Chapter Eight - The Mind Flayer
Aquanet - Though Steve’s choice of hair spray is that of Farrah Fawcett, Billy can be seen using Aquanet to secure his do.
Jurassic Park - This Spielberg classic is referenced again when Hawkins Lab loses power and immediately goes into lock down. Similarly to the events of Jurassic Park, someone must manually reset the breakers to restore power, risking their lives as they navigate hallways overrun with demadogs. The task falls to Bob who, in another slight allusion to Jurassic Park, is the only one among them who understands basic - the computer code required to unlock the doors once the power is restored.
The Mind Flayer - Like season 1, the boys turn to Dungeons & Dragons in order to help understand the dangerous monsters they face. And where before it was the Demogorgon, this season it’s the Mind Flayer - a creature from another dimension who can control its slaves with a hive mind, interested only in destroying all other inferior lifeforms. Of course, the shadow monster from the Upside Down doesn’t actually look anything like a Mind Flayer, but its demodog slaves and hive mind make it an appropriate analogy.
The Exorcist - Will wasn’t only attacked by the Mind Flayer, he’s infected by it, joining its hive mind and serving as a link between the real world and the Upside Down. The severity of that link and what it means for Will becomes apparent when it proves difficult to communicate with Will and not the Mind Flayer. Like the 1973 film, The Exorcist, Will is possessed by another creature and no longer in charge of his own body.
Star Wars Toys - While trying to break through the Mind Flayer’s control and reach Will, his mother, Joyce shares a story of how for one of his birthdays all his friends bought Will Star Wars toys, while she bought him a huge box of crayons. And while Star Wars toys would have been all the rage in the 1980s, Will used those crayons the most, coloring constantly with each and every one.
Tonka Truck - Another story Joyce shares about Will, illustrating his selfless nature, involves him giving away a Tonka Truck to another child in order to make them happy. Since Tonka Trucks (which at this time would have likely been made of metal, not plastic) were expensive, he did so knowing it was unlikely his mother could buy him a new one.
Music From This Episode: Metallica's "The Four Horsemen"; The Clash's "Should I Stay Or Should I Go"
Chapter Nine - The Gate
Johanna Lindsey's Heart of Thunder - At the start of the episode, we see Mrs. Wheeler relaxing in a bath and reading this 1983 romance novel, completely oblivious to the danger her children are in.
The Exorcist - Already, Will's possession by the Mind Flayer is reminiscent of Regan's demonic possession in The Exorcist. Well, in this episode, Joyce performs what is basically an exorcism on Will in an attempt to drive the creature from his body, cranking up the heat and roasting it. When Will's body becomes too hot for the Mind Flayer's possession to remain, he bursts forth from Will's mouth in an unmistakable allusion to that 1973 film.
Aliens - To be fair, much of the action from these final episode is evocative of the alien-killing action in James Cameron’s Aliens, but once Eleven and Hopper come face to (kind of) face with the Mind Flayer, it becomes very clear how much its design was influenced by the Xenomorph; especially its elongated head.
The Phoenix - Having already had a bit of mutant training while in Chicago with her big sister, when El unleashes her full power and closes the gate to the Upside Down, it’s hard not to relate that moment with that of the X-Men's Jean Grey unleashing the full power of the Phoenix Force.
Music From This Episode: Barbara Streisand's "The Way We Were"; Donna Summers' "I Do Believe (I Fell In Love)"; Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock"; Olivia Newton John's "Twist of Fate"; Pat Benetar's "Love Is A Battlefield"; Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time"; The Police's "Every Breath You Take"
Whew! So those are all the pop culture references, both of the 1980s and elsewhere, that we caught in Stranger Things season 2. Are there any we missed? Feel free to share the pop culture references you spot in the comments!
Strangers Things seasons 1 and 2 are now available to stream on Netflix.