I missed the 80s.
I mean, I was there for some of it. I was alive. But due to a perfect storm of conservative upbringing and a love of modern entertainment, I am still blithely unaware of most of its pop culture touchstones. So when people started raving about Stranger Things as a send-up to all things 80s, I was worried I wouldn”t enjoy it. I was wrong. Because Stranger Things might be set in 1983 – and full of references I must have missed – but the crux of the story is some straight up Silent Hill s-t.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR STRANGER THINGS BEYOND THIS POINT.
The Upside Down fascinates me. It is the hinge on which the entire first season swings, but by the end of the story we still know next to nothing about it. The only thing we know for sure is the veil between our reality and the Upside Down is permeable, and dogs can sense it. No matter where Will was in that place of death and decay, his dog was always right there: in the living room, in Castle Byers. A subtle subplot the Duffer Brothers didn”t dwell on, but that could hopefully be useful in finding Eleven next season.
Other than that? The Upside Down is a much of mystery as it was when Stranger Things first began. With a second season imminent, here're some questions I hope the Duffer Brothers get a chance to answer. Even if it means sacrificing more arrogant government scientists for the cause.
#1: Is the Upside Down truly another dimension or a mere side effect or part of our own?
Throughout the series, the characters are operating under the assumption that the Upside Down is a parallel universe. ‘The Flea and the Acrobat” crudely explains how our universe has dimensions we can”t access because, as the acrobat, we are incapable. Meanwhile, the fleas of the world (such as the creature) can go places we cannot. But this isn”t necessarily the same as multiverse theory.
Multiverse theory would have the flea not only capable of going to the other side of the rope but jumping to the NEXT rope. So is the Upside Down a separate universe? Or just an echo of our world, a pocket dimension connected and dragged along like a decaying balloon?
#2: How do things like buildings appear in the Upside Down?
One of the creepiest aspects of the world of the creature is how similar it is to the ‘real” one. Buildings, streets, pools, clubhouses. They”re all placed in the exact same position in both realities. The only difference is the Upside Down is an endless expanse of darkness and decay. Having the Byers” house and the Harrington”s pool appear leads to the question of how copies of those buildings end up in the Upside Down. When new construction happens in our world, do ghostly hands put up the walls or tear down dilapidated structures on the other side? Do man-made buildings simply fade in and out of existence wholesale?
#3: Is the air toxic?
Dr. Brenner warns Hopper and Joyce that the air in the Upside Down is toxic. This is hammered home by the visual specks of something in the air on our side of the gate, along with every adult who enters the other side wearing hazmat suits. Yet somehow, Will Byers managed to survive over a week without any kind of protection. Right up until her untimely demise (?) Barb seemed mostly fine. Both Hopper and Nancy were exposed to the toxic air of the Upside Down and came away unscathed. So what made the government so sure the air was unbreathable? And just what kind of side effects could long-term exposure produce? Maybe Will”s issues in the last moments of the season aren”t completely the fault of the ovipositor shoved down his throat.
#4: Was the monster a sentient being or merely an animal?
The actor who played the creature in Stranger Things told HitFix”s Chris Eggertsen that it wasn”t psychologically human and doesn't have higher brain function. But how far does that extend? From the scientist in the opening scene to Will and Barb and even the hunters that go missing, the creature picks off the isolated, the weak, the young. That is the behavior of a predator that can distinguish between prey that is worth the effort and that which would be more trouble than it is worth.
But the creature doesn”t appear to be eating its human prey. Deer? A tasty meal. Humans? Some kind of vessel. In fact, the creature”s behavior had me referring to it as a ‘she” once I realized it appeared to be looking for larval hosts.
#5: What was up with that skull?
When Joyce and Hopper stumbled across the creature”s lair, a simple shot of a human skull adds another layer of mystery to the Upside Down. This isn”t the creature”s first contact with our world. Clearly, she”s been using humans for her own purposes for far longer than Dr. Brenner has been experimenting on Eleven.
#6: How does the Upside Down affect electricity?
Electricity does not like the Upside Down. Flashlights flicker and die, leaving unsuspecting teens alone in the dark. Whenever a human or the creature are nearby, lights on our side of the veil will pulse, strobe, or simply light up without warning. This feels like the beginnings of a discussion on bioelectromagnetics, or the idea that the human body interacts with electromagnetic fields and can affect them. Of course, if that”s the case, since the creature also sets off a light display wherever she goes, it calls into question if she was once also human…
#7: Just what are all those afterbirth spiderwebs?
No. Seriously. They”re gooey and pulsing and people are just nonchalantly crawling through them like they aren”t nightmare fuel. Is it merely a visual for the fabric of reality being torn apart? Or – since it is also all over the creature”s nest, is it something she is doing?
#8: Can the creature control where the dimensional rips appear?
The disappearances in Stranger Things are confined to a small geographical location near the mysterious government building, but that doesn”t mean the creature isn”t on the move. Rifts in time/space appear in the Byers” home several times, as well as a tree in the woods, the middle school, and (one assumes) near the Harrington”s pool. None of the rifts last very long, but all are directly related to the creature. So, is she merely sensing where the next gate will open? Or is she causing the rifts? If the latter, was it Eleven making contact that drew her attention? Or, as the human skull indicates, was Eleven merely in the wrong place at the wrong time? If you looked back through the history of Hawkins, Indiana would you find a string of mysterious disappearances?
#9: We saw both larval ovipositors and eggs, so how does this creature”s life cycle work?
Waiting around for human hosts seems like a very inefficient way to procreate. The petal-head would indicate perhaps some kind of photosynthesis but there”s no sunlight in the Upside Down, plus the creature was snacking on a deer carcass. Without a host from our reality, would the creature have made due with another species from her own reality? Where exactly does the Alien egg found by Hopper and Joyce fit in? Or could it have been from a separate species? Just because we only saw the creature, doesn”t mean it was alone. Unless she”s popping across space/time for every meal, surely she was feasting on SOMETHING before the show began.
#10: Why didn”t the government blow up that building because the Upside Down was clearly spreading?
I mean, that was the logical solution, right?