Last summer, Stranger Things was unleashed on an unsuspecting populous and took Netflix by storm. It captured our imagination and pulled at our nostalgia heartstrings, giving us the perfect love letter to 80s horror, genre, and family adventure films. It was John Carpenter meets The Goonies. This year, many waited with great anticipation for the follow up series, Stranger Things 2. Unlike it’s first outing, the show now had a lot to live up to. It’s a difficult task to deliver on the same level when fans are expecting it. Thankfully, The Duffer Brothers and company did just that with a fantastic second season.
In Stranger Things 2, we rejoin our cast in the fall of 1984. The citizens of Hawkins, Indiana are still reeling from the horrors of the Demogorgon and the secrets of Hawkins Lab. Will Byers has been rescued from the Upside Down but a bigger, more sinister entity still threatens those who survived. Will appears to have a connection to this entity and it plays on the dynamic of the party. We’re also introduced to new characters, including Maxine (Mad Max) who becomes a new ally to the group, and Dr. Owen (played by Paul Reiser) who’s been brought in to clean up the mess left by Dr. Brenner. It doesn’t take long for things to turn rotten in Hawkins.
The big mistake that most sequels make is to just reuse the devices and beats that made the first one work. Stranger Things 2 does not fall into this trap. While the nostalgic references and stunt casting of the first season are there, they’re not presented in the same way. Not every scene is an immediate homage to an 80s film. There is still a great deal of homage, but it’s presented in a more subtle way this time around. The characters also don’t fall into old habits as we get to see new and different alliances. These combinations of characters lead to some great bits of drama and comedy and really keep the series fresh.
Probably the strongest element of change in this season is the development of the supporting cast. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) takes a back seat for most of the season, playing sidekick to the mentally disturbed Will. The power players among the kids this year are Lucas and Dustin (Caleb McLaughlin and Gaten Matarazzo) who each have an interesting story arc involving the new kid, Max (Sadie Sink). A lot more depth is also given to Steve Harrington (played by Joe Keery). He evolves from the stereotypical highschool “cool kid” into an unwitting babysitter and mentor for the kids.
The performance of the entire cast is on point without a single weak link. While I thought Winona Ryder was a bit too desperate in the first season, she is rock solid this time. Her arc in this season is far more compelling and her eye for “decorating” has not been lost. Her chemistry with Sean Aston as her boyfriend, Bob Newby, is sweet and endearing and adds to the drama later in the series. Aston is a great addition to the cast and has one of the best scenes of the entire show in episode eight.
The only real weak point in the season would have to be the inclusion of Episode 7: The Lost Sister. This episode shows one of the lead characters go on an adventure outside of Hawkins. It’s there to present a bigger universe for the story and reveal new motivation for this character in the final scenes. The problem is that it sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s an obvious back door pilot for a group of characters that come off as a low rent X-Men. While the episode is still good in it’s production, it’s kind of rings hollow to the rest of the season and almost deflates the tension that was so well built in episode 6. It doesn’t ruin the series by any stretch, but it doesn’t help it either. Thankfully, the series gets back on track with the following episode.
If you were a fan of the first season, you will definitely love Stranger Things 2. The characters have evolved nicely and the stakes are way higher this time around. Stranger Things 2 is now available on Netflix. If you haven’t already binged it, what are you waiting for?
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!
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