looks like a pumpkin patch, such as a group of eggs like the one Chief Hopper stumbled across in the season 1 finale while in the Upside Down.
Of course, though many fans thought the egg could belong to the Demogorgon, it’s unclear how the open, hatched egg Hopper discovered fits into the world of Stranger Things. One hint about the eggs and the Demogorgon was actually revealed following season 1 through concept art of the creature.
According to concept artist Aaron Sims, he was told that the Demogorgon was “feeding off the egg.” Though Sims admitted it was unclear if the egg came from the same species as the Demogorgon (some creatures in nature are known to eat their young, after all), it’s possible ‘The Pumpkin Patch’ will offer more answers about what exactly the eggs are – and what hatches from them.
4. The Palace
Since this particular episode title is so vague, it could refer to any number of things. However, the season 1 finale epilogue sequence featured Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will finishing up another Dungeons and Dragons campaign. But, when it ends too abruptly for the boys, they ask Mike about certain aspects of the campaign: a “lost knight,” a “proud princess,” and some “weird flowers in the cave.” If these are references to characters or aspects of Stranger Things as many fans theorize, it’s possible the “proud princess” could by Mike’s older sister Nancy (Natalia Dyer).
So, if that is the case, ‘The Palace’ may refer to something to do with Nancy. As viewers saw through her season 1 story arc, Nancy was motivated to work with Will’s older brother Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) due to the disappearance of her best friend Barb (Shannon Purser) – who, as it was confirmed in the season finale, was killed by the Demogorgon. Additionally, Nancy is one of the few characters who spent some time in the Upside Down and returned to their home dimension. Perhaps ‘The Palace’ will focus on Nancy’s continue storyline in season 2, especially since the Duffer brothers’ teased the emotional fallout of Barb’s death on characters such as Nancy.
Or, another possibility is that ‘The Palace’ refers to a location using the kids’ terminology. If that’s the case, the palace may be where some kind of ruler resides – the real life version of King Tristan from their Dungeons and Dragons campaign, perhaps. Then, that begs the question of the who the ruler or King Tristan may be. Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) from the Hawkins National Laboratory is one possibility, or someone else viewers have yet to meet.
5. The Storm
Another episode title that could be taken literally or metaphorically is episode 5’s ‘The Storm’. If there is a literal storm in Hawkins during the fifth episode of season 2, it could be used to establish the setting for a bottle episode – an episode taking place entirely or mostly in one location; television series have often used storms as an explanation for keeping their characters in one place.
That said, it seems likely that if this episode of Stranger Things does feature an actual storm, it may have something to do with the Upside Down. As viewers learned in season 1, electricity can be affected by beings located in the Upside Down – as we saw multiple times through Will communicating with Joyce, the flicking lights used by Nancy and Jonathan to predict the Demogorgon’s arrival in the season 1 finale, and, later, Jonathan recognizing the lights flickering for his mother and Chief Hopper as they moved through the Upside Down version of the Byers’ house. Perhaps, if the gate to the Upside Down weakens, the other dimension could have more influence on Hawkins, perhaps summoning a storm.
Still, one other option is that ‘The Storm’ is more figurative, foretelling trouble or some other change in Hawkins/its residents. In literature especially, storms can be symbols of miscommunication, characters struggling to be understood and wrestling with conflicting thoughts – such as holding a grudge. This particular interpretation may be applied to one of Stranger Things‘ new characters, Roman, who “suffered a great loss at an early age and has been seeking revenge ever since.” ‘The Storm’ may focus on Roman confronting the source of his loss and needing to decide how to act on his need for revenge.
Of course, it may be the case that ‘The Storm’ features both a literal and figurative storm, with the title having a double meaning depending on what the episode entails.
6. The Pollywog
The title of Stranger Things season 2’s sixth episode could have a double meaning as well. A polliwog, for example, is a tadpole of an amphibian – which may likely be a reference to the slugs that we’ve seen in the Upside Down. Are the slugs the polliwogs of their creature, meaning they grow into something else? As with other aspects of Stranger Things, ‘The Pollywog’ could be a term coined by Mike and his friends for something they don’t understand, specifically a creature from the Upside Down.
That said, a pollywog is a slang term for a sailor or member of the navy who has not yet crossed the Equator. If this definition of the term is applied to Stranger Things, perhaps ‘The Pollywog’ refers to someone who has not yet traveled to the Upside Down – but who does within this episode. As of the season 1 finale, the only characters who have traveled to the Upside Down and returned home are Will, Joyce, Chief Hopper, and Nancy. By the sixth episode of season 2, that could certainly change depending on how Stranger Things continues to unfold the mythology of the dark dimension.
It’s also worth noting that the sixth episode of season 1, ‘The Monster’, heavily featured the Demogorgon – including the reveal that Eleven was responsible for opening the gate to the Upside Down and letting the monster get through. So, whether ‘The Pollywog’ refers to a new creature or a new person venturing into the Upside Down, it’s possible the episode will feature a major turning point or revelation in the season.
7. The Secret Cabin
Of all the episode titles for Stranger Things season 2, ‘The Secret Cabin’ may be the most perplexing. Although it could refer to a location viewers have already seen – such as the Byers’ shed, Will’s fort, or a building having to do with the Hawkins Lab – it’s more likely the secret cabin is somewhere new that’s introduced in season 2. Similar to ‘The Palace’, ‘The Secret Cabin’ may be a code for a real life location that in no way resembles a cabin – perhaps a place in which one of the characters holds something that needed to be kept hidden from the others and the audience.
