Here’s a full recap of the entire Stranger Things plot before season four drops on Netflix
Get ready to go back to the Upside Down
Let’s make no bones about it, Stranger Things feels like it’s been between seasons for 10,000 years. Season three released in a time before Covid, in a time before Tiger King and in a time before Julia Fox lived rent free in our minds. You could be forgiven for recalling what happened in the first three seasons – so, before the first part of the new season comes out on Friday 27th May – here’s a full recap of the plot of all three seasons of Stranger Things.
Stranger Things kicks off in Hawkins, Indiana, in 1983. A scientist is attacked by a creature that we don’t see in a lab. 12-year-old Will Byers is having a Dungeons & Dragons night with his pals Mike, Dustin and Lucas – and on his way home he encounters the creature and mysteriously vanishes. Will’s mum Joyce reports his disappearance to chief of police Sheriff Jim Hopper who starts a search.
The lab from the start is ran by Dr Brenner, who says is looking for a girl who’s escaped. A girl in a hospital gown wanders into a diner, where the owner asks her name and finds that she’s got a number 11 tattooed onto her and that her name is Eleven. He tries to call for social services, but Brenner is monitoring phone lines and descends agents onto the diner. They kill the diner owner, but Eleven uses telekinetic abilities to kill the agents and escape. Soon after, she bumps into Mike, Dustin and Lucas who hide her in Mike’s basement and Eleven reveals her powers to them.
Mike’s older sister Nancy, her boyfriend Steve and Will’s brother Jonathan get entangled in another missing person situation when Nancy’s best friend Barb goes missing after a party. Jonathan took some pictures of the party, and one of them features a mysterious figure behind Barb.
Joyce, meanwhile, is communicating with Will via Christmas lights in their house as he tells her he is still alive. However, police then find a body in the quarry that’s named as Will. The kids and Eleven use AV equipment from their school to communicate with Will and find out he’s trapped in a dimension known as the Upside Down, and a demon they dub as the Demogorgon. Nancy finds an entrance to the Upside Down in the woods and finds herself being attacked by the Demogorgon. Sheriff Hopper goes to the Hawkins lab and realises the body found of Will is just a dummy – and that Dr Brenner held Eleven hostage to experiment on. He finds an entrance to the Upside Down but is knocked unconscious and removed from premises.
Everyone assembles for a final showdown, which involves Eleven using her abilities to transport herself telepathically to the Upside Down, where she sees that Barb is dead and Will is next. Joyce and Hopper go to Hawkins lab, Nancy and Jonathan try and trap the Demogorgon. Hopper and Joyce enter the Upside Down and free Will, and the Demogorgon attacks the kids at the high school. Eleven, drained of her powers, uses her final energy to obliterate the monster but vanishes in the process.
The season recap of Stranger Things ends on cliffhangers as things go back to normality in Hawkins. Will throws up a slug like creature in the sink, and Hopper leaves boxes of food in the woods for, we presume, Eleven. Who’s still missing. That’s the first third of the Stranger Things full plot recap – now on with the sequel!
Season two of Stranger Things, and the second part of our plot recap, kicks off almost exactly a year after the events of season one. Will is back in school with his friends, who call him Zombie Boy. Will has moments where he’s in the Upside Down and sees flashes of a huge tentacled monster looming over Hawkins. One time, the monster sticks a tentacle down Will’s throat and infects him – taking control of his body and being able to use him for whatever it wants.
Eleven, at the end of season one, hid in the woods where after she used her powers to commit some petty survivalist crime, she was discovered by Hopper who looked after her as a fatherly figure – albeit an overprotective one. Eleven finds a box about her birth mother that Hopper was keeping secret – and she breaks out the cabin they’re living in to go and find her. Through visions, she sees that her mother Terry Ives had her baby, who she named Jane, stolen by Dr Brennen who renamed her number 11. Terry Ives was left brain damaged after given electroshock therapy to put her in a catatonic state.
When seeing the visions, Eleven saw another girl who had powers also being experimented on. She tracks her down and joins her gang for a while during a brief detour to Chicago.
