While some fans have undoubtedly watched and rewatched Season 2 enough times to be 100% prepared for whatever Season 3 has in store, there are a lot of details that could be very relevant to the next batch of episodes, which releases July 4.
With Season 3 (set in the summer of 1985) finally days rather than weeks or months away, read on for a breakdown of key points from Season 2 to remember as we head into Season 3.
The Mind Flayer Saw Eleven
The climax of Season 2 went down on several fronts. Joyce (Winona Ryder), Jonathan, and Nancy were trying to exorcise the Mind Flayer out of Will (Noah Schnapp); Steve (Joe Keery) and the kids headed down into the Upside Down tunnels to set it on fire and draw the demo-dogs away; and Hopper (David Harbour) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) were on a desperate mission to take on the Mind Flayer at the gate.
Eleven was the key to the whole thing, as it was up to her to try and close the gate. Her efforts were ultimately successful (and totally bitchin') and she closed the portal between the world and the Upside Down, but in doing so, she put herself on the Mind Flayer's radar. In the big showdown, the Mind Flayer got a good look at the girl who somehow had the power to trap him in his own awful dimension.
Although the huge menacing Mind Flayer that spent a season tormenting Will is trapped in the Upside Down, the final shot of Season 2 with him looming over the Upside Down version of Hawkins Middle during the Snow Ball is proof that he's not going to just forget what Eleven did to him. She made a very powerful enemy, and his hive mind means that he probably also got a look at the people she cares about.
Hawkins Lab Shut Down
While the heroes of Hawkins always had to deal with the forces of the Upside Down, there was also Hawkins Lab hiding the truth and endangering lives by doing it. Dr. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser in an epic 80s casting move) was a big improvement on Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine), who may or may not be dead, but there was nothing he could do to close the gate without Eleven, and Hawkins Lab was almost the starting point of the end of the world. As of the end of Season 2, however, no more!
Dr. Owens made the grand mistake of giving Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) the grand tour of Hawkins Lab while dropping lots of exposition, all without realizing Nancy was hiding a recorder. With the help of Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman), they tweaked the story to make it more believable and leaked it to the newspapers, exposing Hawkins Lab for Barb's death and more. The season ended with the doors chained and the military leaving the town.
Perhaps the greatest sign that the lab really did shut down is that Hopper let Eleven go to the Snow Ball. If he'd had any suspicion that she could still be in danger from people active in the lab, she probably would have spent the evening in front of the cabin TV again. Hawkins Lab is out of the game at the end of Season 2; will it still be out in Season 3? Could the lab open again after the PR mess of the Season 2 exposé? Will Owens or Brenner return?
The Gate Is Closed
There was only way the good guys could stop the Mind Flayer, his army of demo-dogs, and the advancement of the Upside Down into Hawkins and beyond, and that was by closing the gate. Eleven was the only one who could do it, and she had to draw on all her strength and anger to pull it off. In the end, she did it, and seemingly almost died in the effort.
Season 2 made it very clear that the gate really was closed. The army of demo-dogs wouldn't have died en masse if El hadn't cut them off from the Mind Flayer, and there was no sign of even a crack left where the gate had been. While that theoretically means the Mind Flayer can't make it out of the Upside Down again unless somebody opens another gate, the recent trailer suggests that El closing the gate didn't solve all of their problems.
Will the lack of access to the Upside Down backfire? After all, the heroes can't banish anything to the Upside Down if they can't get to the Upside Down, and it's not like Eleven should deliberately open another door.
Some Of The Mind Flayer Was Left Behind
The majority of the Mind Flayer was banished behind the gate by Eleven before she closed it, but there was a piece of him missing. The bit that had been in Will stubbornly remained in his body until almost the very end despite Joyce turning up all the space heaters in the cabin to burn it out of him, and it was only after Nancy jabbed Will with a hot poker that the Mind Flayer abandoned ship.
The piece of the Mind Flayer flew off into the sky after leaving Will, and Stranger Things never revealed what happened to it, which suggested that it was on the wrong site of the gate when El shut it. The big trailer for Season 3 all but confirmed that this bit of the Mind Flayer is what causes all kinds of trouble. Hopefully poor Will doesn't have to get too close to it!
Eleven Is Back
One of the biggest differences between Stranger Things Season 1 and Season 2 was that Eleven was isolated and away from the main action for almost the entire second season. She had to remain in hiding for her own safety, although Hopper did pretty clearly go too far in isolating her. El couldn't be out and about, and she still had a year to go by Dr. Owens' estimation before she could safely wander Hawkins after closing the gate.
