How Does Stranger Things Season 2 End?

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Warning: Tons of spoilers ahead for Stranger Things 2.
It’s official: Stranger Things season 2 is a wild ride. The new season of the Netflix sci-fi drama has everything, from hive-mind shadow villains from parallel hell dimensions to a shockingly high number of love triangles to be found in Hawkins, Indiana. Plus, we also got a whole bunch of new characters to care about, like California transplant “Mad” Max (Sadie Sink) and Bob Newby (Sean Astin), the adorably nerdy new boyfriend of Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder). All together, it’s a lot to take in over just nine jam-packed episodes.
That’s why we decided to give you a character-by-character breakdown of season 2 finale, “The Gate.” The closing episode gave us tons of closure for our favorite Hawkins residents and suggested where Stranger Things can go for its third season. Keep reading to all the details you may have missed, including a very subtle, but huge, nod to Eleven and season 1. So, it's time to toast up some Eggos and dive in.
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Bob Newby

R.I.P Bob, may you and Barb (Shannon Purser) commiserate in the afterlife over your fatal run-ins with the Upside Down.
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Steve Harrington

Stranger Things made a lot of great updates to its sophomore year, from giving Will (Noah Schnapp) a far meatier storyline to letting us meet Lucas Sinclair’s (Caleb McLaughlin) wonderful family. But, my favorite development this time around is the evolution of Steve Harrington (card-carrying Internet boyfriend Joe Keery) into the official babysitter for all tweens involved in Hawkins’ more supernatural activities. Steve’s final scene with Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), where the older boy acts as the closest thing the single mom-raised kid has to a father figure, is one of the top five best moments in Stranger Things 2.

When he’s not flexing his paternal muscles, Steve is dealing with a big breakup and is seemingly pretty okay with it. After a year-long relationship with Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer), Steve comes to terms with ex-ish girlfriend’s undeniable attraction to Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton), and tells her to go with him during a very complicated plan to save his little brother Will. While the chat is very succinct, it serves as the couple’s official breakup, following their “bullshit”-ridden fight at a Halloween party.

Considering just how great Steve’s mane is — all thanks to Farrah Fawcett Hair Spray! — we doubt he’ll be single for long.
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Dustin Henderson

Dustin now knows the secret to Steve Harrington’s flowing locks and is using it to his advantage. The tween shows up to Hawkins Middle School’s Snow Ball dance looking like a million bucks with a rad flock of seagulls hairstyle, courtesy of Steve’s tutelage. While Dustin expects to be a total ladykiller with his new style, the middle school girls are still decidedly (and cruelly) uninterested.

After multiple rejections, a previously confident Dustin resembles that Mr. Krabs meme and nearly breaks down in the middle of the HMS dance floor. Thankfully, Nancy saves the day and dances with Dustin, effectively turning the boy into the coolest guy in school. Nancy is a pretty and popular older girl, after all. After seeing Dustin get new teeth this season, it’s nice to see him end Stranger 2 with a smile.
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Nancy Wheeler & Jonathan Byers

As anyone with eyes and a Netflix account could have guessed, Nancy and Jonathan are now a couple. As I said, Nancy and Steve break up in a shockingly low-key manner at the top of “The Gate,” so she is free to be with Jonathan, whom she has already hooked up with at this point.

Nancy spends most of the Stranger 2 finale helping Jonathan cope with his brother’s shadow monster-related illness. Interestingly, when Jonathan is too overwhelmed by Will’s possession, Nancy is the one who is strong enough to watch what’s happening. And, when things get a little too Exorcist-y for anyone’s liking, Nancy is the one who presses a red-hot poker onto the boy’s stomach, driving the monster out of Will’s body for good.

Jonathan and Nancy end the season volunteering at the Snow Ball and flirtatiously smiling at each other. Jonathan is taking photos of the kids, while Nancy hands out punch.
5 of 10

Poor, sweet Will. If anyone had a rough go of it in Stranger Things 2, it’s little Will Byers. When we begin season 2, it seems Will might be suffering from PTSD following his time trapped in the Upside Down, or, maybe, the terrifying shadow monster he’s seeing is real. By the end of 2, it’s very clear how real his “visions” are. In “The Gate,” Will’s loved ones are desperate to rid him of the supernatural “virus” he has, which has allowed the Upside Down’s shadow monster, nicknamed the “Mind Flayer,” to take over the tween’s body.