There are several newcomers to the show this season. Most notably, Max and Billy – unhappy stepsiblings. Max is the object of Dustin and Lucas’ affections and an avid gamer at the arcade – the latest member to the gang. Billy is abusive, beaten by his father and a bully around the school and to Max. Steve, who Nancy breaks up with early in the season, and Billy are violently clashing, whilst Nancy and Jonathan have a blossoming romance and share a kiss. And maybe more! Joyce is also dating Bob – a nerdy but well meaning nice fella who Joyce and Hopper knew from school. One of the saddest moments of the season happens when Bob sacrifices himself to save the rest of the gang escaping from the lab.
The smoke monster, dubbed The Mind Flayer by the kids, controls Will by getting him to draw endless caverns below Hawkins and send scientists to be killed. When Will’s family and friends realised The Mind Flayer was using Will’s eyes to see, they tricked it and disguised the Byers’ shed so Will wouldn’t recognise it. Will fought against the monster in his mind, and they made the conditions hot to exorcise The Mind Flayer from his mind after learning it needed Will to be cold to survive.
The season ends with Hopper loosening the reins on Eleven and getting her birth certificate so she’s now officially his daughter. Him and Joyce share a cigarette as the kids party at the school dance. Eleven closed the gate so that The Mind Flayer couldn’t attack their world anymore, but a flash to the Upside Down shows the shadowy creature looming. Thus endeth season two, and part two of this Stranger Things plot recap!
It’s the summer of 1985 now – and everyone’s growing up! The season opens with some Russians trying to drill their way into the Upside Down, yikes. We then flip to Mike and El making out, and Hopper finding himself increasingly annoyed at how to handle their relationship. Hopper, handling things terribly, threatens Mike to not come over anymore – which results in Mike having to lie to El. El befriends Max, who advises her to dump Mike and the two get closer friends. They use El’s powers to spy on Billy – who’s… acting weirdly.
Will’s been feeling the presence of The Mind Flayer once again, and the kids along with Jonathan and Nancy who are working at the local paper that the Mind Flayer is possessing residents and making them consume chemicals that will make the combust into balls of gore that can reform into other things at the will of the creature. The Mind Flayer is possessing people across Hawkins and forcing them to come together and make a huge monster in its likeness – but the gang are unsure as to why.
Elsewhere, Dustin has accidentally uncovered a Russian transmission and teams up with Steve – who’s graduated and now works at the newly opened Starcourt Mall with newcomer Robin (Steve tries it on, but she’s a lesbian). They also team up with Erica, Lucas’ little sister, to help them spy on things at the mall and see what’s going on. They discover that there’s a Russian base underneath Starcourt Mall – and descend into it.
Joyce and Hopper have also been investigating weird occurrences, which leads them to Hawkins lab where they’re attacked by a Russian soldier, Grigori. They escape, and the two go to interrogate the mayor, who Hopper saw interact with Grigori earlier in the season. Mayor Kline reveals the Russians own Starcourt Mall and have been buying property all over Hawkins. They all go to one location the Russians have purchased and find a man named Alexei working there who they kidnap. They learn that the Russians intend to open a new portal to the Upside Down. Grigori arrives, kills Alexei and has a showdown with Hopper who bests him. The group go on to Starcourt Mall to stop the Russians and reunite with the kids.
Everyone gears up for a final fight. Billy arrives with the Mind Flayer and El manages to detach the Mind Flayer’s hold over him, but not before it pierces her leg and she loses her powers with the effort it takes to remove. Billy then sacrifices himself to save the others as he holds the Mind Flayer back. Grigori arrives and fights with Hopper near the portal, and Joyce has to shut it off – killing the Mind Flayer but also seemingly killing Hopper in the process.
The US Army shows up to clean up the carnage, covering up all the Russian activity and shutting down the mall and arresting the mayor. El’s powers do not return – the Byers take her in, and the family move to California. We cut to Russia, where there’s a Demogorgon in a cage. The Russians refer to a prisoner as “the American”. And that’s where we’re at. A full Stranger Things plot recap. Season four… LET’S GO.
If you fancy a rewatch binge after reading this Stranger Things plot recap, all episodes are streaming on Netflix. For all the latest Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.
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