Stranger Things 2’s Controversy Proved The Show’s Genius Location Trick

Most of Stranger Things takes place in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, and season 2 proves just how genius the writers were to set the show away from a big city. Stranger Things revolves around a group of kids who stumble upon their town’s deadly secrets: a monstrous alternate dimension, a secret lab, and a superpowered girl named Eleven. Eleven has thus far spent her entire life confined in labs or otherwise hidden away from society, so she has little experience with the outside world. This is where the small-town setting comes in handy.

In season 2, Eleven runs away from her home in Hawkins to reconnect with fragmented memories of her past, which includes a long-lost “sister” from Eleven’s days in the Rainbow Room. In Chicago, Eleven meets Kali, AKA Eight, whose gang of misfits is looking for revenge against her former captors. The episode stands alone from the rest of the season, focusing solely on Eleven and her attempts to master her powers amid Chicago’s bustle. Luckily for the show’s genre, the setting change doesn’t last too long before Eleven returns to Hawkins.

Stranger Things 2 Proved Hawkins, Indiana Is A Perfect Setting

Until Stranger Things season 2 followed Eleven into Chicago, the series had never spent much time outside of Hawkins and the surrounding area, and season 2, episode 7, “The Lost Sister,” proves that was the right call. Hawkins’ acute isolation as a small town allows its plot to intertwine many different genres and complex details without overcomplicating the narrative: Stranger Things’ superpowered kids, government conspiracies, and otherworldly monsters would have been overwhelming in a bigger city, and possibly less frightening as well. It’s the perfect compromise: while Hawkins is small enough to accommodate the type of community necessary for its plot, it’s large enough to still have connections with the surrounding bigger cities.

Ultimately, Hawkins is the perfect setting for Stranger Things because the Upside Down would simply compete too much with the complexities of metropolitan areas. Hopper’s role as the town’s sheriff just wouldn’t have been as impactful if the town had been big enough to require a full police force, nor would Eleven’s existence have been able to so easily remain under the radar. Hawkins’ size also means that its community has limited access to the kind of help they need as the plot shifts between uncovering conspiracies to escaping monsters and back again. Once the action moved to Chicago, the scenes lost their charm, as the horror unfolding in a small, rural town adds to the mystery of it all.

Why Stranger Things 5 Still Needs To Revisit The Lost Sister

Even though the plot of Stranger Things works better in Hawkins’ small-town setting, bits of Eleven’s metropolitan adventure deserve a closer look. Kali’s unique powers and history with Eleven created a whole new supply of questions that the Duffer brothers have yet to answer. Especially considering Kali was conspicuously missing from Eleven’s flashbacks of the lab in Stranger Things 4, the show needs to bring her story back in order to keep her from becoming a plot hole. Not only that, but she provided an opportunity to explore Eleven’s relationships within the Rainbow Room as well as specifics about the kids’ powers.

After four seasons, Stranger Things has yet to exhaust its use of Hawkins’ small-town feel as a plot device. However, with a time jump on the horizon for its final season, it will be interesting to see just how far things will stray from the norm. Hopefully, most of the action stays close to home, but it’s likely some of the characters will be venturing into other cities. With the lab and most of the entrances to the Upside Down being fixed in Hawkins, however, it’s safe to assume that the town will continue to be a valuable setting for the show.