Netflix shows truly are a double-edged sword; the viewer gets to binge every episode consecutively without pause, maintaining the excitement, but, there is no time for contemplation, or even time to feel for our beloved characters. Watching Stranger Things 2 in rapid succession was (for lack of a better word) excelsior. Returning to the made up town of Hawkins, Indiana; returning to our beloved characters, seeing that darn portal to the mysterious upside down was exhilarating; it seems as if the one year hiatus between seasons didn’t even exist, for right from the word go, the story pulls you right back in.
This year’s story was a little different from last years, as it begins in a much different place. In season 2, we find our characters all suffering from some form of PTSD regarding what occurred last season. Mike desperately misses Eleven, Nancy and Jonathan long to rectify Barb’s death, Joyce is even more protective than before, and Will is seeing visions of the upside down. It’s all very intriguing, and feels very human. I have to give credit to the Duffer brothers (creators, directors, and writers for the show), for they toned things down without losing the intrigue. Furthermore, the Duffer brothers were realistic with their story, as certain plot points had to be discussed, as they would in reality. For example, Barb went missing, a boy was in another dimension for a few days, a body was found, a girl with super powers escaped from captivity and longs for freedom; many shows would simply brush over these plot points, as they are comparatively “boring”, but the Duffer brothers did not. Rather, they rose to the occasion and made these stories mesh perfectly, in an interesting and intriguing way. This human tone in the first couple of episodes is definitely lost near the halfway mark, as the story now becomes more supernatural. This is a huge tonal change, but one that makes sense; things were obviously going to get dire, and there was obviously going to be action, but at least it was saved until the relative end.
Our characters are obviously back, and are better than ever! Besides the exploration of the characters reactions to what occurred last season, this season, characters are expanded and given more to do. For example, Dustin (played by Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (played by Caleb Mclaughlin) were somewhat secondary characters last season, however, their love triangle for newcomer Maxine, played by Sadie Sink, and their own separate story arcs really develop who they are and how they contribute to this story. Overall, however, Sean Astin’s Bob Newby, and Noah Schnapp Will Byers are the standouts. Bob is a new character, who is Joyce’s love interest. Bob should not really have been given that much to do, but Astin exploits the opportunity and brings comedy and quirkiness to every scene he is in. Furthermore, he has a great arc this season, one that truly makes this character beloved. Schnapp, who was not in too many episodes last year, as he was in the upside down, is fantastic. He portrays a possessed shy kid losing their mind perfectly. My favorite newly expanded character is Steve Harrington, played by Joe Kerry. Harrington had an interesting, non-cliche role last year, and to see his new persona continue, in an interesting, father-like way was incredible; a character who seemed like they had not much to do at the end of last season was given so much to do here, and I loved every moment of it.
The story truly is a “dark expansion” as well, as the series “big bad” is introduced in horrific fashion. I don’t want to spoil much, but it’s awesome, and what happened to Millie Bobby Brown’s beloved Eleven is also quite intriguing. The story definitely is grander, or as grand as something could get in Hawkins Indiana, featuring more CGI and action set pieces. The music this season is just as good as the last and I’m not talking about the 80’s music. The score for this show is impeccable; somehow, producers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein implement nostalgic, hardcore techno music to go with every scene, even the intense and sad ones.
All in all, Stranger Things 2 didn’t just survive its sophomore year, it thrived. It never felt bloated, or non-original (as many second seasons do), but rather, it expanded its character’s, mythos, setting, and story in unexpected and intriguing ways. For this reason, Stranger Things 2 gets a 5 out of 5 Wildcats.