Stranger Things Season 2 may have ended on a tight, mostly happy note, but that doesn't mean it's the end of the show; like the Mind Flayer, Season 3 is coming. And while showrunners the Duffer Brothers have stated they didn't want to end the sequel with heavy setup for next year (unlike Season 1), that doesn't mean there aren't some clues.
Season 2 picked up a year after the events of the first, with Will struggling to fit back into everyday life. It was soon realized that this was not so much down to Zombie Boy, but more the fact that he was playing host to the Mind Flayer; a dark shadow monster from the Upside Down that wants to destroy everything in its path. Eleven was also struggling this season; now living with Sheriff Hopper, she was fighting to make a life for herself despite having to keep hidden without any contact with her friends. She took herself on a literal journey of discovery, first to find her mama, and then lost sister Eight - one of her lab siblings who also holds telekinetic powers. Ultimately though, Eleven realized she belongs in Hawkins, and headed back just in time to close the gate to the Upside Down, trapping the Shadow Monster once more.
For now, this means the Upside Down and the Mind Flayer have no way into Hawkins, but that doesn't mean they won't be back. Season 2 left plenty of open ends ready for season three, with the Shadow Monster looming over the Upside Down version of Hawkins Middle school in a final, lingering shot. Not only that, but the Duffers have more or less confirmed that the Mind Flayer will be back, highlighting how it's now aware of Eleven's existence. That sounds ominous for poor Jane, who had just found some stability in her life.
How Will The Mind Flayer Return?
The Duffer brothers have already said that there will be another time jump between seasons 2 and 3 due to the growing of their teenage cast, and the show nods to this. At the end of season 2, Dr. Owens presented Hopper with a falsified birth certificate for Jane/Eleven, and advised that she should lie low for a year. Therefore, when season 3 picks up (given the 15-month gap between the first two seasons), Eleven should be about ready to start ninth grade alongside Mike, Will, Dustin, Lucas, and Max. That will also mean Steve is ready to graduate - although it's unclear if he'll be leaving Hawkins for college or not.
While having all the kids happy and settled sounds ideal, it can't stay that way. We've (at the very least) got that Mind Flayer lurking in the Upside Down, biding its time and looking for a new host. Who could that be? Will seems too obvious (and Noah Schnapp deserves more to do than be possessed). Fortunately for the writers, there's a wealth of possibilities. During Season 2, many characters entered the network of tunnels that ran under Hawkins where the vines of the Shadow Monster lurked. Hopper very nearly died in there, and he came into contact with some kind of liquid that the vines sprayed in his face. The same thing happened to Dustin and although he joked about it, it could well be an ominous sign of things to come.
Dustin seems to pure to be a host of something so dark, but then we thought the same of Will, too. Hopper, though, is struggling with a dark and turbulent past; among the boxes that Eleven found in the cellar were some marked 'Sara,' 'New York,' and 'Vietnam,' memories of his past life that we already know hasn't been easy. Surely it would be too simple to have everybody's favorite Sheriff adopt Eleven and eventually settle down with Joyce Byers? If we do see Hopper moving to the dark side it will certainly make for an interesting dynamic among the core group of characters who have all bonded closely.
Who might finally get a chance to settle back into ordinary life - for a short time, at least - is Will. He's spent two seasons tied to the Upside Down, so can hopefully get some normality. Still, everything he's been through has got to affect him in some way. Will he find common ground with Eleven, who knows what it's like to feel like an outcast? That would be a smart way to tie together the two main threads of the show (Schnapp and Millie Bobby Brown have barely shared any screen time together) and means we move back to Eleven as the main focus - which we definitely know will be a big thing in Season 3.
Will Eight (Or Other Experiments) Return?
We know that Eight will be out for revenge on Brenner (now confirmed to be alive), and that could well mean death for the scientist. Eleven, on the other hand, doesn't want to kill unless it's for defense. If Eight and Eleven do reunite, there could well be strong disagreements to come. Of course, like true siblings, they share an unbreakable bond, so the question really is, how much of a threat will Brenner now pose to the girls?
The introduction of Eight could also be the lead into the discovery of the other nine children. Some will have died, no doubt, but while the Duffer brothers have said they're wary of introducing too many new characters, at the same time, it would be good to get an idea of the wider impact the Hawkins Lab experiments had on others.
Wherever Season 3 does decide to take us in terms of plot, it seems fair to expect it the series to begin building to a dramatic showdown between good and evil. It's not known how long the show will ultimately run for - Millie Bobby Brown wants five seasons - but, regardless, after the self-contained Season 2 it's safe to say Season 3 will tell its own, focused story while beginning to build to a dramatic showdown between good and evil. For now, the Mind Flayer is lying dormant, but it's only a matter of time before it stirs again. This time, will it be defeated once and for all?
Stranger Things is available for streaming now on Netflix.