Or, since ‘The Secret Cabin’ implies some kind of hideaway, it may refer to a location where one or more of the characters take refuge. Could it be where Eleven disappeared to at the end of season 1 when she seemed to disintegrate along with the Demogorgon? Ross Duffer recently told EW of Eleven’s final stand against the monster: “We don’t know about Eleven. We leave that up in the air.” Perhaps Eleven spends much of season 2 separate from the residents of Hawkins and in the seventh episode her friends find her hiding in a secret cabin.
With as far into the second season as ‘The Secret Cabin’ is, it’s likely this particular episode title will make much more sense within the specific context of the storyline.
8. The Brain
Although the source of Eleven’s powers is never explicitly stated, it’s implied that they’re the result of mind-altering experiments done on her mother, Terry Ives (Aimee Mullins), while she was pregnant as part of the CIA’s Project MKUltra. Dr. Brenner and his associates at Hawkins Lab – a branch of the U.S. government’s Department of Energy – took Eleven from her mother at a young age and worked with the child to develop her powers, even as no one seemed to know how far her capabilities could stretch.
So, since it would seem that Eleven’s powers are the result of her brain being altered, then ‘The Brain’ may focus on her psychokinetic abilities, perhaps exploring how her brain function differs as the scientists of Hawkins Lab attempt to replicate the results of their experiments. Or, if this episode does focus on how the brain is affected, it may look at how Will’s brain was altered – that is, if it was – while he was in the Upside Down. In addition to vomiting up slugs, the alternate dimension could have impacted other parts of his body, such as his head – he was deprived of oxygen before Chief Hopper and Joyce rescued him from the vine.
However, ‘The Brain’ may also be used in a more slang fashion, such as “the brains of the operation.” In this context, the episode title may be referring to one of the kids – Mike, Lucas, Dustin, Will, or Max – or the head of the Hawkins Lab, perhaps the person to which Dr. Brenner answers. Another possibility along the same line, though, is that the brain could refer to the creature at the center of all the vines, slugs, and eggs inhabiting the Upside Down. Though it remains to be seen if they’re all connected, if they are, then there would likely be a central organism – the brain.
Undoubtedly, if ‘The Brain’ is used in this way, it will refer to a pivotal character or creature in the overarching narrative of season 2 since it is the penultimate episode. In season 1, ‘The Bathtub’ saw all the major characters come together, their storylines and motivations overlapping, before they diverged again and went on their separate missions in the finale. If ‘The Brain’ operates in a similar way as part of the narrative structure, then it’s likely all the main characters of season 2 will come together around whoever the brain may be and/or whatever revelation it provides.
9. The Lost Brother
As of the end of season 1, there are only three known brothers in Stranger Things: Will and Jonathan, and Nancy’s younger brother Mike. However, along with introducing Max, season 2 will welcome her older brother Billy, who is described as driving a Camaro and being “very muscular and hyper-confident.” So, it’s possible that one of these brothers goes missing – either as the result of a creature from the Upside Down, or an experiment at Hawkins Lab.
Or, if we take “lost” to mean something other than physically missing, it’s possible ‘The Lost Brother’ could refer to however the Upside Down changed Will, and him being somehow lost to Jonathan as the effects of the other dimension overtake him. Could staying so long in the Upside Down eventually turn Will into one of the creatures from the alternate world? Since we know very little about the dimension, it may be possible.
That said, ‘The Lost Brother’ may refer to the opposite of losing someone; rather than the episode title foretelling the loss itself, it may be referencing a reunion of some kind. If a lost, distant, or estranged brother returns home, this particular episode could include some kind of reconciliation between characters as they’re reunited.
Or, ‘The Lost Brother’ could refer to a new character altogether, perhaps one of the other children from the experiments of which Eleven was a part. Since she was the eleventh test subject, where are numbers One through Ten? Do the numbers go even higher than Eleven – is Twelve the lost brother? Although viewers saw enough of Eleven’s upbringing to know that the Hawkins Lab experiments were unkind to children and trained them with little to no compassion, it’s possible both Eleven and Dr. Brenner were just one small part of a larger group of experiments that viewers didn’t see.
The potential for other children as part of the experiments seems implied in Eleven’s name, even if others are never referenced. Plus, since no other children were part of Eleven’s upbringing, the knowledge of their existence could be uncovered at some point in season 2 – perhaps by Joyce and/or Chief Hopper if they continue to investigate the experiments in which Terry Ives’ participated. Nevertheless, as the season finale, ‘The Lost Brother’ will likely include plenty of hints as to how the story of Stranger Things could continue into a third season.
So, while little has been confirmed about season 2 of Stranger Things, there may be some tidbits of information gleaned from the episode titles. That said, they’ll undoubtedly make much more sense when the second season of Netflix’s hit sci-fi series debuts on the streaming service in 2017.
What do you think the episode titles mean? Do you agree with our theories, or are they wildly off base? Sound off and voice your own theories in the comments!
Stranger Things season 2 premieres on Netflix in summer 2017.