All The ‘Stranger Things’ Easter Eggs You Might Have Missed
Yes, that really is Arnold Schwarzenegger's 'Conan' sword.
Stranger Things Volume 2 is an ambitious, sprawling gut-punch; a cinematic treat that I absolutely loved. And apart from denying us the much-needed return of the bromance between Steve and Dustin we crave (and deserve, dammit), it was a solid entry into the Stranger Things saga.
But now that it has bulldozered its way into our homes and our hearts, it’s time to sift through the glorious rubble and peer at some of the easter eggs we may have missed.
— Be warned: This article will absolutely ruin Volume 2 for you if you haven’t watched it yet! —
When I’m lying on my deathbed, there’ll be three things flashing through my head as the life drains out of me. My wedding day in Paris, my Academy Award win (shut up, it could happen), and the sight of Hopper eviscerating a Demogorgon with a goddamned broadsword.
In what might be the most wonderfully batshit yet completely vital and sincere moments of catharsis in the entire show, the scarred, tortured, beaten-down Hopper picks up a very heavy-looking sword and uses it to lay waste to his oldest foe. And he does it in slow-motion, with Journey’s ‘Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)’ as the soundtrack.
In Volume 1, it’s established that prisoners are being forced to fight the Demogorgon to harden it up for battle and fatten it up in the process. We catch a glimpse of a weapon cabinet at one end of the killing floor, true. But when Hopper reached down and picked up the sword, I had to make a note to look something up once the carnage was done. You see, the sword looked familiar to me. Very familiar.
Turns out that not only does the sword look exactly like Conan’s Atlantean sword from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan films… it’s the actual sword from those films. This morning, David Harbour himself revealed on Insta that it wasn’t a recreation at all. It’s the same sword. It’s Conan’s sword. “It was heavy as hell, and a tremendous honour to wield,” said Harbour. The scene already kicked arse: now it kicks arse like a barbarian.
The final episode of Stranger Things 4 leaves Max in somewhat of a shitty state. I’m convinced that she’s going to return as some walker-between-worlds ace in the hole during the final battle against Vecna in Stranger Things 5, but for now, she’s well and truly comatose. As she lies in a hospital bed, utterly ruined and unresponsive, Lucas reads to her.
But what is he reading? Well, Stephen King and Peter Straub’s iconic work The Talisman. As far as King books go it’s an absolute banger, but more importantly, The Duffer Brothers and Steven Spielberg are working on a Netflix adaptation.
One of the reasons Steven King adaptations fail so spectacularly is because it’s almost impossible to capture the visceral tone of his voice — nobody writes like King, and nothing has the… well, I guess you’d call it the literary mouthfeel of King. But with Stranger Things, The Duffer Brothers have somehow fused everything that makes King’s best works pop — plucky kids, nasty bullies, pelting around small towns on bicycles as you’re hounded by ungodly, otherworldly threats. If anyone can make The Talisman fly, it’s the Duffer Brothers.
There are actually two pretty fantastic references to the 1978 horror masterpiece, Halloween. Firstly, Eddie Munson’s mask, pilfered from Max. The original Michael Myers mask was a death mask made for Star Trek — a cast of William Shatner’s face. Well, that’s the mask that Eddie wears that same mask to disguise himself en route to the RV which he and the crew boost off two justifiably furious rednecks. Actually, you know what? Maybe they aren’t rednecks. Maybe they just enjoy life on the road. Who am I to judge?
The second Halloween reference is a really neat homage to the apparent death of Myers himself, in the first Halloween film. As the movie builds to its terrifying conclusion, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) shoots Michael several times, a pretty good call, tbh. Michael falls through a second-story window and lands on the ground below.
When Loomis heads downstairs to check, Michael’s body is gone. In the final showdown with Vecna, the same thing happens! Nancy blows Vecna out the upstairs window, and once they head downstairs, voila. No Vecna. There are overt clumsy references, and there are stylish homages. This is the latter.
In another nod to a seminal Stephen King work, Max retreats to her safe place: the school dance where she danced and macked on with Lucas. It’s a fine choice for a psychic retreat. But when Vecna does eventually find her, the balloons festooning each table begin to fill with blood and explode, evoking the scene in Carrie where Sissy Spacek’s red-headed heroine has her prom ruined thanks to being drenched with pig’s blood.
In Carrie, she’s the one who unleashes hell at prom with her psychic powers. In Stranger Things, it’s El who shows up with her psychic powers on show. Either way, it’s a fantastic nod to Carrie and a really timely reminder that if you don’t want to go to prom, sis, you don’t have to.
Look, I have to level with you: Murray is straight-up one of the winners of Stranger Things 4. Not only was his freakish ability to actually use karate in a combat scenario a stunning reversal of every sidekick trope ever to grace the screen (his fingers are like arrows, dammit), but he also clearly cares. He might grumble, but he shows up. He risks his life for Joyce and Hopper. Oh, and he cooks. I would kill to try his risotto.
So when Murray tells Hopper ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this’, he’s evoking Han Solo in the best way possible. The odds are terrible, and their foe will probably kill them. But much like in Star Wars, they’re breaking back into an impenetrable gulag in a small, rickety vehicle, trying to pull off the impossible to help their ragtag crew of friends survive a terrible threat. It’s the kind of subtle Star Wars easter egg that really hits home.
There are countless other easter eggs in Stranger Things 4, obviously. The fact that Robin’s crush dresses almost exactly like Brat Pack-era Molly Ringwald. Or the fact that the music being played in the gun store is by an artist named Rick Derringer. You see, Stranger Things is allowed to lean on references and pastiche, largely because it does it so much better than anyone else.
Paul Verhoeven is an author, broadcaster and TV presenter. His books Electric Blue and Loose Units are out now through Penguin, and he hosts the podcasts Dish Island and Loose Units. You can find him on Twitter, Instagram, and in person, if you can (he’s very good at hiding).