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Our biggest questions heading into Stranger Things 4 part 2

And the answers we already know

Three of the Stranger Things kids sitting with their back to the camera, with parents and cops looking at them Image: Netflix
Zosha Millman (she/her) manages TV coverage at Polygon as TV editor, but will happily write about movies, too. She’s been working as a journalist for more than 10 years.

Stranger Things 4 part 1 is over, but the problems are just getting started. The new season of the Netflix hit went out on a climactic note, alternating between Eleven battling a powerful nemesis (more on that below) and Nancy facing more dire circumstances than ever before. So what do we hope Stranger Things 4 part 2 answers for us? We’ve got some starting questions here.

[Ed. note: This post goes into detail about the entirety of Stranger Things 4 part 1. Spoilers abound.]

What is Vecna’s goal?

The Vecna kneeling Image: Netflix

The Big Bad of Stranger Things 4 is more than just a Freddy Krueger- and D&D-inspired monster. It turns out he’s also Brenner’s first test subject, One — also known as the charmingly creepy orderly helping El in her flashbacks and Victor Creel’s son, Henry. Growing up, One discovered his powers around the same time he discovered how little he cared for the lives of others. One started with torturing animals and terrorizing his family with visions before eventually killing his sister and mother in 1959 (and leaving his dad to take the rap).

He was then forcibly taken to Hawkins Lab, where Dr. Brenner implanted a chip into his neck that prevented One from using his powers after seeing his capacity for cruelty. Twenty years later, Eleven removed One’s inhibitor, thinking it was a tracking device and that the two were going to escape Hawkins Lab together. Once One regained his powers, all hell broke loose as he began committing the massacre we saw at the opening of the season. When El turned against him, the pair squared off and she pushed him into the Upside Down — likely unintentionally, as she didn’t have the same grip on her powers back then, nor did she even know what the Upside Down was. As One entered the Upside Down, he was transformed into the creature the Hawkins kids dubbed Vecna.

There’s no doubt that One’s showdown with Eleven made him hunger for revenge and freedom, but does he have an endgame beyond that? In the years since One transformed into Vecna, he appears to have been building up his powers even further, trapping his victims in his mind and possibly draining them for energy — perhaps as a way to gather enough power to break out of the Upside Down.

Whatever Vecna’s final goal is, it’s possible season 4 part 2 won’t end with him defeated before he can achieve it. After all, his relationship with Eleven this season was clearly inspired by Vader and Luke in Empire Strikes Back, and that movie didn’t end with the complete defeat of the bad guy.

What happens to Nancy now?

Though Robin and Eddie made it through the gate no problem, Nancy fell under Vecna’s spell just as she tried to climb through to the regular world. Inside Vecna’s realm, he preyed on Nancy’s guilt over Barb’s death. But Nancy didn’t only see horrifying images from her past — she also saw glimpses of Vecna’s past, which is how she learned he’s Henry Creel.

Just because Vecna shared his history with Nancy, though, doesn’t mean he’s going to make any other special exceptions for her. When season 4 part 1 ended, she’s left at risk of being subsumed by Vecna. So, will Dustin, Lucas, Max, Eddie, and Robin venture back into the Upside Down to save her, or will it be up to Steve, who’s still in the mirror realm, to drag her back to our world? And more importantly, what’s Nancy’s favorite song?

Why is the Upside Down frozen on Nov. 6, 1983?

Robin, Eddie, Nancy, and Steve crouching in the Upside Down Image: Netflix

That date definitely has resonance in this world — it’s the day Will vanished into the Upside Down, kicking off the events of season 1. It’s also the same day Eleven first made physical contact with the Demogorgon, thereby creating a gate to the Upside Down in Hawkins Lab and setting the monster loose in our world.

But why either one of these occurrences halted time in the Upside Down is less clear. Perhaps when Eleven touched the Demogorgon she unwittingly used her powers to manipulate time? And if Eleven can manipulate time, what does that mean for her — and the world — moving forward?

Who will reach Eleven first: Lt. Col. Sullivan or Mike?

After torturing Wallace extensively, Sullivan finally got him to reveal Eleven’s location. Wallace only did so on the condition that Sullivan wouldn’t kill her, but we’re not sure how much we can count on Sullivan’s word — especially since he’s convinced Eleven is the one responsible for killing all the kids in Hawkins.

Sullivan is presumably on his way to Nevada now, but he’s not the only one racing to find El. The last time we saw Mike, Will, Jonathan, and Argyle, they had just gotten The Nina Project’s location thanks to Suzie’s hacking skills. (The coordinates of it are 37.2331 N and 115.7901 W, also known as Area 51.) The on-screen text said the lab was in Ruth, Nevada, which is about three and a half hours away from Salt Lake City, where Suzie lives. Though Google Maps didn’t exist in 1986, so mileage may vary.

Hopefully Mike and the others get to El first, because she is seriously needed in Hawkins right about now. And maybe the long drive from Nevada to Indiana will give Mike and El the chance to talk through the unresolved issues in their relationship before they have to dive back into monster fighting.