Since the monster hates the heat, our heroes realize they have to essentially cook the sickness out of Will. So, Will, his mother Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), Jonathan, and Nancy hightail it to sheriff Jim Hopper’s secret cabin, since Will has never seen the cabin, and, therefore, the mind-controlling shadow monster won’t know where to find them. Will’s loved ones succeed in overheating the virus out of Will, with Nancy, as I mentioned, serving the final blow to break the child’s possession.

This means Will is free to go to the Snow Ball with his friends, free of any connection to the Upside Down. A random girl even asks “Zombie Boy” Will to dance, and it’s the cutest thing ever.
6 of 10
Max & Lucas Sinclair

Speaking of cuteness at the Snow Ball dance, Lucas and newbie Max (Sadie Sink) finally got a chance to dance after episodes hinting towards their puppy love. For now, it seems like the Lucas-Max-Dustin love triangle is settled, in favor of Lucas. Who doesn’t appreciate interracial, middle school, 1980s love? No one, except for Max’s brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery), who may or may not be a racist.

But, Billy, an abuse victim himself, isn’t going to terrorize his little step-sister anymore. Before our heroes close the gate allowing the monsters of the Upside Down into Hawkins, Billy shows up at the Byers household to fight Steve and/or drag Max back home. Billy manages to get into fight fist with Steve, and almost beats him to death.Yet, Max saves the day by hitting her step-sibling with a syringe of tranquilizers and then demanding he leave her and her friends alone for good. Just to drive home how serious she is, Max smashes Steve’s infamous nail-filled bat into the floor right below Billy’s family jewels.

Max for Rookie Of The Year.
7 of 10
Eleven & Mike Wheeler

Max and Lucas would win HMS’ Cutest Couple award… if it wasn’t for Eleven and Mike. Throughout “The Gate,” the tweens lead two separate prongs of the plan to close the titular Upside Down breach — which was opened by Eleven in season 1 and only exponentially increased in size since — forever. Mike, Dustin, Steve, Max, and Lucas head to the shadow monster-created tunnels below Hawkins and set fire to the center of the maze. This calls all the demo-dogs to the area, allowing Eleven to travel to the origin point of the “gate” and use her psychic abilities to slam it closed, killing all the Upside Down-related creatures in our world.

After some very stressful demo-dog attacks on both parties, Eleven succeeds, and doesn’t vanish to the Upside Down, as she did at the close of season 1.

To celebrate everyone’s interdimensional success, Mike goes to the Snow Ball and watches all of his friend’s pair off. While sitting alone at a table, he sees Eleven walk onto the dance floor. Mike asks his longtime crush to dance and they very adorably agree neither of them know how to dance, but will figure it out together. If they could manage to defeat an otherworldly, all-powerful army of monsters, they can probably manage a traditional slow dance to “Every Breath You Take.”

Cue Mike and Eleven’s first kiss, which is just as sweet as you would guess. It’s worth noting this entire Snow Ball encounter is a nod to Mike and Eleven’s final conversation in the season 1 finale, “The Upside Down.” In that episode, before Eleven sacrifices herself to kill the Demogorgon, Mike promises his nearly-passed out BFF if she “holds on,” she can move into the Wheeler home with him. “You can eat as many Eggos as you want,” Mike swears. “And we can go to the Snow Ball.” And now, a year later, that promise has come true.
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Joyce Byers & Jim Hopper

Hop (David Harbour) and Joyce still aren’t married, and that’s the real crime of Stranger Things 2. In their final scene of the finale, the beleaguered parents commiserate over all the horror they’ve seen and share cigarettes, as they did during high school.

Joyce is clearly still mourning the death of her sweet, nice guy boyfriend Bob, so she’s not ready to jump into a relationship with Hop — who is finally given paperwork courtesy of the U.S. government making Eleven his daughter, “Jane Hopper” — just yet. But, I will remain hopeful for Stranger Things 3.
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The Town Of Hawkins

Technically, Hawkins should be free of any looming Upside Down threats. Eleven closed the gate, which is proven by visual confirmation of all remaining vestiges of the parallel dimension dying in our world. Yet, the last seconds of Stranger Things 2 pans to the Upside Down version of the sleepy town, with the shadow monster towering above Hawkins Middle School.

Something tells me the horror still isn’t over.
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