If you’re anything like me, you love discovering a television show with Indiana ties. From One Day at a Time to Parks and Recreation, many a beloved show has a little Hoosier in its DNA.
I take great pride in them all. I’m 100 percent the person who loves to bust out the fun fact that Saved by the Bell actually started as Good Morning, Miss Bliss, set in Indy. I’ll even claim Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Sure, she lives in NYC. But her former life as a cult’s kidnap victim took place in Indiana. (Okay, they’re not all great representations!) So it was with immense joy last summer that I welcomed Stranger Things into this great pantheon.
Remember the summer of 2016? Ah, that simpler time that brought us a little Netflix show about an even simpler time. It seemed to come out of nowhere, and soon took over the cultural (and social media) consciousness. And it was set in Indiana—albeit a fictional town called Hawkins.
For those of us old enough to have actually been Hoosier children during those halcyon days in the early ’80s, the show touched a nostalgic nerve. Growing up on Indy’s north side may not have looked exactly like small-town Hawkins, but bike explorations around the neighborhood—and through the woods behind it—sure felt familiar. And Hawkins vividly reminded me of my summers spent in and around Monticello, Indiana, at my grandparents’ cottage on Lake Freeman, from the single movie theater to the delicious greasy-spoon diner.
To those who didn’t grow up here in the heartland, the ’80s cinematic references called upon by the show’s creators—from E.T. and Poltergeist to The Goonies and Stand by Me—set a scene that felt known and comfortable.
Now, since last summer was approximately 400 trillion news cycles ago, here are some key points to remember before season two drops on Friday.
The Children Are Our Future
Stranger Things begins and ends with our ragtag group of youngin’s flinging their bikes around town like kickstands were never invented. The series’s first episode is aptly named “The Vanishing of Will Byers,” and Will’s Dungeons & Dragons buddies quickly leap into action trying to solve the mystery of his disappearance.
Mike, Lucas, and Dustin are soon joined by the enigmatic girl we came to know and love as Eleven, and through her learn about the Upside Down, where Will is trapped. Oh, and this badass girl has superpowers, probably from some creepy stuff that was done to her at Hawkins Laboratory. Or maybe that’s why she was there in the first place … her full origin story is a little foggy at the moment.
Regardless, she rocks and we’re not sure where she is at the end of season one, but police chief Hopper (we’ll get to him) is leaving someone Eggos—her favorite food. We’ve also seen the trailer and are aware that her portrayer, Millie Bobby Brown, is the biggest breakout star of this show. She’s not going anywhere.
The rest of this crew is adorably awkward, super smart, and charming AF to watch. Will is back from the Upside Down by the final episode, but he’s barfing slugs … so it’s safe to say he’s not really “back.”
These modern-day Goonies beat the Demogorgon, but what will happen with the next monster?!?
A Little Ditty … About Nancy & Steve?!?
This is an ’80s show, so teenagers are key. There’s Nancy, the older sister of fan-favorite Mike. She’s smart and popular, natch. Then we’ve got emo-before-emo-was-a-thing Jonathan Byers, older brother of the missing boy, Will. Of course, he’s got a thing for Nancy and maybe they’ll fall in love? Enter our requisite James Spader stand-in, Steve Harrington. He has serious hair and is a total dick when we meet him, which should lead to an untimely death given horror rules, right? Nope! Turns out he’s not totally terrible, and is dating Nancy when the season ends.
Also, their friend Barb died and nobody really noticed. Except the 2017 Internet. We’re so over talking about Barb.
When young people are a show’s focus, you often end up with terrible adults. Not so much with Stranger Things. As Will’s distraught mother, Joyce Byers, Winona Ryder is neurotic and a little nuts, aka the best Winona. Even the way she smokes a cigarette onscreen hasn’t changed in 30 years. I find that incredibly comforting.
Joyce has a partner in this mission to find her son, Will: tortured soul and chief of police, Jim Hopper. We know he’s suffered loss (his daughter died) and he likes to drink. For these reasons and others we may not know yet, he wants to take down this creepy lab and its Big Bad, Dr. Brenner—played by another ’80s staple, Matthew Modine, who may or may not be dead going into the new season.
At the end, they find Will and bring him home. (See aforementioned slugs.)
Now you (mostly) know what you need to about season one. Check back here for our thoughts on season two.