[SPOILERS for Stranger Things season 2 follow.]
Because it's Netflix, it already seems like Stranger Things 2 has come and gone even though the new season's only been available for a the better part of a weekend. That's a big downside to the streaming giant's all-at-once delivery model, as it makes discussing the ins and outs of any new season particularly challenging since not all viewers are on the same schedule. It also means that even though it has been roughly seventy-two hours since things got strange all over again in Hawkins, Indiana, the discussion for many has already turned to the new season's ending and what it means for Stranger Things season 3.
Whereas season 1 ended with an emotional mixed bag of Eleven's sacrificial victory over the Demogorgon and Will Byers' not-so-safe return from the Upside Down, the conclusion to season 2 feels much more like an all-around win (for almost everyone)… until things turn appropriately dark and ominous all over again. The result is a solid conclusion to the second installment and an assurance that things will get strange again.
Speaking about the conclusion to season 2, co-creators Ross and Matt Duffer discussed the temptation of ending things with the good vibes and John Hughes-inspired emotions of the Hawkins Middle School Snowball Dance, but this being Stranger Things, there's always some thing lurking around the corner – or in a pocket dimension – just waiting for its moment to strike. And though Eleven's impressive display of her powers successfully closed the gateway connecting Hawkins to the Upside Down, the Mind Flayer's curiosity and desire to return to the sleepy little town is apparently stronger than ever. The Duffer brothers had this to say:
"Yeah, we don't end it on a totally happy note, do we? [Laughs] There were discussions about that, but then we went, 'Nah, we have to hint at what's to come.' The hope we wanted people to get out of it is that this thing [is still out there]. They've shut the door on the Mind Flayer, but not only is it still there in the Upside Down, it's very much aware of the kids, and particularly Eleven. It had not encountered her and her powers until that final episode. Now, it knows that she's out there. We wanted to end on a little bit of an ominous note on that level."
The decision to end on that what is ostensibly a warning as opposed to a mystery also works with what the brothers have planned for the next season.
"Last year, we had a lot of little cliffhangers at the end of the season. We didn't want to do that again. We didn't want to box ourselves in for season three. We wanted to be able to start season three on a very clean slate. It felt totally unnecessary, when we had the Snow Ball. Once we had the Snow Ball, we didn't know [if we wanted to do] anything else as an ending."
The Duffers have said repeatedly they don't want to get trapped doing the same thing every season, and not having to resolve a series of cliffhangers from the previous installment is the first step in getting them to a place where they can do that. Knowing the Mind Flayer is still out there keeps things appropriately strange, and having the being loom large over the festering flipside of Hawkins Middle School makes the thought of another season of Stranger Things as tantalizing as the creators likely intended.
Stranger Things 2 is available in its entirety on Netflix.