Written by Josh Sarnecky
Based on the amount of success Stranger Things has seen since its release, it seems inevitable that Netflix will renew the series for another season. As fans wonder what exactly will transpire during the show’s sophomore outing and attempt to answer the remaining mysteries, however, one important question has yet to be discussed: should Stranger Things return for a second season? Fittingly, the answer isn’t as clear as one might expect.
Anyone that read my reviews for the premiere and finale of season one knows that I absolutely love Stranger Things. The relatable characters, captivating story, and immersive setting combined to form a world that I was truly able to get lost in. And while I’d cherish the opportunity to lose myself in that world again, I honestly think the Duffer Brothers (the show’s creators) would be better off letting the show end as is.
Regardless of whether or not the show should return, there is certainly no need to return. Obviously the first season ended with some unanswered questions but by no means ended on a cliffhanger. Unlike the ending of season one of Lost when the audience was left wondering what lies within the Hatch or season five of Game of Thrones in which fans were forced to ask if Jon Snow was truly gone forever — none of the lingering questions that viewers of Stranger Things have greatly impact the season’s overall plot or sense of closure. All of the characters have reached the end of their arcs, and the central conflict has been resolved. We certainly would like to know what exactly happened to Will, Hopper, and Eleven, but the show’s resolution does not hinge on receiving these answers. Furthermore, leaving some questions unanswered is often a pragmatic decision that keeps discussions about the show and interest in the story going long after the credits roll (a la Lost or Inception).
Of course, there is also the understandable concern that the show’s second at-bat wouldn’t maintain the quality of the first. While the sentiment that sequels are never as good as the originals has been disproven time and again by the likes of The Dark Knight and The Empire Strikes Back, the fact remains matching or surpassing the originals is incredibly difficult and relatively rare. Limiting Stranger Things to one season would then be the safest choice the Duffer Brothers could make, especially since leaving fans craving more is preferable to leaving them disappointed. When a show or movie enjoys such widespread success, fan expectations often become so unreasonably high that trying to exceed those expectations becomes an exercise in futility. The disappointment of not receiving a second season may thus be less painful than the disappointment of receiving one.
The greatest argument against bringing Stranger Things back, however, lies in the movies and books that so clearly influenced and inspired the show. As an homage to the works of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg during the 1980s and other films/shows from the era, Stranger Things would markedly diverge from these sources if the show returned. Stephen King, in particular, loves to end stories with lingering questions and twists, so it is only natural that Stranger Things would do the same. And unlike the countless trilogies and series that are produced today, Spielberg and King generally avoided sequels in the ’80s. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Mist certainly ended with unanswered questions that could have been addressed in sequels, but both Steven and Stephen decided against this course of action. Part of what made their works in the ’70s and ’80s so memorable was that they left corners of the worlds they had created unexplored; the sci-fi and supernatural stories of that age had a clear sense that creating these expansive worlds was important but secondary to the plot. As such, once the central conflict was resolved, the remaining mysteries gave the stories greater depth rather than an excuse to produce sequels.
If Stranger Things continues to take cues from the books and movies of the period it honors, then, the show should forgo a second season.