Why Is the Upside Down Frozen in 1983 and 1979?

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Image via Netflix

The following article contains spoilers for Stranger Things Season 4 Vol. 2.

More than any other season, season four of Stranger Things has been full of plot-propelling twists that have had, or will have, lasting repercussions going forward into the fifth and final season.

While some twists have been mind-blowing (can you say Henry Creel/One/Vecna anyone?) others have been subtle, but still important. One such twist was the discovery of a seemingly frozen-in-time Upside Down.  

In “Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab,” Nancy, Steve, Eddie, and Robin travel through the gate in Lover’s Lake — affectionately named the “Watergate” by Dustin — that Vecna created when he killed Lucas’ teammate, Patrick. There, they went to Mike and Nancy’s house to gather guns so they could kill Vecna. Except when they got to Nancy’s house they couldn’t find any guns, at least not where Nancy left them in the real world. 

Even more confusing than the absence of guns was the presence of things that Nancy had thrown out years earlier. While rummaging through her belongings, she found old study cards from sophomore year, old wallpaper that had long been replaced, and most damning of all, journal entries that stopped on November 6, 1983. 

“I think the reason that my guns aren’t here is because they don’t exist yet … This diary should be full of entries, it’s not. The last entry is November 6, 1983 — the day Will went missing; the day the gate opened. We’re in the past.”

Why is the Upside Down frozen in 1983 and not in 1979?

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Image via Netflix

A possible explanation for the Upside Down being stuck in 1983 could be that Eleven didn’t actually create a gate when she blasted Vecna into the Upside Down in 1979. A gate implies two-way travel, but the crack in the wall in the Rainbow Room suggests it was more of a shove and less of an opening. That crack never widened into a gate, at least not as far as we know, so it was more like a small opening that shut itself behind Vecna. 

Secondly, it could be that Eleven’s powers were so strong that she froze the Upside Down in time when she contacted the Demogorgon. She was terrified after all, and that could’ve done strange things to the parallel dimension (no pun intended).  

Thirdly, and even more confusingly, is the possibility the Upside Down is just a manifestation of Vecna’s mind, that he shaped it into a mirror of Hawkins after Eleven banished him. The Upside Down didn’t look like Hawkins at all when he arrived; it looked like a barren wasteland. Eleven opening the gate and Will disappearing might point to two potential weakness in Vecna, as both played a part in the day the Upside Down froze in time. Furthermore, it would suggest the Upside Down isn’t a parallel dimension at all, as we’ve come to know it. If that’s the case, it could have big implications for season five.

The Duffer Brothers confirmed that while season four leaned heavily into the Vecna storyline, season five will mostly be about the Upside Down itself. “What we haven’t really discussed is exactly what the Upside Down is,” Ross Duffer told Collider. “The big reveals that are coming in Season 5 are really about the Upside Down itself, which we only start to hint at.”

Sounds like we’ll have to wait until then to truly know why the Upside Down is frozen in 1983 and what that has to do with Eleven, Will, or Hawkins in general. Until then, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 of Stranger Things season four are now available to stream on Netflix.

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