Last week Netflix finally graced us with the release of the long-awaited Stranger Things season three trailer. It couldn’t have come at a better time as the world needed a reminding that this show still existed. That’s the problem with these long layoffs between seasons. In a pop culture scene that has such a short attention span, thanks binge-watching, it’s a “what have you done for me lately” mentality that keeps you afloat. The thing is, even though we got our first look of footage for this upcoming season our return trip to Hawkins, Indiana is still about a hundred days away. If we’re splitting hairs, and this is the internet, after all, it’s actually a little less but we round up for the dramatic effect. A hundred days. Think about this for a second…the amount of things that we’re going to experience before Stranger Things comes back is mind-boggling. We’re talking all of spring and the start of summer with an allergy season bonus. Yay puffy eyes and sniffles! A hundred days should cover all of the NBA and NHL playoffs… I think. Those things seem to last forever. We’ll have completed our final trip to Westeros and the internet will be divided as a majority of the people will love it, a majority of people will hate it, and the rest are still waiting for Winds of Winter. A book that I can almost promise won’t be released during these hundred days. Not to mention the wake of the emotional devastation that Avengers Endgame leaves behind. Hell, some of us might still be recovering from that by the time Stranger Things returns to our screens.
Needless to say, there are a ton of things to keep us occupied before Stranger Things returns and a number of these things come with a heavy emotional toll. Do you ever wonder how much pain you can withstand from the fictional entities that you enjoy? The amount of love, dedication, and commitment we throw into our favorite fictional universes should come with “grieving days”. Who among you wouldn’t have used one of those days after the Red Wedding? I read the books and knew it was coming (#readerbrag) and still could have used that day off. Picture that phone call, “Hello, work… I can’t *sobs*… I just can’t alright! They’re all dead”. A Red Wedding sick day could have been as commonplace as calling out after the Super Bowl.
Within these hundred days, we’re poised for even more pain. There is little doubt that both Game of Thrones and Endgame will bring a heavy emotional cost as we bid farewell to some characters we’ve shared lifetimes with. We watch, re-watch, analyze, theorize, re-watch again, and throw so much into these characters that it’s hard not to feel the pain when one of them dies. Try and tell me that you won’t be an emotional wreck if Jon Snow or Captain America, god forbid both, die on screen in the coming months. I’ve been through some shit in life and I already know that I’m not mentally strong enough to deal with that.
After a hundred days of grieving and sobbing on levels that would make Claire Danes concerned, we should be able to turn to Stranger Things and look for the emotional hug we so desperately need. We’re talking Baymax levels of hugging here. After the hundred days we’ve endured, I’d say that we deserve nothing more. Yet… I wonder if that’s what we’re going to get.
Throughout two seasons of Stranger Things, our main cast has pretty much made it out unscathed. When fighting against demogorgons, demodogs, bullies who dig moms, and second-hand smoke one has to admire those kinds of survival odds. By all means, half of these characters should be dead, and I’m not wishing death upon them, but you have to admit they’ve kind of lucked out. Season one concluded with the evaporation of Eleven, but we all knew she was alive. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the series and all types of emotionally impactful, but I don’t think I ever fully believed Eleven was gone. It just couldn’t happen. She was such a polarizing character who is tied to the deeper mysteries of the show. She was coming back, and Hop’s Eggo woods deliveries all but confirmed that. Phew. Season one ends with the return of Will Byers, a new paint job in the Byers household, the promise of Eleven being out there, the return of cameras and D&D parties, and the throwing up of slugs. In the grand scheme of things, this is a massive win all around.
