After a rousing Screen Actors Guild Award win for the Stranger Things cast (and an array of now-legendary Winona Ryder faces) last month, the marketing wizards at Netflix decided that details on the new season shouldn't be gleaned from a single man's speech, but instead a revealing-yet-mystifying Super Bowl commercial. Enter the Stranger Things Season 2 "Big Game" teaser, which disclosed a few facts about the upcoming second season... like when the hell it's coming back.
The short spot is worth analyzing as it's the first primary source on "Stranger Things 2" (outside an announcement of the full season's episode titles -- more on that later). Here's what we caught in the first 100 loops of this 37-second trailer.
The Stranger Things trailer begins with an ad for something completely different: Eleven's favorite food, Eggos. The classic "L'Eggo My Eggo" waffle campaign ran from 1972 -- when it gained popularity airing during Brady Bunch commercial breaks -- all the way through 2008. (Kellogg's then attempted the slogan "My way," which failed and morphed into "Simply Delicious" in 2011, which bombed and sent the company back to "L'Eggo My Eggo" in 2013.)
The ad in question is from 1980 and, yes, features Jason Hervey, who played Kevin's older brother in The Wonder Years. It also has that well-placed and reflective toaster. If the Upside Down remains a reflection of Dark Hawkins, maybe this was the perfect Eggo commercial to steal.
We smash from syrupy waffle footage to a new shot of Millie Bobbie Brown's fan-favorite character opening her eyes, backed by audio from last season's finale of Mike yelling "Eleven!" There's dried blood on her nose and the lighting suggests she's either indoors or in the Upside Down. Considering the shot is framed so her face is literally upside down, it looks like we're getting some context clues as to where Eleven ended up after defeating the Demogorgon in Season 1.
Next shot confirms that Lucas, Dustin, and Mike will be riding their bikes around Hawkins again. Brown leaves also suggest that it's fall, which is even more obvious because the kids are dressed as Ghostbusters for Halloween. Here's the rub: Where's Will? Everyone knows there are four Ghostbusters.
The trailer flashes to Chief Hopper searching his own trailer in the dark, just as something tears through -- maybe a window, maybe a wall -- with enough force to send debris everywhere. Although there are only a few frames, that is Hopper in his same police uniform (after a year of working covertly for the Hawkins Lab).
The beginning of the "The World Is Turning Upside Down" tagline features a red symbol that doesn't appear to be part of the main title treatment. It looks... rune-like? Here's the thing about runes: That word doesn't mean anything on its face. There are a couple real-world rune alphabets (think Druidic runes, Old English runes, and Nordic runes) and a plethora of fantasy rune alphabets (your Lovecraftian, your Tolkien, etc.). If any of them would fit in Stranger Things, it would be a rune that appeared in Dungeons & Dragons before 1984. Unfortunately, the angles of whatever shape we see in this trailer aren't specific enough to narrow it down to a specific rune.
It's Halloween in Hawkins and Mike, Dustin, and Lucas go dressed as the Ghostbusters. Behind Dustin is another kid wearing a similar costume with black sneakers and white soles. This could be Will (at least if the four are as close as they were last year), or it could be a new character introduced to the group. Whoever it is, they are not with the main trio on the bikes elsewhere in the trailer and seem purposely hidden from this shot.
Hopper is digging. Here we see that the hat survives into Season 2, but this Hopper is not wearing his uniform. This is off-duty Hopper. If the cop thought he could leave Eggos for Eleven by an apparent portal in the woods, does he think he could dig himself to the Upside Down? Hopefully he's searching for answers and not, like, burying a body.
The second half of the teaser tagline still doesn't reveal what the red shape is... this is going to drive me crazy. Is that a boxy letter "A"? Stupid runes.
A flamethrower in an airlock recalls Ripley's fire-starting mayhem in James Cameron's Aliens, but let's be picky and remember that the movie didn't come out until 1986 and would be an anachronistic reference to make here.
Anytime we've seen this gear, it's been with Dr. Brenner's team. There's a lot of parallel imagery in the trailer with the kids running around wearing Halloween proton packs. Perhaps someone in the lab hooks them up with the real thing (or just a flamethrower).
