It turns out the the controversial seventh episode of Stranger Things season 2 was inspired by Star Wars. Both seasons of Netflix's Stranger Things are packed with references to 1980s pop culture, with some references being more evident than others. Season 2 has been well received by viewers but not without controversies, as is the case with the polarizing episode “The Lost Sister” - which follows Eleven outside of Hawkins and introduced new characters, including her long-lost “sister” Kali (Linnea Berthelsen).
The episode has gotten mixed reactions, being the only episode that moves outside Indiana and features only three known characters: Eleven, Hopper, and Brenner, though these last two only briefly. Still, the story served its purpose and prompted Eleven to go back to Hawkins to help her friends. This hero’s journey was in fact inspired by Luke’s in Star Wars, specifically in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, as explained by Stranger Things creators Ross and Matt Duffer.
In an interview with EW, the Duffer brothers explained how Luke's journey in Empire Strikes Back influenced season 2’s polarizing episode and the duality shown in Eleven’s character through this journey. Matt Duffer shared:
“We talked a lot about Empire Strikes Back. We talked about Luke going to Dagobah and meeting Yoda. Also, the idea of a dark Eleven, of Eleven being pulled to the dark side was an interesting idea. So a lot of that episode was what happens if Eleven is drawn towards this darkness and what can she learn about herself if that’s the case."
In this episode we learn that Kali - who was briefly introduced in the opening of the first episode of the season - was also raised in Hawkins Lab and is now the leader of gang that hunts down and kills the lab employees who helped Brenner in keeping her and Eleven imprisoned. When learning about Eleven’s skills, Kali convinces her to join the gang and help them kill those who did them wrong. Linnea Berthelsen shared she watched the Star Wars franchise to prepare for the Kali-Eleven dynamic, learning from Luke’s relationship with his father and Vader’s intentions towards his son:
“I took everything from Luke and from the relationship with Anakin. The reason why Kali is so angry is also because of love. She wants to believe in another human being. Something really went wrong and people let her down. She’s trying what she believes is the best way to support Eleven. Maybe it’s not the right way to do it but it’s coming from a good place. And I think that’s the same thing with Darth Vader – he believes it’s the right thing and he’s doing everything for the love of his mother."
The Duffer brothers previously defended the episode, saying it wasn’t a filler and it was crucial to Eleven’s story and, as consequence, to the remaining episodes in the season. It’s unknown if Kali and her gang will return in season 3 but given the impact this encounter had in Eleven’s life, it wouldn’t be surprising if they either come back or her experience with them is alluded to. Kali’s inclusion also showed the extent of Brenner’s tests, leaving more questions to be answered in further seasons.
Stranger Things season 1 & 2 are now available through Netflix.