About halfway through the second season of Netflix’s smash hit science-fiction/horror/adventure show Stranger Things, one of the new characters – a tomboyish redheaded teen named Max – finally learns the big secret that her friends have been keeping from her. Her school chum Lucas explains how their mutual pal Will Byers spent part of the previous year ensnared by an extra-dimensional monster in a realm called “the Upside Down.” After she patiently listens to the whole tangled yarn, Max shrugs that, while it’s a good story, “It just felt it was a little derivative in parts.”
That line is Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer’s clever little wink at anyone else who’s ever noted that their work is … well, let’s just say it’s a bit heavy with the homages.
Set in the 1980s, this show has, from the first episode onward, borrowed liberally from the pop culture of its chosen era – from Stephen King to Steven Spielberg. Season Two – or Stranger Things 2, as the brothers have dubbed it – repeats and deepens those connections to the Duffer twins’ formative influences, while adding some new nods that’ll delight anyone who pines for the days of synth-driven John Carpenter soundtracks and Flock of Seagulls hairstyles.
For those of you who didn’t just spent the weekend binging Stranger Things 2, be warned: There are spoilers ahead. But for those who did, here’s a guide to some of the cultural signifiers, coded references and blatant steals in the this year’s nine episodes.