[This article contains SPOILERS for Stranger Things season 1.]
One of the latest Netflix series to grab viewers' attention is the '80s sci-fi adventure in the vein of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King: Stranger Things. The eight-episode first season follows a group of boys who search for their missing friend, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), and discover more than they planned in their small Indiana town - including a girl named Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) with extraordinary powers, a fearsome creature they dub the Demogorgon, and an alternate dimension they call the Upside Down.
In the wake of Stranger Things' release on Netflix and its subsequent popularity, the show's creators, The Duffer Brothers, have teased what's to come in season 2 - which has yet to be announced by Netflix, though it is likely to happen - as well as answered fan questions about the fates of certain characters. Now, we can see what could have been in Stranger Things season 1 thanks to newly released concept art.
ScreenCrush has revealed new concept art from Stranger Things featuring Barb (Shannon Purser), the Upside Down, and the Demogorgon from the artists at Aaron Sims Creative. Additionally, ScreenCrush spoke to Sims about the pieces of artwork and their significance. Take a look:
According to Sims, the Duffer Brothers originally wanted the reveal of Barb's death to be more graphic:
Based on our original discussion with the Duffers on this design, we wanted to go really graphic with it to highlight the horrific aspects of Barb being eaten, and something then growing on top of her - thus, the ribs poking out of her stomach in the first shot.
Additionally, Sims revealed that the script for the episode in which the reveal took place specifically mentioned a spider emerging from Barb's mouth. However, the design went in a different direction because the Duffers' wanted Barb to still be recognizable. Certainly, the Duffers' instinct to make sure viewers are able to quickly recognize her character and her fate adds to the emotional weight of the moment as well as its impact on both the viewers and the characters.
The Upside Down
Before the Upside Down became the slug-infested, dark, ash-ridden dimension seen in Stranger Things season 1, early concept art from Sims featured a lighter, more colorful version:
This image was an early exploration of the Upside Down and the rift that Nancy enters, in a period where we were still deciding on how much color we would incorporate, if any. At the time, we didn’t necessarily know if day and night existed in the Upside Down.
We actually considered the possibility of a time change when going between the two worlds - e.g. Nancy entering the rift when it was nighttime in our world, and coming out into the Upside Down in the day. In the end, our designs for the Upside Down went toward what you now see in the show.
According to Sims, inspiration for the Upside Down came from a number of sources including Ridley Scott's Alien, the video game Silent Hill, and - more obscurely - Polish painter Zdzislaw Beksinski, "whose paintings felt slightly hellish. They reflect an otherworldly, hellish world, surrounded by a thin layer of something we can’t quite make out." Fans may wonder what the Upside Down could have looked like if Stranger Things had featured a more colorful version of the dimension, but its ultimate design certainly adds to the eerie horror/sci-fi feel of the final series.
As for the concept art of the Demogorgon, it offers a little more insight into the egg that Chief Hopper (David Harbour) comes across in the Stranger Things finale while searching the Upside Down for Will. Said Sims:
The egg was a design for something you actually see a couple times in the show, whether you recognize it or not. There are a couple encounters where we see the Demogorgon hunkered over, eating something - when Nancy goes into the Upside Down through the tree, and when Eleven finds the creature in her “vision,” it’s hunkered over this egg, feeding off of it.
It’s not clear whether or not this is the creature’s offspring - we don’t even know if it’s the same species. The only info we have is that the creature is feeding off this egg somehow.
The egg from the Upside Down is one of many questions fans may have about Stranger Things, and one that season 2 may answer. Although fans may have recognized that the Demogorgon was feeding on the egg throughout the episodes, the finale left the hatched or partially eaten egg out in the open, drawing viewers' attention to it - though it remains to be seen what exactly this particular part of the Upside Down means to Hopper and the rest of the series' protagonists.
Of course, it's always interesting to see what a television series or movie could have looked like if those involved went in a different direction as depicted through early concept art. But, as fans of Netflix's sci-fi ode to the '80s continue to puzzle over what the Stranger Things season 1 finale could mean for season 2, this newest concept art may answer some questions. Still, the answers to many of those questions may be held off until season 2 actually premieres on Netflix - though, since it has yet to get the green light, it remains to be seen if and when that will happen.
Stranger Things season 1 is available now on Netflix.