There is a moment in Stranger Things' second season where one character remarks on the events of the first season as sounding "derivative" of a lot of other stories. It's a nod and wink to the fact that series creators the Duffer Brothers are aware that their show owes more than a little bit to the science fiction and horror wot came before it.
Somehow, Season 2 of Stranger Things might have even more references, Easter eggs, and shout-outs to your favorite sci-fi and horror franchises than the first season had. There are so many that there's almost no way you'll catch them all.
But these, friends -- these are our personal favorite Easter eggs from our favorite shows and movies. Consider these the cream of the "I get that reference" crop. And there's a good chance you might even have missed a few during your first viewing. Let's find out!
**Spoiler Alert: There are spoilers for Stranger Things Season 2 in this post. Obviously.**
Mad About You, Paul Reiser
Look, let's lay it flat on the table. Late in the run of '90s TV series Mad About You, Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt participate in an episode about virtual reality dating. It is one of the most embarrassing half hours of television and no one should ever trust Paul Reiser with anything ever again.
But, yes, yes. Also Reiser's character in Aliens, Burke, is a super-evil company stooge who throws everyone needlessly into danger. And Burke's pretty specific in saying to Ripley that she can trust him when he visits her in the hospital. Likewise very specifically, Dr. Owens in Stranger Things tells Joyce and Will (while they are in a hospital-like scenario) that they can trust him.
What makes that work so well is that, for anyone who has seen Aliens, it means you now can't trust Owens at all. Could be the hero. Could be the villain. But your brain sees him as untrustworthy and then the show gets to play that against you, the audience. That's what makes this "Easter egg" so great -- it makes ripples throughout the rest of the season.
What About Bob (Newby)
Bless Sean Astin. Bless this man and his willingness to play into Goonies references over three decades after the fact. And now, bless Bob.
At this point, it seems as though everyone already got the nudge, nudge, wink, wink Goonies reference of Astin asking if the "X" the Beyers are looking for on Will's "map" marks where there is "pirate treasure." But the best part of this scene isn't just that there's a pirate reference. It isn't that Astin's character, Bob is trying to work out a map. No. The best part is that the map was made by Will Beyers. And Astin, after piecing the whole map thing together says, "Isn't that right, Will?"
Sound familiar? It's pretty much verbatim to when Astin's character, Mikey, finds his way to One-Eyed Willy's pirate ship and gives a soliloquy to the dead pirate, punctuated with the phrase, "Isn't that right, Willy?"
Anyway. You get it. The Goonies is great. Stranger Things is also great. Sean Astin is a national treasure.
GREMLINS THEME SONG
Dart Feed Them After Midnight
The fact that Dustin finds a weird monster in his garbage that's afraid of light and likes eating junk food with him late at night makes the Gremlins homage not terribly subtle. And the fact that Dart is green and goes through layers of metamorphosis doesn't make things any less clear.
But here is the reference most people missed, and I swear this is true: in the scene where Dart escapes from the Ghostbusters trap after Max opens the door to the AV room too early, the soundtrack actively apes the Gremlins theme music. It's only for a few seconds, but please go back and listen to it with awe. Unlike many of the other references, this Gremlins shout-out was actually kind of subtle. Appreciate it. Love it. Just don't feed it after midnight.
Close Encounters of the Flayed Mind
Will Byers having visions of the upside down are cool looking, right? Kind of scary, but also wondrous? And also... familiar?
Well, that is because, once again, the Duffer Brothers are aping the man, the myth, the legend, Steven Spielberg. This time with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, specifically the scene in which the kid opens the door and the ethereal, alien light blows in.
2017 was the 40th anniversary of Close Encounters, so... good timing, Stranger Things!
The Real Best Ghostbusters Reference (Tied)
Ghostbusters came out in 1984, the same year Stranger Things 2 is set. Unsurprisingly, Ghostbusters stuff is everywhere, most notably in that our intrepid heroes all dress as the Ghostbusters on Halloween. But there are two particular moments that stand out as the best. One that's pretty obvious, the other maybe less so (since I didn't see anyone else joyously titter about it in an article about Stranger Things Easter eggs).
The first is Hopper investigating the rotting pumpkin fields and discovering that the nearby trees are rotting, too. But they aren't just rotting, they're molting -- slime. And the way he reacts to the slime on his hands is IDENTICAL to how Venkman responds to the slime on the books at the New York Public Library at the beginning of Ghostbusters. "Egon, your mucus," indeed.
The second best Ghostbusters reference? Why, that would be when the Stranger Things Kids Club are hunting an escaped Dart. Sure, most of the Dart stuff is Gremlins-themed. But the scene where Mike finds Dart in the bathroom and has to radio in to everyone else? That is straight up Venkman finding Slimer. The only thing missing was Mike getting slimed.
Will Needs Some Exorcise
Joyce Byers sits before a team of doctors and demands to know what is wrong with her son, Will. And while he may not have had a meet and greet with Captain Howdy, it's not hard to see The Exorcist reflected in Will's storyline the further into Stranger Things 2 we get. Joyce getting no help from the doctors. Will flailing around and attacking his family. Will's... pretty much possessed. And he doesn't get out of bed much, either. You need some exorcise, Will!
To Me, My X-Women
The entire 7th episode of Stranger Things 2 is basically a different show. And that show might as well be about mutants. Not sure if this is a direct or intentional reference or not, but Eleven and Kali with their abilities really do read as two mutants coming to terms with their powers. Kali takes the Magneto approach, wanting revenge on humans, while Eleven takes the Professor X approach, still trying to seek some kind of peace with humanity. And while their skill sets are more Dani Moonstar and Phoenix, respectively, the point has been made -- them Duffer Bros were on some omega-level X-Men s*** while they were scripting this episode.