Stranger Things – Season 2 Overall Review

Stranger Things S2

Stranger Things, the surprise hit of last year, is back for a second go around, and manages to buck the trend of disappointing sequels by delivering a great Season 2. It may not have the “wow, this came out of nowhere!” factor of the original (obviously!) but it still retains great characters, storytelling and fun nods to the time period its set in. Let’s take a closer look!

Synopsis:

One year after his troubling time in the Upside Down, Will Byers is still have “flashbacks” to the alternate dimension… at least everyone hopes they’re flashbacks… Meanwhile Chief Hopper has been keeping Eleven in his house for most of this time, and she wants out!

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Stranger Things S2 1

Who ya gonna call? … Probably not these guys.

Eleven / Jane Ives (Millie Bobby Brown) – As a baby, Jane was taken from her mother and grew up experimented on by Hawkins Laboratory, eventually opening up a portal to another world. She has recently been living with Chief Hopper after escaping her dire situation the previous year, and wants nothing more than to reconnect with her good friend Mike…

Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) – Mike has continued his life with his friends and at school, but he has also been making sure to try and contact Eleven via the radio…

Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) – Will has not had an easy time of it in the last year, to say the least. After surviving near-death in the Upside Down he still finds himself transported there from time to time, and recently a whole new terror appears to be emerging…

Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) – Lucas is close friends with Mike, Will and Dustin, and has survived alongside them during the previous year’s crisis.

Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) – Dustin is part of the group of friends that includes Mike, Will and Lucas. He is even more nerdy than them, which is saying something…

Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) – Jim Hopper’s life has been pretty empty since he lost his daughter many years ago, and so has jumped at the chance to look after Eleven and keep her safe… though there are difficulties looking after someone with telekinetic powers…

Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) – Will’s mother, who as you could probably imagine, has had a stressful time in the past year… and it’s not about to get any easier…

Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) – Mike older sister, who as well as being caught up in Will’s troubles also feels directly responsible for the death of her friend Barb last year. Her relationship with Steve is up in the air, if she really stops and thinks about it…

Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) – Jonathan is Will’s older brother, and a bit of a loner / outcast. That being said, he cares from his little brother, and is secretly (though not very subtly) in love with Nancy…

Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) – Steve is Nancy’s current boyfriend, who despite being a bit of a jock / bully actually showed his true colours last year and has settled into a more pleasant and normal role…

Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink) – “Mad Max” comes from a troubled family, with a pretty psychotic half brother. Still, she manages to find some fine in the arcades, and all she needs is to find the right friends in her new town…

Bob Newby (Sean Astin) – Extremely friendly and pleasant Bob is Joyce’s new boyfriend, who wants nothing more than to move her and her family away with him to start a new life…

Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) – The new chief scientist of Hawkins Lab, Sam is… actually a nice guy! Who would have thought?

Eight / Kali (Linnea Berthelsen) – Kali was a fellow Hawkins experiment who gained the ability to manipulate people’s minds to make them see things, and has been using them to get revenge with a group of follow outcasts. She has no idea other survivors are out there…

Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) – Max’s pretty damn unpleasant and crazy half-brother, about the only person more unpleasant to be around than him is his father…

and many more!

The Good:

Stranger Things S2 2

LOVE this design. Proper creepy Lovecraft monster!

Most of it, to be fair! Name a cast member and they play their role to perfection, doesn’t matter if it’s a child, a teen or an adult, I can’t fault a single performance in the series. The main conflict with the great looking Lovecraftian shadow monster is fun to see slowly unfold, from smoky tentacles slowly reaching out towards Will, to Will being possessed and then an outright invasion of “Demidogs”. The four kids are all perfect in their roles, and the little 80s nods are still a delight.

Episode 8 in particular is survival horror at its best, with every trapped in Hawkins Lab with the power off and surrounded by the four-legged dog-like creatures. Proper spoiler territory here, but poor Bob. They painted him as being such a nice guy that I knew he was most likely going to be killed, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t nail biting throughout the episode.

Once again David Harbour as Jim Hopper is just such a great character. A bad-ass police chief and a sympathetic character, it hits so many beats over the course of the series and he pulls them all off perfectly.

Two of the new additions to the cast beyond Bob, a.k.a. Max and Billy, tell a good, if not tragic story. Max at least finds happiness, and even a boyfriend in a pleasant tale, but not only is Billy a completely unpleasant bastard, but it turns out his father is even more of an unpleasant bastard, so you end up kind of feeling sorry for him, but then sort of not as being horrible to Max because your Dad is horrible to you isn’t a good thing… It’s just an interesting plot thread to follow, and made for good TV (Billy was literally perfectly played as well)

The side story with Nancy and Jonathan going to the reporter and getting Barb’s story out there was fine, and them getting together was good to “get out of the way”, so to speak. Steve, who I really warmed to over the course of this series, at least got to play the “cool adult babysitter” role towards the end, so as not to lose out entirely.

An older and podgy looking Paul Raiser plays a good “actually not that bad” scientist in the Hawkins Lab. They do a great job of making you wonder if he’s the same as the other scientists, then you really get behind him towards the end. Loved all the Alien / Aliens references throughout the series as well, especially the direct reference to Mr. Raiser’s Aliens character!

The Bad:

Stranger Things S2 3

The episode has a lot of merit, but it still felt out of place…

Eleven has a strange arc (no pun intended!) as she spends most of the series locked up in a cabin, then gets Episode 7 all to herself to tell a side-story about her meeting a fellow Hawkins lab rat and hanging out with a group of so-very-80s punk outcasts. It’s not a bad story, its actually fun, but when she eventually saves the day in the finale after re-meeting everyone again, I just got this feeling that this was all they had for her but had to try and find a way to write her into the rest of the series.

Felt sorry for the Joyce character due to the whole losing Bob thing, but in general it was a repeat performance, with the Christmas lights / alphabet scene switched with a large underground map instead. Just the same worry and panic, which is hard to avoid when Will is once again at threat, but still, they could have changed things up a bit.

Overall Thoughts:

Stranger Things S2 4

A couple more cast members! Still couldn’t fit half of them in! Damn self-imposed four screenshot limit!

Although it has a slow build up and Episode 7 stops the plot entirely for a whole hour, Stranger Things Season 2 is still a triumph. Great writing, great characters performed by a great cast, and some real standout moments, especially the final two episodes. I don’t know how long they can keep the momentum going, but let’s hope they can pull of a perfect trilogy next year!

5 Star Watch

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