Stranger Things’ telekinetic teen Eleven (breakout star Millie Bobby Brown) may be able to lift government kidnapper vans but series creators Ross and Matt Duffer can rattle off the biggest movies of the summer of 1984 without blinking. Their passion for pop culture fueled the creation of Netflix’s Things, a tribute to the movies they loved as kids in North Carolina (think E.T., The Goonies, Stand by Me). “Obviously they’re nerdy, but that’s what makes them so cool,” says Brown. “It makes [Stranger Things] so authentic because it comes from their hearts.” The Duffers’ canny but old-fashioned combination of emotion and thrills drove the series — about four small-town Indiana friends who find themselves dealing with a portal to a different dimension — to monster-level success after its 2016 premiere. “I don’t think Netflix thought it was going to be as huge as it became, but neither did we,” admits Matt.
On Oct. 27, fans will finally get to see Things’ bigger, badder second installment (To celebrate the return, EW has three different covers featuring the cast). “It’s Stranger Things but just sorta hopped up a little,” says Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike Wheeler. “It’s almost like season 1 was drinking a Coke and season 2 they drank a Red Bull.” The Duffers have envisioned the return as not so much a second season but a movie sequel. To that end, when the show comes back it will have the cinematic moniker Stranger Things 2. “When we started describing it as a sequel, Netflix was like, ‘Don’t do that, because sequels are known to be bad,’ ” says Matt. “I was like, ‘Yes, but what about T2 and Aliens and Toy Story 2 and Godfather II?’ ” Before the official greenlight came for Things 2, the Duffers had been quietly plotting the next round of interdimensional adventure. Says Matt, “The good news is that a lot of what we wanted to see or what we responded to, that seems to be what the audience responded to. Like we fell in love with Gaten, and there were aspects, like Barb, we were already planning to deal with. It felt like there was a nice alignment between what we wanted to see and what other people wanted to see.”
While season one was focused mainly on finding Will (Noah Schnapp) and defeating the demogorgon, Things 2 features several disparate stories that intertwine but all roads eventually lead to the “shadow monster,” a nickname given to a giant creature Will first meets in PTSD-like visions of the Upside Down. “It’s all connected to this singular threat, which is tied into this shape that Will sees in the sky,” says Ross. By the end of the nine-hour season, fans can also expect new characters, like Bob (Sean Astin), a love interest for Joyce (Winona Ryder), and some pretty wow-worthy action sequences. Says Matt, “Each episode is building on the last one. It gets much crazier than it ever got in season 1.”
Netflix is preparing to relaunch the series with a full-throttle blitz worthy of a James Cameron extravaganza. “Everything the way Netflix is approaching the marketing, the publicity, the licensing, the merchandising, those are all closer to a feature film tentpole franchise model than a second season of a television series,” says Levy, who directed the huge Night at the Museum trilogy. Now the Things team just needs to live up to those giant expectations. “It’s definitely daunting,” says Levy. “The love for this show is so rabid.” But the Duffers are confident that viewers will be more than satisfied with their return to the Upside Down. Says Matt, “We want people to argue about what season is better. I want the debate. I want the Toy Story debate!”