Stranger Things Season 1 – the essential recap ahead of this weekend’s binge

Spoilers ahead

Season 2 of Stranger Things is finally here; but before you don’t move from your sofa for an entire day, you’ll need to recap on the action of Stranger Things season one.

For those who don’t have time to re-watch the entire series, here’s an extremely helpful (yet extremely concise…ish) recap.

The beginning and Will’s disappearance

The opening sees a scientist in a laboratory in the town of Hawkins being attacked by an unseen creature.

After a game of Dungeons and Dragons with his pals (Mike, Dustin and Lucas), 12-year-old Will Byers bikes home, encounters the creature and vanishes. This sets up the initial mystery of the show – what happened to Will Byers.

Finding Eleven

The day after Will Byers disappears, Eleven appears: a young, vulnerable girl with a shaven head who doesn’t speak much. Breaking into a diner in her hospital gown, she steals food. The owner, Benny, takes pity and feeds her and tries to start a conversation, learning that her name is Eleven from the tattoo on her arm. Benny is later killed by a woman who comes to the diner pretending to be a social worker; but as armed men search the diner, Eleven escapes.

Meanwhile, Will Byer’s mother Joyce searches for her missing son – believing that he’d phoned her, starting Joyce’s ongoing communication with her son through various household electronics.

Mike, Dustin and Lucas sneak out to search for Will, but instead, they find Eleven, and they bring her to Mike’s house where she hides in the basement. Unwilling to talk to them, Eleven does reveal that “bad people” are searching for her. Initial skittish and mistrusting – when Mike wants to tell his parents about Eleven she uses telekinesis to shut a door so he can’t – revealing her powers.

Stranger Things' Barb

The disappearance of Barb

Teenagers Nancy (Mike’s angsty older sister) and Barb head to a party at her boyfriend Steve’s house. Barb, unimpressed by their drinking and flirting, argues with Nancy and then leaves. Sitting on the side of the pool, she vanishes (in the same way Will Byers did).

Meanwhile Will Byers’ older brother Jonathan Byers searches the woods where Will went missing – taking photos of what could be important, and hears screams. Running to help, he realises it’s the teenagers at the party, and continues to photograph them from afar.

Barb then wakes up in a crumbling version of the pool, screams and is dragged down by the unseen creature. This is the last we really see of Barb.

Joyce communicates with Will using lights

After several phone calls from Will, and his music turning on in his room – his mother Joyce strings up fairy lights and uses them to communicate with him (as he can turn them on and off somehow). Will manages to speak to his Mother, revealing he’s alive; but Joyce’s hopes are crushed when Will’s alleged body is found in the quarry.

The Sheriff searches for Will

Sheriff Hopper has been searching for Will, first believing he’d just run off to his fathers house; but then realising it was something more sinister.

He visits the Hawkins Lab, who show him some security footage to prove Will had never been there – which turns out to be doctored. Sheriff Hopper then starts to look into the laboratory, and the Hawkins Lab director Dr. Martin Brenner.

Nancy looks for Barb

Missing her friend – Nancy starts to look for Barb. Whilst searching in the woods, she sees a creature. Nancy and her friends also find the photos Jonathan took of them, and she keeps one he took of Barb sitting by the pool, where she can see some sort of figure standing behind Barb. Nancy also tries to tell the police about Barb being missing – but they think she’s run off.

Eleven’s origins

In flashbacks it’s revealed that Eleven’s father was Dr. Martin Brenner, the director of the Hawkins Lab, and that she was locked up in the laboratory to work on her telekinesis skills.

Eleven communicates with Will

Eleven makes contact with Will using a walkie-talkie, and then goes to school with Mike, Dustin and Lucas to use the better tech equipment there to try and contact him again. The boys decide that Will is still alive but trapped in an alternative dimension, which they call “The Upside Down”, and that the monster is the “Demogorgon” (nicknamed after the Demogorgon in Dungeons and Dragons).

Nancy and Jonathan continue to search

The unlikely duo of Nancy and Jonathan look for Barb and Will. Searching the woods where they disappear, Nancy manages to crawl into the Upside Down. The Demogorgon attacks Nancy, but she manages to get away. The duo decide that they’re going to kill the Demogorgon.

Sheriff Hopper discovers the truth of Hawkins Lab

Searching the Laboratory – Sheriff Hopper finds the entrance to the Upside Down, before being knocked out by guards and waking up at home (where he finds his apartment has been bugged). He then hunts down and visits a woman called Terry Ives – who’s daughter went missing (around the time Eleven appeared – leading them to conclude that the missing girl is Eleven).

Government agents start to look

Government agents start to look for Eleven, alongside Dr Brenner – questioning Mike’s family and searching for Joyce.

Eleven finds Will and Barb

Using a paddling pool filled with water and salt to help isolate her powers, Eleven (aided by the boys, Nancy and Jonathan, and Joyce and Hopper), uses her powers to telekinetically enter the Upside Down and search for Barb and Will. She realises that Barb is dead, and Will is dying. Joyce, determined to find her son heads to Hawkins Laboratory to go into the Upside Down and look for him. Hopper gives up Eleven’s location – so that they’re allowed inside.

The ending

Jonathan and Nancy set a trap for the Demogorgon – managing to wound it. Government agents arrive at the school where the boys and Eleven are – Eleven manages to kill most of the agents, but collapses with the exhaustion.

In the Upside Down Joyce and Hopper find the Demogorgon’s nest, where Will is. They manage to save him, and Hopper performs CPR getting him to breathe.

The Demogorgon then appears at the school, where Brenner is cradling Eleven (by now revealed to be his daughter). As the Demogorgon attacks Brenner (his fate left unknown), the boys and Eleven run away. The monster finds them – and Eleven manages to destroy it, but in doing so, vanishes herself.

Will Byers survives – and is reunited with family and friends in hospital.

One month later

The last thing we saw were the Byers reunited enjoying Christmas, and the boys are back to usual enjoying playing Dungeons and Dragons.

But the ending of season one is left on a cliff hanger: we see Will Byers cough up some sort of slug like creature (and have a vision of the world as the Upside Down) and see Sheriff Hopper leaves food in a box in the woods – which could be for Eleven.