Season two was kind of the same thing when it came to casualties. Yes, we lost Johnathan’s virginity and Doctor Bob, but did anyone believe either one of those things were going to survive the season? Especially Doctor Bob. I love Sean “I Can’t Carry It but I Can Carry You” Astin but you had to know he was there for more than just ‘80s nostalgia goodness. He was the loss that we needed to bring Joyce and Hop closer together. He was the loss we needed to make the stakes sort of count. Bob knocking over that mop showed us that not everyone survives their run-ins with democreatures… unless you’re the main cast that is. But even with that loss the season ended with Snowball Dance kisses, adoption, amazing hair, an exercised Will Byers, and Steve Fn’ Harrington. Sure the Demogorgon Queen is hovering over Hawkins High in the Upside Down but that’s a problem for another day. To quote Michael Scott, this was a win-win-win scenario.
After two seasons of Stranger Things, we seriously need to start asking ourselves how much longer this string of luck can last for our main characters. At some point, the demogorgons have to get a win to raise the stakes because right now they’re losing big time. Their hired henchmen from season one were taken out by an eleven-year-old with powers. Their doorway into the real world was closed… by a twelve-year-old with powers. At some point, they’re going to have to stop hovering over schools and actually make a move. Killing a Goonie and going 0-2 isn’t enough to bolster up their street cred, and season three has all the makings of an Empire Strikes Back ending where the Upside Down finally gets a much needed W.
Another loss for the Upside Down just weakens their threat even further and if we’re to get another season, perhaps even two, of Stranger Things then the demogorgons have to win in season three. It would appear that the trajectory of the show is leading to a massive showdown between Eleven, the Hawkins crew, the other numbered children and the Upside Down. You remember those other numbered children, right? They were the ones who showed up in the poorly placed but highly important “Lost Sister” episode last season. There’s no way that they don’t factor into the conclusion of this series but before they band together there has to be a unifying event. What unifies characters more than death?
Which begs the question… who? Season three needs an impactful death for the stakes to feel big enough which kinds of narrows down the killing field. The death of Kali, the lost sister herself, would be a good death to usher in the other powered kids, but Eleven and company need a more personal death. We’re talking death of the emotionally crippling variety. Snot bubbles and ugly faces. My immediate thought goes to Hop and Mike. Eleven is the key to defeating the Upside Down and in order to do that she’s going to have to continue rising to another level with her abilities. One would think that the death of one of the two people closest to her would do just that. It could also have a negative impact, spiraling Eleven out of control on a Joyce Byers type meltdown on crack. There’s no denying that the death of Hop and/or Mike would be the most impactful and be a huge statement from the show however unlikely it may seem. Might be something to be saved for the final season.
There are other candidates out there that would certainly raise the stakes of the game though. Steve Harrington, who’s death was teased a couple of times last season, would send fans into a depressed/anger laced frenzy and would leave the kids without the world’s greatest babysitter. Johnathan Byers would be a good one too as his passing reaches a number of different characters but I think we should leave the Byers family alone for a season. They can’t always be the whipping boy of the Upside Down. Perhaps Dustin? Can you think of a death that would piss you off more? Just typing that made me sad and angry. In fact, scratch that. You leave Dustin alone you bastards!
What about Eleven? Not likely, but man would that change the show. Suddenly the one weapon they have to defeat the Upside Down is gone and now our heroes will have to turn elsewhere. This could be a way to bring in the crew from the “Lost Sister” but considering how poorly that episode was received I worry that an Eleven death would chase away fans opposed to making them want to see what happens next. No one wants to see a group of outsiders come in and save the day. Is Eleven safe for the series? No, but I’d say she’s pretty safe for season three.
One thing’s for certain, this upcoming third season of Stranger Things has to add to the pain that our other fictional universes are providing this year. The Upside Down is in need of a massive muscle flex and what better way to establish dominance than by wiping out a number of fan favorites? Just ask Thanos what that does for your street cred.
What do you think Geeklings? Does Stranger Things have to kill off a major character this season to raise the stakes? And if so, then who? Sound off in the comments or throw me a line over on Twitter @iamgeek32. We’ve got a hundred days or so to start theorizing and mentally preparing for the pain. And looking at what’s ahead of us over these next hundred days, we should all be experts in pain by then.