As far as happy endings go, Stranger Things season two really did its best to give these characters something hopeful. Will Byers, after being tortured/possessed by the Upside Down for two seasons, tries to return to some sort of normalcy. Eleven is now the adopted daughter of Hopper, finally attends the Snow Ball with Mike, and has successfully closed the Gate between Hawkins and the Upside Down. Lucas gets a kiss from Max taking their relationship to the next level, Dustin gets to dance with Nancy calling attention to every girl who denied his dance requests, Steve becomes Mr. Mom, and Hopper and Joyce share a cigarette just like their high school days. All of this ends the season with those warm and fuzzies as our characters, having been put through the wringer yet again, all share in these moments of victory and happiness.
Or so it would seem. The very last shot of season two sees the Mind Flayer hovering over Hawkins High School seemingly bidding its time waiting for a new way in. After Eleven’s massive power display the rift that she once accidentally created is now closed. Our world and the Upside Down are once again separate and by all accounts that should seem like enough to believe that Hawkins is safe.
The closing of the Gate raises an important question… is the Upside Down truly gone?
Think about it, the Gate wasn’t the only way that the demogorgon, demodogs, or the Mind Flayer used to infiltrate Hawkins. Yes, in season two the demodogs were able to use the Mind Flayers tunnel system to get from place to place, but that tunnel system seemed to be connected to the Gate. But we know from our experience in Hawkins, that there are other ways in from the Upside Down.
Think back to Nancy and Jonathan during their monster hunter phase. Nancy actually enters the Upside Down through a gate in a tree. Is that something that has always existed there or was it created when El first created the rift? We know that the demogorgon used it to travel or to bring food back to the Upside Down (looking at you deer and maybe you too Barb), but it’s not like the creature needed a door to get into Hawkins.
There were multiple times during that first season where the demogorgon just seemed to appear. Almost if it could teleport itself between our world and the Upside Down. After Jonathan set it on fire in the Byers house, the demogorgon vanished back to the Upside Down to possibly heal before attacking the school. At Steve’s pool party, the demogorgon showed up and grabbed Barb and quickly returned home. And for some reason, Hawkins High School seems to be another hot spot for the creature as it makes its re-emergence through one of the school’s walls. It is clear that the demogorgon is able to shift back and forth between the two universes almost effortlessly. And while we’ve seen this with Will in season two, it does raise the question of thin areas within Hawkins. Places where the separation of the Upside Down and Hawkins isn’t as strong. We know the school, the Byers house, and Steve’s pool areas seem to fit this mold, but are their others? Think of all the places where Will vanished to the Upside Down. This makes the arcade questionable as well as whatever street he was on while trick or treating. Are you really able to keep something out if it doesn’t have any real barriers? Is it possible for future demo-creatures to just appear when they want to? How many of these thin areas are there in Hawkins?
It doesn’t seem like the Mind Flayer has the same traveling powers as the demogorgon. We’ve seen it uses possession in order to gain access to our world and the one time it actually tried to physically manifest through the Gate, it was pushed back by Eleven’s powers. The last shot of season two clearly implies that the Mind Flayer hasn’t forgotten about Hawkins or the loss it suffered at the hands of Eleven. Is it hovering over the high school because it’s searching for revenge over Eleven or because it’s still haunting Will? Could it be something else entirely? We know the demogorgon used the high school as a traveling hot spot, could this be where the Mind Flayer makes its move?
Watching the Gate under Hawkins Lab close is a feel-good moment as it allows us to believe that our heroes have closed the monsters off in their world. We get a sense of the potential of Eleven’s powers and all of our characters make it out alive for their happy endings. But from everything we’ve seen from Hawkins, how comfortable should we be feeling? Yes, the Gate was a massive tear between the fabric of our world and the Upside Down but it’s clear that these creatures want to cross the barrier and we’ve seen other entry points throughout the show. Was Eleven’s victory just delaying the enviable? Can Hawkins ever actually be rid of the Upside Down? And what happens if the Mind Flayer creates its own Gate using one of these thin areas? With the full strength of this creature still being speculative, could a new Gate destroy the entire town? Something to keep in the back of our minds especially with Hawkins Lab being run out of town for their involvement in Barb’s death. Maybe they’re just as important at keeping the Upside Down at bay as Eleven’s powers.
Yes, the Gate between the Upside Down and Hawkins is closed… but does it even matter?