Stranger Things 2 is a friggin’ blast. It’s the perfect continuation from the first season, a feat that most sequels fail miserably at. It heightens the stakes for our heroes, while expanding on them as characters and adding depth. Now, some contrarian rags (.::cough::. .::cough::. Pei pei’s Pennies .::cough::. .::cough::.) might try to tell you that this season wasn’t as great as it very clearly was. But clearly, they’re terrible at life and should probably stick to writing Yelp reviews for farm equipment or something.
But I digress…
Let’s get started and dive right into just what made this season so great. Also, it should go without saying, but there are SPOILERS ahead. If you haven’t seen the whole thing yet, maybe wait till you’re done before reading this.
The biggest thing that attracted me, and a lot of other fans to the series, was the dark and nostalgic feel of the show. The Goonies-like tone mixed with a dark, sci-fi element immediately remind people of a childhood filled with movies featuring the same familiar tropes: The bully, the oblivious parents and the rag-tag friends who are in it to the bitter end. Only this time, the writers brought a fresh take by adding inter-dimensional monsters and Eleven, a telekinetic little girl who escaped from a lab and into a world she has never known. It is the perfect melding of familiar and new that kept fans watching, and Stranger Things consistently holds to that mixture throughout season two.
Too often do we see a series lose their way from one season to the next (looking at you, Heroes and How I Met Your Mother)and suddenly the story and characters you loved are boring, or worse, they’ve become parodies of themselves. Now, certain columnists might say something like… “But, Mike! More of the same is just boring!” Well, my simple, less-talented friend, I couldn’t disagree more. Consistency is one of the most underrated, yet absolutely essential, parts of a television series. It’s something that you never notice when it’s there, but immediately miss when it’s gone. The Duffer brothers knew that if you have something that works, the last thing you should do is try to fix it. And make no mistake, Stranger Things 2 absolutely works.
Season two brings back our favorite characters from the first one and expands on them beautifully. The Duffers masterfully display how the crisis of the first season has weathered them in far-reaching ways. We feel for Mike as he pines after the girl he loved and lost. We understand the apprehension of Will Beyers and his family at the prospect of being apart after his brush with death in the Upside-down. We finally get to see Dustin with teeth, though he keeps making that unsettling purring sound which, I personally, could’ve done without. But, the point is that we get to see growth in these people. Now, admittedly Will and his mother basically filled the same roles as they did in the first season. And they should definitely consider moving to Istanbul, or somewhere very far off, if Will has any hope of reaching adulthood. But that is just another component of consistency versus change that most shows struggle with, resulting in a lesser degree of success than this one.
A few new characters were introduced this time around that manage to remain on the periphery of the conflict. Kali (the entity known as 008), Maxine (the Dig Dug fanatic and Lucas’ love interest) and Billy (Maxine’s psychotic step-brother) are introduced, but have very limited effect to the overall plot. Now, the first two dutifully fill an essential role and help our main characters reach their main goal. Billy however, doesn’t seem to do much of anything other than annoy and bully people with little apparent motivation. I honestly don’t know why he’s there. Kali, though she turns out to be evil later, trains Eleven to become stronger. Maxine creates interesting conflicts within the core group that strengthens their bond with one another. Billy… beats Steve at basketball… We finally find out that he is the way he is because his father constantly emasculates him, but he up and resolves that problem in the same episode it’s introduced. It’s all just so one-dimensional that he comes off a bit lazy. But that would be my only complaint in an otherwise great season.
Finally, we have to talk about raising the stakes. If you thought the Demigorgon from the first season was a great villain, wait till you check out the massive smoke-spider in the newest installment. This thing is Bad. Ass.
It towers over the landscape, is looking to combine the upside-down and the real world into a massive wasteland, and it controls and army of Demigorgons through a hive-mind. Our rag-tag team of heroes must push themselves to new heights in order to win this time. And even then, it may not be enough.
Naturally, this season isn’t perfect. It has some flaws, but it’s still pretty great. Naturally, there are going to be detractors of what is ultimately a successful season. Some of them may even be certain friends of ours. And they are certainly entitled to their (wrong) opinions.
One thing is for sure. You should all go check out this newest season and see for yourself.