Overanalyzing Stranger Things’ Season 2 Episode Titles

Stranger Things is everybody’s favorite Summer binge-watch and we’ve been #blessed with the promise of another season. Somewhat surprisingly, the announcement also came with a list of episode titles! If we’ve learned anything about the Duffer Brothers and their extremely reverent amalgam of influences, we know that that nothing is done without intent. Season one featured titles that were usually plot-related (“The Vanishing of Will Byers”) but could also be a little referential (“The Body” shares a title with the Stephen King novella that was adapted into Stand By Me) or seemingly abstract (“The Upside Down”). Season two’s episode titles seem to lie mostly in the last category. And since we’re a year away from getting more episodes, what’s a better use of our time than trying to guess what they’re about?

Mad Max Australian release poster.

Episode 1: “Madmax”

Alright, this one kicks things off and the reference is obvious. By the time of the events of season one, the first two Mad Max films were already released and definitely would have piqued Jonathan Byers’ interest. There are two potential links that I can see.

  1. Lonny Byer’s Oldsmobile 442 certainly bears a passing resemblance to Max Rockatansky’s Pursuit Special.
  2. Hopper’s back story is similar to Max’s considering that he’s a cop and is family is dead/gone.

Could we see Lonny return? Could Jonathan come into possession of his car? Will Hopper go rogue or lash out at the government he seems to have made a deal with? Could “Max” be a new character altogether?

Episode 2: “The Boy Who Came Back to Life”

This one has Will Byer’s written all over it. This is definitely an instance of the Duffers being extremely literal, especially considering that this episode title was one of the headlines that we see post Will’s return in season one. Case closed.

But you know, anything could happen. Maybe the Duffers have been swayed by the #JusticeforBarb movement and this episode is really called “The Barb Who Came Back to Life.”

Episode 3: “Pumpkin Patch”

Something tells me that this episode isn’t related to Cabbage Patch doll knock-offs the Pumpkin Patch Kids but then again, I wouldn’t put anything past the Duffers. Considering how heavily indebted to 80s horror the show already is, a pumpkin patch or some sort of harvest festival feels like a natural set piece for Stranger Things.

Cover of the Palace of the Silver Princess module.

Episode 4: “The Palace”

It’s hard not to see a connection to D&D with a title like “The Palace.” Season one ended the way it began: with a game of Dungeons & Dragons. But the kids are unsatisfied with the ending of their campaign citing multiple loose threads in Mike’s plot including a mention of a proud princess. Fittingly there’s a D&D module called “The Palace of the Silver Princess” in which an entire country is froze in time by a strange red light with the exception of the aforementioned palace. This sounds like it could be a very direct clue to the plot of season two. Could Nancy Wheeler be the princess and set off a chain of events that lead to Hawkins being frozen in time? “The Palace” could also refer to Will’s “Castle Byers” or even the Department of Energy building. This could give us some clues to Eleven’s whereabouts or maybe (and this is a stretch) Hopper’s daughter?

Cover of The Immortal Storm module.

Episode 5: “The Storm”

Like the classic Snoopy story, dark and stormy nights have proven essential to setting the mood of Stranger Things. The storm in season one also happens to be when the boys encounter Eleven for the first time. Chances are that we’re in for a big reveal at this point in the season. In episode five of the first season, El makes contact with Will via the walkie-talkie and the boys double down on their efforts to get him back. I don’t think that this season will follow quite the same pacing but it’s a safe bet.

Following in the Dungeons & Dragons line of thinking with the previous episode, there is an 80s D&D module called “The Immortal Storm.” In it, a cosmic storm threatens the multiverse and five immortals must come together to stop it using the power of matter, energy, thought, time, and entropy. There are five kids in Stranger Things so the quest set forth by the module could be something of a fit.

Episode 6: “The Pollywog”

Bullywugs are chaotic evil, frog-like humanoid creatures that first appeared in Dungeons & Dragon’s 1981 “Fiend Folio.” Pollywog sounds a lot like bullywug and in some tabletop RPGs, polly wogs are considered the unmatured version of the bullywug. Here are some select details about the bullywug:

  1. bipedal monsters which inhabit wet places — rainy forests, marshes, damp caves or virtually any other place which is shady or dark”
  2. They have the chameleon-like power to alter their skin coloration to different shades of grey, green, and brown, so that they can hide and attack by surprise

Sound like a certain monster we’ve met before? This episode might be the key to cracking just what the demogorgon is. In fact, it might not be a demogorgon at all!

Episode 7: “The Secret Cabin”

Another stalwart horror movie locale and possible sly reference to Stephen King’s “Secret Window, Secret Garden.” King himself tweeted that watching Strangers Things was like watching his own greatest hits. Maybe the Duffers picked up on that and decided to reference King’s work about plagiarism and split personalities as bit of a wink and a nod.

Episode 8: “The Brain”

This title is just as big and vague as some of the rest of them but it’s hard not to see some connection to Eleven, Mathew Modine’s Doctor Brenner and the experiments that were happening at the Department of Energy. Stranger Things has already riffed on the Montauk Project and the Indian Lake Project. It’s hard not to see them go back to the well in season two. It could also be a reference to the “brain in a vat” scenario that is itself an update of Descartes’ “Evil Demon” thought experiment. Is Eleven really just a brain in a vat somewhere? Is the reality of Stranger Things really just the way in which she believes she’s interacting with the world? Better yet, is this a reference to numbers one through ten? Maybe one of them survived.

Episode 9: “The Lost Brother”

One big criticism of Stranger Things is its treatment of women. By reducing them to tropes the same way that similar characters were utilized in the 80s movies the Duffers were referencing, the show failed to improve on its formula. But a title like “The Lost Brother” gives me some hope. It’s doubtful that Will Byers is going to vanish again so that leaves two brothers (that we’re aware of) in the cast — Jonathan Byers and Mike Wheeler. Both of those characters have a connection to Nancy Wheeler and considering that we got to see her do a little monster hunting at the end of season one, maybe this new scenario gives her the chance to take charge and lead the rest of the gang on an adventure to save someone that she cares about.

I’m counting on the Duffers keeping us guessing all season long. This is just the product of really, really overthinking a bunch of episode titles. But that’s the kind of obsession that Stranger Things breeds.

What are your hopes for season two?