Welcome all, to PeiPei’s Pennies! The part where I give my two-cents on the stuff that Y’all probably won’t agree with. Yet, I’m about to spit some truth about Stranger Things 2. Before I continue, however, I want to make sure that everyone reading this knows that this is going to be a very spoiler-heavy article. With that, let’s turn this season upside-down.
For those of you who have never seen the original Stranger Things (somehow…), the series is a nostalgic homage to the 1980’s style of sci-fi and horror. And I loved it. Everyone loved it. It was an instantaneous classic. It perfectly blended the feeling of what they were trying to pay tribute to, while also making something new and fresh. It hit every nail into that baseball bat that is story-telling. The pacing was fantastic, the characters were lovable, the D&D was played, and the mystery was all there! And after a year of waiting, we finally get to sit back down with our favorite residents of Hawkins. The feelings were just as strong and the hype-train was unstoppable. But instead of the fresh, enjoyable romp that we first had, we’re left with a very unfulfilling part of our campaign.
Don’t get me wrong, an extremely enjoyable campaign but regrettably unfulfilling. For most, if not all, of season 2, I felt as though I was watching a lesser version of season 1. Despite the Duffer brothers goal to make the world of Hawkins seem fuller, they only achieved making it bigger without any substance and the overwhelming amount of unnecessary new characters, places, and monsters just sort of waters down the experience as a whole, even more so than Murray Bauman watering down that vodka.
Stranger Things introduces us to our lovable rag-tag crew of small-town bumpkins and through their journey we fell hopelessly in love with them. We bonded with them and the universe that they live in. It felt as though we were in that world with them, it was relatable, the characters were relatable, and the whole feeling of the show mashed that nostalgia button relentlessly. However, season 2 takes those bonds and, while at some points deepens them (I’m looking at you sweet Steve and debonair Dustin), does nothing with them. It does nothing with the world either. The characters did the exact same things that they did in season one:
There’s an awkward government conspiracy capable of releasing a monster from an unknown dimension ready to destroy Hawkins–again
- Team Jonathan and Nancy get together to go on journey full of awkward sexual tension– again
- There’s a reluctance to let the new girl into the group–again
- Eleven learns more about her and her powers — again
- Joyce Byers freaks out about her son such that it leads to her home getting a creepy makeover–again
- Steve gets his ass handed to him– again
It’s all the same shenanigans! We didn’t even really get any new information about The Upside-Down! We got the Mind Flayer, I guess? But it does nothing to develop itself, much less The Upside Down. We end up exploring the Mind Flayer’s tendrils which, while disgusting, is nowhere near as scary as it was dealing with the original Demogorgon. Is the Mind Flayer the Upside Down? Does The Upside Down host the Mind Flayer? What’s their connection to Will and Eleven? Who knows?! None of us! Because instead of focusing on telling us more about the universe, season 2 only gives us more of it. And the Mind Flayer is a disappointing shamble of a grand threat, The charm if the original Demogorgon was it was mysterious, solitary, unstoppable and frightening.The Mind Flayer didn’t do anything without the assistance of Will as a proxy-puppet and the Demodogs seemed more like a cute group of playful puppies rather than the overwhelming threat they were supposed to come across as.
On the shenanigans that are all new, they’re all very nice but they do nothing for the story. All the new things that they introduced, most if not all of them are not needed. The arcade was a nice addition, but it did nothing, really, to chug the story along. The charming D&D scenes could have done just as good of a job. Billy and Mad Max, despite my deep love for these two characters, also do nothing for the story. Most of the season deals with trying to build up this mystery as to who they are and builds up Billy as an abusive, monopolizing villain both for Steve and Max. But they dropped the ball. Max only serves to be some weird conflict of tension between Lucas and Dustin; a conflict that could have been made with Dart and Dart alone, and if you take out Billy from the show, you lose nothing. Considering that any sort of development on his character was just sort of forced at the end of the season with a five-minute conflict with his father and that was never taken any farther. Compared to Steve, Dustin, and Hopper, it’s a far cry from anything that’s worth having take up more than half the season.
