WARNING: This article contains spoilers from Stranger Things 2
With the Demogorgon out of the picture, Stranger Things needed a new monster to offer up in season 2 and “Chapter Three: The Pollywog” offered up a Gremlins-inspired replacement. The arrival of this new Upside Down creature comes fittingly on Halloween, with Dustin Henderson wearing his Ghostbusters suit and carrying a replica ghost trap to capture it in. Yep, Dustin falls into the typical ’80s horror trope of befriending an unknown species without thinking about what it could turn into.
After rescuing it from his trashcan, Dustin sneaks the creature into his room and evicts his turtle Yurtle from its aquarium to put his new guest in it instead. “What are you little guy?” Dustin asks, before feeding it some Halloween candy, a Three Musketeers more specifically, and names it D’Artagnan. This is where the first proper nod to Gremlins occurs, as Dustin falls asleep while little D’Artagnan begins to evolve into a bigger creature. Considering that Joe Dante’s comedy horror movie came out in June 1984 and the TV show is set months later, you’d think Dustin would have heeded one its main warnings: don’t feed strange creatures, as it leads to bad consequences. And this one is super strange.
Obviously the pollywog came from the Upside Down, and it’s assumed to have been brought through the gate by Will Byers. We saw at the end of season one that the Demogorgon was taking its victims to the alternative dimension’s public library, and seemingly sucking the life out of them through tendrils stuck down their throats. Hopper and Joyce find Will with one down his, and even though they manage to rescue him, the experience left a lasting effect. A month after coming out of the Upside Down, Will coughs up a slug into the bathroom sink, and it’s highly likely that that slug grew up to be D’Artagnan.
It wasn’t the only slug that we saw in season one, as Eleven spotted one coming out of dead Barb’s mouth too. It seems likely that the Demogorgon was using its victims as some sort of parasitical incubator to grow these creatures, a bit like the Xenomorph does in the Alien movies, and they seemingly grow as fast as their sci-fi counterparts. Dustin brings D’Artagnan to school where he introduces it to Mike, Lucas, Will and Max and tries to explain what it is.
“At first I thought it was some type of pollywog, it’s another word for tadpole, a tadpole is the larva stage of a toad… most tadpoles are aquatic but D’Art isn’t he doesn’t need it.”
Dustin is going under the mistaken impression that his new pet is a terrestrial pollywog from either India or South America, which seems surprising considering they all know what’s lurking in the Upside Down. Will makes the connection when he flashes back to the moment he coughs up the slug, but Dustin is still too excited about the idea of discovering a brand new species, and wants to share it with their science teacher, Mr. Clark. Luckily, Will and Mike get there in time to stop them but while they’re debating what to do with the creature it grows an extra pair of legs and runs off.
Dustin manages to spirit the creature back home but he learns pretty quickly that the bigger it grows the more of a taste for blood it gets. After returning home from school the next day, Dustin finds D’Artagnan eating his cat, having grown to the size of a medium-sized dog, but after locking it away in his basement it manages to escape by burrowing through the wall and into the tunnels created by the Shadow Monster in the Upside Down.
The Shadow Monster is a powerful demon that seems to have created a terrifying biological eco-system – that shares a collective consciousness – and is trying to infiltrate the human world. It turns out that D’Artagnan is one of many of the Shadow Monster’s wolf-life creatures that work like a pack and communicate through their hive mind. Renamed Demodogs, they managed to gain entrance into Hawkins through the tunnels that have been growing under the town outwardly from the gateway to the other dimension at the Hawkins lab. Working together as a pack, they take out the soldiers trying to demolish the Shadow Monster’s vine-like organisms that have been spreading through the tunnel and slaughter most of the people at the lab. However, they soon work out that to kill the demodogs they must take out the Shadow Monster, or at least cut its connection to the human world by closing the gate.
As soon as Eleven closes the gateway, the demodogs die immediately, as do all of the organisms it is connected to via the Shadow Monster’s hive mind while Joyce manages to expel it from Will’s system before the gate is closed. Interestingly though, the demodogs aren’t entirely governed by the hive mind as proven by D’Artagnan who didn’t attack Dustin or the group when trying to escape the tunnels. It remembered the friendship and affection shown by his former owner, as well as its favourite treat. So clearly, the creatures aren’t inherently bad they’re just massively influenced by the demon that helped created them.
So the demon’s best friend might be dead for now, but it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to seem them in future seasons of Stranger Things, especially with their shadowy master looming ominously over Hawkins High in the Upside Down. Eek.
Stranger Things 2 is available now on Netflix.
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