The first season of Stranger Things premiered on Netflix before Donald Trump was elected president, Winona Ryder totally freaked out at the SAG Awards, and It capitalized on the magic of ’80s kids riding bikes while being terrorized by a monster. Yes, the summer of 2016 seems like a decade ago, so you’re forgiven if you don’t remember exactly how Stranger Things left off. We’re here to remind you exactly what happened in Hawkins, Indiana, with Eleven, Mike, Joyce, Hopper, the Demogorgon, and our beloved Barb.
Hopper and Joyce Find Will in the Upside Down
In the season-one finale, Chief Jim Hopper makes a deal with Dr. Martin Brenner, who is basically an ’80s-movie devil incarnate. (You can always spot them because they have amazing blonde hair.) Hopper tells Brenner that he’ll find Eleven at the middle school with her friends, where they built a sensory deprivation tank so she could go into the Upside Down and find Will Byers and Barb Holland.
Why did Hopper make such a deal? Because he wants to go to the Upside Down with Joyce Byers to save her son. They travel through the portal under Brenner’s evil lab and find Will, who is being held by the Demogorgon in the Upside Down version of the Hawkins Middle School library. (Because what do monsters love more than books, silence, and old women in glasses and buns?) Hopper performs CPR on Will and brings him back to life.
The next we see Will, he’s in the hospital being reunited with Mike, Dustin, and Lucas, who fill him in on everything that happened in his absence. Hopper stops by the hospital too, but as he leaves, a shady figure pulls up in a black sedan, opens up the door, and Hopper gets in. Is he one of the bad guys now?
Eleven Destroys the Demogorgon
Nancy Wheeler and Will’s older brother Jonathan set a bunch of booby traps for the Demogorgon, hoping to catch it in our world so it can’t kill Joyce and Hopper in the Upside Down. Just as they’re about to cut themselves with a knife to attract the monster, Nancy’s ex-boyfriend Steve Harrington shows up to apologize to Jonathan for beating him up. Together, the three of them try to fight off the Demogorgon. They manage to briefly trap it and set it on fire, but it escapes to the Upside Down.
Meanwhile at the middle school, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas are helping Eleven recover after her journey to the Upside Down. Mike asks Eleven to be his date to the school dance and they kiss, just as Dr. Brenner and his goons show up to take Eleven back to the creepy facility that she escaped from in the first place. As luck would have it, the Demogorgon decides to show his creepy face at the exact same moment.
The kids hide in a classroom while the Demogorgon is momentarily distracted by Brenner’s goons. After mauling Brenner and the soldiers, the flesh-eating beast breaks into the classroom and Eleven uses her powers to pin it to the school’s blackboard, exploding it into a gross black cloud. When the kids finally open their eyes, both the Demogorgon and Eleven are gone. Is she trapped in the Upside Down now?
Hawkins Is Back to Normal … or Is It?
A month later, it’s Christmas time and Will is enjoying a game of Dungeons & Dragons in Mike’s basement. When Jonathan swings by to pick up his brother, Nancy gives him a Christmas gift and a peck on the cheek. Unfortunately for Jonathan, Nancy is back together with Steve and snuggling with him on the couch. In the car, Will opens her gift: It’s a new camera to replace the one that Steve broke earlier in the season.
We learn that Hopper is still the Hawkins police chief and attends the station’s Christmas party just long enough to throw a bunch of food in a Tupperware container. He leaves it in a wooden box in the woods with some Eggo waffles. He doesn’t know if Eleven is still out there, but he’s making sure she can stay alive if she is. On the romance front, he still hasn’t made a single move on Joyce.
Speaking of Joyce, she’s gotten herself a haircut, some new clothes, and apparently some tranquilizers because she no longer looks like a crazed orc. (She even makes a Christmas Eve dinner and buys Will an Atari, so things must be going pretty well at work again.) But when Will excuses himself from the table and goes to the bathroom, he coughs up a tentacled slug creature — exactly like the one Eleven saw crawling out of Barb’s mouth when she found her body in the Upside Down. Then, as the lights flicker, Will briefly jolts back to the Upside Down himself. When he returns to dinner, he pretends like nothing happened.
Oh, and what about Barb? Sorry, she’s still dead.