STRANGER THINGS [Season 2 Review]: Something Strange this way Comes!
It’s rare when a sequel of a smash hit is on par with its predecessor. But like Empire Strikes Back to A New Hope, Stranger Things‘ Season 2 does not disappoint. Last season left us with a ton of unanswered questions. Did Eleven die? What the hell was going on with Will in the bathroom before his Christmas dinner? Are Nancy and Steve really as happy as they seem, or does she have the hots for Jonathan? What was the aftermath of that deal Hopper made with those crooked government mad scientists? And, of course, is there any sort of acknowledgement of Barb’s demise? Thankfully, they all get answered.
Season 2 picks up roughly a year later. Our four beloved nerds have moved on past Dungeon and Dragons and spend all their time at the arcade. Unfortunately for Will, his problems have only got-ten worse where he has had to deal with a year of shifting back and forth between our reality, and the Upside Down. As part of the deal Hopper made, Will has to keep going back to Hawkins Lab where the new head of the department Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) conducts tests and concludes that Will’s visions of being in the Upside Down are merely flashbacks caused by trauma. Kind of a no brainer but obviously we the audience realize that is false. We soon learn that an even bigger prob-lem threatens not only Hawkins, but our reality as we know it, namely a new creature referred to as the Shadow Monster.
In addition to the introduction of Sam Owes, there are a few new characters that serve to keep the series fresh and interesting. Joyce has a new boyfriend named Bob Newby (Sean Astin) who is a geek that works at Radio Shack but also serves as the positive father figure Will and Jonathan des-perately need. Since Steve had his moment of redemption near the end of Season 1 he has quickly changed into a very likable character, but has his own problems when a new bad boy named Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) shows up in town and becomes the new “king” of high school. Nancy feels extremely guilty about Barb and that guilt has created a friction rotting the roots of her relationship with Steve.
Billy has a little step-sister named Max (Sadie Sink) who quickly draws the attention of Lucas and Dustin and it ends up creating a love triangle. Mike is still dealing with the absence of Eleven and quickly grows to resent Max, seeing that she is stealing the attention of two of his best friends. What Mike doesn’t know is that Eleven is still alive and is being protected by Hopper in an isolated cabin in the forest.
The addition of these new characters allows Season 2 to explore story arcs that pair together several characters we wouldn’t necessarily expect to be duos. Steve and Dustin grow a bond. Mike and Will spend a good amount of the season away from Dustin and Lucas. The most intense relation-ship is that of Eleven and Hopper, who has kept it secret from everyone that she is alive and well. She wants to see Mike and has grown frustrated with isolation. We also see that her powers have also grown in strength.
One of the biggest controversies of the season is a stand alone episode where Eleven leaves Haw-kins alone to find her mother and a “sister” who is also a super human called Eight (Linnea Berthel-sen). Eight, also known as Kali, are not related by blood, but went through hell together during Brenner’s experiments in Hawkins lab. Eleven ends up traveling to Chicago and reunites with Eight who spends her time with a gang of thugs who are tracking down the retired member’s of Brenner’s group and taking revenge by killing and robbing them. While it could be the pilot episode of a stand alone Eleven spin off series, it raises one unanswered question from Season 1: Is Brenner still alive? The problem with the episode is that it takes place after a cliffhanger episode and it interrupts the pacing of the primary Hawkins story with Will and the Shadow Monster.
Overall Season 2 wraps up the loose ends and leaves us feeling a sense of
completion. Like a good sequel, it’s tone is much darker. Everyone is dealing with the emotional baggage of all the crap that happened a year ago. We get to see more development and it’s fun to see how the characters from last season are evolving. The scale is bigger as well. The Duffer Brothers spent no expense as there are many more intense CGI sequences that make the vibe feel much more like a movie rather than a show. Like last year, I watched the whole season in a day and once it was done I felt myself wanting more. Only complaint I have is that the season’s conclusion drags on longer than it should have and it feels like they added a bunch of filler material that really didn’t need to be there. Unlike last season, there really aren’t any cliffhanger moments that leave us asking too many questions about what will happen next year, and that might actually be a good thing. The Duffer Brothers have left it open where anything can happen in the next season and I hope they explore new possi-bilities that create stories we have set to see in the town of Hawkins. Bottom line, watch it and watch it now!
I give it 4/5 Bibles.