Last season on Stranger Things, our favorite nerdy middle school gang was separated from Eleven, the mysterious girl who wandered out of Hawkins Science Lab on that fateful day. Stranger Things Season 2 reveals what happened to Eleven after the Season 1 finale. In that episode, she saved her friends from the Demogorgon in Hawkins Middle School, and by doing so she seemed to dissolve into thin air herself. Mike never gave up hope that his friend was still out there somewhere, and continued to desperately try and reach her via radio every single night after she disappeared. As it turns out, Mike was right.
Spoilers for Stranger Things 2 abound as we continue, so beware. When Hopper sits down to eat a sad microwave dinner at the end of the first episode of the new season, he's not alone — Eleven, with a fresh new 'do, is across the table. But how did Eleven make her way back to the real world
The second episode thankfully brought us answers almost immediately, so viewers weren't kept in suspense for more than a minute or so. (Don't pretend there was any significant amount of time between watching the first episode and the second. You marathoned. We all marathoned.) She second episode flashed back to show Eleven's movements after that showdown. After defending her friends, Eleven woke up back in the deeply troubling Upside Down, which by now, fans are all too familiar with.
As a refresher, the Upside Down appears to be some kind of alternate dimension that directly mirrors the real world. Hawkins Middle School and Hawkins Lab both have spooky Upside Down counterparts, for example. Whether the Upside Down expands beyond the borders of the small town still isn't clear, but what we do know is that it's a very unpleasant place to be stuck, particularly with all the monsters roaming around.
When she wakes up, Eleven is still in the same classroom in which she saved Mike, Dustin and Lucas, but it's undergone a distinct makeunder that only the Upside Down can conjure. She roams the halls wailing out for Mike, who both heartbreakingly and thankfully is not in the Upside Down with her. Eleven finally finds what seems to be a tear in the dimension — the beginnings of a hole that leads back to the real world.
She can vaguely see people on the other side of that horrifying, stretchy goo that seems to plague the twisted realm, but Eleven is wary of men with flashlights and authoritative voices — understandable, given her origins. After they're gone, she manages to poke through the goo — seriously, scenes when people have to go rooting through this sticky material are more troubling to me than any of the monsters — and she realizes she can use this as a makeshift door. Eleven uses her telekinetic powers to break down more of the wall separating the two worlds, working it until it's big enough that she can fit through the opening, and she collapses back into the real middle school.
Eleven seems to have a knack for this kind of thing — she unknowingly opened the gate to the Upside Down in the first place while she was initially being held in the lab, and later in the season she puts her powers to use to close another huge tear between worlds. These abilities could be the sole thing the lab trained her for. And while we can breathe a collective sigh of relief that Eleven's escaped, I'd also like to point out that getting into and out of the Upside Down seems way too easy — anytime one of these holes is found it seems like all a monster has to do is hop on through. But that's most likely part of the unease we're meant to feel as we watch the show.
We like to think that in places like our own backyards, we're secure, and distinctly separate from any questionable other-worldly mumbo jumbo that may be going on somewhere. But what if we aren't? Stranger Things is a pro at planting that thought in the back of your mind. What if the only thing separating normal, everyday life from chaos is a thin layer of stretchy goo out in the woods somewhere? That threat continues to loom for the citizens of Hawkins, but now that Eleven's back in the real world, though, it seems like they have a pretty awesome weapon against the perils of the Upside Down.