Does Eleven have her full powers back?

eleven in a rage Image: Netflix

Eleven lost her powers after an Upside Down monster got (literally) under her skin at the end of the third season. Most presumed that the disappearance of her abilities was a permanent side effect of her brush with the beast.

However, when she was at the underground lab, Brenner explained that Eleven’s powers were all still there. Her brain signals had just become scrambled to the degree that she forgot how to use them, similar to what can happen to someone after a stroke.

The Nina Project was designed to restore Eleven’s powers by allowing her to reexperience her past. After she relived some of her memories with One, we saw Eleven be able to temporarily use her powers. Now that she recalls everything that happened with One, does that mean she’s back to full strength — or even stronger than she was before?

How will Hopper, Joyce, and Murray get out of Russia?

Yes, Joyce and Murray triumphed over a group of guards and Hopper and Dmitri survived the Demogorgon, but they’re still inside a well-staffed Soviet prison camp. Will the four of them have to defeat every guard and government official in order to make their way out? Or perhaps Joyce’s haphazard button-pressing will have unwittingly caused some chaos that they could use as cover to escape?

Even if they are able to make it out of the prison camp unscathed, there’s still a ton of Iron Curtain to get on the other side of — which will be difficult given that Yuri’s plane went kaput. With Yuri as their captive and Dmitri now a seeming ally, perhaps the duo’s local knowledge will be enough to get the group back to the States relatively safe and sound ... all so that they can face off against an otherworldly monster alongside their kids.

Are Steve and Nancy a thing again?

Just when you thought Stranger Things was done with the love triangle, we’re back studying amorous trigonometry again. Steve spent all season looking for the perfect girl to no avail. Nancy spent the season trying to downplay her concerns about her long-distance relationship with Jonathan, who has (unbeknownst to her) decided not to move across the country to go to college with her. Even though it’s been a while since they dated, Steve and Nancy still have such obvious chemistry that they each received unsolicited pep talks to strongly consider the connection they have. It’ll be interesting to see what happens once Jonathan shows back up in Hawkins. Speaking of which ...

When will everyone come together?

This season has spread the Stranger Things cast farther than ever before, and the midseason finale left the characters split between Russia, Salt Lake City, Nevada, regular Hawkins, and Upside Down Hawkins. That’s a lot of ground to cover!

So at what point will all our players be back in the same place? It’s likely that we’ll at least see all the kids come together in Hawkins by the end of part 2, but Joyce doesn’t even realize her kids aren’t in California anymore! And it’s not like Jonathan has a cell phone she can ring up to ask where he is whenever she makes it out of Russia.

Is Will gay?

Will, Jonathan, and Mike sitting on a couch looking incredulous Image: Netflix

Though Stranger Things often seems to forget about Will when he’s not in mortal danger (or in mortal danger of getting the worst haircut), the show appeared to be building toward something with Will this season — something he’s seemingly afraid to share with the others.

Throughout part 1, there were hints that Will was holding something back, such as when reminded El that friends don’t lie and melancholily consoles Mike as he worries about his relationship with Eleven. “Sometimes it’s just scary to open up like that and say how you feel,” he told Mike in a charged moment in episode 5. “What if the people you care about the most don’t like the truth?” Many have interpreted these moments as indicators that Will is going to come out as gay.

There’s also the fact that Will had been painting a lot but refused to show anyone what he’d been working on. The work is clearly extremely personal and important to Will, since he brought it with him to the airport to pick up Mike and even made sure to grab the painting when the kids fled the agents and left the Byers’ California home.

All of this is not a major current of the season, but it points to something happening with Will beyond trying to find Eleven and deal with creatures from the Upside Down. It’s certainly possible that whatever Will wants to reveal has nothing to do with his sexuality, but we hope that his friends accept Will’s truth, whatever it may be.

What about the Satanic Panic in Hawkins?

Five basketball players from Stranger Things 4 standing in a v formation Image: Netflix

Beyond the otherworldly horror of Vecna and the militaristic terror of the Soviet prison camp, there’s also the more human, but still dangerous problem of the Satanic Panic sweeping through Hawkins. After watching one of his teammates get killed by Vecna, basketball star Jason became convinced that Eddie was the leader of a satanic cult committing the murders rather than simply the DM of a Dungeons & Dragons club.

When Jason shared his theory at a town meeting, he whipped the citizens into a frenzy and launched a hunt for the Hellfire Club. Members Lucas, Max, and Dustin were apprehended by the police in the woods, but the trio managed to give them the slip after they were taken home for questioning. That means that Lucas, Max, and Dustin are technically on the run from the cops, which will no doubt interfere with the Upside Down matters at play.

Will we ever get the Kate Bush anthem “Running Up That Hill” out of our heads?

They just keep playing it, and we get it, and it slaps. But we’re wondering how many other Kate Bush needle drops there will be in the two episodes (and nearly four hours) left of the season.