A lot of crazy stuff has gone down in the past four seasons of Stranger Things; interdimensional kidnappings, Soviet spy rings operating out of a suburban shopping mall, Eleven somehow not realizing that Eggo waffles kind of suck. But arguably, the hardest thing to swallow about this beloved series so far is how the cast has aged over the years … 

We get that these are just actors, and no part of this show is actually real (thankfully), but it’s nevertheless kind of jarring. Within the world of the show, our core group of characters are supposed to be fresh-faced kids in their early teens – but since far more time has passed in the real world, they look less like high school students and more like Never Been Kissed-style undercover reporters who are secretly old enough to buy beer or rent a U-Haul.

For most TV shows, child actors aging beyond the timeline of the story is a major problem, hence why Walt was written out of Lost, and there were roughly 35 Bobby Drapers on Mad Men. But is it possible that Stranger Things is uniquely poised to fix this issue using its kooky sci-fi concepts? And could it be that the show has already laid the groundwork for such a twist in the first part of season four?

In the first batch of season four episodes, Nancy, Steve, and the gang travel to the Upside Down, and discover that, not unlike your great aunt’s fashion choices, it’s still stuck in 1983. The monster-filled parallel dimension has seemingly been frozen in time ever since Will was first taken back in season one. This is weird since the first “gate” between worlds was created in 1979, implying that time did flow in the Upside Down, but it has subsequently stopped.

Clearly, something is up with the way time flows in this universe. One possibility is that the Upside Down is paused because it is leeching time from our universe in order to sustain itself. Perhaps, as soon as Will crossed between dimensions, the Upside Down began absorbing the chronological essence of Hawkins, prematurely aging its inhabitants. 

Which sounds nuts, but it’s not like the show’s creators haven’t previously admitted that they’re looking for (albeit less wacky) narrative ways to make sense out of the cast’s ages. Plus, this idea may have been visually baked into recent episodes, since Vecna’s attacks are always preceded by a vision of his family’s old clock.

Which would make thematic sense if it turns out that he’s some kind of time vampire – and really, what could possibly be scarier than a living embodiment of the ravages of time?

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