Still, El's friends know that she's alive, and she has no reason to dislike Max (Sadie Sink) now that she doesn't need to be territorial about Mike (Finn Wolfhard). With Eleven back in the game, her friends will have the advantage of her considerable powers. Throw in the fact that Mike will presumably not be as much of a misery now that he's not living with the awful uncertainty of what happened to her, and the Season 2 official return of Eleven could make all the difference in Season 3.
A lot may depend on how much freedom she has when Season 3 picks up. Less than the full year recommended by Dr. Owens will have passed, but maybe Hopper will be a little looser in the summer months when she can have her friends with her.
Bob Newby Died
Season 2 introduced a guy who was so good and so wholesome that a lot of fans couldn't help but suspect that he had to be evil. Nobody on Stranger Things could be that good, right? Well, although Bob (Sean Astin, who weighed in on whether Stranger Things needs justice for Bob) was a great guy for Joyce, he died a tragically heroic death at Hawkins Lab due to the demo-dogs.
Bob's death stuck with the Byers family, though, and not just in the immediate aftermath when Joyce was shellshocked and heartbroken at what had happened to him. In the flash-forward at the end of the Season 2 finale, a drawing of Bob the superhero was up on the Byers fridge, and Joyce was clearly still struggling with his death.
She was leaning heavily on Hopper in their last scene of the season, her mind still on her great loss. Joyce may not be quite over Bob in Season 3, as he represented a solid partner for her, a father figure to her sons, and a way out of Hawkins. Oh, Bob.
Billy Made A Deal With Max
Stranger Things introduced a human villain to go along with the monsters in Season 2 in the form of Max's all but psychotic stepbrother. Billy (Dacre Montgomery) was an abusive high schooler whose violence escalated to the point that he attacked Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) for nothing more than befriending Max, and he probably would have beaten Steve to death if not for Max's intervention.
Max drugged him and then threatened him with the nail baseball bat, getting him to promise to leave her and her friends alone. The flash-forward seemingly showed that Billy was honoring that deal and leaving her alone, but he's back in Season 3 as a regular. Will he continue to leave them alone? Will it matter once the Mind Flayer starts messing things up again? And what on Earth (or perhaps the Upside Down) is going on with his arm in the trailer?
Love Was In The Air
Romance was on a lot of minds in Season 2. In fact, the only two major characters not to at least actively try to be part of a relationship in the second season were Will and (arguably) Hopper. Joyce, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Steve wound up without the objects of their affection by the end of the Season 2 finale, whereas Lucas/Max and Jonathan/Nancy got together.
Mike and Eleven -- who somehow managed to become the biggest canon romance of the series despite being kids who were separate for most of Season 2 -- are poised to actually be happy rather than mopey about each other following Season 2 as well. Season 3 could at least start out as the "summer of love," and Hopper is certainly looking like he spiffed himself up for the dinner scene teased in the trailer.
The relationships could change priorities in the third season and even shift alliances. After all, Dustin didn't exactly handle it well when Lucas started making strides with Max back in Season 2.
Steve Was A Senior
Season 2 went in a brand new direction for Steve, and he became a pretty universal fan-favorite because of it. After Nancy drunkenly broke his heart, Steve didn't just drop out of the plot as a ditched love interest. No, Steve teamed up with Dustin to try and take out Dart, and he ultimately ended up babysitting the 13-years-olds. After taking a savage beating from Billy while trying to protect them, he ultimately joined them in setting the tunnels on fire to lure the demo-dogs away from Eleven.
Unfortunately, Steve was a senior in Season 2, meaning that Steve won't be in the school crowd anymore. Of course, he's clearly still in Hawkins and wearing the best outfit in Season 3, so Stranger Things found a way to keep him around for at least one more season. Hopefully he just doesn't get killed off! At least executive producer Shawn Levy wouldn't be happy about it.
What we can all be happy about at this point is that the wait for Season 3 is almost over. The long-awaited third season of Stranger Things premieres Thursday, July 4 at 12:01 a.m. PT on Netflix. In case you want to experience the whole second season all over again on top of this refresher, you still have time.
Fortunately, Stranger Things isn't going to be done after Season 3, no matter what kind of cliffhanger it manages to end on this time around. Members of the cast recently suggested that the show shouldn't last for more than one or two more seasons, but that's one or two more seasons that few shows have Stranger Things' level of success to guarantee!