Warning: spoilers ahead for Episode 6! The Demogorgon stalked the protagonists of Stranger Things throughout its first season, up until its toothy dandelion face was smashed to smithereens by Eleven in the finale. The newest installment in the show introduced a brand new monster: an immense, spindly creature made of smoky vines that twisted their way through Hawkins and into Will Byers. But are the two creatures one and the same? Is the Shadow Monster a Demogorgon on Stranger Things? They come from the same place so they're definitely connected, but it's difficult to say if they're the same species.
The second season of Stranger Things gives its viewers a zoological look at Demogorgons through the introduction of D'Argentan, better known as Dart. Dart started off as a teeny tiny slug-like thing that Dustin found in his garbage and took a liking to, assuming it was some kind of new animal that hadn't yet been discovered. Dart grew quickly, sprouting arms and legs out of its gelatinous body until it slowly but steadily started to resemble the mature monster that had been such trouble in the first season. The infant Demogorgons had found their way back into Hawkins at the end of Season 1, and in Stranger Things Season 2 they're spawning a whole fleet of slimy, flower-faced lizard-creatures with a fondness for human flesh.
But what does any of that have to do with the Shadow Monster, aside from a shared address in the Upside Down?
The Shadow Monster does not appear to share the same physical form as the Demogorgon because it's made of some kind of dense, ever-shifting fog. However, it also has vines creeping through Hawkins underground that, when cut, do resemble the flesh of the Demogorgon. Both creatures also avoid fire and love the cold, probably because of their shared chilly origins in the Upside Down. There is a chance that the Shadow Monster is the next evolution of the Demogorgon, which viewers didn't get to see in Season 1 because Eleven killed it first. It could be like a Pokémon: leveling up from baby slug to Demogorgon to terrifyingly large smoke beast.
But there is another possibility. It's just as plausible that the Demogorgons are different creatures, but ones that answer to the Shadow Monster. The Shadow Monster could be the demon boss, the entity that's in charge of everything but operates by delegating to its many hosts. When Will's doctor was trying to explain his theory about what was going on to Joyce and Hopper, he described the smoke monster as a virus. Viruses spread after attaching to the host, maybe even taking over entirely.
These Upside Down creatures are able to communicate with each other as though they are in a hive. Hosts like Will and the baby Demogorgons belong to the same entity or virus, which can use them to do its bidding. That could be why Will felt pain when the Shadow Monster's vines were burned, but not when the Demogorgons took a wallop from Steve's nail-studded bat. The Demogorgons are different from the Shadow Monster but, like Will, they act as hosts for it. Will and the Demogorgons are like co-workers in hell.
Regardless of how it all breaks down biologically in the made-up world of the Upside Down, the Shadow Monster appears to be the one that is actually in control. It's the main villain that's behind everything, the puppet master pulling the strings and making the plans. What it wants isn't totally clear but perhaps, like a virus, it just can't stop itself from spreading farther and farther, infecting everyone and everything in its path.
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