There are a lot of unpleasant things you can say about the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from which monsters and world-ending calamities originate in Stranger Things. It’s dark. It smells. It’s full of nasty creatures that should not have wings but do anyway. It’s inhospitable to human life. But I live in New York City, so I’m used to all that. The Upside Down, however, is unpleasant in one way that I simply cannot abide by.
The Upside Down is too wet.
Other viewers have catalogued the purple prose in the show’s closed captions in detail, so I will just say that I counted at least 24 variations of something happening “wetly,” something squelching, or something slithering—and I know I missed some. That’s also not counting the times I definitely heard something moist happening, without a caption to describe it to me. The Upside Down is so wet that the closed caption artist had to describe tentacles as “ichorous,” before they just threw their hands in the air in defeat and went back to the ever-reliable “wet squelch.”
I can handle some dampness—my home clime is famous for rain, and anyone who’s ever been to a subway station will rightfully point out the well-known phenomenon of subway juice. But that’s all just gross, and I’m not arguing from a place of disgust here. No, I am arguing from a place of unwavering moral righteousness.
The Upside Down’s moisture isn’t just nasty: It’s an affront to the laws of nature, a flagrant flouting of the rules of physics that’s way more severe than a hole in the fabric of time and space. And if the Duffers won’t respect these sacred laws, then it falls to me.
Consider this: While pretty much everything in the Upside Down is coated in a patina of goo, where is the water? Stranger Things Season 4 alone featured two places that have lots of water in the real world—a lake and a pool—that are bone-dry (save for the tentacles) on the other side.
The whole place is constantly beset by thunderstorms and lightning, but we never see it rain. And I find it VERY hard to believe that a) running water still works in the Upside Down and b) demo-bats are smart enough to figure out a tap. Those little dumb-dumbs heard a bootleg Metallica concert and thought, “Oh, that sounds like something we should go check out and leave our master completely defenseless! Go team!”
This presents a paradox. In the Upside Down, everything is wet, but there is no water to make it so. Humans have not found a single life form that can survive without water, which is why when we’re looking for life on distant moons, we look for liquid water, like on Europa. But you mean to tell me that not only is there a distressing amount of life in the Upside Down, but it’s also all covered in moisture, just to spite me?
And to make matters worse, we see Vecna exploring an early version of the Upside Down in the Season 4 finale—it looks like a desert, and yet, there are STILL wet tentacles all over the place! I ask again: WHERE did the water come from?! I did not spend four years getting a biology degree to see the fundamental tenets of science disrespected like this!
This is not a complaint about the Upside Down being too wet because it’s icky. No, this is a jeremiad against a childish disregard for life itself. Is no one else clocking this?! Am I the only one who sees the truth: that if life in the Upside Down is wet like the gods of Stranger Things, the caption writers, and the Duffer Brothers tell me it is, then there has to be water? But there is no water in the Upside Down, so either LAWS of NATURE mean NOTHING or GOD LIED TO ME?
Clearly, I am preaching gospel that the Duffers aren’t ready to hear yet. But there is hope—there’s still one more season of this indictable show left to make things right. Either the Duffers grow up and show me some freaking water in the hellworld that is now Hawkins as well as the Upside Down, or everyone wins the day by surrounding Vecna with dehumidifiers and returning him to his rightful, desiccated self. The real victory of Stranger Things will not be in saving Hawkins—screw Hawkins. It will be in restoring the natural order of the entire universe: in which things that should be dry stay dry.