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Warning: HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD for Stranger Things Season 3 on Netflix.
The long-awaited third season of Stranger Things has finally arrived and, as promised by the teases in the trailers, it delivered a monster that was terrifying to behold. While it was the manifestation of the Mind Flayer again, Stranger Things did something brand new by introducing it as a creature literally made of its victims. With every new possessed body, it grew larger and larger until it was destroying buildings in its efforts to kill Eleven, and it was personified by none other than Billy (Dacre Montgomery) and newcomer Heather (Francesca Reale).
The first two on-screen victims of the Mind Flayer in its new form, Billy and Heather were responsible for helping to gather new victims to aid the creature and allow it to grow. The monster wasn't picky about who it added to its ranks, with victims ranging from Heather's parents to a child to elderly Mrs. Driscoll, whose mistake was capturing a rat infected by the Mind Flayer. Or "flayed," if you will.
When the victims became the monster, they basically dissolved into goo that oozed up to take a new form as part of a larger whole. For all intents and purposes, they looked pretty much gone, making the monster both a terrifying creature and a walking amalgamation of innocent civilians who were killed. That said, in the season finale, Billy woke up from his flayed state long enough to take a stand against the monster and sacrifice his life for Eleven's.
Basically, we don't know anything concrete about the Season 3 monster, and the show never definitively settled what happened to its many victims, including Heather. Are she and the Mind Flayer's other victims (other than the super dead Billy) actually deceased? I spoke with actress Francesca Reale, who played first Heather the lifeguard and then Heather the possessed villain in Stranger Things, and she said this when I asked if there was anything of Heather left after she was flayed:
That's a good question. I hope so. I would love for some of her to still be around in some way or maybe when she's gone, she's gone. But I don't know! I guess that is open to all possibilities. I hope! I would love for her to not be completely dead, because she still has such a long life to live. She's gotta go to college, buy a car. All of the above.
Heather was just a teenager working a summer job, and her downfall was simply trying to help Billy after he'd been flayed. Instead of just getting to call him an ambulance, she was attacked, kidnapped, and dragged to monster. She should have had a long future ahead of her, and Francesca Reale won't rule out the possibility that somehow, somewhere, there's something of Heather left. But what of the monster's many other victims who became part of its body?
It's impossible to say how many people were assimilated into the monster's body, but it was already huge when it attacked and destroyed Hopper's cabin. By the time it was able to attack Starcourt Mall and very nearly kill Eleven, it was so massive that the Demogorgon and demo-dogs of seasons past seem positively cute in comparison. A lot of people were part of the monster, and the monster went down by the end of the finale when Joyce managed to close the latest rift to the Upside down.
Still, Francesca Reale isn't without hope that Stranger Things could reveal a twist, which would be a very Stranger Things move. When asked if the flayed people are gone for good since the monster went down, Reale said this:
I think there's definitely a chance that that is exactly what happened, but I'm optimistic that there's a smaller chance that it [didn't].
The unofficial rule for TV does state that nobody is really dead if viewers don't see a body, and Stranger Things didn't 100% confirm the deaths of Heather, Mrs. Driscoll, and the rest. Sure, Heather's dad is dead, Billy perished in defense of Eleven, and Hopper is likely dead (along with his mustache) or in Soviet custody, but maybe some of the others lived.
Hey, at least it gives us something to speculate about as we head into another hiatus! Francesca Reale did say that it would "be the dream" if they could come back for Season 4. Would it even be the most unrealistic thing that Stranger Things has ever done? Fans en masse probably don't watch Stranger Things hoping it obeys the laws of physics and biology. I know I don't!
Of course, it is worth considering whether one aspect of the monster accumulating victims was realistic by Stranger Things standards. The monster had to manipulate Billy into becoming flayed, and Billy had to get Heather alone and vulnerable to drag her to the warehouse where she became part of the monster's army. Billy and Heather were only two teenagers; how did they spread the Mind Flayer's influence to so many people?
As it turns out, Francesca Reale was wondering the same thing, and she shared her thoughts on how Heather pulled it off:
You kind of wonder at a certain point... I kind of wonder, like, 'How do you persuade all these people to get down here, Heather? What were you doing?' I like to think she was just a badass and knocked them out and dragged them because she's so strong.
Well, Heather was a lifeguard! If she had the strength to be certified in dragging drowning people out of swimming pools while wearing just about every hair product available in the mid-1980s, surely she has the strength to drag some victims to be flayed by a monster, right? Billy certainly had the upper body strength to hold his own.
There's also the point that while Billy kind of looked like somebody you wouldn't want to get too close to (unless you were one of the moms hanging out at the Hawkins pool), while Heather could look totally nonthreatening even when flayed... until she attacked and went dead behind the eyes. Let it not be said that Stranger Things didn't do something original for its Season 3 monster!
All three seasons of Stranger Things are available streaming on Netflix now. Although the show technically hasn't been renewed for Season 4 just yet, there can be little doubt that Netflix will keep its biggest hit running, and cast members even revealed how much longer beyond Season 3 they think it should run.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more Stranger Things coverage in the coming days, and don't forget to weigh in to the poll below about the fates of Heather and the other monster victims!