Stranger Things - Season 2 - Review
One of the biggest phenomena to ever hit Netflix was a little show called Stranger Things. A year later, it is one of the most talked about shows in television history and has cemented itself in the pop culture lexicon forever. Season 2 is here, and if it was just almost as good as the first season, it would have pleased people. So continue reading to see how season 2 stacked up against its predecessor.
There will be SPOILERS ahead. Do not read if you haven't watched yet.
The first season played like a singular eight hour movie, with every episode building upon the last. It was one big self-contained story. The second season did the same thing, to the point where it is being called Stranger Things 2. As mentioned above, it would have been good if season 2 was almost as good as season 1. It wasn't. It was just as good, if not better.
Sequels are difficult to get correct. A sequel needs to elevate, expand, evolve and enrich what came before it. The four "E's" are essential to a sequel's success. This does those things in nearly every way possible. The only thing it did suffer from was that you knew what to expect - not specific plot points, but you knew what world you entering. You knew how people would think, what their dynamic would be, and how this is "supposed to go". That isn't necessarily a bad thing though, it is like seeing an old friend after a year apart and catching up on their life - the familiar giving you things you've never heard before.
The returning characters all get something to do. They all get expanded and have natural arcs that evolve their character. The new characters are all welcome additions - they add to the story, and make it a deeper, richer experience.
Out of all of the new people, Sean Astin and Sadie Sink's characters are by far the best. Sean Astin plays Bob - a romantic friend of Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) who seems like he's too nice to be real. You spend the whole time trying to figure out what his secret only to realize it was the sense of normalcy Joyce needed in this craziness, and when it is taken from her, it is when you realize the Byers will never have "normal" lives again. It is absolutely heartbreaking.
Sadie plays a new girl in Hawkins that befriends our group of main characters. She comes from a broken family and is verbally abused almost constantly by her half brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery). She is a welcome addition to the team, and her being there had many wonderful moments throughout the story that would have been stale if there was no one new around.
Paul Reiser and Dacre Montgomery do a good job too in the limited screen time they were given. While they may be intentionally "unlikeable", there are redeeming factors about both of them, and they are necessary characters to make the "beloved" characters grow and evolve.
None of the returning characters phone it in. They all showed up, they all had something to do, and they all were worthy of the screen time they were given. Having said that, David Harbour as Hopper and Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven do masterful work. I was convinced they were Emmy bound last year - I am even more convinced of that this year. Winona Ryder delivers a powerful performance as well. None of it feels over the top or unnecessary. Watching her in Stranger Things makes it easier to forget her in Mr. Deeds.
The story itself, while feeling a tad familiar, expanded the narrative and the mythology, we learn more about the Upside Down, and more about Eleven and her history. It feels like the Duffer Brothers knew the answers to the questions they posed in season 1, and that they have the whole mythology and legend plotted out on a dry erase board somewhere. Nothing bothers me more when a show introduces a mystery they have no idea how to solve or no intention to do it at all.
The show paired up some characters that aren't usually together and it made for some fun moments. The highlight of that notion was having Dustin (Galen Matarazzo) and Steve (Joe Keery) together for several episodes. Two completely opposite humans who took a liking to each other. I'd watch a sitcom spinoff with those two just hanging out after school.
The magic of the show is being able to have Spielberg-esque adventure moments, John Hughes-esque high school moments, and Alien-esque horror moments all rolled into one. You can have your cake and eat it too, and the Duffer Brothers should be celebrated for it.
There are rumors of 2 or 3 more seasons happening of this show. If the Duffer Brothers have enough mythology for that much, great, I am first in line. If it is a money grab from Netflix and we see Eleven jump over the shark on a water ski in the upside down because they ran out of story, then that would be a shame to tarnish what they have built.
If you haven't watched Stranger Things at all, I highly recommend it. The first season is imperative to understanding the second though, so start there. You won't regret it.
Stranger Things 2 is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.
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