[This story contains spoilers for the first episode of Stranger Things 2, you have been warned!]
If you're like us, you were so excited to dive into Stranger Things' second season and get back to Hawkins, but then hit play on the first episode and wondered if you turned on the right show or not. Stranger Things 2 opened with a scene set in Pittsburgh, of all places, and featured none of the characters we knew from Season 1. What in the Upside Down was going on?
The cold open followed a group of masked no-gooders who looked like rejects from Michael Jackson's "Bad" video sporting the laughable '80s punk look. They ran from a building after doing who knows what and evaded the cops in their version of a Mystery Machine van. It was far from anything we've ever seen from Hawkins, Indiana, where Season 1 took place.
But it's the group's leader that had us jumping off our couch with excitement. Sitting shotgun in the van during the police chase, the woman clenched her fist and muttered, "Boom," sending the top of a tunnel collapsing to the ground behind them, leaving the pursuing cop cars to crash into each other as the tunnel was closed.
Except it wasn't. Only the cop driving the lead car saw the tunnel collapse, so he slammed on the brakes and caused a pileup; in reality, the tunnel was clear and the officer looked like a buffoon to his superior. So who is this leader of weirdos, and what happened there?
In the final shot of the opening, Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), as one of her cohorts calls her, wipes blood from her nose — with a fingerless glove, natch (so cool!!!) — and we see a tattoo on her wrist that reads "008." It doesn't take a genetic scientist who experiments on kids to understand that she's Eight to Millie Bobby Brown's Eleven and is another subject from Hawkins Lab who was given supernatural abilities as part of whatever program Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) ran.
The use of Eight to start the series had my brain spinning with possibilities, and the ideas are both promising and troublesome. There's something exciting about Stranger Things branching out to explore some of the other children who were involved in Hawkins Labs' experiments, meaning we could see the rest of the kids who form the Number Gang. And given that Eight's ability to make people see what isn't there is obviously different from Eleven's telekinesis, it's a good bet that each kid has their own superpower. We could be headed to Baby X-Men territory!
On the other hand, one of the charms of Stranger Things is its small-town appeal. Part of the success of Season 1 was that the show didn't try to go too big and was able to contain itself (ahem, Orphan Black) to a single location with the same characters. Moving from Hawkins to bigger cities like Pittsburgh could kill so much of what we love about the show and take valuable screentime from the real stars of the show: the kids we came to adore in Season 1.
[Minor spoilers for the rest of Stranger Things 2 follow, read at your own risk!]
The good news is that fans will see Eight again later in the season, and we'll all learn a whole lot more about her backstory and what she was doing in Pittsburgh. The bad news (or more good news, depending how you look at it) is that the Like a Virgin-era Madonna '80s looks of her group will also be back.
We'll see if the addition of Eight and her goons is a good thing for the series or not, but for now, know you weren't alone in asking yourself what the heck was going on.
Stranger Things 2 is currently streaming on Netflix.