As the final notes of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” played over shots of Stranger Things’ endearing young characters shuffling (and smooching) their way around Hawkins Middle School Gym, my mind had already turned to thoughts of where these characters and their stories might go during the already-confirmed third season. This is perhaps unfair. After all, the interdimensional goop was barely dry on this latest installment, and Bob the Brain was already little more than a bittersweet memory.
Alas, such is the reality of our binge-and-advance world. When one season of, say, a surprise cultural phenomenon ends, attention naturally turns to what’s next. In the case of Stranger Things, what’s next is wildly uncertain. There’s no pre-existing source material to guide the story along, every actor on the show is going to see an increase in profile and acting opportunities, and the pressure on the Duffer brothers is only going to increase.
All of this makes it tough to suggest a path forward, but I’m here to take one for the team.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
Suggestion #1: Hire a sports consultant. This may seem minor, but the Billy-Steve basketball scenes were painful. It was like the writers had only heard old radio broadcasts of how basketball is played. If you’re going to use an athletic event (basketball in Indiana, no less) as a metaphor for the competition between Billy and Steve, it should at least faintly resemble the sport in question (no basketball player goes for a between the legs layup on a breakaway if they want to look like a badass).
Suggestion #2: Give Will a chance to be something more than a victim. For most of his time on screen, Will Byers has been (A) shivering, (B) crying, (C) screaming, or (D) comatose. Or some combination thereof. The thing is, Noah Schnapp showed off some top-shelf acting chops when given the chance in season 2. I’m sure that both actor and audience would be relieved if Zombie Boy got the opportunity to join in the fight against the encroaching apocalypse instead of just being fussed over by a delirious Wynona Ryder.
Suggestion #3: Make Joyce more of a badass and less of a basket case with a penchant for, uh, bold interior design choices. We get a glimpse of Joyce the Fierce when, in the season two finale, she acts upon her hatred for the Mind Flayer rather than hesitating out of fear of hurting Will. Let’s parlay that into a more assured, decisive Joyce. After everything she’s been through, there’s no way whatever evil awaits in season three will catch her unawares. Plus Winona Ryder deserves the chance to bring the pain after two seasons of frantic damsel-ing.
Suggestion #4: Take Eleven out of the game. One of the reasons Batman is more interesting than Superman is that Batman can be hurt or killed a whole lot more easily than his Kryptonian counterpart. Superman’s invincibility makes him boring. Throughout Eleven’s six-ish episodes on the sidelines during season two, it was always clear that she would be what tipped the scales in the fight against the shadow monster, the demo-dogs, etc. In fact, when she finally showed up, it kiiiiind of let the air out of the climactic showdowns. She’s never been portrayed as invincible, but for the show to create the kind of tension it needs to fulfill its potential, Eleven is going to have to either meet her match, or the rest of the gang is going to have to somehow face the bad guys without her. That doesn’t mean they have to kill her off, but she can’t just keep being the Duffer brothers’ magic narrative wand, either.
Suggestion #5: Never let Dustin make that purring sound again. Ever.
Suggestion #6: Send Billy back to the beach. Listen, Billy was a tremendously hateable douchecanoe, and the scene where he damn near seduces Mrs. Wheeler was enough to convince me that a spin-off where she writes romance novels while carrying on an affair with barely-legal Billy will definitely start production in the next six months. However, I’m not certain that a show where a bunch of kids fight demons from the nether-world also needs a school bully storyline. Sure, it feels like there’s more story to be explored between Billy, Max, and their parents, but a show already stuffed with plot just doesn’t have room to dig into it. Best to just have him leave Hawkins for sunny California as soon as he graduates and wish him and Nancy’s mom the best.
Suggestion #7: More Murray, please! I gotta be honest: I’m not sure I enjoyed any scene in season two more than the Jonathan-Nancy-Murray bit at his weird bunker. He managed to provide comic relief while also being a welcome helper to our heroes. A paranoid Stoli fiend with a taste for Woodward and Bernstein-style investigative journalism might be just the hero Hawkins needs in the coming war against the darkness.
Suggestion #8: End it after three seasons. The Duffer brothers have said that they want to do four seasons, but I’m always wary of shows overstaying their welcomes. Actors move on, plots get strained, and viewers end up trudging forward out of a sense of duty rather than genuine anticipation. The only exception I could make is if the show tipped its hat to one of its obvious inspirations: IT. In the second half of IT, the grown-up “losers” return to Derry, Maine to do battle with Pennywise.
I could see a flash-forward series starring older versions of the A.V. crew, returning to Hawkins when the Upside-Down rears its head.
Oh, man. Now I’ve got to start casting this grown-up season four of Stranger Things that doesn’t even exist. Judah Friedlander as Dustin! Ben Schwartz as Steve! Kate Mara as Eleven!
Ah, screw it. #sixseasonsandamovie