On Thursday, Stranger Things co-executive producer and director Shawn Levy sat down with The Hollywood Reporter on Facebook Live to discuss what’s in store for season two. “I was just in the edit room with [co-creators] the [Duffer] brothers yesterday, and we’re like, ‘This is definitely darker. I hope everyone’s down with this,'” he shared, “because the threats to Hawkins and to our characters are bigger, darker, often times scarier.”
However, Levy also emphasized that this season will still feel like the first one. “The best thing I can tell you is that through it all, it’s got the best heart,” he said. “But it is, cinematically and budgetar[il]y, it’s definitely more ambitious.”
Levy said that the team was definitely aware of the pitfalls that can come with success. “The availability of more money can make you dream bigger,” he said. “And sometimes you dream a kind of scope and scale that is so tantalizing…that you can often forget what brought you to the party. And for us, it’s the people of Hawkins, Indiana. It’s the fictional people in our fictional town. And so we always check ourselves…We always make sure that we’re honoring the people on-screen first, and that all the bells and whistles don’t become so seductive that they lure us away from what counts.”
“We are going to do things that fans are going to be disappointed in,” he continued, “but that I think they’ll be satisfied by.” In particular, Levy addressed Barb’s fate. While he said that “everyone has some Barb in them,” he reaffirmed David Harpour’s statement from New York Comic Con that Barb is indeed . “I’ve had a lot of people, some huge celebrities, come up to me at these awards shows, like, ‘So, between us, Barb’s coming back, right?’ I’m like ‘No, you saw, she had like a creature, slug, worm, snake, coming out of her mouth. I don’t know that there’s a bounce back from that.’ So no, we are not going to cravenly service the wish list of fans. We’re going to service the Duffer instincts and what they feel is the right story to tell.”
On the one hand, I’m excited to see the Stranger Things world expand and get creepier. On the other, one of my favorite things about the first season was its fundamental smallness. These characters weren’t out to save the world; they just wanted to get their friends back. They were also “small” in their relation to the Demogorgon threat. These were just ordinary people, who got trapped and attacked by government experiments that they didn’t understand; hell, even the government scientists themselves opened a portal that they didn’t understand.
Too much world-building or explaining could take away from that sense of scope. Instead of focusing on what it feels like to try and survive when you’re at the mercy of something terrible and unfathomable, a larger and more complex world can invite a series to spend more time explaining why and how the terrible and unfathomable thing works. It can also invite more of a higher calling, “time to save the world” vibe. For some media, that’s the kind of minutiae I want to know, or the kind of journey I want to watch. But with Stranger Things, it’s not something I feel the need for.
So much of living in a small town is being at the mercy of larger forces than yourself – dealing with macroeconomic changes that kill off industries, or cause a mortgage crisis. These are forces that you fundamentally don’t understand, and they’re forces that never get explained to you in a way that really satisfies. (Even when you understand intellectually how obscure financial speculation tools closed ten local businesses, that’s never going to “make sense” in a real way.) They’re also forces that you can’t fully stop or overpower. (Unless, you know, you’re Eleven.) But you can survive, and you can help the people you love survive. Stranger Things‘ depiction of a hungry, dangerous force that warped everything around you and began attacking the health of your friends, all without hope of help from the wider world, felt…it felt really apt to life in post-financial crash America. And I hope it can maintain that feeling while still getting “bigger, darker, [and] often times scarier.”
Because, honestly, that feeling is plenty scary enough.
(Via Entertainment Weekly; image via Netflix)
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