By now I’m sure the ENTIRE world has binge-watched Stranger Things 2 so I’m here to be the millionth critic/person to talk about season two. Ready? Let’s go.
Stranger Things was an absolute phenomenon last year when it came on the scene and took everyone by surprise. To take the words from one of my favorite tv critics, Brian Grubb. this “plucky show” from the at the time unknown Duffer brothers showed up and enthralled the world. Netflix hit a strange, intoxicating sweet spot of sic-fi and eighties nostalgia. It hooked everyone that grew up in the 1980s with it’s epic playlist and spot-on eighties references.
When season one left off there were two very important cliffhangers: Eleven was separated from the gang and Will was still having flashbacks to the Upside Down.
Those came with a lot of expectations for season two, which was highly anticipated as everyone had to wait 4 months longer than expected. As it turns out the Halloween theme and intentional premiere date the Friday before the holiday was well-timed. And honestly, based on how expanded the show became, both financially and physically they needed that time.
It was reported that Netflix spent about millions on each episode of season 2! It shows in the Upside Down scenes the most. I was worried this would make the show feel too big, but the genuine friendships of the cast shine through to make it still feel as homey and nostalgic as before.
Speaking of the cast: I loved seeing more of certain characters this season. Lucas and Dustin were really able to come into their own. Sadie Sink as the new girl in the gang, the zoomed Mad Max was also a good fit into the group. As much as I loved seeing the gang interact with a new face, it was an old face that had the biggest effect. The absence of Eleven for basically all of the season was not (IMHO) a good plot device. It made Eleven a prisoner again, albeit with a nicer jailer and it made Mike lash out at everyone in a bitter anger that does not suit a 13 year old.
The other cliff hanger, Will having Upside Down flashbacks, proved a much more lucrative idea. His scenes were arresting, Noah Schnapp has this ability to express horror through those big brown eyes of his in a way that makes me scared for him in every scene. He has such emotive moments with his family, the scenes with Winonna Ryder are especially heartwarming. She has a sort of frenzied, brilliance that makes me believe her fierce love for him, despite her fear of the unknown.
That fear leads to her continued obsession with Will and his struggle, but to balance out her imbalance is a good ole Goonie. I’m talking about the og 80’s favorite Sean Astin of course. He plays the well meaning, but oblivious Bob, or Bob the Brain to be more specific. The cinephile in me loved the make out scene between Lydia Deetz and Mikey. Bob unfortunately doesn’t make it out, but then again Sean Astin always does seem to be the most noble character in every story, and his death is not in vain.
This season’s biggest misstep, Eleven and her solitude and “lost sister” –– I will not even be referencing that Suicide Squad of goons –– also came with one of its most heartwarming storylines. The father-daughter esque relationship between El and Hopper was just beautiful. The creators are definitely not blind to the talent they possess in David Harbour and Millie Bobby Brown, and their scenes are the proof.
The second unexpected on-screen friendship that stole the show for me is everyone’s favorite drumroll please… Dustin and Steve!! Steve has grown a lot since he was the camera smashing villain of season one, and this season shows him at his best (Nancy not so much). And one of the best parts of Steve was his growing role of babysitter of the gang and a father figure/ friend to Dustin. In some of the scenes that build out Dustin’s home life we see a lot of his cat loving Mom, but no dad so that makes it that much sweeter when Steve takes him under his extremely aerosoled hair. Steve turns into a hero this season, from demanding the kids stay safe, getting the absolute shit beat out of him by the devilishly handsome new high school villain Billy, to (and this one is my favorite) dropping off his hair protege Dustin to the middle school dance! Steve could do no wrong this season and he still looks fingerlickin good.
Now on to other characters: Nancy and Jonathan. These two finally get together with the help of a crazy conspiracy theorist/ russian spy?? In a scene taken straight out of a movie they have their own “will they/won’t they” moment. Spoiler – they do. I don’t have much more to say about Nancy and Jonathan except for that Nancy is way too bad ass for him, but I do love that them getting together allows Steve to be a shitty boyfriend but a rad as hell babysitter.
All in all Stranger Things 2 was extremely enjoyable, except for episode 7 you can just skip that one. I still loved all the 80’s music and pop culture references (despite not being alive then I did go through my eighties phase in high school okay) and those were in full supply this season. I mean an entire character was practically built off of Rob Lowe’s iconic take as Billy in St. Elmo’s Fire, albeit this was a much more extreme Billy. I took the eh with the great this season, but I have to say I’m not sure where Netflix and the Duffer bros are going to take an almost inevitable season 3. I liked the season ending at the middle school dance, it felt bittersweet I guess much like middle school, but it felt complete. The gate was closed, the dema-dogs were killed, the shadow monster fled Will and we ended the night with our guys getting their first awkward slow-dance of budding adolescence out of the way. It was the perfect 80’s ending, and I would be okay if it was the ending on this chapter of the Upside down, bring on the next stranger thing.