Some of my favorite shows, no matter how much I love them, I would not recommend them to everybody. I would never ask my squeamish-against-violence mother to give Game of Thrones a try. Nor would I ask my close friend who thinks space adventures are boring to watch Firefly. Stranger Things is one of those few exceptional series that I would recommend to everyone. The first season had just the right amount of horror, mystery, nostalgia, adventure, romance, and sci-fi elements to keep almost everyone interested. At the same time, it had enough subtlety in every regard as to not alienate anyone who hates any of these things. To top it all off, it never felt like it was “playing it safe” (something I often get annoyed with in media these days) because of the unique and engaging story.
*Spoilers after this point!*
Stranger Things 2, (what they are calling season two), really kicks an already intriguing plot into high-gear. Set almost exactly a year after the events of the first season, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), who was trapped in the Upside Down, continues to get increasingly disturbing visions, causing his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) a lot of worry. Meanwhile, for the past year, Eleven or “El” is not only still alive but has been secretly living with Chief Hopper (David Harbour).
Mike Wheeler, Lucas Sinclair, and Dustin Henderson (Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin, and Gaten Matarazzo) seem to have gone back to their normal “Goonies” lifestyle, waiting for their next adventure to unfold, though it seems like they have traded in their D&D for the arcade down the street, where they meet Maxine Mayfield, or Mad Max (Sadie Sink). Mike seems to see her as a threat (like El is the only girl allowed in the group) while Lucas and Dustin keep vying for her affection.
Nancy Wheeler and Steve Harrington (Natalia Dyer and Joe Keery) are continuing their relationship that they started at the end of season one, but we get a feeling that things have been a bit rocky as of late, especially with the guilt of knowledge of what happened to Barb. Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) seems to be lying low for the past year, helping in taking care of his brother Will.
In addition to Max, we get introduced to quite a few new interesting characters, such as Bob Newby (Sean Astin), Joyce Byer’s smart and wholesome boyfriend; Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery), Max’s stepbrother and the new high school jock bully in town since Steve got “soft”; Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), a young girl with powers similar to El’s; and Sam Owens (Paul Reiser), the scientist that took over Hawkins Lab after the events of last season.
One of the things that I felt worked particularly well was the addition of the new characters to the mix. Muddle-headed mullet sporting Billy replaced, filled in the void of “campus asshole” that Steve Harrington left empty. However, unlike Steve, he does not get a character redemption on the last episode, promising us more assholery in the future. His step-sister Max adds a much needed foil as to El as the second girl to join the group. My absolute favorite new character is the addition of Bob. Sean Astin plays him way more likable than any middle aged normal nerdy guy should be.
I felt these character additions were very much needed as the plot has become that much more complicated, thus the town of Hawkins deserved to be more fleshed out than last season. While last season’s plot was a perfect introduction for this world, this season really cranked it up a couple of notches. The introduction of the “Mind Flayer”, a massive eldritch monster that controls every element of the Upside-down as a sort of hive mind, adds a much deeper level of horror to the mix. It is not only so much worse than the demogorgon of last season, but it controls them…a lot of them. The series now seems to have a main villain for the good guys to have to deal with for the next few seasons.
Once again, my favorite thing about this show is the tiny details. The clothes, toys, food packaging, and even the bedsheets are authentically from the early 80’s. Not to mention, the sound track was (once again) perfect, using songs from The Runaways, The Bangles, and Oingo Boingo to highlight the scenes. I really don’t feel like I’m watching a loving homage to 80’s films, but rather I’m actually watching a film from the 80’s.
I cannot reiterate enough to watch this series and to continue to watch this series. It really has something for every type of nerd and even non-nerd alike. Judging from the extremely strong second season, Stranger Things will continue to impress for years to come.