Yes… I watched the whole season in a day. No… we don’t have to talk about it.
But we do have to talk about the much anticipated follow-up to one of 2016’s most interesting televisions series: Stranger Things. This Netflix original came to the small screen last year as both a critical success and worldwide phenomenon. I will do my best to explore this new installment of the story with as little spoiler talk as possible.
During the first season, we saw the disappearance of Will Byers take over the town of Hawkins, Indiana. It took his mother, his friends, local law enforcement, and even a mysterious little girl with dark powers to bring him back. Not to mention, during this search, we learn so much about an alternate dimension, a secret lab, and a creature with a flower head full of teeth. This time, Will is back from the dimension that the kids call the ‘Upside Down’, but the ill dimension isn’t done with him just yet.
Jumping right into it, this season felt decidedly less like a Stephen King novel. The first season was derivative of the author’s novel It or Stand By Me, but this new one feels less like that, which I did find a little disappointing at first, but later realized that it allows the story to flow in its own original way. The Duffer Brothers (the creators of the show) did well excellent work yet again.
The second season also explores the development of the “boy who came back from the dead”, Will Byers, played by Noah Schnapp. Most of our knowledge about this character was offscreen in season one due to his abduction in episode one, but season two explores deeper inside his head and sees Will attempt to readjust to some form of normality.
Trying her best to help her son return to his normal life in Hawkins, Indiana is Joyce, played brilliantly by Academy Award nominee, Winona Ryder. Her traumatized portrayal of this small town single mother reaches a high point by the end of the season. Ryder has always been excellent, but this series has brought her back into the fold as a commanding screen presence.
Speaking of commanding screen presences, I have to acknowledge that each of these unique characters bring something new to the show this season. Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven has an interesting dynamic with David Harbour’s character Jim Hopper, the town’s chief of police. Gaten Matarazzo, Joe Keery, and Caleb McLaughlin return as Dustin, Steve, and Lucas, respectively. These three serve as a great flash of comedy while also pushing forward the plot to assist in the season’s near perfect pacing. The unlikely pairing of Steve and Dustin also make for a great highlight of the season’s latter half.
We get a bit of romance from the reluctant teenage lovebirds Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) and Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer). Their arc is more interesting than the first season and both actors are given the chance to shine. Jonathan has by far become the more interesting character, due to the lack of Nancy’s character development, but I can see her becoming more of a lead character in the next season.
Finn Wolfhard’s Mike Wheeler took a backseat this season after serving as the first season’s standout star. Despite this, the It actor’s impeccable screen presence always kept him in the corner of your eye during the scenes he was in, even though his character was a huge jerk to this season’s new emerging actor: Sadie Sink. Sink plays Maxine AKA Max AKA MADMAX, the high scorer of the local arcade Dig Dug game. Max comes in at the right time as a necessary foil to the boys’ return to their old life to remind them that things are not okay.
I would highly recommend this show to anyone who loves all things 1980s, inter-dimensional monsters, or just wants to sit down for a good Netflix binge. The series covers a big concept but it seems so small because it’s almost always contained to the town of Hawkins. Though the universe of this show continues to grow, I like that the team kept that small town feel even in a show that deals with different dimensions. It’s a solid 10/10, arguably better than the first season, and I look forward to our return to the ‘Upside Down’ next year!
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