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What Do STRANGER THINGS’ New Characters Mean for Season 2?

Netflix is finally taking us back to Hawkins, Indiana next year with Stranger Things season two, and since “next year” is just a couple months away, production is starting right now! Better still, all sorts of cool details are spilling out from set, giving us a clearer picture than ever of what the future holds for one of 2016’s greatest surprises.

First off, some new casting announcements this week have revealed that two ’80s movie icons will be moving to Hawkins next season. Goonies Sean Astin will play Bob Newby, nerdy manager of the local Radioshack and former high school classmate to Joyce Byers and Sheriff Hopper. We’d guess our geeky kid heroes will see Bob as a mentor-type, and hey, maybe he’ll even become the new Papa Byers…if everyone’s Hopper/Joyce ship doesn’t pan out.

And then there’s everyone’s favorite Weyland-Yutani shill, Paul Reiser. Reiser’s addition seems pitch-perfect since the Duffer Brothers have been comparing season two to a James Cameron-esque sequel, and it sounds like he’ll be playing a fairly similar role to his smarmy Aliens character. He’ll be a high-ranking Department of Energy cleaner named Dr. Owens, who comes to Hawkins to sweep up the mess left behind by Matthew Modine’s Dr. Brenner. But will Owens be our season two big bad?

It’d certainly be on-theme, as producer Shawn Levy told Collider at a recent screening of his film Real Steel, “Will Byers was in that Upside Down for a while. So season two is about this determined desire to return to normalcy in Hawkins, in the Byers family, in that group of friends, and it’s the struggle to reclaim normalcy and maybe the impossibility of it.” It would seem that extends to the Department of Energy, who’ve opened a door to a world that they’re gonna have a real hard time closing, and while the jury’s still out on whether anyone in Hawkins will find normalcy by the end of season two—let alone ever—it sounds like the Stranger Things team is already looking ahead, with Levy confirming that he and the Duffers have already started outlining a third season. Good call, since the cliffhanger-packed ending of season one left fans wondering just how many answers the Duffers had, and how many they’d yet to come up with.

All-told, Stranger Things season two sounds like it’s coming along nicely, but we have to ask (since we’ve been burned before): has the creative team learned the right lessons from season one’s success? Yes, we got a kick out of the ’80s nostalgia and pop culture references, but that’s not what kept us binging our way through the series. What really made us fall for the show were the well-drawn, heartfelt characters and real sense of danger mixed in with that classical tone of sci-fi wonder and discovery.

We don’t want to see season two reheat last year’s leftovers, with similar villains and even more references to the ’80s greatest hits, we want to see the characters we’ve come to love grow as they experience a new story with heightened stakes. Even Roman, a new character Netflix described as “an emotionally damaged, magnetic young woman who suffered a great loss as a child” and “is mysteriously connected to the supernatural events at the lab,” sounds like little more than a grown-up Eleven, which could either make for an interesting addition to the show …or feel like a total retread.

Lucky for us, the Duffers seem to have the right goal in mind, lauding those James Cameron sequels for approaching their stories from fresh angles, so more than anything, we can’t wait to hear more (especially how, exactly, Eleven is managing to survive on Eggos alone. I mean we all love frozen waffles, but they’re only kinda food. She must be dying of malnutrition. Hopper, please, drop off some apples or a tangerine or a bag of jerky or something).

What do you guys think? Do you like the sound of Stranger Things season two so far? Are you into these new characters? What kind of threats do you think Hawkins will face next year? Let’s discuss!

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