We waited what seemed like an eternity for Stranger Things season 2 to drop on Netflix, and now it’s here, and even though it’s barely been out for a couple of weeks, most fans have already binged their way through all 10 episodes of the latest season. Overall, the response to season 2 has been quite good from most entertainment websites and bloggers, so we decided it was time we weighed in too.
Look, I wanted to keep this spoiler-free but that’s really just not going to happen, so here’s Spoiler Cat, saving you from the spoilers, as usual…
What it Got Right
Raising the Stakes
From the main villain, the seemingly ubiquitous Shadow Monster, to the new science labs, and more monsters and openings to the Upside Down, this season pulls no punches. At the end of the day, fans are getting exactly what they expect from a sequel to a horror/ fantasy / sci-fi / adventure show: higher stakes and pay-offs.
We see how being taken into the Upside Down still has an impact on Will’s life; we see how people like Nancy and Barb’s family are still dealing with the loss of a loved one; we see how Hopper is struggling to deal with the bond he’s formed with Eleven as a result of the fear he has of losing her.
All these relationships and story arcs were set up, layered beautifully from season 1 to 2, as well as from episode to episode during this season.
Working That Budget
So obviously with the huge success of the first season, Netflix was just going to throw a ton of money at The Duffer Brothers and be like “Dudes, make whatever the hell you want!”. But these creators didn’t just take all of that and throw it into massive lengthy CGI set pieces and over-the-top plot points.
Nope, even though we spend a bit more time in the Upside Down, there are way more Demagorgons (Or Demadogs as Dustin affectionately? calls them), and The Shadow Monster by its nature is this mass of shadow; they still somehow used all of these glimpses and shots sparingly. And when they do decide to go all in, they use a great combination of practical and CG effects so masking is quite decent most of the time.
The Kids are (Still) Alright!
Look, I hate Will’s character, but you have to appreciate what Noah Schnapp is doing in this series. He’s essentially playing someone who’s traumatised, but also someone with a split personality if you were to ground the performance in realism; and it’s just fascinating to watch this young kid pull this off.
He’s the standout performance, but overall we get great performances from the rest of the cast, including Millie Bobby Brown, Winona Ryder (duh!) and David Harbour. It’s a pity that it seems like from the middle of the season somewhere, Finn Wolfhard’s Mike takes a bit of a back seat.
I wonder if this was as a result of him filming It and other projects? Who knows. The great thing about the rest of the cast is that they all seem to have evolved not only as characters, but as actors. I felt there were much stronger performances from Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin, as well as Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas.
And while we’re on the topic of how awesome these kids are, new cast member Sadie Sink is great as Max, but my favourite new addition to the cast was Erica, Lucas sister, played by Priah Ferguson. She was such a sibling! So cure and sassy when addressing her brother. I really hope we see more of her in future seasons.
What it Got Wrong
The Big (Human) Bad
So, as you may know by now (because every cinephile and their mom talks about it), Stranger Things borrows heavily from 80’s nostalgia, including heavy references from Stephen King’s works. There’s a new character that from the marketing appeared to be an archetype from Stephen King’s works: The big bad evil human character.
This came in the form of Billy, Max’s older brother played by Dacre Montgomery. While he was somewhat menacing, they ended up giving him a more human arc in the end, and while they justified his actions (mostly, by giving us character moments) they didn’t really show us any consequences.
They Killed An Epic Character
Look, people were mad that Barb got killed off in season 1. I am furious that they killed Bob. So fuck you, Stranger Things creators! This character was so different, and so cool. And while some may think he was boring; he was just such a myth of a character. There was always going to be that initial tension as he assimilates to the super weird Byers family, but overall the guy was a pretty solid part of everything.
when mr. frodo tells you he will take the ring to mordor but he does not know the way pic.twitter.com/qhSovfYdd7
— Netflix US (@netflix) October 27, 2017
He was such a great support structure for Joyce and her family, and he was so important in one of the pivotal sequences in the season (just before his death). At least he got to be a hero. Wait.. I’m seeing a trend here: Characters who are logical, consistent and good to the people around them get fucking killed. They are completely subverting the trope. And fuck them for doing it.
Okay, now I’m just raging because Sean Astin is such a legend and I wanted to see more of him in this. Who knows, maybe he will come back as an undead character who turns into a main villain in the show? Now that would be glorious!
As a side note, I have to come out and say that the 2 episodes most people are criticizing I ended up loving. These include the one where Nancy and Jonathan go and visit a conspiracy theorist to help them uncover the story of Barb’s death to the world, as well as the episode where Eleven ( 011 or Jane) meets with her lost sister, 008 and goes on this massive side quest.
Both of these things add a nice change of scene, and I think the creators did such a great job of showing that stark difference between the country town of Hawkins, and the city life miles away.
Overall, Stranger Things Season 2 is an amazing piece of work that once again delivers on the epic nostalgia moments, while building the stakes and still taking the time to give us great character moments.
This is some of the best storytelling you’ll find on the silver screen today, and even though it steals (pronounced “pays homage”) from some of the greatest 80’s and 90’s popular culture, it still manages to be its own awesome thing, which is great. Here’s to seasons 3 and 4, which are already in the works! Too bad we have to wait another year for the next season, which we’ll end up binging in a single day. Bring it on!
Have you seen Stranger Things 2 yet? If so, what did you think of the latest season?
You can watch the first trailer for Stranger Things 2 below:
You can watch the second trailer for Stranger Things 2 below:
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