Warning: spoilers for Episode 8 ahead! The Shadow Monster is the main antagonist of Stranger Things Season 2, but understanding what it is and what it wants is difficult at times. It doesn't communicate or really make its message clear; it's just an ominous, incomprehensible threat. In an effort to make sense of it, Dustin turned to the same thing that helped make sense of last year's Demogorgon: Dungeons and Dragons. In the eighth episode of Stranger Things' second season, Dustin said that the Shadow Monster is a Mind Flayer. But what does that even mean?
It's not a literal description of what the Shadow Monster is, but an analogy to help contextualize it and determine what it wants. The Dungeons and Dragons character known as the Mind Flayer is a monster from an unknown dimension that is, in Dustin's words, "so ancient that it doesn't even know its true home." The Mind Flayer instead takes over the homes of others by using its psionic powers to enslave different races in other dimensions. It believes itself to be superior to every other being in the universe, so it wants to conquer everyone. The Shadow Monster may not literally be a Mind Flayer, but it's a decent analogy because the two creatures do have quite a lot in common.
The Shadow Monster operates by creating a hive mind: infiltrating the brains of its victims to control them and get them to do its bidding. The Mind Flayer does exactly the same thing. Though in the world of Stranger Things, one is fictional and one is real, however, their modus operandi is identical. That means that understanding the Mind Flayer could provide a key to understanding — and then defeating — the Shadow Monster. It's also a nice touch that mirrored Season 1's discovery and labeling of the Demogorgon, utilizing something the kids were familiar with to find a way to explain the unfamiliar.
It's unclear, at least by Episode 8, whether the Shadow Monster shares the Mind Flayer's belief that everything else in the universe is inferior. It's evident the Shadow Monster wants to take over, but it's hard to say whether that is out of a conscious, maniacal desire for control or just a biological imperative to spread like the virus it is. It's also unclear whether the Shadow Monster can be destroyed in the same way the Mind Flayer can, though it gives the characters their first hint at how doing so might be possible.
In Dungeons and Dragons, the Mind Flayer is defeated by raising an army of the undead. Zombies have no brains for the Mind Flayer to take over, so they are a safe weapon to use against it. Creating an army of zombies isn't exactly plausible for the people of Hawkins (though one would imagine with an Upside Down version of the town unleashing hell every year, anything is possible), so they have to take a different route. If the Mind Flayer is killed, then everything it controls will die too. Perhaps if they kill the Shadow Monster, then all of its minions will fall as well and the entire ordeal can be over.
Odds are it won't be that easy to get rid of the Shadow Monster (especially since there are probably going to be at least two more seasons of Stranger Things and many more threats to dispose of) because they have to find its location and figure out how to kill it first. But the theory is the initial step that could lead to victory, or so everyone hopes. Dungeons and Dragons may have come through to save the day one more time.
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