An open letter to the Duffer brothers:
Congratulations on a stunning first season of television. Stranger Things is more than a successful show or a cultural phenomenon; it’s work of which you should feel incredibly proud. I know I’m not the only thirtysomething who found your mix of Stephens Spielberg and King spiked with John Carpenter to be intoxicating.
You’re entitled to enjoy success, however you see fit. Movie offers, convention appearances, Instagram accounts—have at it.
But Duffers (can I call you Duffers?), you need to be careful. Because in addition to all the other projects you’re no doubt considering at this point, Netflix will almost certainly want a second season of Stranger Things.
And that is a terrible idea.
It’s a sequel. Because there was a heavy dose of resolution at the end of season one, a second season of Stranger Things runs the risk of feeling more like a sequel than a continuation.
Next time you see Winona Ryder, ask her about Beetlejuice 2. Or Heathers 2. Or Edward Scissorhands 2. I guarantee you she’s read horrible scripts for each of them. And I guarantee she can give you an earful about the danger inherent in revisiting a successful story only to strip-mine what was great about it in pursuit of ever-diminishing returns.
We do not need a “mythology.” Ever since The X-Files, we’ve had sci-fi shows that have promised these intricate, mind-blowing mythologies, and then completely failed to deliver. Lost was a big one; I think Orphan Black is doing it now. It’s a complete misunderstanding of why people really enjoy these shows. They may think they’re around because they really want to know about the Cigarette-Smoking Man or the hatch or Project Lyda; what really keeps them engaged is an emotional investment in great characters, played by talented actors.
You’ve mentioned in interviews that you’ve got a 30-page document outlining the rules and story of the Upside Down. That’s great, guys. I would take that document and hand it off to your favorite clever writer so that they can build you a nice side business in licensed books and comics.
With all due respect, whatever you’ve come up with is not going to satisfy, and it’s not going to be a patch on what you have already accomplished—not just a killer monster yarn but work that inspires an emotional investment in great characters, played by talented actors.
Kids grow up. The kid who played Dustin already couldn’t do his own ADR because his voice changed. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t want to see Mike with five o’clock shadow, or the Very Special Episode where Eleven learns about deodorant. You cast this show perfectly and you captured some very special performers in a moment that cannot be duplicated, because time.
The story’s over. Okay, to you it’s not, but to me, it is. And yeah, we all loved the show so we want more of it. We think we want more of it.
We don’t need more of it. Those little hooks and teases in the last moments of the final episode were clearly groundwork for a season two, but they don’t have to be. Let them hang out there as open-ended questions. They found Will Byers and they came to an uneasy truce with the government creeps. Eleven’s eating Eggos in the Upside Down and Nancy’s helped Steve realize he doesn’t have to be a douchebag for the rest of his life. It’s not total closure but it’s enough. It satisfies.
You’ve already done it. I’m more excited about whatever it is you’ve got cooking next. What spec scripts have been languishing in the bottom drawer of your desk that can be reborn as another Duffer brothers show? What ideas did you jot down on the back of script pages as Stranger Things came together, because when great concepts arrive, you have to chase the muse a little, even if you’re not ready to sit down and eat dinner with her yet?
Take a well-deserved break. See if you can crash the writers’ room for that new Star Trek show by Bryan Fuller and inject a healthy dose of weirdness. Spend the rest of the year being paid big bucks to punch up a few blockbusters while you eat chocolate pudding by the pool.
But please, don’t give us another season of Stranger Things. It can only muddy the near perfection of season one.
Your obedient servant,