You can take out most of all these new things from the show (except Bob and Murray because they’re fantastic) Stranger Things 2 would maintain the essence it already has. And don’t get me started on the atrocity that is 008 and her Island of Misfit Punks. If there’s anything I could change it’s the piece of anime-filler garbage that was episode 7. Skip the episode and the only thing you’ll not know is why the Eleven looks like she dressed from the clearance section of a Hot Topic bargain bin. Stranger Things 2 tries its best to introduce new characters, conflicts, and motivations but it fails miserably is doing so in any way that we should care about.
Not making any sense isn’t just relegated to the new stuff. The old characters do things that make me wonder why I loved them to begin with. Specifically Mike and Nancy. I feel as though any and all things I liked about Mike in season 1 are solely due to his relationship with Eleven. Yet, in season 2 he gets on my last nerve. He does nothing but complains throughout the season and if anyone should be okay with letting a girl into the group it’s you, Mike! And Nancy is quite possibly the worst person in the show. Not as a character but just as a human being. Nancy berates Steve, the one character who had genuine development, by the way, has a weird mental breakdown brought on by the guilt of Barb (another thing I shan’t get started on), and picks Jonathan over Steve? WhatI?! Look I love Jonathan as a character but Steve is the obvious, non-cliche trope of a choice
I’d also like to make a quick mention about the families of the show. Is the Family Byers the only family that actually cares what the hell is going on? Every other family but the Will’s does nothing! Lucas’s family was a nice addition but they don’t seem to care what the hell Lucas is doing, Dustin’s Mother is only concerned about the cat (#justiceformews), and once again… Mike and Nancy’s family is just the worst! Dustin and Lucas, I can give a pass, just because they went home a couple of times, yet, Nancy and Mike were not home for, what feels like, the entirety of season 2. They even poke fun at this during the amazingly hilarious Billy and Mrs. Wheeler scene. They have no damn idea where their kids even are! We’ve talked about the Duffer brothers’ desire for that ol’ 80’s feel and oblivious parents are one of those things but..c’mon. That level of indifference in that town, of all places, is simply ridiculous
I hope everyone has noticed my obnoxious emphasis on the phrase “nothing” because that’s what the culmination of this entire season feels like…
The tl;dr version of this is that Stranger Things 2 is still rather enjoyable and it’s fun. I loved it, still. I mean I couldn’t have clapped my eyes at is for about 9 hours straight if I didn’t. The problem solely lies in that it’s more or less the same thing we had last year. Consistency isn’t bad, by any means, and If you ask anyone, the phrase “don’t fix what isn’t broken” rings true in most cases. But we get nowhere new with consistency. It reminds me a lot of what everyone felt with Star Wars Episode Seven: everyone enjoyed it but it was a glorified episode four. It was made for the sole purpose of bringing people back on board for a new Star Wars journey. Setting up things that are yet to come to keep our attention. Yet, you already had our attention, Stranger Things. You don’t need to keep me on board with more or less the same things, Everyone was excited about your glorious return! But the year-long wait wasn’t that long enough of a gap. Certainly not enough to justify complacency with your story-telling. It’s an evolving universe as it is. By all means, expand that universe. But if you’re going to do so, fill it with something meaningful.
I feel as though what Max says in episode 5 hits it on the head: “I liked it… I had a few issues… I thought it was a little derivative in parts. I just wish it had more originality, is all.” If only she knew that she meant the entirety of season 2, rather than 1. I can only hope that the set-ups and the introductions to your new, as-of-right-now, worthless set pieces culminate as a grandiose, new and exciting fresh piece that is your art in Stranger Things 3. Regardless of my unfavorable opinion of it, I’m sure I’ll watch it and personally love it either way.