My wife and I have been getting together with some neighbors to watch Stranger Things 2 since it first dropped last Friday. We managed to finish it on Halloween night, and I figured I’d share some thoughts on the season. Because this is a fresh release, I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers! But if you want to go in completely blind, stop reading now!
A couple of my friends were a bit put off by the slow build up of tension in Stranger Things 2. One of the best things about season one was the immediate sensation of being immersed in a bent reality. The lives of everyone in the story is turned upside-down 1, and viewers are dragged into their experiences. Season one began strange, and got stranger.
Because of the way season one resolved, however, this immediate descent wasn’t available for season two. The story begins almost a year after the prior events, and the protagonists are each trying to live normal lives in the wake of everything they’d experienced. This required the story to spend time deconstructing the fiction of normality before the new descent into strangeness can begin. Because the season is only nine episodes long, this can lead people to want the characters to jump right into the madness, which I can understand 2. On the other hand, when viewed as an arc, the deconstruction of the story is rather rewarding. “Crazy Joyce” also shows up again, which is always welcome 3.
The “giant spider” is teased in the Stranger Things 2 trailer and is, indeed, the “big bad” for the season. The nature of this creature, as well as it’s relationship to the upside-down, is pretty cool.
Hawkins lab is under new management, so their threat is more due to government incompetence than anything else. The characters have a much different relationship with the lab in season two, and I enjoyed how it played out. The lab isn’t wiped from the antagonist board, however, and this is good. The extra threat of the Hawkins Lab conspiracy added to the tension in season one, and its brought back in a good way for the follow up.
The main cast is all back 4, and each character continues their development as they cope with their experiences. I especially liked Mike’s portrayal as he continues to mourn the loss of Eleven, but without the wisdom or words to express what what’s experiencing. Will’s attempt to appear back to his old self is also great, and Lucas and Dustin have their usual banter. Dustin is, by far, the break out among the core party – he’s got the best lines! Nancy and Steve each grow as characters this season, but Jonathan is a bit overshadowed. I wish they’d have found more for him to do. Hopper remains a support for Joyce which helps expand the defender role he took up with reluctance in season one. I can’t say anything about Eleven without giving away her entire arc.
Three of the four main newcomers are also developed well. Bob, played by Sean Astin 5, is joyce’s new adorkable love interest. Paul Reiser plays a new doctor up at the lab, and he’s got a worthy character arc. Max, played by Sadie Sink, is a great addition to the younger party and she adds a new wrinkle into their middle school dynamic. The fourth new character doesn’t seem to play any significant role, other than demonstrate 80’s bad boy stereotypes 6. I’m not sure of the the point of him.
The Enjoyment Factor
I did enjoy Stranger Things 2. It didn’t accelerate though the plot as much as its predecessor, but the characters did all change and grow in ways which helped them face a new threat. The plot had more unnecessary rabbit trails than season one, but most of these resolve in the end. The cinematography remains an homage to my 80’s childhood, and the amount of easter eggs lying around Hawkins, Indiana would keep me watching even if the story wasn’t intriguing.
Stranger Things 2 is worth the binge watch, but if you want the full effect grab some friends and watch a couple of episodes at a time. If the friends tend to scream, or comment on the nostalgia factor, that’s even better. Either way this is a quality piece of entertainment.
- See what I did there? ↩
- And there is one episode which seems like nothing more than an interlude, or setup for future stories, which was a bit frustrating. ↩
- Winona Ryder does an amazing job with her character. ↩
- Except for Barb. May she rest in peace. ↩
- The original Gooney! ↩
- He even has an earring straight out of The Lost Boys. ↩