The 'Stranger' tease: Five theories about J.J. Abrams' newest pop culture mystery

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J.J. Abrams cast a meaty hook into the Web waters on Aug. 19, a teaser for a new entertainment project that we may or may not know anything about. The mystery box angler loves using this kind of bait: “Stranger” is reminiscent of his puzzling promo stuff for Super-8 or the crypto-content that the Lost brain trust used to feed fans during hiatus. (Remember “The Last Supper” ads prior to season 6?) Decoding this kind of stuff isn’t for everyone. And for some, it annoys as much as it amuses. Regardless: We’re biting. Because we are easily amused, and because we ran out of Breaking Bad analysis to read, and because no one  knows how to bait a hook quite like J.J. Abrams. We love how he turns marketing hype into storytelling fun. What’s “Stranger” about? Five theories — none of which involve Star Wars Episode VII (we assume it’s still wayyy too early for that).

It’s a tease for NBC’s Believe, a new show from J.J. Abrams and director Alfonso Cuaron coming early next year. A sci-fi/fantasy series with elements reminiscent of Firestarter, Harry Potter, and Kung Fu, Believe concerns a girl named Bo (the spectacularly named Johnny Sequoyah) with emerging supernatural abilities, raised and protected by a group known as “True Believers” for a righteous purpose. Evil forces threaten to exploit, corrupt or destroy her, so the Believers bust a death row inmate out of the clink to serve as her bodyguard. The “Stranger” teaser shows a man with stringy hair crawling out of the ocean in the dead of night. This could be Bo’s protector, Tate (Jack McLaughlin),  who also has stringy hair, and we could be witnessing the dénouement of his prison escape. The seemingly sinister watcher with the stitched lips could be an evil agent. Or maybe the righteous, shadowy Believers prefer fearsome visages. Does this video presage a viral video series that will flesh out character backstory or mythology for Believe? Because that would be a cool idea.

It’s a tease for a new novel written by Doug Dorst in collaboration with J.J. Abrams, scheduled for publication on October 29. The book is entitled S. and Mulholland Books summarizes the opus hazily and thusly“At the core of this multilayered literary puzzle of love and adventure is a book of mysterious provenance. In the margins, another tale unfolds—through the hand-scribbled notes, questions, and confrontations of two readers. Between the pages, online, and in the real world, you’ll find evidence of their interaction, ephemera that bring this tale vividly to life.” In other words: S. is more than a novel. It’s a transmedia entertainment experience, with viral elements that apparently include this postcard from a seaside town in Brazil. Sounds like House of Leaves meets Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence meets The 39 Clues meets the cult classic UPN TV series Nowhere Man. Is the (amnesiac?) “Stranger” who washes up on the beach in the video the “S” of the book’s title? A telling clue? Dorst’s previous novels include Alive In Necropolis (sewn lips guy in video = living dead guy) and The Surf Guru (guy crawling out of surf = well, surf).

It’s a tease for a new TV series produced by J.J. Abrams for Warner Bros. Television based on the DC Comics superhero the Phantom Stranger. I really, really, really want this to be true.

It’s a tease for a Lost spin-off series, to be told through viral videos and other alt media. All new mysterious castaways! All new mysterious Others! All new mysterious mysteries to mystify and mystery mystery yadda yadda yadda mystery OH LIKE YOU DON’T WANT THIS.

It’s a tease for a Star Wars movie about a runaway Boba Fett clone who escapes the hatchery on Kamino and teams up with a rogue Jedi with sewn lips to open a fish taco stand on Tatooine. We couldn’t resist. But again, as utterly and totally plausible as this theory sounds: Too soon.

Your theories?

Twitter: @EWDocJensen

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