Outside of the Mind Flayer hovering over Hawkins School in the Upside Down, it’s safe to say that season two of Stranger Things ended on a pretty happy note. The Gate to the Upside Down was closed (or was it?!) through some serious power flexing from Eleven. The kids got to finally enjoy the Snow Ball dance. Will is rid of the Mind Flayer possessing his body. Hopper is given another chance at being a father with Eleven. And the evil people at Hawkins Lab have been chased out of town because of Nancy, Jonathan, and Murray’s watered down version of the truth (finally, justice for Barb!). It’s a happy ending on par with the parents not losing their homes in the Goonies. Granted, this would be true if some invisible monster was hovering over these houses in some warped alternate dimension, but other than that, right on par.
Here’s the thing though, what if this happy ending opened the door for a not so happy future? Sometimes getting what you want isn’t necessarily the best thing for you, and that rings true for Hawkins especially when concerning the now evicted members of Hawkins Lab. Granted, I would wager that the greater population of Hawkins really had any clue, nor really cared, about what was going on at the Lab but that doesn’t mean that these casual residents won’t feel the impact of their absence. The key to success for any shady agency is keeping the town’s folk oblivious and Hawkins Lab succeeded at that for quite some time. Experiments with powered children were occurring during the late ’70s and no one was the wiser. Nancy’s guilt over Barb, Jonathan’s need to please Nancy, and Murray’s belief in all things conspiracy related have at least opened people’s eyes to give them some sort of a semblance at what was occurring behind those chained link fences. But is knowledge power here or has it opened the door to something worse?
There’s no denying that the majority of people working at Hawkins Lab were involved in some nefarious stuff. Any lab that builds a foundation on manipulating the untapped physic powers of children tends not to be one of the “good guys”. Under the leadership of Doctor Brenner, Hawkins Lab was involved in a whole lot of shady. Potential cat murder and spying on Russians are not good things. They are even worse things when you’re having children, who are still learning the difference between right and wrong, doing them. Hell, it’s this shady activity, and a dash of ignorance on Brenner’s part, that results in the opening of the Gate in the first place. Not understanding the power of Eleven invites the Upside Down into our world and Hawkins has been paying for that ever since. Once you remove Brenner from the lab, thanks to a hungry Demogorgon, there’s a bit of a paradigm shift within the operations of the Lab. For starters, all numbered children are gone and there seems to be no recruiting of others. Brenner’s crew is scattered and most likely hiding from Eight’s gang of murdering weirdos. Moving away from torturing telekinetically powered children allows Hawkins Lab to focus its attention to the more important problem. The Gate.
Bucking against ‘80’s pop culture trends, it turns out that Paul Reiser’s Doctor Owen wasn’t a bad guy after all and not only did he have Will’s best intentions at the forefront but the town’s as well. The use of hazmat suit workers with flame throwers is easily something we can take for granted, but was the only proactive measure being taken to keep the Upside Down at bay. Of course, it leads to the tunneling system but that’s beside the point. Blowtorching Upside Down yuck was the best monitoring system Hawkins had. As long as Owens and the others were there, the Upside Down was under the microscope. Literally and figuratively, and sure there are employees more concerned with guitar solos who might not see switchboards lighting up, but you’ll find those clowns at any job. Not to mention, the problem was eventually seen. A minor negligence but it’s better than full-on negligence.
Removing Hawkins Lab from town takes away Hawkin’s first defense from the Upside Down. Doctor Brenner showed an interest in whatever the Upside Down was and probably had the hopes of manipulating it for his own use, but say what you will, he kept a close eye on the comings and goings of the Upside Down. Even to the point of sending workers in to get killed by demogorgons. Owens tried to seal the gate to the best of his ability but really had no concept of the magnitude of what he was dealing with. In both cases, though there was someone there being proactive and despite the Gate’s closure, the Lab is a hot spot for Upside Down activity within Hawkins. Wouldn’t you want someone there keeping an eye out just in case the Mind Flayer tears the fabric between our worlds again? This feels like something Hopper should be voicing his concern over.
The secrets of the Lab and the Upside Down are still unknown to the residents of Hawkins, but that last season three trailer heavily implies that the Upside Down might be branching out even further, and that’s bad for a number of reasons. For starters, we don’t know the motives of the Mind Flayer but we can assume world domination like most evil entities. World domination usually leads to destruction and death for those opposed and the Mind Flayer doesn’t seem concerned with making friends. It sure would be great to have a group of scientists at the location who could send out a warning…
Nancy was able to bring closure to Barb’s parents and saved their home from being sold, but did her justice for Barb doom the rest of the town? Obviously, Hawkins Lab isn’t fully gone from the story but they are currently gone from the town. The Upside Down now sits unchecked, unwatched, and seeking revenge. Our gang thinks everything is finished. Gate’s closed let’s get our Snow Ball on. There’s nothing worse that can happen to characters then resting on their laurels. It leads to the lowering of guards and the potential for disaster. Nancy and Johnathan had their heart in the right place but maybe somethings are too big to be avenged. Barb’s story is a tragic one and the guilt must be crushing, but with the Mind Flayer in revenge mode maybe Hawkins needs the Lab now more than ever. Of course, the people don’t know that but they will when the first demo-creature starts tearing off their arms or trying to impregnate them with Upside Down goo.
Justice for Barb is great and all but maybe they should have thought scholarship or park bench. Because with the first layer of defense gone who is going to bring justice for the people of Hawkins when the Mind Flayer comes ripping through?
What do you think Geeklings? Is the removal of the Lab from Hawkins a grave mistake? Did Nancy and Jonathan do the right thing going to Murray? Where is Hawkins Lab now? Sound off in the comments with all your best thoughts and theories. If you’d like to talk more Stranger Things with yours truly be sure to throw me a line over on Twitter @iamgeek32. Tons to discuss as we count down to the start of season three. Only nine days now! This is going to be one hell of a Fourth of a July!