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Stranger Things season 1 recap: everything you need to know


Stranger Things 2 is just around the corner. If you don’t want to rewatch all eight episodes of the first season before you sit down with the second, here’s everything you need to know. We broke it down by character groupings or important figures, in chronological order of the events as they happened.

The Party: Mike, Dustin and Lucas

From left to right: Dustin, Lucas, Mike

The boys discover that their friend, Will Byers, went missing after a routine game of Dungeons & Dragons. While biking through the woods, they stumble upon a strange girl who calls herself Eleven. The crew takes her back to Mike’s house and sees that she recognizes Will in a photograph.

Eleven reveals that she knows where Will is, and tells them about the Upside Down; a parallel universe where a monstrous creature roams around a ghostly version of the town of Hawkins. They come together and try to locate the gate to the Upside Down, but Mike and Lucas end up fighting over whether or not Eleven is telling the truth. Lucas is accidentally knocked unconscious after Eleven flings him off Mike using her telekinetic abilities. The group disbands.

Later over walkie-talkie (remember, this is the ‘80s), Lucas tells his best buds that agents from Hawkins’ National Laboratory are coming to Mike’s house to take Eleven back to the facility she’s been kept in. As a last ditch effort, the kids come together and hole up in their elementary school. Joyce Byers, Will’s mom, and Jim Hopper, the Chief of Hawkins’ police department, join them. Together, they look for a way to amplify Eleven’s powers so she can find Will.

Still, the agents and Dr. Brenner manage to infiltrate the school, cornering the boys. Eleven uses her powers to save them, but then vanishes without a trace. The season ends with the boys reuniting with Will in the hospital.

Joyce Byers and Jim Hopper

Joyce Byers

At the beginning of the season, Joyce Byers begins a frantic search for her youngest son, Will Byers, who goes missing. She receives a few phone calls, but all that comes through is static. Despite a voice never being heard, Joyce believes it’s Will on the other end of the line. The longer he remains missing, the more she believes that he is trying to communicate with her — specifically through electricity.

Believing that Will is going to try to contact her again, Joyce purchases a ludicrous amount of Christmas lights and strings them up in the house. She paints the alphabet on the living room wall, positioning each bulb on top of a letter to create a makeshift Ouija board. At one point, she rips down the wallpaper in her house and sees Will trapped behind a strange membrane. She tells him to run, then uses the axe to chop a hole in the wall out of desperation.

Jim Hopper

The police call Joyce to identify a dead body that has been fished out of a quarry, believed to be her son, but she’s still not convinced that Will is dead. Police chief Jim Hopper breaks into the lab to further investigate the body, only to find that it’s fake and filled with cotton. Hopper and Joyce, sensing that something is definitely off, investigate further and uncover the case of Terry Ives and her missing daughter, Jane. Both of them are convinced that Jane is Eleven and that Hawkins Lab is behind everything.

Joyce and Jim break into the lab, only to be caught by security agents. Jim makes a deal and the two of them venture alone into the Upside Down via the laboratory basement. They find Will with a strange tendril or tentacle down his throat and cut it off to give him CPR. He regains consciousness and they return to the real world.


Eleven and Eggos

The series starts with Eleven escaping Hawkins National Laboratory. She runs into town and finds a diner. Worried that she must’ve run away from her parents, the owner calls social services. A strange woman appears, knocking on the door and shooting the owner. Eleven runs to the back of the diner, where she kills the men coming after her, and flees.

Mike, Dustin and Lucas find her in the woods while searching for Will and bring her into Mike’s basement. While looking around the house, she points to Will in a photograph, indicating that she recognizes him from somewhere. The boys nickname her “El” and Mike agrees to let her hide in his house, away from his parents.

Using a walkie-talkie, Eleven finally makes brief contact with Will in the Upside Down. When they ask her where he is, she turns over the boys’ Dungeons & Dragons board and puts Will’s token right in the middle. A flashback of her in the Upside Down listening to a man speaking Russian shows us the first time she encounters the Demogorgon.

Dr. Martin Brenner and Eleven at Hawkins National Laboratory

After some investigation by Hopper, we find out that Eleven’s real name may be Jane Ives, and that she was taken from her mother — who didn’t know she was pregnant — during a series of experiments administered by Hawkins National Laboratory. The combination of sensory deprivation chambers and LSD tests may also explain the nature of Eleven’s powers. Dr. Martin Brenner, who Eleven calls “Papa,” is the one behind the experiments and is theorized to be the one who kidnapped her when she was born.

Eleven and the boys eventually flee to the middle school to create a makeshift sensory-deprivation tank. She re-enters the Upside Down, finds Will hiding in his fort in the woods, and tells him to hold on a little longer. On the way back, she stumbles upon Barb — Nancy Wheeler’s best friend who also went missing — and runs away after seeing the rotting corpse.

The last time we see Eleven, she finally faces the Demogorgon and uses her abilities to kill it, disappearing into the ether in the process.

Nancy Wheeler, Jonathan Byers and Steve Harrington

Nancy Wheeler

Nancy is Mike’s older sister, and is first introduced to the Upside Down because of her friend Barb’s disappearance at a party. She eventually teams up with Jonathan Byers, Will’s older brother, to find out what happened to Will and Barb. Nancy’s boyfriend, Steve Harrington, gets jealous, assuming that something is going on between Nancy and Jonathan. No TV series would be complete without a complex, emotional love triangle between three teens.

Nancy tells Jonathan that she saw a faceless creature in the woods by Steve’s house, and the pair go to investigate. They find a wounded deer, only to see it ripped away into a bush. Suspicious and on edge, Nancy looks around and finds a tree trunk oozing with a strange substance and decides to crawl inside (because that’s a good thing to do). She finds herself in the Upside Down and gets a firsthand look at the Demogorgon feasting on the deer’s corpse.

Jonathan Byers, Nancy Wheeler and Steve Harrington

Nancy manages to escape with Jonathan’s help and they make a plan to lure the Demogorgon into a house and kill it. Steve bursts into Jonathan’s house to confront Nancy, but gets caught up in the struggle against the Demogorgon. Although they managed to severely wound it, they were unsuccessful in killing it.

One month later, we see that Nancy and Steve are still together during Christmas. Nancy gives Jonathan a new camera, replacing the one that Steve smashed. The love triangle continues.

Barbara “Barb” Holland

Barb (RIP)

Nancy convinces her best friend Barb to go with her to Steve’s house for a party. Skeptical of Steve and his bully friends, she tells Nancy “this isn’t you”. The two of them go to Steve’s house anyway, with Nancy telling Barb that she could just be there as a chaperone. In an attempt to shotgun a beer, Barb accidentally cuts herself and a few drops of blood fall into the pool. Nancy later goes up to Steve’s room, leaving Barb alone in the backyard. We hear a sound and, the next moment, she’s gone.

We see Barb briefly in the Upside Down version of the pool — it’s empty and covered in something slimy and alive. She tries to climb out, only to have the Demogorgon rip her back down. Then ... silence.

When Eleven visits the Upside Down at the end of the season, she finds both Will and Barb, but ...

Barb looks pretty dead.

Will Byers

Will Byers

Will’s storyline is the least complex out of everyone. He goes missing, gets rescued, barfs up a slug one month later.

When he was rescued by his mom and Jim Hopper, a long tentacle was attached to his mouth. But clearly, some of it is still in his system. How this will affect Will or how frequent the slug-barfing remains to be seen.

Stranger Things 2 will be available to stream in full on Oct. 27. You can find our official review here.

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