WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Stranger Things season 2.
After the events of the Stranger Things season 2 finale concerning Eleven, Will, and the Shadow Monster, we explain what it all means for the town of Hawkins - and further seasons of the Netflix series. Last summer, Netflix released the first season of Stranger Things, from co-creators Matt and Ross Duffer, and the series became a sleeper hit of 2016, gaining popularity until it became on of the most talked about series of the year. The first season followed the residents of Hawkins, Indiana as they searched for Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) and discovered secrets hidden by Hawkins Lab, including the telekinetic child named Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), and the Demogorgon monster that escaped from the Upside Down.
The season 1 finale of Stranger Things left viewers with a number of mysteries to puzzle over, many of which were addressed in season 2. In the season 2 finale, Eleven and Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) attempt to close the Gate to the Upside down, while Joyce (Winona Ryder), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) try to free Will from the grip of the Shadow Monster. Meanwhile, Steve (Joe Keery), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Max (Sadie Sink) try to help Eleven by drawing the attention of the Demodogs. So, what exactly happened and what does it mean for life in Hawkins?
The season 2 finale of Stranger Things, 'Chapter Nine: The Gate', follows much the same structure of the season 1 finale in that it features a final battle in which each member of the team plays a key role. Like the previous season finale, 'The Gate' also features an epilogue of sorts that skips ahead a month after the main events of season 2, though this particular sequence offers more closure to character arcs than teases for what's to come. Still, there are some hints that we'll break down and explain about the Stranger Things season 2 finale.
Will the Cured?
The Shadow Monster had control over Will for much of season 2 and while, at first, Joyce and Mike tried to keep him comfortable, their plan in the finale to cut the connection between the Shadow Monster in the Upside Down and its army in their world potentially endangered the youngest Byers. As a result, Joyce, Nancy, and Jonathan attempt to kill the Shadow Monster's virus that has infected Will. To do so, they need to make Will's body uninhabitable to the Shadow Monster and, since the beast and its army thrives in dark, cold places, they create an environment in which Will won't be cold.
To do this, Joyce, Nancy, and Jonathan bring Will to Hopper's cabin in the woods and set up a series of space heaters in addition to building a fire in the fireplace. The resulting heat makes the extension of the Shadow Monster possessing Will grow increasingly uncomfortable and violent, lashing out at Joyce until Nancy uses a fireplace poker to burn Will. The Shadow Monster is expelled from Will's body and resembles a cloud of dark, shadowy matter that must be able to wield some energy as it bursts out of the cabin and disappears into the night sky.
Will, who had been losing his memories the longer he was possessed by the Shadow Monster, awakes and instantly recognizes his mother, which would seemingly indicate he's been cured. Certainly, there's nothing amiss with the youngest Byers in the epilogue of 'The Gate' as he dances with Joyce, then one of his classmates at the Snow Ball. By all appearances, Will has finally returned to the normal, healthy kid he was prior to being lost in the Upside Down.
However, it's unclear what happened to the bit of the Shadow Monster that was exorcised from Will. The Demodogs and vines that were extensions of the monster in the real world died once they were cut off from the Upside Down, but did the same happen to the cloud of shadow that came out of Will? It's certainly possible it died, but since it was the Shadow Monster's virus - and, perhaps, a piece of the monster rather than a member of its army - it also may have survived in the real world. If that's true, it could return in a later season, either having survived on its own or by finding another host.