Here we see a screen of someone locked in a Hawkins Lab chair while a doctor (not Brenner, though possibly Paul Reiser's new character Dr. Owens?) and a woman look on. Even though we usually see Eleven in this situation, I believe this is Will undergoing some sort of therapy for his experiences in the Upside Down. That would suggest the woman to the right is Winona Ryder, sporting a new '80s-tastic hairdo. Episode 2 of the second season is called "The Boy Who Came Back to Life," suggesting that we'll deal with just what happened to Will (and maybe get some tentacle answers!).
Uh oh, someone's watching the sessions. The oddest clue here is that one of the lab's screens focuses on a drainage pipe that lets out into the forest. Although it's a different angle, there's nothing in the video that is different from the drainage pipe that Eleven escaped from at the beginning of Season 1. It looks like Brenner and/or Hawkins Lab somehow got his hands on Will for further testing. Not good.
Here's the money shot. On someone's desk, possibly Will's, we see a bunch of notes and a drawing of a large monster surrounded by red lightning. Very ominous. The baseball on the desk and some sort of trophy (can't make out the writing) suggest that the owner of this desk may have inadvertently chosen the form of the destructor. Think Ray Stantz in Ghostbusters. Or worse.
The theory tracks if you apply it to the paranormal history informing the series. Before going to air, Stranger Things was titled Montauk because it was loosely based on the conspiracy theory called "the Montauk Project." The story goes that several young boys were abducted by the US government to perform psychic experiments. The Montauk Project was apparently shut down after one of the psychic children managed to manifest a "beast" from their magic psychic manifestation chair. The "beast" terrorized the secret compound -- sound familiar?
However, if the Montauk Project connection keeps going, Will is now the second child to be experimented on with his connection to the Upside Down. If Eleven's contact with the other side gave us the Demogorgon (a beast that seemed tuned to track Eleven, as it could smell her nosebleeds), it stands to reason that this season's monster has been triggered by Will's contact with the Upside Down.
In the same way the Demogorgon stalked Will's home in the first episode of Season 1, the square-windowed Byers home door once again opens to reveal some terror in the vein of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (released in 1977, meaning the in-universe characters are likely confused why their lives seem to imitate fiction so often). In Close Encounters, visiting aliens telepathically transmitted visions to a handful of Earthlings, showing them the mountain where contact would be made. It's possible that whoever drew the giant beast in the red clouds (presumably Will) has been seeing visions of this terror, similar to Spielberg's movie.
However, given the Ghostbusters costumes and the movie's release date (and the Montauk Project's history of mental manifestations), it's also possible that Will imagining a multi-legged creature in his head manifested the monster in real life. In 1984, Will Byers would have seen Ray Stantz accidentally choose the form of Gozer's destructor by thinking of a marshmallow man. Considering that Eleven and the Demogorgon were entities with connected abilities but opposite goals, my money is on manifestation of inner evil.
And there's the creature from the drawing, towering in silhouette like something from Stephen King's The Mist -- adding to the show's many references of the horror titan. The Mist first appeared as a short story in the Dark Forces anthology in 1980, then was reworked as part of King's 1985 Skeleton Crew anthology. In King's expanded Dark Tower lore, an experimental military operation called the Arrowhead Project is responsible for tearing open a dimensional portal that allows for monsters to creep through. Not too far off from the goings-on in Hawkins.
Worth noting: The official Stranger Things account tweeted this weather forecast before the teaser aired on Sunday (hence why Sunday's temperatures are -11 and 11).
This red cloud symbolism is most likely referring to "The Storm," the title of the fifth episode of Season 2. What "The Storm" represents is going to be what we debate for the next few months, because official Stranger Things insists it's a selling point to the second season.
"The Storm" is something else that could be pulled from The Mist. In King's short story, it's an electrical storm that causes the mist to descend over the town. It an abandoned prologue scene from The Mist movie from 2007 (made with King's approval), the aforementioned government project called Project Arrowhead caused both the storm and the mist by attempting to open a portal into another dimension. King's The Dark Tower series corroborates this logic when monsters resembling those from The Mist emerge from "the todash space", or the space between dimensions. It could be any or none of those things, but the repeated use of a "Storm" is encouraging.
And the coup de gras on a short teaser: This season takes place over, and drops in real life in the vicinity of, Halloween. Only 267 more days of speculation.
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