Spoilers for Stranger Things Season 2.
Stranger Things is back for a second season that is, by all accounts, better than the first. However, that doesn’t mean one irritating problem with the first year hasn’t been carried over to the new run: the show’s bizarre timeline confusion.
To be clear, when we’re talking timeline, we’re not talking about Stranger Things‘ time period. The show is set in the early 1980s and doubles-down on the era for nostalgic effect, but it also inevitably makes some flubs; characters drive cars made in the wrong year and the kids reference movies they had no reasonable way to be so au fait with. However, these are hardly show-breaking problems and will only negatively impact your viewing experience if you really dig deep: the only thing worse than people pointing these issues out are those who craft elaborate fan theories trying to explain a parallel universe.
No, we’re talking about illogicies within the world that Stranger Things itself establishes, real-world parallels be damned. For the most part, the Duffer Brothers have constructed a really tight universe, one that even stays consistent through the expansion of a sequel, yet there’s a narrative problem that remains.
Joyce’s Bad Memory and Eleven’s Teleporting Powers
Like the first season, Stranger Things 2 takes place over a week (dates worked outwards from the Halloween episode): the prologue is set on October 28, 1984, the rest of the premiere the day before Halloween, Chapter Two October 31 itself, Chapter Three November 1 and Chapter Four the end of that day and most of November 2. Then Chapter Five is November 3, Chapter Six and Chapter Seven concurrently November 4 and the final two episodes are the late night/early morning of November 5. That’s a pretty easy chronology and yet Things can’t quite grasp it.
At the start of Chapter Four – so on November 1 – Joyce Byers says to son Will that she saw his video from “Halloween night“, an incredibly odd turn of phrase when you consider that in-universe the recording in question was from yesterday. Nobody in their right mind on November 1 would call “last night” Halloween, yet here it is happening. And we’re not just being suddenly pedantic with this – in Season 1 Joyce likewise overestimated the time passage since Will’s death, revealing a recurring issue with the show.
It’s exacerbated when you take the season’s separate narratives and try to put them alongside each other. Eleven leaves Hawkins to visit her mother (of unknown location but in the same state) on November 3 (Chapter Five) and returns on the night of November 4 (Chapter Eight) to save the group from the Demodogs. In those two days, she managed to travel to Chicago, Illinois – where she spent the whole day and evening of November 4 – before heading back to Hawkins, Indiana (which has no location within the state but by geography is presumably middle-to-south) in record time. To the show’s credit, the visions she has of the facility under attack do line up here, but when you consider that’s a 500+km round trip with a day layover things get far too stretched.
Admittedly these are sparse and minor complaints in the grand scheme of the show. To make that clear: none of this damages Stranger Things massively and it’s definitely nothing close to the similar pacing issues Game of Thrones suffered in its recent seventh season. But it’s still a curious problem, especially as the reason why may be the strangest thing of all.
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