TV Review: Stranger Things Season 2 (Spoilers!)

The first season of “Stranger Things” took the world by storm when it first appeared on Netflix in July 2016, with its great storytelling and amazing cast. Ever since then, many have been eagerly waiting for the second season, which was released on October 27, 2017, just in time for Halloween. Many wondered how the second season would go, what with having to deal with what happened in the first season, and with the knowledge that the show would be going up to around four seasons in total. However, in the end, this second season managed to give us stellar performances, interesting new dynamics, and a satisfying conclusion that still gives leaves space for more questions as to what will happen in the third season.

The second season picks up a year after the events of the first season, but that really is not a big surprise, as it has been mentioned that we will be following these kids in real time as they grow up both in the real world and in the show. New characters and new dynamics now exist for our favorite characters in the show, and it does deal a lot with the aftermath of the first season, while doing more character development and world building at the same time.

I cannot find a single flaw in any performance that any of the cast members in the show, and I love the fact that the credits at the beginning are longer due to the many names included as main characters. We also had several new characters added to the show, such as Sadie Sink’s Maxine “Max/MadMax” Mayfield, Sean Astin’s Bob Newby, Paul Reiser’s Doctor Sam Owens, and Dacre Montgomery’s Billy Hargrove.

The second season definitely gave more screen time, as well to Caleb McLaughlin’s Lucas Sinclair, and most importantly, to Noah Schnapp’s Will Byers, and they both showed off how good they are as actors.

However, the downside of having an even more expanded ensemble main cast is that sometimes, some of the more prominent characters in the first season didn’t get that much focus when it came to writing and character development until the particular moments where it was absolutely needed. Also, with the knowledge that this show will be going on for two more seasons, there was also the need to start planting some seeds that will pay off sometime down the line in the future, and not necessarily in this season. There was also the typical “Netflix slow burn” that was felt while the story was building up, and an experiment in storytelling that didn’t really land so well with most viewers for a particular episode.

Despite all of this, the second season of “Stranger Things” was definitely a thrill to watch, with a satisfying conclusion that allowed the Duffers to fulfill some promises to the viewers, while still setting up things for the upcoming seasons.

You know the drill. From here on out, there will be spoilers! Also, just a warning, this review will go a little bit longer than usual.

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The second season of “Stranger Things” did have quite a lot of story lines for us to follow around, which, later on, converged at the climax of the story, and were paid off in the end, in some way or another. Also, interestingly enough, although our main group of kids (Dustin, Lucas, Will, and Mike) are still together as a group, it felt like they were a little bit separate from each other as they had their own story arcs and journeys. This, however, allowed for new dynamics and new relationships to be explored as well, which was quite interesting.

Lucas was given more screen time this season, which was something that I truly welcomed, as it allowed for the character to be developed more, and for McLaughlin to show off more of his acting chops. Here, he and Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) had a running friendly rivalry to win the affections of Max, the new girl in town. However, it was Lucas who made more of the effort to get to know to Max and let her in on what really happened to Will last year. I also loved the fact that in the end, even though Max could very much hold her own, Lucas and his wrist-rocket were there to defend her.

Dustin’s story arc dealt with him finding a baby version of what we now call a “demo-dog” (Demogorgon-dog), which he first takes in as a pet, and lies to his friends about still keeping it after Will and Mike tell them that Will has been hearing them in his “visions/journeys” back to the Upside Down. However, in the end, Dustin owns up to his mistakes, gets sprayed by a weird flower in the Upside Down tunnels, and is the one who gets Steve to help them out again, and in so doing, allows Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) to make the turn around to becoming the best babysitter/mom ever. Also, it was interesting that even though Dustin had grown up a bit more, he’s still the one unlucky with the ladies.

Steve’s growth from the douchebag boyfriend, to boyfriend, to the best babysitter/mom/parent was the best turn around yet for a character in this series, solidifying Steve as a certified fan favorite character in the series. I knew from the end of Season 1 that Steve would get better in this season, but I didn’t expect the level of maturity he gained here, up to the point that he was okay with Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) being with Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) as I believe that deep down he knew that they were better together as compared to Nancy being with him. And his interesting friendship with Dustin was something that I didn’t expect at all. Now, I know that Billy was pretty much a one note character made to be the perfect foil to both Steve and Max, but even though he didn’t have much character development, I thought that Montgomery did an excellent job, especially after having seen him as Jason/Red Ranger in the “Power Rangers” movie.

Sink is another welcome addition to the group of child actors in this series. I’ve seen her before in “American Odyssey”, and I knew she was good, but she dialed it up to eleven with her performance as Max. Max’s character arc was mainly about being accepted in this new town and how she actually was able to open up as well to the boys, and in particular, to Lucas.

Dyer and Heaton were similarly fantastic reprising their roles as Nancy and Jonathan in this season, and I’m glad that they finally got together, something I’ve been rooting for since Season 1. Their story line was interesting as well, as they smartly allowed themselves to be captured by Hawkins Lab in order to record self-incriminating evidence that would allow a special investigator and reporter to spin it so that they could finally get #Justice4Barb.

