The second season of Stranger Things, officially titled Stranger Things 2, is now out for all the world to stream. That means after months and months of secrecy, the show's creators -- The Duffer Brothers -- can finally reveal the secrets behind their storytelling decisions for the much-anticipated sequel. In a wide-ranging new interview with Variety, they did just that, talking through everything from high expectations to character relationships to one major death scene.
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR STRANGER THINGS 2! SERIOUSLY, DON'T READ ON UNTIL YOU HAVE SEEN THE ENTIRE SEASON!
Obviously, the first concern for the Duffers heading into the second year of their breakout show was trying to avoid a sophomore slump, to grow the world without overdoing things. According to Ross Duffer, that was actually one of the easy parts.
“With the first season, we didn’t even know if it was going to work at all, much less if people were going to watch it,” Ross Duffer said. “So that was really scary. This season, at least we had a firmer grasp of what the show was. We knew people were going to watch it, so those fears went away. You have new fears, which is can you live up to people’s expectations? A lot of people like that first season so much, and we don’t want to let them down. But at the end of the day it was just us going, let’s shut out all the noise and just tell a story that we’re excited about like we did Season 1, and hopefully people respond to it.”
In discussing how they shaped the story of Season 2, the Duffers also revealed that the cast informed many of the decisions they made through improvisation and sheer force of personality. Chief among those influences was Sean Astin, who plays Joyce Byers' (Winona Ryder) new boyfriend, Bob. As with casting Ryder in Season 1, the creators were so thrilled to land an '80s movie icon like Astin that they kept his character alive much, much longer than they originally intended. Astin's own personality started to inform how they wrote the character, and when the time to part ways with Bob finally did come, the Duffers struggled to say goodbye.
"The interesting thing about Bob is he was going to be Joyce’s dorky, boring boyfriend, and then he was going to give Will some really bad advice and he was going to meet it around Episode 4," Matt Duffer said. "And then we found Sean Astin, who actually put himself on tape [to audition] because he loved the show. I was not imagining Bob like Sean Astin at all. And then we met Sean and I kind of fell in love with Sean and his real-life personality, and so we sort of fused him with this character of Bob. It created this character who was so much more lovable and interesting than the one we had initially written. I think he had the biggest impact on the narrative of the show this year. Very much the same way Winona [Ryder] did in Season 1 when we cast her, because Bob went from being a character who we didn’t really care about to a character we cared very dearly about and an actor who we cared a lot about. We kept postponing his death until eventually we got to Episode 8, when it couldn’t be postponed anymore. I think it was still narratively the right thing to do, but for me it was the hardest scene to write because I really didn’t want to do it but I felt it had to be done. Sean really didn’t want to leave the show either. So it was hard to part ways with him."
For more from the Duffers, including how they continue to balance '80s references with an original story and making child actors kiss each other, head over to Variety.