Winona Ryder as Joyce was once again fantastic in all of her scenes, and in particular, in the end when she was interrogating her own son, and her steely resolve to rid her son of the portion of the Mind Flayer that was in his body. I also love how believable her romance was with Astin’s Bob, whom I honestly thought was a bad guy for quite some time. However, I think the Duffers were trying to mislead us a bit, so that by the time he gets killed in the most horrific way possible while being a superhero in his own right, Bob has become a fan favorite, and his death hurts us all the more.

Chief Jim Hopper’s (David Harbour) and Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) dynamic with each other was an interesting one, with Hopper acting as the overprotective father to Eleven, who has now grown quite impatient with waiting and hiding for almost a year in Hopper’s cabin. It must be noted as well that Eleven has grown so comfortable with her powers which makes it even more dangerous when she starts having tantrums and rebelling against Hopper, just like a normal teenager would. Season 2 was pretty much Eleven being a rebellious teenager, to the point that she broke all the safe guard rules that Hopper gave her, tried to see Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), and went on a journey to find her biological mother, and Eight/Kali, another experiment from the lab.

Now, Episode 7 was very much an Eleven stand alone story which also felt jarring to me because we were in the middle of all the crazy happening in Hawkins, but in a way, it was also necessary so that Eleven would realize that she’s not like Kali/Eight (Linnea Berthelsen), and that instead of channeling her anger and energy on revenge, she would use it to save the people she considers as family. The theme of “home” was a recurring thing for Eleven, as she was presented with different choices, but realized that her friends in Hawkins are her home. Plus, I’m so glad that Mike and Eleven finally had that dance with each other.

Unfortunately, Mike’s story line was the least developed this season, although Wolfhard did an amazing job. Thankfully he was given a lot of chances, like figuring out “plans of attack”, and being there for his best friend, Will, allowed Woflhard to shine the most. The last two episodes of the season, however, is where Mike was able to shine the brightest.

It was such a delight to see Schnapp act, dealing with the PTSD he had from what happened in Season 1, to him getting possessed by the Mind Flayer (we’ll call that version of him Not Will). Schnapp is a brilliant young actor, from the emotions and terror on his face in the beginning parts of the season, to him struggling for control while doing Morse Code to communicate to his friends and family while he was Not Will, to him being Not Will. Brown was definitely the stand out for Season 1, but I think Schnapp deserves an Emmy for what he gave us in this season.

The whole story for Season 2 was definitely a slow burn for me, but I appreciated it as we got to spend more time developing some characters; and further developing and building upon the world established in Season 1, especially with regards to the Upside Down. I think this, and the fact that we were dealing with a lot of aftermath stuff, made for a more deeply intense season.

Cinematography wise and music wise, I have no complaints whatsoever with it at all. Plus, that huge Mind Flayer scares me, and I love how they did it so that in the end, the entire scene was turned Upside Down to see the Upside Down version of the school and the Mind Flayer hovering menacingly over it at the end.

So, with all that in mind, here are some of my burning questions, predictions, and hopes for Season 3. I think that Will is in the clear for now (because that poor boy needs to catch a break), and that the connection to the Upside Down will be Hopper and Dustin as they both got sprayed by those weird flowers in the tunnels. Plus, it would be interesting to see Will do more problem solving stuff instead of having to get possessed by Upside Down monsters.

I’d like to see bigger ramifications of the Upside Down on the world beyond Hawkins, which will allow for Eight and maybe other surviving experiments to band together with Eleven. However, I don’t want any side trips like Episode 7. I’d like Eleven to start having a normal life, after all, Hopper was told to wait for another year before she starts doing so, which makes me believe that the time skip will be a year, just like Season 2. I’m genuinely afraid for Steve, as I think this now much beloved character will be killed off sometime in the latter half of Season 3, hopefully, sacrificing himself to save one of the kids.

I’d like to know if the huge Mind Flayer in the end is indeed the biggest “boss” that they do have to battle, and if so, I am interested in seeing how they spread this story out in two seasons. I’d also like to know if the Upside Down has always existed, and where exactly does it come from, and how it all works.

And lastly, I really do want to see Joyce and Hopper together, as I’ve been waiting for it ever since Season 1.

In the end, Season 2 dealt with a lot of the aftermath, wrapped up some Season 1 story lines, opened up new possibilities with new questions, and it definitely seems as if the book that began with the first season has been closed, allowing them to start a new book comprised of Seasons 3 and 4. The performances were flawless, and we still have some questions that will be answered in the next two seasons. All in all, watching the Second Season left me satisfied, like someone who has just eaten an intensely satisfying meal.

What did you think of the second season of “Stranger Things”? Did you like or not like it? What did you or didn’t you like? What did you think of Episode 7? What are your own burning questions, predictions and things you would like to see in Season 3? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

P. S. Just a little update as to what will be happening next. As “Stranger Things” is pretty intense and heavy; and as I just did post my cosplay as Twilight Sparkle for Halloween, I’ll be starting my “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” reviews before dealing into heavier stuff. However, I will be doing reviews of “Justice League”, “Murder on the Orient Express”, “Netflix’s The Punisher”, “Coco”, and the second season of “Trollhunters” when they come out, respectively. So, I hope that you are excited for these just as much as I am looking forward to it as well!

 

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